Know Thyself! (And don’t listen to Aristotle)

Sunday

0801 | This morning, I am reading an essay by Gavin Lawrence’s called Acquiring Character: Becoming Grown-Up (2011).

On page 235, he writes: “Praxis is then action that agents stand four-square behind, seeing it as truly theirs–as expressing their selves, their values, and character–as being the fine way to go on, as making a life worth the living. For Aristotle, it is this that is specifically human activity–the humaning that is the realization of their essence–the form of life and life-activity that constitutes the function of the human adult, or mature, perfection of its nature (tetelesmenon) (1.7, 1098a3-5).”

According to Lawrence, it almost sounds like praxis could be one’s work or occupation, since it is one’s primary “practice” (presuming people spend most of their time “working”). In Lawrence’s world, the work that I do, is my [eternal] “function.” (Whatever that means.)

Anyways, I have to be careful when reading Aristotle. I distrust his intuitions the least — even if we do get to the same conclusions some of the time.

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824 |  [Continuing my study of Lawrence Gavin’s essay, Acquiring Character: Becoming Grown-Up –]

I just started, and already, I’ve run into major heart-attack-invoking statements (as always happens whenever I read any of Aristotle and/or his fans — and Lawrence is a definite fan).

Lawrence writes: “For us to grow up is for us to shift from living kata pathos to living kata prohairesin: from living by natural prompt to living by rational design, from merely behaving– responding, acting, and reacting– in certain ways to taking it that we should so behave, that that is the fine or appropriate, or called for, way to go on…This is a transition (i) from attraction to evaluation, from acting and reacting simply ‘as we like’, with, or out of, pleasure and pain, to acting as we think fit, fine, and valuable; (ii) a transition from the rough and ready responses of nature and basic habituated practice to the more finely attuned, more situationally contoured, imaginative and creative, responses of reason-imbued sensitivities; (iii) a transition from a life whose shape is natural, ordered, and guided by the promptings of nature and which is, as such, in a sense external to the agent, in not being an object of their devising or appreciation, and which–at least when successful–has a kind of ‘external’ beauty, appreciated not by the individual agent but by the onlookers, the theorists, of nature…to a life whose shape is rational, that is, ordered, guided, and appreciated by the individual’s reason: such a life is constructed around the individual’s own sense, or view, of order, of beauty or the fine (to kalon), of the situationally appropriate, and, if successfully constructed–if what is viewed as good to do is good to do, and is done–it will indeed have that beauty, that radiant fineness, the agent takes it to have, the beauty of Human Life, a wonderful life.” (p.237-238)

Some points that I want to make here:
(a) While some people may be too insensitive to live “by natural prompt,” not everyone must live in a totally arbitrary and contrived way obsessing about how we should behave, act, think, and feel.

(b) The Socratic way (as I had described yesterday) is the healthy way. And for a healthy person at least, pleasures and pains are great guides.

(c) I don’t see how the “promptings of nature” are necessarily “external” to the agent — unless by “promptings of nature,” he means something Humean. But I don’t see how there is a difference in the “nature” that is within the person (ie, the truth that one is born with) and the “nature” that is more of the Humean sort. There is truth everywhere — not just “external.”

(d) Just because our choices are shaped by “nature,” (eg, I am a social being and so I enjoy the company of friends) doesn’t mean that I thereby lack appreciation for friendship and my friends.

(e) Ironically, the only way that “what is viewed as good to do is good to do” to be realized, both the external world and the person must be healthy. Yet, Aristotle’s way takes a person away from health, rather than closer to it. It makes a person become alienated from herself, her nature, her truth — until finally, she’s only able to appreciate the grotesquely artificial creature that she’s created herself and calling that thing “beauty” and “good,” having lost the true thing of beauty and goodness — her self.

To add: One cannot (and should not) shun the motor that gets the great machinery started. This “motor” is the mechanism of sensitivity to pleasures and pains. If one is to appreciate things like “rational judgment,” and “intellectual sensitivities,” then one would do well to realize that the “motor” is what has started it all and that one could not get the great machinery working at all without this motor, and that the motor is what maintains the great machinery to continue operating. Thus, to say that we ought to disregard our sensitivities instead of cultivating them to a greater degree, is — I believe — to go the wrong way.

