This is the first book in modern times that makes sense of the Nicomachean Ethics in its entirety as an interesting philosophical argument, rather than as a compilation of relatively independent essays. In Taking Life Seriously Francis Sparshott expounds Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics as a single continuous argument, a chain of reasoned exposition on the problems of human life. He guides the reader through the whole text passage by passage, showing how every part of it makes sense in the light of (...) what has gone before, as well as indicating problems in Aristotle's argument. No knowledge of Greek is required. When the argument does depend on the precise wording of the Greek text, translations and explanatory notes are provided, and there is a glossary of Greek terms. Sparshott offers insightful and useful criticism, making Taking Life Seriously the best available companion to a first reading of the Ethics. (shrink)
The encounter between Socrates and Thrasymachus in Republic I is notoriously baffling. Most of what is said seems straightforward, and the issues at stake are ones of common concern, but the argument remains elusive. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the nature and grounds of this elusiveness, and to show that some of it can be dispelled by a sufficiently free-ranging exegesis that bears in mind the general character of Plato’s writing.
Nelson Goodman equates expression with metaphorical exemplification. That is, a character C in a symbol system expresses a property P if three conditions are fulfilled: C has P ; C exemplifies P ; and C has P metaphorically. Two points are emphasized. The first point is that a character actually is what it metaphorically is: sad music really is sad, really does express sadness, just as loud music really is loud. The decision to apply to works of art language that (...) is literally applicable only to persons is arbitrary, in that no reason can be given for it other than its felt aptness; but, once the decision to use the terminology has been made, decisions about which terms are applicable to which works are no more arbitrary than any other decisions about the applications of terms. The second point is that there is no intimate connection between the concept of expression as thus defined and the concepts of emotion or feeling. The latter merely furnish one common set of metaphors. (shrink)
Greek, like English, disposes of many “virtue words,” that is, words which serve partly to describe people and partly to say that they are in some respect praiseworthy: such words as ‘honest’, ‘brave’, megaloprepês, agkhinous. Partly because of their twofold use, and partly because of the complexity of the ways in which we distinguish in given areas between praiseworthy and neutral or even reprehensible things to do, it is hard to explain how any one of these words is used; and (...) to explain, in any but a lexicographical sense, the ins and outs of the composition of the whole vocabulary is doubtless impossible. Yet Plato not only gave much time to the attempt to articulate the use of particular terms, but also committed himself to the extraordinary thesis that four virtues—courage, temperance, justice and wisdom—together made up “the whole of virtue”: that is, that the Greek terms thus translated jointly covered every way in which a man’s conduct and character could be meritorious. For at Republic 427e this is not only asserted but forms the basis of a momentous argument, emphasized by the startling pretence that one could arrive at an understanding of one of the virtues by defining the other three and seeing what good quality was left over. And this notion that there are four and only four virtues was not only widely adopted by later thinkers in classical antiquity, but through its adoption by Augustine has had a great influence on medieval thought and hence on Christian thought generally. (shrink)