22 February 2005

A Substantive Post is Owed

εὐδαιμονία !

Okay, that solves the Greek problem: compose in Word; cut and paste.

The following issue has been bothering me from Gabriel Lear's book. I will set up the problem today and say more tomorrow.

I have assumed (and have argued in print) that Aristotle's classification of goods in Nicomachean Ethics 1.7. 1097a30-34 is derived from Plato's in Republic II 357b-c. But Lear gives a good argument against this.

Recall that Aristotle gives three classes of goods:
1. reasonably sought (only) for the sake of something else
2. reasonably sought for its own sake and for the sake of something else
3. reasonably sought only for its own sake (and never for the sake of something else)

And Plato gives three classes of goods:
A. welcomed for its own sake
B. welcomed for its own sake and for the sake of what results
C. chosen only for the sake of something else

At first glance one might think: 1. maps to C.; 2. maps to B.; and 3. maps to A.

But Lear writes on her page 32:

In fact the threefold division of goods in Republic II is not equivalent to the threefold division of goods in NE 1.7. Notice that Socrates says that the second group is the finest, because it provides its possessor with happiness by two routes: The good thing will itself make him happy, and it will lead him to other sources of happiness (Rep. 358a). This suggests that Glaucon's groups are distinguished by the different ways they supply us with happiness. Since Glaucon's middle group is more useful in causing happiness, it is the best according to the terms of his division. Aristotle's groups, on the other hand, are distinguished by different levels of teleological subordination. From Aristotle's point of view, insofar as the goods in all three of Glaucon's groups are valuable because they provide us with happiness, they are choiceworthy for the sake of happiness. That is, none of them is valuable as something haplos teleion. Thus, despite superficial similarities, Plato's threefold division of goods as objects of desire gives us no reason to think that middle-level ends in the Nicomachean Ethics are essentially ends desired for themselves and for their results.

Lear adds in a footnote that Glaucon cites pleasure as an instance of A., but Platonists regarded pleasures as not the highest good, because pleasures are processes, and processes are not themselves goals or goods:

If Plato meant Glaucon to be distinguishing levels in a teleological hierarchy, he ought not have provided as the sole example of a good choiceworthy for its own sake a good that, on Plato's philosophy, is notorious for not having its end in itself.

So Lear's arguments are that:

  • the principle of division is different in the two cases
  • Plato takes B. to contain the best goods, but Aristotle takes 3.
  • happiness falls within Aristotle's 3, but it is not even meant to fall within any of Plato's three classes
  • Plato's gives pleasure as an example of A., a good that he would not have placed in Aristotle's 3.
Seems fairly conclusive, doesn't it? But perhaps things are not so clear. I'll say more later.