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0917 | [Continuing my study of Lawrence Gavin’s essay, Acquiring Character: Becoming Grown-Up –]

In part 2 of his paper, Lawrence starts to talk about the method by which we obtain virtue. He says that one way is through “teaching” (δίδαξις) — and he cites some Plato, and also some of Aristotle’s own works. By “teaching,” Lawrence thinks that it means to be “imparting understanding, that is, transferring the why of something, not simply that of it.” (p.241)

But δίδαξις isn’t simply “to teach.” Often, the English translations are an oversimplification, and it loses some of the cultural flavor of the original Greek due to English being a very modern language. So I want to get closer to what this word means in the Ancient Greek (even though English can also be useful in its own way).

So what does δίδαξις mean?

[A] I’m not a philologist. But I know that I have pretty good hunches when it comes to language (I was able to read the Bible out loud to my grandmother when I was four years old). And my hunch is that didaxis is made up of two other words: δίδωμι (a verb meaning “to give” or “to hand over”) and ἄξιος (an adjective or noun meaning “something of worth” or “what is valuable”). If I am right, then δίδαξις is δίδ+ἄξι which then means, “to hand over something valuable.” And per colloquial usage, this is what “teaching” consisted in for the Ancient Greeks.

If I am right about what δίδαξις means for the Ancient Greeks, then I have to think about whether everything of value can be transferred this way. For instance, one could simply tell/teach the “why” to the other person by giving them an account, a justification, a reason, or even a description. This is probably the most typical and straight-forward sort of case of δίδαξις. However, I doubt that virtue is something that can simply be “handed over” in the way that other bits of important or valuable information can be “handed over.” Now, Lawrence agrees with me, I think, on this. (And likely Aristotle does too.)

[B] According to Socrates in Protagoras et al, virtue (ἀρετή) is not the sort of thing that can be transferred by being “handed over.” Merely telling someone the “why” doesn’t necessarily cause the student to accept the “why.” Just because they hold it in their heads doesn’t mean that they truly believe in the “why”. This is because in telling the student your account of the “why,” all that you are doing is giving the student knowledge of what your “why” is. But having this knowledge of what your “why” is doesn’t then necessarily require them to adopt that “why” as their own. And this is the case even if the student nods her head and proclaims to you “under oath” that she does accept it as being “true,” since whether she accepts the “why” as her own or not is something that only she can privately do. (Presumably, since students are still somewhat ignorant, they may not yet see the important reason or value behind speaking the truth.) And this is why Plato has Socrates say that virtue can’t be taught — at least, not in the way of simply “handing it over.”

[C] And then there is another little thing to consider in understanding what it is to give someone a “why.” For instance, giving someone a “why” can be tell/teach the “why” by giving an account, a justification, a reason, or even a description — as I had said earlier. But this isn’t the only way to give someone a “why.”

Giving someone a “why” could be something like giving someone a “motive” for believing or doing something. And this kind of giving can take a non-typical form. For instance, I could give my son a “why” to stay out of the woods at night, simply by telling him a really scary story about a wolf who lives in the woods and eats little children once the sun sets. This would make him frightened of going into the woods at night. And so, instead of directly telling him why he should not to go into the woods at night, I can indirectly give him a “why” for not going into the woods at night by giving him fear of the woods at night. Making him frightened in this way is to create an environment in which he comes to value the option of staying indoors at night. And so giving someone a “why” doesn’t necessarily have to take the form of telling them the “why”. It could be done indirectly by giving the person an incentive to value the proposition you wish for them to value. (Some call this “manipulation.” And of course, it could also backfiring, since my son may end up developing the habit of bed-wetting because of his fear.)

Sometimes people end up in environments that give them an incentive to value a proposition, even though nobody is intentionally doing any “manipulating.” For instance, a talented military strategist might come to have a “why” for using her cleverness to come up with a plan to save her city from hostile invaders. But her cleverness may only become manifest in situations of hostile invasion. In times of peace, she may not have any personal incentive for developing her talent in forming military strategies. You might tell her that she ought to develop her talent in forming military strategies because of a certain “why” — and she may very well understand why you think that she ought to — but she may not find your reason to be very moving at all. She may even think that you are mistaken in your “why.” Anyways, the point is that circumstances can sometimes give a person a “why” even without someone intending to give the person the “why.”

