“Nor are his affairs neglected by the gods…”

Tuesday, 17 September 2019.

And finally, it’s to be noted that Plato has at least a prima facie “personal agenda” when it comes to Socrates. His personal motive has to do with Plato’s own ancestry tracing to Solon, the founder of the Athenian democracy, and the fact that Socrates was, in some sense, a direct “product” of the political project begun by Solon. Naturally, I would think that (I mean, if I myself were Plato) he has some deep interest in not only “protecting” Socrates (perhaps the way that a dedicated and caring shepherd would protect the members of his flock), but to make him a memorable person, and to ensure that his life is examined by posterity for many years to come (since, an unexamined life is not worth living).


The hidden circle

Monday, 16 September 2019.

It’s just that the real circle is not quite exactly the same thing as the ideal circle itself, in the same way that the idea of a circle is not the same thing as some real circle – eg, perhaps one that we just now drew on the corner of napkin. The real circle may be something that is “close enough” to the ideal – sufficiently so, such that any reasonable person looking upon the drawing could see that it is a circle, and not a triangle or an oval or a square. In such a case, the real circle would be an “instance” of the ideal circle. And the circle on the napkin would really be a circle – even if it isn’t the ideal circle itself.

Necessary desires

Sunday, 15 September 2019.

“XXVI The desires which do not bring a feeling of pain when not fulfilled are not necessary; but the desire for them is easy to dispel when they seem to be hard to achieve or to produce harm.” (Epicurus, “The Principal Doctrines”, XXVI)

And the meek shall inherit the earth…

Saturday, 14 September 2019.

And it is indeed tremendous. For, it is this characteristically “Epicurean” (but also somewhat of a “Stoic”) world-view that has overturned empires and existing world-orders, and it is this world-view that has allowed the lowliest of slaves to become masters and in turn to make slaves of their former masters.

Transcendence: The Miracle of Embodiment

Friday, 13 September 2019 🐍
[Michael’s 18th!]

“That is why the soul, as long as it is in [the body], will never lack sense-perception even if some other part has departed; but no matter what [parts] of it are destroyed along with the container’s dissolution (whether entire or partial), if the soul survives it will be able to perceive. But the rest of the aggregate—whole or part—is not able to perceive even if it survives, when the number of atoms, however small it be, which makes up the nature of the soul, has departed.
Furthermore, when the entire aggregate is destroyed, the soul is scattered and no longer has the same powers, nor can it move; consequently, it does not then [in fact] have [the power of] sense-perception.” (Epicurus, “Letter to Herodotus: Diogenes Laertius” 63-65, IG I-2)

Epicurus and the Empirical Tradition

Tuesday, 10 September 2019.

Of course, what Epicurus says here runs directly counter to what the Rationalists say about the ‘creation’ of the world; for, the Rationalist would say that all “things” (ie, mental objects) in the world – and even the world itself, for that matter – are created from no “thing” at all (ie, nameless and undifferentiated “stoff”), but is created solely by the power of the God (ie, Mind, Consciousness, Nous).

A hint of the reddish gold of the sunrise over Andover

Sunday, September 1, 2019 🦋
[Moving from Andover, MA to Princeton, NJ; moving Michael into Forbes College]

We left Andover town around 7:50 in the morning on Friday.

The Architect

Thursday, 22 August 2019.

In the passage above, Aristotle starts out by saying that having experience makes people more successful practitioners than people with only “rational accounts”. But by the end, he says that the so-called “manual craftsmen” are less wise and less valuable than the so-called “architects” (who are presumed to have both experiential knowledge of the particulars and the theoretical account of what they’re doing) because the people with mere experience and no theoretical knowledge are like soulless machines — they just move and produce things out of a habit (or an “ethos”, as it is written in the Greek).

Of course, merely having the theoretical account is not any better — though, Aristotle fails to make that explicit in Metaphysics. And because most people aren’t very discerning thinkers, they suppose that mere theoretical knowledge is superior to mere experiential knowledge. But this is clearly false. It is only true that having both kinds of knowledge is superior to having only one or the other kind. But having merely theoretical knowledge is just as inferior and lacking as having merely experiential knowledge.

The pleasure of learning

Wednesday, 21 August 2019 🗺️

“He drinks in vain that feels not the pleasure of it.” (Rabelais, “The Works of Rabelais”, Bk.1, Ch.5, p.15)

Surely, the drink tastes better when it is drunk with great thirst, as Rabelais says in this piece of fiction. But, I don’t think that it tastes any worse for drinking it without there being any prior thirst (and, who could tell the difference anyways?). And anyways, if being in great thirst reflects badly on the one who thirsts (for surely, being thirsty is the mark of a sinner), then I don’t think that anybody would actually go through the trouble of deliberately making themselves become that much thirsty simply for the sake of enhancing the taste of the drink—would they?

Davidson: Actions, Reasons, and Causes

Tuesday, 20 August 2019.

First, we form beliefs that do the work of informing us about the world and our present situational context. Second, we usually have some kind of an emotional reaction to our collection of beliefs (which may or may not be true). Third (and this is the part that I added), we then sometimes form an idea about how we would like the world to be, or how we ourselves would like to be in relation to the world – in short, an ideal. Fourth, our practical intelligence deliberates and forms plans about both whether to and how we can realize the ideal.

