Virtues of Thought

Virtues of Thought

Aryeh Kosman
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    Virtues of Thought
    Book Description:

    Exploring what two foundational figures, Plato and Aristotle, have to say about the nature of human awareness and understanding, Aryeh Kosman concludes that ultimately the virtues of thought are to be found in the joys and satisfactions that come from thinking philosophically, whether we engage in it ourselves or witness others' participation.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-41643-7
    Subjects: Philosophy, General Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    I’ve entitled this collection of essays on Plato and AristotleVirtues of Thoughtfor a number of reasons. The first is slight; one of the previously unpublished essays in the collection has a version of that title, and it seemed to me, given that this was its first appearance, nice to name the collection after that essay; it was rather as though I had decided to call the collection“Virtues of Thought” and Other Essays on Plato and Aristotle.

    The second reason is somewhat heftier. These essays can be understood to explore, in a broad sense, some of what Plato...

  4. 1 Understanding, Explanation, and Insight in Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics
    (pp. 7-26)

    ThePosterior Analytics, like theTheaetetus, is an essay on ἐπιστήμη, or understanding. For Aristotle, ἐπιστήμη is, in broadest terms, the explanatory art; one who understands is someone able to explain what he understands. In this sense, ἐπιστήμη is, as Aristotle repeatedly urges, a discursive disposition or habit of soul, a ἕξις, the locus of whose ἐνέργεια is in the activity of ἀπόδειξις, an activity that I shall with qualification call in English “explanation.” The explanatory art presupposes another sort of understanding, νοῦς, which is itself ἕξις, and whose nature and connection to ἐπιστήμη is complex and subtle.

    We think...

  5. 2 Platonic Love
    (pp. 27-42)

    It is not surprising that love, like other concepts that seem to have their first home in individual and personal contexts, should have assumed for Plato cosmic and mythic proportions. Throughout the dialogues may still be heard the voices of Hesiod and Empedocles, the voices of poets, philosophers, and myth makers for whom the human soul is a miniature of the world soul and Eros and Philia principles of cosmic magnitude.

    In Plato, the cosmic dimensions of love are most explicitly articulated in the earlySymposiumspeeches, in Erixymachus’s invocation of Eros as a principle operative not simply “ἐπὶ ταΐς...

  6. 3 Perceiving That We Perceive: De Anima 3.2
    (pp. 43-61)

    In the opening sections ofDe Anima3.2, Aristotle presents an account of what appears to be a mode of perceptual self-consciousness, the awareness on our part that we are, when seeing or hearing, for example, seeing or hearing. I shall first present Aristotle’s account in a fairly literal and minimally interpreted translation.

    (a) Since we perceive that we see and hear, it must either be (1) by sight that one perceives [for example] that he sees or (2) by some other [sense].

    (b) But then [if it is by some other sense] the same [sense] will be both of...

  7. 4 Being Properly Affected: Virtues and Feelings in Aristotle’s Ethics
    (pp. 62-76)

    A moral virtue, or as we might say, a good state of character, is for Aristotle an established disposition for free and deliberate conduct of the right sort, a ἕξις προαιρετική, as he puts it (Nicomachean Ethics 2.6, 1106b36;Eudemian Ethics 1.10, 1227b8). In providing an account of the moral life in which the concept of a virtue or state of character is central, Aristotle reveals what is clear throughout theEthics: that he, like Plato, thinks of the question of moral philosophy as not simply how I am to conduct myself in my life, but how I am to...

  8. 5 Necessity and Explanation in Aristotle’s Analytics
    (pp. 77-93)

    In this essay I propose to consider two questions about necessity. The first concerns a problem in the interpretation of Aristotle’s modal logic. In book 1 of thePrior Analytics, in the course of discussing modal syllogisms, Aristotle makes claims that seem inconsistent with one another, or that seem based on inconsistent views about the nature of modal propositions. Is there any way to make Aristotle’s modal logic coherent? The second is a question about the nature and role of modality in the task of scientific explanation. In book 1 of thePosterior Analytics, Aristotle argues that έπιστήμη, the understanding...

  9. 6 Acting: Drama as the Mimesis of Praxis
    (pp. 94-118)

    Like poetry in general, tragic poetry is a form of mimesis; so Aristotle tells his readers at the beginning of thePoetics. He then goes on to describe tragedy more particularly (in what seems to be more or less a definition of the genre) as the mimesis of an action: “ἕστιν ούν τραγωδία μίμησις πράξεως σπουδαίας: tragedy is the imitation [μίμησις] of a serious action [πράξις]” (Poetics 6, 1449b24). As part of the same account, Aristotle also describesmythosor plot (which he styles the “soul” of a drama, that is, the cause of its being what it is) as...

  10. 7 What Does the Maker Mind Make?
    (pp. 119-137)

    The title of this essay is the first half of a question unattested in late antiquity and in the Greek commentators but easily imagined: τί ποιεΐ ό νοΰς ό ποιητικός, και τί ποτ’ έστίν?—what does the maker mind make, and what is it, anyway? The rendering of νοΰς ποιητικός as “maker mind” is meant to suggest the inadequacy of the more usual translation of this phrase as “active mind” or “active intellect”. Although it is true that νοΰς ποιητικός is active and that it is therefore proper to call it “active intellect,” it is odd to think of this...