[D] This brings me to another important point. According to the Platonic dialogues, I think that Socrates makes a distinction between “teaching” and “learning.” Of course, this distinction is a common one, and it’s reflected in the Ancient Greek language: “teaching” being called δίδαξις, and “learning” being called μανθάνω.

Now, learning is something that the student does actively. Teaching is something that is done to the student. In giving, teachers usually hope that their students actively receive what is given them. That is, teachers hope that students learn what is taught. However, it’s not always the case that things work out as we’d like it to. For instance, some students are unable to learn everything that their teachers try to teach them. And some other students learn things on their own — eg, by way of self-discovery — and a “teacher” is not quite so necessary.

So, the method of δίδαξις — in all of its various forms — might be limited to only certain kinds of valuable stuff. According to Socrates, virtue is not one of those things that can be “handed over.” And this is precisely why he questions whether and how much the Sophists can “teach” virtue.

[E] Back to Aristotle then. There’s two things I want to point out about what Lawrence/Aristotle says that I think might deserve some scrutiny.

Lawrence follows Aristotle in thinking that it is “habituation that is presented as the key to character acquisition.” (p.242) But somehow, I cannot agree with this entirely — even though I can see why he wants to assert it. Earlier, at the end of [A] and [B], I had concluded that virtue may not be something that can simply be “handed over.” Aristotle’s solution to this is to have the student go through the motions that are usually attributed to virtue. And with enough practice, the student will gain knowledge of the virtue.

This sounds like a great idea — and in a lot of ways, it is. But it’s not entirely fool-proof.

One problem is that doing something merely out of habit doesn’t produce true virtue; it only produces an image of virtue. This is bad for two reasons: (#1) if the agent is not very clever, then the agent will never question why she is engaging in certain motions and so she will never come to grasp the true virtue itself, while on the other hand (#2) if the agent is quite clever (but still not clever enough), she may grasp why she’s been taught to engage in certain motions yet being still unmoved by those reasons herself, she may then choose to engage in motions for the wrong reasons.

In the first case, a stupid agent may cause good people harm because of her ignorance. For example, suppose that in India virtue is expressed by a different set of motions than in the UK. If the stupid agent fails to grasp the virtue itself and only grasps a very specific set of motions as being virtuous, she may condemn or mistreat Indians for lacking virtue because she sees only that their motions are different from what she’s familiar with. The stupid agent would also fail to be truly virtuous, since [I think] truth requires something more genuine than what is passively attained through blind repetition and convention.

In the second case, the quite clever though still not clever enough agent may come to realize one day why her teachers have habituated her to practice certain motions. Presumably, she’d also be quite good at going through the motions, since she’s been habituated to practice these motions from early on. Despite her skill in going through the motions, she may not actually be moved by her realizations (since she’s clever, but still not clever enough). Still, suppose that she chooses to engage in certain motions because she sees that they also bring certain benefits (she is quite clever, after all) — perhaps benefits like wealth, good-reputation, influence, power, etc. She may even be able to articulate quite eloquently the reasons that she’s discovered, if someone were to require her to write an essay about it.

Now, there’s a worry that if the environment ceases to produce benefits for her, she will also cease to engage in the motions. This is one problem. But even if she were to continue to engage in these behaviors when the environment changes, she still wouldn’t be truly virtuous since she’s actually not moved by the right reason but for still some other reason (being a creature of habit, perhaps she finds it comfortable to do things the same way regardless of whether it’s good/bad right/wrong) — and this is actually one of the same problems that the stupid agent has. So these are the problems that come from case #2.

[F] One other point I might mention here is that simply having an account of why doesn’t make the habitual behavior necessarily “right.” In time, some conventions change causing specific behaviors to appear “wrong.” So it’s hard to tell what is right or wrong simply based on the fact that it’s “what’s done.” Also, it’s not impossible for “false” behaviors to have an account. There’s probably lots of false behaviors have apparently strong “rationalizations” to back them up. Take, for example, the case of slavery in the United States. White slave-holders in America used to justify the institution of slavery with stuff from the Bible, using the Bible to prove that Blacks are naturally inferior to Whites, and that God intended for Blacks to be slaves to Whites, and that Blacks are actually better off being enslaved by Whites than to be free. The Bible may have provided some sort of account for the institution of slavery, but the Bible could also be full of bad reasoning itself (just as accounts given Aristotle could be full of bad reasoning!), and so it could fail to provide a truthful justification for things like slavery. If the institution of slavery is truly unjust, then no amount of repetition and conventional acceptance of that habit could make it just — even if the Bible provides some sort of justification for it.

