Julia Annas offers a new account of virtue and happiness as central ethical ideas. She argues that exercising a virtue involves practical reasoning of the kind we find in someone exercising an everyday practical skill, such as farming, building, or playing the piano. This helps us to see virtue as part of an agent's happiness or flourishing.
Ancient ethical theories, based on the notions of virtue and happiness, have struck many as an attractive alternative to modern theories. But we cannot find out whether this is true until we understand ancient ethics--and to do this we need to examine the basic structure of ancient ethical theory, not just the details of one or two theories. In this book, Annas brings together the results of a wide-ranging study of ancient ethical philosophy and presents it in a way that (...) is easily accessible to anyone with an interest in ancient or modern ethics. She examines the fundamental notions of happiness and virtue, the role of nature in ethical justification and the relation between concern for self and concern for others. Her careful examination of the ancient debates and arguments shows that many widespread assumptions about ancient ethics are quite mistaken. Ancient ethical theories are not egoistic, and do not depend for their acceptance on metaphysical theories of a teleological kind. Most centrally, they are recognizably theories of morality, and the ancient disputes about the place of virtue in happiness can be seen as akin to modern disputes about the demands of morality. (shrink)
This interpretive introduction provides unique insight into Plato's Republic. Stressing Plato's desire to stimulate philosophical thinking in his readers, Julia Annas here demonstrates the coherence of his main moral argument on the nature of justice, and expounds related concepts of education, human motivation, knowledge and understanding. In a clear systematic fashion, this book shows that modern moral philosophy still has much to learn from Plato's attempt to move the focus from questions of what acts the just person ought to perform (...) to the more profound questions of what sort of person the just person ought to be. (shrink)
This chapter provides an intellectual framework for understanding modern theories of virtue. It presents a version of virtue ethics, which draws on the resources of the historical, particularly ancient, tradition, discussing the ways in which a virtue is a disposition, and the ways in which it involves practical reasoning and emotion. It explores virtue’s relation to flourishing and to right action, and the way in which virtue involves aspiring to an ideal. It also discusses the relation of virtue to human (...) nature. Finally, it shows how some modern versions of virtue ethics can reasonably be seen as weaker or less complete theories than the one featured. (shrink)
What is it like to be a good person? I examine and reject suggestions that this will involve having thoughts which have virtue or being a good person as part of their content, as well as suggestions that it might be the presence of feelings distinct from the virtuous person’s thoughts. Is there, then, anything after all to the phenomenology of virtue? I suggest that an answer is to be found in looking to Aristotle’s suggestion that virtuous activity is pleasant (...) to the virtuous person. I try to do this, using the work of the contemporary social psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi and his work on the ‘flow experience’. Crucial here is the point that I consider accounts of virtue which take it to have the structure of a practical expertise or skill. It is when we are most engaged in skilful complex activity that the activity is experienced as ‘unimpeded’, in Aristotle’s terms, or as ‘flow’. This experience does not, as might at first appear, preclude thoughtful involvement and reflection. Although we can say what in general the phenomenology of virtue is like, each of us only has some more or less dim idea of it from the extent to which we are virtuous—that is, for most of us, not very much. (shrink)
Abstract The article argues that a consideration of the idea, common in ancient ethical theory, that virtue is a skill or craft, reveals that some common construals of it are mistaken. The analogy between virtue and skill is not meant to suggest that virtue is an unreflective habit of practised action. Rather what interests ancient ethical theorists is the intellectual structure of a skill, one demanding grasp of the principles defining the field and an ability to reflect on the justification (...) of particular actions. This is brought out with reference particularly to the discussion of virtue as analogous with skill in Plato's early Socratic dialogues. The demands made of the virtuous agent by philosophers who regard virtue as analogous to skill are akin to the demands made by more recent theories of morality which demand that the moral agent be able to reflect on her practices, extract the principles that these depend on, and produce justification when needed. This point about ancient ethical theories enables us to appreciate their distance from modern versions of ?virtue ethics? ? which stress the importance of the traditions and contexts within which the content of the virtues is learned, and place less importance on the need for intellectual justification. The type of virtue ethics defended by Alasdair Maclntyre provides an instructive example of this contrasting kind of theory. (shrink)
There are problems with egoism as a theory, but what matters here is the point that intuitively ethics is thought to be about the good of others, so that focusing on your own good seems wrong from the start. Virtues are not just character traits, however, since forgetfulness or stubbornness are not virtues. Virtues are character traits which are in some way desirable. Criticism is generally renewed at this point on the grounds that claims about flourishing are now including claims (...) about virtue, and are thus no longer common ground to the defender and the critic of virtue ethics. But virtue ethics has never held that they are, so this is not a problem. It is only to be expected that the virtuous will differ from the nonvirtuous in their assessments of flourishing, because we are dealing here with virtue in the context of a formally characterized conception of flourishing. (shrink)
"Hellenistic Philosophy of Mind" is an elegant survey of Stoic and Epicurean ideas about the soul an introduction to two ancient schools whose belief in the soul's physicality offer compelling parallels to modern approaches in the ...