  11. 8 Saving the Phenomena: Realism and Instrumentalism in Aristotle’s Theory of Science
    (pp. 138-156)

    According to Simplicius, Plato thought that a central question of astronomical science was this: “What hypotheses using uniform circular and regular motions can save the planetary phenomena?”¹ Could this be a description of Aristotle’s view of the task of the astronomical scientist, or of the scientist in general? Some accounts of Aristotle might lead us to think so: G. E. L. Owen, for example, writes that

    Owen offers this as an account of what he styles Aristotle’s “Baconian Formula: first the phenomena, then the theory to explain them.” He qualifies this account by exploring the complexity of the notion of...

  12. 9 Aristotle on the Desirability of Friends
    (pp. 157-182)

    Near the end of his discussion of friendship in both of the ethical treatises, Aristotle asks why a person whose life is happy should need to have friends. He notes that the self-sufficiency thought to characterize a happy life might lead us to view friends as an unnecessary addition to such a life. The happy have what they need, living their lives of virtue; what do they want with friends? But such a view, Aristotle goes on to assert, is decidedly odd. It is peculiar to think of a happy person living in isolation, and more than just peculiar to...

  13. 10 Justice and Virtue: The Republic’s Inquiry into Proper Difference
    (pp. 183-203)

    TheRepublicis traditionally subtitled “On Justice,” and when we begin reading the dialogue, it seems clear that justice is to be its central topic. Book 1 in fact could be read as an independent dialogue specifically about justice, on the model of those Platonic dialogues devoted to the discussion of a single topic, topics such as piety in theEuthyphro, the highly elusive σωφροσύνη in theCharmides, or understanding in theTheaetetus. So we might imagine book 1 as an aporetic dialogue with a central eponymous character and dedicated to an investigation of justice, a dialogue entitled perhaps “Thrasymachus,”...

  14. 11 Male and Female in Aristotle’s Generation of Animals
    (pp. 204-226)

    Why is it that one animal is male and another female? This question, addressed by Aristotle throughout his treatise On theGeneration of Animals, does not mean merely to inquire into the process by which a particular animal is determined to be one sex rather than another; that question, to which he turns late in his treatise, presupposes the larger and more radical question of why animals should be sexed in the first place. Aristotle provides the broad outline of an answer to this question early in his treatise: in animals that are sexually dimorphic, the male and the female...

  15. 12 Self-Knowledge and Self-Control in Plato’s Charmides
    (pp. 227-245)

    It’s out of the question, Critias assures Socrates in the middle of theCharmides, that someone should act temperately, that is, act with selfcontrol, and yet not know of himself that that’s what he is doing—not, in other words, be aware of himself as someone acting temperately or being temperate. Critias’s assurance comes as a response to a concern that Socrates has just expressed. Socrates is troubled that the account given by Critias of σωφροσύνη—temperance—asa virtue that consists in the doing of what is right(ή τών αγαθών πράξις) has this consequence, perhaps unintended, but nonetheless...

  16. 13 Beauty and the Good: Situating the Kalon
    (pp. 246-266)

    Early in theSumma Theologica, Thomas Aquinas, discussing the nature of goodness, considers an argument purporting to show that the good is not a final cause. Goodness is very much like beauty—we may recall Dionysius saying thatbonum laudatur ut pulchrum.¹ But beauty is a formal cause; so perhaps we should see goodness, like beauty, as a formal rather than a final cause. Here is his response:

    Beauty and goodness in a subject are basically the same, for they’re founded on the same thing, namely form; and because of this, goodness is praised as beauty. But they’re conceptually distinct....

  17. 14 Translating Ousia
    (pp. 267-279)

    In a letter to his Hungarian translator, Thomas Mann posed this question: “Who would wish to discourage the peoples of the world from translating,” he asked, “merely because it is fundamentally impossible?”¹ The characteristics that Mann here mischievously attributes to translation—translation isubiquitousand it’simpossible—are meant to strike us as odd, indeed as oxymoronic.

    Scholars of ancient philosophy rarely raise such a question of translation’s possibility, even though we devote a good deal of our time to the act of translation. Perhaps we have no heart for the hyperbole of “impossible” or perhaps none for waggish oxymorons...

  18. 15 Aristotle on the Virtues of Thought
    (pp. 280-298)

    Near the beginning of book 6 of theNicomachean Ethics, Aristotle reminds us of a distinction he has earlier drawn:

    Distinguishing the virtues of the soul, we said that some were virtues of character [τοΰ ᾕθους], others virtues of thought [τής διανοίας]. (Nicomachean Ethics 6.1, 1138b35–1139a2)

    He then announces his intention to consider in book 6 the virtues introduced but not discussed since that distinction was announced, the virtues that he callsvirtues of thought(Nicomachean Ethics 6.1, 1139a2–4; 1.13, 1103a5–8; 2.1, 1103a14–16).

    In this essay I’ll propose two interpretations of what Aristotle means by “virtues...

  19. Notes
    (pp. 299-318)
  20. Index
    (pp. 319-325)