And so I disagree with Aristotle — and Lawrence — that habituation is the key to virtue. It might be. But as I’ve shown, it isn’t necessarily the case that it’s “the key to virtue.” Habituation can quickly turn into a case of popular deference to convention. And popular convention tends to be quite hostile and brutal to that tender thing I call truth.

And so, it can’t be mere convention that makes something truly virtuous. Truth comes from self-discovery through sensitivity to pleasures and pains, freedom, and encounters with nature; not by a positive habituation to what is artificial and arbitrary.

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1041  | [Continuing my study of Lawrence Gavin’s essay, Acquiring Character: Becoming Grown-Up –]

I’m sorry. But Gavin Lawrence describes the “internalized…voice of one’s own reason” as being “fatherly.” Or, perhaps he’s just citing Aristotle. Either way, ugh. (pander pander pander… <– Aristotle to his students)

Before Hillary ran for President the first time (against Obama), I was living with my aunt. It must have been only 2006, but I think that there was some talk already about the possibility of Hillary running for President. I remember that I had asked her whether she’d vote for a woman president. And she had said that she wouldn’t. Of course, I had to ask her why. And she said to me that she just didn’t think that women would make good Presidents, and that it’s not suitable for women to be leaders in that sort of way. Basically, women shouldn’t be Presidents.

I thought it was really stupid. I don’t even know how she got to have a job outside of the home, and how she got to own a house in her own name — being a woman and all.

Anyways, when Hillary ran for President in 2008, I supported her by voting in the Primaries. It was the first time that I voted for any President. I didn’t want my aunt to win. But also, I really did feel that Hillary was a better candidate than Obama because of her age, experience, and perhaps even because of her gender and how that might affect her thought-processes.

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1724  | [Continuing my study of Lawrence Gavin’s essay, Acquiring Character: Becoming Grown-Up –]

Lawrence mentions the key word “Socratic Intellectualism” on page 244. And he refers to NE 1144b17-20;28-30 for what he means by that.

Now, I’ve always been wondering what philosophers mean when they speak of “Socratic Intellectualism.” I for one find it hard to see Socrates as being any kind of “intellectualist” — given all that he says about “sensitivity” being a virtues and all that. And so I can’t see why Socrates’ name is attached to any kind of “intellectualist” doctrine. And, if it turns out that it’s really Aristotle’s own concoction (and it wouldn’t be the first time he’s set up “ghost-mans” to attack), then it should be called “Aristotelian Intellectualism,” and not “Socratic.” In fact, Aristotle should be charged with defamation of Socrates’ good name (and Plato’s too). (NB: *A “ghost-man” is kind of like a “straw-man,” except that a “straw-man” is a weak version of an argument, while a “ghost-man” is a mistaken version of an argument.)

[G] Well, so I looked up NE 1144b to see what Aristotle/Lawrence means by “Socratic Intellectualism.” And it looks like Aristotle means to accuse Socrates of thinking that “all the virtues are forms of practical wisdom.” At 1144b, Aristotle says that Socrates is somehow right about this, but also somehow wrong about it. According to Aristotle, Socrates is wrong because virtues aren’t φρόνησις itself (and so virtues can’t be kinds of practical wisdom, as Aristotle says that Socrates claims). Rather, virtue is something that is “οὐκ ἄνευ φρονήσεως” — ie, “not without phronesis.” And according to Aristotle, something can’t be both itself and with itself at the same time — therefore, virtue can’t be a kind of φρόνησις, if virtue is said to be something that can be with φρόνησις (or more accurately, “not without”).

Of course, where does he get the idea that virtue is something that is with φρόνησις? Why, from the oi-polloi, who are obviously experts.

My cynical wit aside, this may all sound confusing. So I’ll quote Roger Crisp’s translation here, along with the actual Greek that Aristotle wrote himself.