The Modes of Scepticism is one of the most important and influential of all ancient philosophical texts. The texts made an enormous impact on Western thought when they were rediscovered in the 16th century and they have shaped the whole future course of Western philosophy. Despite their importance, the Modes have been little discussed in recent times. This book translates the texts and supplies them with a discursive commentary, concentrating on philosophical issues but also including historical material. The book will (...) be of interest to professional scholars and philosophers but its clear and non-technical style makes it intelligible to beginners and the interested layman. (shrink)
Julia Annas here offers a fundamental reexamination of Plato's ethical thought by investigating the Middle Platonist perspective, which emerged at the end of Plato's own school, the Academy. She highlights the differences between ancient and modern assumptions about Plato's ethics--and stresses the need to be more critical about our own. One of these modern assumptions is the notion that the dialogues record the development of Plato's thought. Annas shows how the Middle Platonists, by contrast, viewed the dialogues as multiple presentations (...) of a single Platonic ethical philosophy, differing in form and purpose but ultimately coherent. They also read Plato's ethics as consistently defending the view that virtue is sufficient for happiness, and see it as converging in its main points with the ethics of the Stoics. Annas goes on to explore the Platonic idea that humankind's final end is "becoming like God"--an idea that is well known among the ancients but virtually ignored in modern interpretations. She also maintains that modern interpretations, beginning in the nineteenth century, have placed undue emphasis on the Republic, and have treated it too much as a political work, whereas the ancients rightly saw it as a continuation of Plato's ethical writings. (shrink)
Outlines of Scepticism, by the Greek philosopher Sextus Empiricus, is a work of major importance for the history of Greek philosophy. It is the fullest extant account of ancient scepticism, and it is also one of our most copious sources of information about the other Hellenistic philosophies. Its first part contains an elaborate exposition of the Pyrrhonian variety of scepticism; its second and third parts are critical and destructive, arguing against 'dogmatism' in logic, epistemology, science and ethics - an approach (...) that revolutionized the study of philosophy when Sextus' works were rediscovered and published in the sixteenth century. This volume presents the accurate and readable translation which was first published in 1994, together with a substantial new historical and philosophical introduction by Jonathan Barnes. (shrink)
Julia Annas explores how Plato's account of the relation of virtue to law developed, and how his ideas were taken up by Cicero and by Philo of Alexandria. She shows that, rather than rejecting the account given in his Republic, Plato develops in the Laws a more careful and sophisticated version of that account.
Virtue ethics is sometimes taken to be incapable of providing guidance for an individual's actions, as some other ethical theories do. I show how virtue ethics does provide guidance for action, and also meet the objection that, while it may account for what we ought to do, it cannot account for the force of duty and obligation.
In the area of moral epistemology, there is an interesting problem facing the person in my area, ancient philosophy, who hopes to write a historical paper which will engage with our current philosophical concerns. Not only are ancient ethical theories very different in structure and concerns from modern ones, but the concerns and emphases of ancient epistemology are very different from those of modern theories of knowledge. Some may think that they are so different that they are useful to our (...) own discussions only by way of contrast. I am more sanguine, but I am quite aware that this essay's contribution to modern debates does not fall within the established modern traditions of discussing moral epistemology. (shrink)
This book features new essays by philosophers, psychologists, and a theologian on the important topic of virtue development. The essays engage with work from multiple disciplines and thereby seek to bridge disciplinary divides. The volume is a significant contribution to the emerging interdisciplinary field of virtue development studies.
Not many philosophers have dealt seriously with the problems of women's rights and status, and those that have, have unfortunately often been on the wrong side. In fact Plato and Mill are the only great philosophers who can plausibly be called feminists. But there has been surprisingly little serious effort made to analyse their arguments; perhaps because it has seemed like going over ground already won.
The two most important and central concepts in ancient ethical theory are those of virtue and happiness. This is well-known by now, as is the way that many scholars and philosophers have in recent years investigated the structure of ancient ethical theories, at least partly in the hope that this would help us in our modern ethical thinking by introducing us to developed theories which escape the problems that have led to so much frustration with deontological and consequentialist approaches. And (...) there has indeed been considerable interest in developing modern forms of ethics which draw inspiration, to a greater or lesser extent, from the ancient theories. However, there is an asymmetry here. Modern theories which take their inspiration from Aristotle and other ancient theorists are standardly called virtue ethics, not happiness ethics. We have rediscovered the appeal of aretē, but eudaimonia is still, it appears, problematic for us. This has an important consequence for us, for in ancient theories virtue is not discussed in isolation; it is seen as part of a larger structure in which the overarching concept is happiness. If we focus on virtue alone and ignore its relation to happiness, we are missing a large part of the interest that study of the ancient theories can offer. (shrink)
One of the best places to seek understanding of happiness is the study of ancient ethical theories and of those modern theories which share their eudaimonist concerns. For these recognize, and build on, some of our thoughts about happiness that have become overwhelmed by the kind of consideration that emerges in the claim that happiness is obviously subjective. Given the systematically disappointing results of the database approach, it is time to look seriously at our alternatives.