The Trolley Problem

Monday, 19 August 2019 ☔️

As far as the standard version of the trolley problem goes, while I too have the intuition that numbers really do actually matter, still I disagree with her that it is permissible for the neutral bystander to switch the tracks and thereby to result in killing one person instead of five — but if it is true that without any intervention at all, the runaway trolley would surely have killed the five persons instead of the one. And I would say that while the numbers do truly matter, it isn’t necessarily the case that more of what is good is hands-down always what is best.

What is the right number of people that should populate a planet?

Saturday, 17 August 2019 🌎

Essentially, Aristotle gives an argument for the ‘Thanos snap’ to happen. For, if there is a numerical range that says what is the right number of people that one can have intimate friendships with, and again another range for what is the right number of people required to make a city, then surely there is also a numerical range that tells us what is the right number of people that can populate a planet and all expect to live in accordance with a high standard of living.

The warriors who were fighting for his sake

Friday, 16 August 2019.

These two passages seem to offer contradictory advice. In the beginning of the Iliad, Agamemnon behaves perfectly in accordance with the logos of the first passage; thus, he takes Achilles’ woman because he is accustomed to thinking that he, as the highest ranking person there, deserves to be given the best and biggest share of the goods (including the taken women). But if Achilles’ anger is to be divine and righteous anger, then his anger seems to be rooted in some aspect of Agamemnon’s behavior that makes it actually unjust and wrong.

But what about it is unjust and wrong? The second passage (the one from book 4) makes that clear. For the sake of the warriors who, for the sake of honor, had heard his call to arms and came to risk their lives and limbs for the sake of Agamemnon’s campaign, the basileus should have given up his own prize. It would have been the pious thing to do in that situation, as a sign of respect for the warriors who were risking it all for his sake. As the man of superior rank, as a basileus, he should have been willing to give up his prizes in order to save and preserve those who were his social inferiors. But he was not, and instead he clung to his prizes as if that wealth was worth more than the respect of the warriors who were fighting for his sake.

In that moment, rather than being the magnanimous benefactor, he becomes petty and small; he tarnishes the dignity of his social rank. In that moment, Agamemnon becomes a tyrant.

In order to survive in an unhealthy world

Thursday, 15 August 2019.

By “self-controlled” person, Aristotle doesn’t mean the sophrosune person. He just means something like “the person who is in control” or “the person who is in power”. In effect, what Aristotle is saying here is that a sophron (temperate) person would not have excessive or harmful appetites in the first place to have to control. It isn’t as though a temperate person would have no appetites at all. Instead, what’s being pointed out here is that the temperate person would have, in the first place, useful (ie, chrestai χρησταὶ) appetites. And that is why it isn’t necessarily the case that a person who is simply “in control” over her appetites is the one who is sophrosune—and hence, virtuous. The truly virtuous person must have, whether by nature or by habituation, beneficial appetites.

And this is why Aristotle says that a person could also be “in control” over her appetites, but she wouldn’t be virtuous if she overpowered her healthy appetites in order to force herself to commit harm or injustice to herself. So, someone like Epictetus (and other quite harsh and self-depriving Stoics) would be being unjust (to themselves and in general), since they must overpower their healthy appetites in order to survive in what is, essentially, an unhealthy world.

Towards an ideal

Wednesday, 14 August 2019.

It’s a rare thing for me to say that I think that Aristotle is right about something, but I do think that Aristotle definitely gets it right when he says that mere thought moves nothing. There must be a goal, which determines a direction a course for movement and change; and this goal is set by a conscious desire. So, given that I think this to be true, at least, then then there’s a sense in which it is a very good thing (and not only good, but necessary thing) for humans [especially] to have ideals, since that is something that one can have a desire for and that we can be heading towards.

To hold the moments together as a coherent whole

Tuesday, 13 August 2019 📖📖

What Austin is saying here is that the mind is what organizes all things. Without this organizing force, there is only undifferentiated material (chaos) and incoherent movement. It doesn’t seem like much, but without the organizing force of the mind; life becomes only a hazy blur and there is no story because there is nothing to hold the moments together into a coherent whole. And so, movement becomes “action” only when there is an intention behind it to organize it, to mark out its beginning and its ending, and to differentiate between what movements belong to the action and what movements do not.

The origin of action

Monday, 12 August 2019.

To return to what’s relevant here (for most people in any case), it’s clear that according to the Aristotelian viewpoint one can only be said to truly own the consequences of one’s actions if one can claim to be the cause of the outcome (but by means of rational choice). (This would apply not only to bad outcomes, of course, but also to good ones.) So—if one wishes to own the fruits of one’s own labor and be able to say that those fruits are rightfully my own, then one cannot regret anything that one has done—whether for better or for worse.

The manner in which

Sunday 11, August 2019 🐖

So, this statement is like saying: if you are permitted to euthanize animals, it doesn’t matter how you do it (perhaps you could club the animal to death, or inject it with hemlock); or that if you are permitted to drive a vehicle, it doesn’t matter how you do it (perhaps one could be texting while driving, or driving while drunk, etc); or that if you are going to have sex with someone, again it doesn’t matter how you do it (perhaps it could be gently, or even quite roughly); or even that if you are going to die one day, then it doesn’t matter how you die when that day inevitably comes (we can imagine the various ways that we could die, I think, without explicit examples).

But I should think that it makes very much difference how one does things.

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