Crisp translates: “This is why some people say that all the virtues are forms of practical wisdom, and why Socrates was partly right and partly wrong in his inquiry. He was wrong to think that all the virtues are forms of practical wisdom, but correct in saying that they involve practical wisdom. There is evidence for this in the fact that whenever people now define virtue, they all say what state it is and what its objects are, and then add that it is a state in accordance with right reason. Right reason is that which is in accordance with practical wisdom; everyone, then, seems in some way to divine that the state like this, in accordance with practical wisdom, is virtue. But we need to go a little further. Virtue is not merely the state in accordance with right reason, but that which involves it. And practical wisdom is right reason about such matters. Socrates, then, thought that the virtues were forms of reason (since he believed them all to be forms [emphasis added] of knowledge), while we think that they involve [emphasis added] reason. It is clear from what we have said, then, that we cannot be really good without practical wisdom, or practically wise without virtue of character.” (Nicomachean Ethics, 1144b)

The original Greek goes like this: “διόπερ τινές φασι πάσας τὰς ἀρετὰς φρονήσεις εἶναι, καὶ Σωκράτης τῇ μὲν ὀρθῶς ἐζήτει τῇ δ᾽ ἡμάρτανεν: ὅτι μὲν γὰρ φρονήσεις ᾤετο εἶναι πάσας τὰς ἀρετάς, ἡμάρτανεν, ὅτι δ᾽ οὐκ ἄνευ φρονήσεως, καλῶς ἔλεγεν. σημεῖον δέ: καὶ γὰρ νῦν πάντες, ὅταν ὁρίζωνται τὴν ἀρετήν, προστιθέασι, τὴν ἕξιν εἰπόντες καὶ πρὸς ἅ ἐστι, τὴν κατὰ τὸν ὀρθὸν λόγον: ὀρθὸς δ᾽ ὁ κατὰ τὴν φρόνησιν. ἐοίκασι δὴ μαντεύεσθαί πως ἅπαντες ὅτι ἡ τοιαύτη ἕξις ἀρετή ἐστιν, ἡ κατὰ τὴν φρόνησιν. δεῖ δὲ μικρὸν μεταβῆναι. ἔστι γὰρ οὐ μόνον ἡ κατὰ τὸν ὀρθὸν λόγον, ἀλλ᾽ ἡ μετὰ τοῦ ὀρθοῦ λόγου ἕξις ἀρετή ἐστιν: ὀρθὸς δὲ λόγος περὶ τῶν τοιούτων ἡ φρόνησίς ἐστιν. Σωκράτης μὲν οὖν λόγους τὰς ἀρετὰς ᾤετο εἶναι (ἐπιστήμας γὰρ εἶναι πάσας), ἡμεῖς δὲ μετὰ λόγου. δῆλον οὖν ἐκ τῶν εἰρημένων ὅτι οὐχ οἷόν τε ἀγαθὸν εἶναι κυρίως ἄνευ φρονήσεως, οὐδὲ φρόνιμον ἄνευ τῆς ἠθικῆς ἀρετῆς.” (Nicomachean Ethics, 1144b)

[H] Now, there’s several wrong things going on here. But I’ve got to start somewhere, so I’ll start with this: There’s actually no reason for thinking that virtue can’t be φρόνησις. Aristotle engages in faulty reasoning to make an unnecessary conclusion.

Here’s the steps, using language from the text:
(i) According to what the oi-polloi say, virtue is a state “with right reason” (ie, “κατὰ τὸν ὀρθὸν λόγον”).
(ii) Next, “right reason” is whatever is “with practical wisdom” (ie, “ὀρθὸς δ᾽ ὁ κατὰ τὴν φρόνησιν”).
(iii) Being “with right reason” is like being “with practical wisdom” (practical wisdom being φρόνησις).
(iv) From (i) to (iii), being “with practical wisdom” is what virtue is.
(v) Practical wisdom is “right reason” about matters pertaining to virtue.
(vi) Socrates thought that virtues were forms of reason.
(vii) But “we” think that virtues “involve” reason instead of being itself a kind of reason.

Presumably, Aristotle concludes that virtue cannot be identical with φρόνησις, since it doesn’t make sense for something to be with itself. And this is basically why Socrates is wrong. But this argumentation is faulty. So let me try to show why it’s faulty in a clearer way, by rephrasing the language from the text into logical notation.