Author Julia Annas Aristotle made the German Asia-mile out and fortunately Fuk The arguments related point, and the role of external good fortune Fook in the problems caused. And text analysis and dialectical Happy Stoic school and school for good moral behavior and external point of view. Author argues, Aristotle on the German sub-km behavior regardless of the state with the fortunate Fook, reflecting the hope臘human ethics ideological consensus, and he left to posterity to resolve the discovery. Aristotle on the (...) German sub-km conduct the test volume and fortunately Fook to take the views of ordinary people, and thus for long-term development. We take this to understand the Stoic school and get away with school, behavior and fortunately for Germany Fuk related views and noted against the intentions are. Julia Annas presents Aristotle's view of the relation of virtue and happiness, and the resulting problem of the role of the external goods in happiness. The Stoics and Peripatetic views on virtue and external goods have been analyzed and argued. The writer suggests what Aristotle says about virtue and happiness reflects common sense of Greek ethical thought and leaves the issue. Aristotle's account of virtue and happiness takes ordinary thought on the matter and develops it far. We can see what the Stoics and Peripatetics are going to say on this matter and the opposing tendencies in this article. (shrink)
When examining the role of Stoic ethics within Stoic philosophy as a whole, it is useful for us to look at the Stoic view of the way in which philosophy is made up of parts. The aim is a synoptic and integrated understanding of the "theoremata" of all the parts, something which can be achieved in a variety of ways, either by subsequent integration of separate study of the three parts or by proceeding through 'mixed' presentations, which can be made (...) at varying levels of understanding. In two presentations of Stoic ethics we find initially baffling claims about the life of virtue being 'the same as' or 'equivalent to' the life according to nature. These indicate approaches in which understanding of ethical concepts was enlarged and enriched by study of physics. Interpretation which makes physics in these passages into ethical foundations answers poorly to the ancient texts and raises severe difficulties as an interpretation of Stoicism. Two texts which have been taken to commit Stoics to a foundationalist view of the relation of ethics and physics do not in fact do so; rather, they fit well into the holistic view of philosophy and its parts. (shrink)
Plato's Republic has proven to be of astounding influence and importance. Justly celebrated as Plato's central text, it brings together all of his prior works, unifying them into a comprehensive vision that is at once theological, philosophical, political and moral. The essays in this volume provide a picture of the most interesting aspects of the Republic, and address questions that continue to puzzle and provoke, such as: Does Plato succeed in his argument that the life of justice is the most (...) attractive one? Is his tripartite analysis of the soul coherent and plausible? Why does Plato seem to have to force his philosopher-guardians to rule when they know this is something that they ought to do? What is the point of the strange and complicated closing Myth of Er? This volume will be essential to those looking for thoughtful and detailed excursions into the problems posed by Plato's text and ideas. (shrink)
Examines prudential and moral reasoning in ancient and modern ethics. Ancient ethical theories' task of articulating the agent's overall goal; Structural differences between ancient eudaemonist theories and modern theories; Virtue as a complex intellectual kind of understanding.
This paper examines the ancient appeal to nature in ethics to support the account of the final end in life offered by the various schools from aristotle onwards. various modern objections against the appeal to nature are examined and found not to hold. as a result certain features of the ancient position emerge: the appeal to human nature is not an attempt to end ethical argument by appeal to undisputed fact; nor does it depend on a metaphysics which we can (...) no longer accept; nor is it meant to map out a specific way of life or set of ethical rules. it amounts to something like an appeal to moral psychology to set guidelines for a realistic ethical theory. a proper understanding of the ancient appeal to nature reveals the limits to some modern metaethical assumptions, and also the extent to which there may be more continuity between ancient ethics and some modern ethical thinking than is often assumed. (shrink)
When Mill's The Subjection of Women was published in 1869 it was ahead of its time in boldly championing feminism. It failed to inaugurate a respectable intellectual debate. Feminist writers have tended to refer to it with respect but without any serious attempt to come to grips with Mill's actual arguments. Kate Millett's chapter in Sexual Politics is the only sustained discussion of Mill in the feminist literature that I am aware of, but it is not from a philosophical viewpoint, (...) and deals with Mill only in the service of an extended comparison with Ruskin. Philosophical books on Mill give the essay short measure. Alan Ryan in J. S. Mill heads one chapter ‘Liberty and The Subjection of Women’, but the former work gets twenty-six pages and the latter only four. Ryan says that ‘it is almost entirely concerned with the legal disabilities of women in Victorian England’. H. J. McCloskey, injfohn Stuart Mill: A Critical Study, gives the essay one and a half pages, commenting that it reads ‘like a series of truisms’ and seems so unimportant today because equality of the sexes has been achieved! (shrink)
The ethics of Aristotle , and virtue ethics in general, have enjoyed a resurgence of interest over the past few decades. Aristotelian themes, with such issues as the importance of friendship and emotions in a good life, the role of moral perception in wise choice, the nature of happiness and its constitution, moral education and habituation, are finding an important place in contemporary moral debates. Taken together, the essays in this volume provide a close analysis of central arguments in Aristotle's (...) Nicomachean Ethics and show the enduring interest of the questions Aristotle raises. (shrink)