10 October 2007

Ungrammatical and incoherent?

Since there are no breaking events today in the world of ancient philosophy, here's a passage that has puzzled me, from Aristotle, EN III.7, 111b20-24. Note the obelized line:

τέλος δὲ πάσης ἐνεργείας
τὴν ἀνδρείαν.
C.C. W. Taylor in his recent Clarendon Aristotle volume renders:
The goal of every activity is what is in accordance with the state; and to the courageous person courage is something fine. So that is the nature of the goal; for each thing is determined by its goal. So it is for the sake of the fine that the courageous person endures and does courageous actions.
I'm quite confident that 'in accordance with the state' hardly has the meaning that Taylor wishes it to have!

But questions:
1. What's the argument here?
2. How to deal with that problematic line?
Taylor as regards 2. writes (as you might have guessed):
I follow Gauthier/Jolif and others in reading kai tōi andreiōi dē instead of OCT's ungrammatical kai tōi andreiōi de (dē is an emphatic particle, de the connective 'and', which merely duplicates kai.)


Anonymous said...

Here's how I think the argument goes.
1. For any activity of the F-ish sort, the goal of F-ish activity is the same as the goal of the disposition F-ness. (1115b20-21)
2. For any disposition F-ness, the goal of F-ness is whatever is peculiar to or distinctive of F-ness. (1115b22)
3. Fineness is peculiar to (or distinctive of) the disposition courage. (1115b21)
Therefore, 4. The goal of courage is the fine. [from 2+3] (1115b22)
Therefore, 5. The goal of courageous action is the fine. [from 1+4] (1115b23-24)

Broadie & Rowe's 2002 edition has an interesting alternative reading of the passage which has helped me:
"in every case, an activity's end is the one that accords with the corresponding disposition. This, then, holds for the courageous person too. Now, courage is something fine [kalon]. So the end [of courage], too, is such [i.e. it is the fine], since each thing is distinguished by its end. So it is for the sake of achieving the fine that the courageous person stands firm and acts in those ways that accord with courage" (p. 323).
See also Rowe's helpful comments on the passage at pp. 323-4: He explains that the point is to distinguish peculiarly courageous acts from acts that are done for the sake of expediency or to avoid punishment etc.; courageous acts must, by "definition", be done for the sake of achieving the admirable—rather than, e.g., for freedom from pain.

Michael Pakaluk said...

Dear Anonymous,

As Rowe indicates in a note on p. 134, he amends the text to read καὶ τῷ ἀνδρείῳ δή. ἡ δ'ἀνδρεία καλόν (following I think a suggestion originally by Rassow). The text that results is in my view inelegant because καὶ τῷ ἀνδρείῳ δή becomes unnecessary to the line of thought: Why mention the person when the trait of character is the topic of discussion?

Note also that there isn't an argument that is reconstructed in the Rowe/Broadie commentary. The commentary remarks that "The aim of this passage is clear, although the detail is obscure", but in my view it's precisely the detail that an interpretation needs to make clear, viz. why Aristotle chose those exact words to make his point. Aristotle might have "emphasized" that "an action is correctly said to be done from courage only if it is, and is done as, an instance of the fine" in many different ways, including words not dissimilar to those that the commentary uses to make that point. Yet what we find is a strange argument. Why? And what accounts for the shape of that argument?

Your reconstruction seems uninteresting to me, as an argument, because it's not clear that 3. is weaker or less controversial than the conclusion, or even different from the conclusion.

But please continue to make your case, and argue against me, if you think that I haven't yet seen your point.


Anonymous said...

As regards my reconstruction of the argument: I cannot defend it as "interesting", and I don't know that the argument Aristotle has in mind was interesting. In fact, maybe he did not even mean to present an argument in the passage; perhaps he's simply presenting - and elucidating - some presuppositions about courage and courageous actions that he believes must be accepted (whether or not there are independently justifiable premises that entail those presuppositions).

As regards Broadie&Rowe's reading of the problematic line: I think you have a good point: Why introduce the agent?

Perhaps tōi andreiōi in that line refers not to the courageous person, but to the courageous action, so that - accepting Broadie&Rowe's interpretaton that kai tōi andreiōi dē continues the line of thought of the initial claim and is followed by a full stop - the line reads: "in every case, an activity's end is the one that accords with the corresponding disposition - even [kai] surely [] in [the case of] the courageous [act]." (Compare Crito 47d4 where tōi dikaiōi is clearly "the just act".)

Michael Pakaluk said...

Dear Anonymous,

It is true that your reconstruction is 'coherent', and as such it certainly satisfies the implicit demand of my original post, in which I suggested that the passage (so some) risked seeming incoherent. So you are right that if I look for an 'interesting' interpretation, I'm looking for something beyond that.

If Aristotle has introduced the agent (as I think), then of course we must account for why he has done so. The objection to the Rassow emendation is that, on its own terms, it creates a reference to an agent which would be absent elsewhere in the passage-- and yet, as an emendation, it presumably should solve problems rather than create new ones.

I don't find your clever alternative suggestion plausible, for much the same reason that you have to reach to the Crito for a putative parallel. As I suspect you know, Aristotle uses the neuter plural not infrequently for the actions of a virtue (even, τὰ κατὰ τὴν ἀνδρείαν in this passage), but the neuter singular in that sense is not idiomatic for him--and I don't think he would advert to it, unecessarily, in a context in which it would inevitably be read as masculine singular.


David Gross said...

I stumbled over this passage and then reviewed a dozen translations / interpretations of it (mostly 19th century; I was relying on Google Books).

Many of the translations were ambiguous -- saying something along the lines of "the courageous person does what is courageous for the sake of what is honorable" without indicating whether that last bit is a descriptive or a restrictive clause.

Of the ones that came down firmly on one side or the other, one saw it as restrictive (an act can only be courageous if its end is honorable) and the others saw it as descriptive (the end of a courageous act is the honorable thing that is courageousness).

Note, though, that Aristotle seems to use similar language in the first chapter of book IV (liberality) that is less-ambiguous (or less-ambiguously translated, anyway -- I don't read Greek), and that seems to come down on the opposite (restrictive) side of the debate from the majority here.