[J] Then, the argument goes something like this, while “+” means “with”:
i: (V = +L)
ii: (L = +P)
iii: (+L = +P)
iv: (V = +P)
v: (P = L of V)
vi: S claims that (V⊂P)
vii: Ar claims that (V→P) but (VP)

[K] So here’s the issue: I just don’t see how +P can be both L and +L (from lines ii and iii), unless L and +L were themselves identical (ie, right reason is the same thing as being with right reason). But Aristotle himself relies on a special rule (ie, A+A) to separate virtue from what it’s “with” — eg, Aristotle asserts that (P≠+P) — and so L can’t be identical with +L. That is, if virtue can’t be identical to φρόνησις because virtue is to be “with” φρόνησις, then right reason can’t be identical to φρόνησις, since in line ii, right reason is to be “with” φρόνησις. And yet, this is what Aristotle claims at line iii, when he claims that being “with” right reason is identical with being “with” φρόνησις.

That is: if (L=+P) and (+L=+P), then (L=+L) by transitive property. But according to the rule (A+A) which Aristotle himself asserts, it must be the case that (L+L).

And so the premises (i) through (iii) contradict one another somehow. And if Aristotle tosses out the special rule (A+A), then he must also concede that Socrates isn’t wrong in thinking that (P=+P) since this special rule is what Aristotle uses to lodge his accusation against Socrates (which may not even be what Socrates actually thinks, but just Aristotle’s own interpretation of what Socrates thinks). This basically means that either Aristotle used faulty logic, or one of the premises are wrong.

[M] So suppose we think that one (or more) of the premises is wrong. I suggest that premise iii is wrong. Now in this slightly different scenario, we accept premise i that (V=+L), and also premise ii that (L=+P). But we reject premise iii (largely because it makes contradictions as in [K], and also because Aristotle brings it in from apparently nowhere). And if we reject premise iii, then there’s a possibility that (+L=P), since there’s no rule making it impossible. And if (+L=P) is true, then (+L=P) and (V=+L) from premise i produces the result that (P=V). Which means that there’s nothing wrong with thinking that virtue is a form of φρόνησις, and Aristotle’s accusation against Socrates fails.

[N] Of course, the other problem is that Aristotle’s sources for his premises aren’t entirely reputable. After all, he relies on what “the people” say. Sometimes the oi-polloi are experts, but sometimes they’re not. Yet, Aristotle decides to measure Socrates by the standards of the oi-polloi for no apparent reason at all; he just simply decides to do it. This is basically conventionalistic mentality at its best. And since I don’t particularly value conventionalism, Aristotle’s method is not only problematic for me, but it’s quite disagreeable.

[Q] Now, there’s yet another problem pertaining to premises (v) and (vi) of Aristotle’s argument. And it also relates to his misinterpretation of Socrates’ position on things.

To start, there’s a difference between saying that all virtue is φρόνησις (V⊂P) vs. saying that a kind of virtue, namely σωφροσύνη, is a form of  φρόνησις (V→P).

I doubt that Socrates would assert the claim that all virtues are a version of φρόνησις (V⊂P). Socrates clearly says in Republic and elsewhere, that there’s 4 main kinds of virtue: courage, wisdom, justice (with subsections piety and ethics), and sensitivity. [NB: I’ve translated “σωφροσύνη” into “sensitivity.”] Not once does Socrates make any sort of statement to imply that courage, wisdom, justice, and sensitivity are all forms of φρόνησις. Nor does Socrates say that the essence of virtue is φρόνησις. If Aristotle means to say that Socrates thinks (V⊂P), then Aristotle is clearly mistaken about what Socrates thinks and has instead set up a “ghost-man” to make accusations against. In short, Aristotle has messed up in attributing the view in premise v to Socrates.

[R] This said, I think that what Socrates is more likely to have meant is that σωφροσύνη, a kind of virtue, is a form of φρόνησις (V→P). One difference between (V⊂P) and (V→P) is that if (V→P) is true, then it could also true that (P→V). While even if (V⊂P) is true, it’s not the case that (P⊂V), unless (P=V). I won’t get too deep into it here, but perhaps seeing my topic post on ‘Paradox’ might help with this.

[S] Now, is it reasonable to think that σωφροσύνη is a form of φρόνησις? I say, yes. Just as “right reason” (from premise v) is (right+reason), σωφροσύνη is (σω+φρόν). And so σωφροσύνη is a kind of virtue being one of the four cardinal virtues — and it is also a form of φρόνησις. In other words, there is a kind of virtue that is a form of φρόνησις — even if it’s NOT the case that all virtues are a form of φρόνησις (obviously, courage is a virtue but it’s not a form of φρόνησις). And if what Socrates means to say is that at least one of the virtues is a form of φρόνησις, rather than that all of the virtues are forms of φρόνησις, there is no problem with what Socrates says: one of the virtues is indeed a form of φρόνησις. Which one of the virtues? Why, σωφροσύνη of course.

