27 September 2006

Voluntary Everywhere if Anywhere

I've been wondering if the words that Meyer omits in her translation of EE 1223a9-18 don't actually undermine her interpretation of that passage. I may say something more about that later. Today I'll only touch upon that and will instead give my view on the questions I had raised earlier.

Here is the text again. For your convenience, I'll put in blue those texts disputed in the apparatus (in bold too those doubly disputed):

[1] e)pei\ d' h(/ te a)reth\ kai\ h( kaki/a kai\ ta\ a)p' au)tw=n e)/rga ta\ me\n e)paineta\ ta\ de\ yekta/ [2] ye/getai ga\r kai\ e)painei=tai ou) dia\ ta\ e)c a)na/gkhj h)\ tu/xhj h)\ fu/sewj u(pa/rxonta, a)ll' o(/swn au)toi\ ai)/tioi e)sme/n: o(/swn ga\r a)/lloj ai)/tioj, e)kei=noj kai\ to\n yo/gon kai\ to\n e)/painon e)/xei), [3] dh=lon o(/ti kai\ h( a)reth\ kai\ h( kaki/a peri\ tau=t' e)stin w(=n au)to\j ai)/tioj kai\ a)rxh\ pra/cewn. lhpte/on a)/ra poi/wn au)to\j ai)/tioj kai\ a)rxh\ pra/cewn. pa/ntej me\n dh\ o(mologou=men, o(/sa me\n e(kou/sia kai\ kata\ proai/resin th\n e(ka/stou, e)kei=non ai)/tion ei)=nai, o(/sa d' a)kou/sia, ou)k au)to\n ai)/tion. pa/nta d' o(/sa proelo/menoj, kai\ e(kw\n dh=lon o(/ti. dh=lon toi/nun o(/ti kai\ h( a)reth\ kai\ h( kaki/a tw=n e(kousi/wn a)\n ei)/hsan.
The OCT apparatus reads:
dia/ secl. Fritzsche
kai\ a)rxh\ pra/cewn secl. Dodds
kai\ ... a)kou/sia, om. PC e)kei=non] e)kei/nwn Fritzsche
Now what about those questions I had raised about this passage (see the earlier post)?

The question I raised about gar is perhaps easiest to answer. I asked how, since [2] was a gar clause and therefore presumably supported [1], we were meant to infer [3] directly from [1]?

The answer (I think) is that sometimes Aristotle uses gar to identify a presupposition which he thinks is implicit in a practice. If we understand [2] in that way it would be saying, in effect: "It is presupposed (in our practices of thus assigning praise and blame) that a person gets praise and blame only for those things for which he is himself responsible". But then this presupposition, once identified, may of course be used now to infer [3].

I then asked about the translation of ta\ a)p' au)tw=n e)/rga , which Meyer renders as 'their products', and peri\ tau=ta, which Meyer (associating pra/cewn with w(=n throughout) renders as 'concerns those actions'. I wondered if the first was an undertranslation and the second perhaps an overtranslation. I also asked about the significance of the last sentence: "virtue and vice would be in the class of voluntary things".

These two questions, I believe, are interrelated.

If we view the passage in light of that last sentence (as I think correct), then the passage appears to be doing two things. First, as is clear, it is intent on establishing the following series of biconditionals:
X is a suitable object of praise and blame
we are responsible for X
X is voluntary
But, second, as is less clear, the passage seems to be operating on the assumption that everything surrounding virtue and vice has to fall in these three classes, if anything surrounding them is to do so. That would seem to be why we have the variation: virtue and vice (h( a)reth\ kai\ h( kaki/a); acts which we do as a result of having these (ta\ a)p' au)tw=n e)/rga); and acts of the sort that contribute to our acquiring these, or which are the basis for or domain in which we acquire these (peri\ tau=ta). The EE author wants to cover all bases: what comes before virtue and vice, what comes after, and the states of character themselves--with the suggestion that if, in any area, one were to find the operation solely of "necessity, chance, or nature", then none of the above predicates would apply. And he reaches last, and as the conclusion, the claim that virtue and vice are themselves voluntary, because this is presumably the most difficult to see and to defend (and compare NE III.5). (This interpretation is aided if we accept Dodds' suggestion, since then poi/wn au)to\j ai)/tioj, standing on its own, evidently leaves open the possibility of our being responsible for things other than actions--although this is not indeed excluded by the text even as it stands.)

For 'actions which we do as a result' of having a virtue or vice, compare, e.g. a)f' h{j eu} to_ e9autou~ e1rgon a)podw&sei ktl. in NE II.6:
Dei= de\ mh_ mo&non ou3twj ei0pei=n, o3ti e3cij, a)lla_ kai\ poi/a tij. r(hte/on ou}n o3ti pa~sa a)reth&, ou{ a2n h|} a)reth&, au)to& te eu} e1xon a)potelei= kai\ to_ e1rgon au)tou~ eu} a)podi/dwsin, oi[on h( tou~ o)fqalmou~ a)reth_ to&n te o)fqalmo_n spoudai=on poiei= kai\ to_ e1rgon au)tou~: th|~ ga_r tou~ o)fqalmou~ a)reth|~ eu} o(rw~men. o(moi/wj h( tou~ i3ppou a)reth_ i3ppon te spoudai=on poiei= kai\ a)gaqo_n dramei=n kai\ e0negkei=n to_n e0piba&thn kai\ mei=nai tou_j polemi/ouj. ei0 dh_ tou~t' e0pi\ pa&ntwn ou3twj e1xei, kai\ h( tou~ a)nqrw&pou a)reth_ ei1h a2n h( e3cij a)f' h{j a)gaqo_j a1nqrwpoj gi/netai kai\ a)f' h{j eu} to_ e9autou~ e1rgon a)podw&sei.
For 'acts which are the basis for or domain in which' we acquire and exercise a virtue or vice, compare, e.g. throughout NE II.7 (but many other instances are available):
peri\ me\n ou}n fo&bouj kai\ qa&rrh a)ndrei/a meso&thj: ...peri\ h(dona_j de\ kai\ lu&pajou)
pa&saj, ...meso&thj me\n swfrosu&nh,...peri\ de\ do&sin xrhma&twn kai\ lh~yin meso&thj me\n e0leuqerio&thj
In the discussion in which she quotes the EE passage, Meyer writes:
...even though Aristotle repeatedly claims that virtue is praiseworthy and vice blameworthy, he never explains this by saying that we are responsible for these states of character
But isn't this contradicted by the very EE passage that Meyer cites? The passage asserts that states of character fall in the class of voluntary things, and that the voluntary is coextensive with what we are responsible for, and that our being responsible for something makes intelligible our application of praise and blame. Again, Meyer says:
...Aristotle thinks character is praiseworthy in virtue of the actions it causes, not because of anything about the process by which it comes into being. Thus the causal relation he finds essential to praiseworthiness and blameworthiness, which is what he seeks to capture in his account of voluntariness, is the one in which character produces actions. The actions that Aristotle is concerned to classify as voluntary are those produced by character.
This is perhaps possible as an interpretation of the EE passage, but it would seem artificial to restrict the concern of that passage solely to the relationship between character and actions 'produced' by it.