And, if there is doubt that “right reason” is a form of “reason” and not entirely identical with “reason,” one only needs to look through Hesiod’s Theogony. Hesiod mentions the existence of ψεῦδος λόγος, meaning “false reason.” And if a “false reason” is possible and a “right reason” is possible, then the “false” and the “right” are simply two forms of “reason” though both are equally “reasons.”

[T] And now to premise vi. If Aristotle is trying to argue that (V→P), and if Socrates is also arguing that (V→P), then the two don’t disagree at all!

This is what I mean when I said that Aristotle might have been setting up a “ghost-man” to argue against. Aristotle falsely sets up Socrates to be claiming (V⊂P), and then goes on to show how (V⊂P) is wrong. But if Socrates really means to say (V→P), then there’s no disagreement and Aristotle should just defer to Socrates instead of debating against him. Of course, Aristotle may not have wanted to defer to someone else. After all, who wants to live in someone else’s shadow their whole life? Certainly not Aristotle.

[U] Now if Aristotle does make an important distinction between “φρόνησις” and “σωφροσύνη,” then it doesn’t make sense for him to assert premise iii, that being with “right reason” is like being with φρόνησις — since φρόνησις isn’t in its virtuous form, while “right reason” is in its virtuous form.

On the other hand, if Aristotle wants to assert premise iii, then he himself is not making an important distinction between “φρόνησις” and “σωφροσύνη.” And he is also not making a distinction between “reason” and “right reason.” I would find it interesting if this turned out to be true…

I’m sure more could be said about why Aristotle would think this. But I think that I’ve succeeded in vindicating Socrates from Aristotle’s vicious accusations, and so I’ll let the case rest here for now.

[W] The next question is this: What is φρόνησις exactly? Is it really “right reason” as the oi-polloi say that it is?

I wanted to try to approach the meaning of φρόνησις from a slightly different angle, so I translated Greek to Korean directly.

Google gave me 지혜, with the Han Chinese characters for that sound being 智慧. The first character 智 means “슬기” in Korean. If I translate 슬기 into English, it becomes something like “skill, ability, smartness.” The second character 慧 means something similar, but with a slightly different nuance. Into English, it becomes “bright, clear-seeing, innovative, skilled.”

So if we put that together, 智慧 (ie, 지혜) — that is, φρόνησις  — perhaps means something like “skill in making judgments.”

Now back to Aristotle. So basically, at 1144b of NE, Aristotle means to say that Socrates thinks that all virtues are a form of “skill in making judgments.” And presumably, according to Aristotle anyways, the idea that all virtues are a form of “skill in making judgments” is what Lawrence and philosophers of his ilk call, “Socratic Intellectualism.”

Of course, in part [Q], [R], and [S], I’ve shown that Socrates probably does not think that all virtues are a form of “skill in making judgments.”

What Socrates does say in the Republic however, is that σωφροσύνη cannot be limited to a small portion of the ideal city, the way that wisdom or courage might be located in a particular part of the city. Instead, σωφροσύνη is a virtue that must be spread out over the whole city and shared in common by all. Furthermore, σωφροσύνη is “sensitivity” — including the sort of sensitivity required for making good judgments.

What does this have to do with Aristotle? Well, if someone were to try to slightly — and very cleverly and craftily — bend the things that are said in Republic, then one could say that σωφροσύνη participates in φρόνησις. Which is what Aristotle claims that he himself means — while making false accusations against Socrates. (In fact, the Aristotelian notion of the “universal” is very likely a slight twist/bend on the Platonic notion of the “forms.”) He’s basically not only a clever little man, but Aristotle also lies, slanders, steals. What a pathetic man. Why does he do this? Because he wants fame and vainglory. Reading Aristotle is like reading a terribly botched version of Plato. I try to stay away from the stuff as much as I can.

Verdict: “Socratic Intellectualism” is an Aristotelian invention.

But we can’t let this injustice continue, can we? No, of course not.

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