September 8, 2012

I'm not dead! You're just not real!

Well now...I thought I had the whole relationship of an author and the audience under a somewhat decent understanding. However, once I began reading Ong, I found my perspective spun around yet again and my head pretty much fell off my shoulders. The part that gave me this side-effect was on page 13 in the right hand column where he mentions Hemingway's style of writing. Hemingway had a style of writing that was very 'you and me' according to Ong, which, as I understood it to be, meant that he would make the reader rely heavily on his descriptions and voice. He would be vague while at the same time being deliberate and detailed. Ex) "That mountain you see ten miles away is indicated there on the map on the wall." By doing this, we as the audience are relying heavily on his point of view and his existence-which brings me to a warped conclusion. This relationship he created is a very "you and me"-you the audience, me the writer. This relationship goes against what Aristotle and several others theorists say when they refer to the author as being 'dead' or invisible.

September 6, 2012

Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics: The line betwee

I thought this read was both difficult and interesting, especially because it is a transcribed speech that alluded to Aristotle's son's death. There were many messages to come from it, that being the nature of goodness, virtue, choice, and happiness. I chose to analyze the nature of virtue for one of my responses, but as the class went on, I found myself more interested in the nature of choice through discussion.

Aristotle transitions from his lecture on involuntary, voluntary, and non-voluntary acts, and what makes a man virtuous through his intentions from his actions. For example, a voluntary act is "an act of which the origin lies in the agent, who knows the particular circumstances in which he is acting (127)." He then states the nature of choice, which determines what makes an act voluntary or not. He states that choice is connected with virtue, but shouldn't be confused with desire, passion, wishes, and sometimes opinions. I thought his statement was interesting when he said that choice and voluntary actions aren't synonymous, where irrational animals do not display choice. So, he concludes that the object of choice is the object of deliberation, where "we deliberate in things in which our agency operates but does not produce the same results (137). Deliberation is put toward things where the outcome is uncertain, and we trust our deliberations to decide. 

Herrick: Rhetoric as Equipment for Living

In Herrick’s essay, Contemporary Rhetoric II: Rhetoric as Equipment for Living, a stance is taken that is portrayed by Burke early in the essay that alludes to rhetoric as a social context. He states that it is situational, which correlates with Burke’s essay, Literature as Equipment for Living. He agrees that rhetoric is symbolic as a way of inducing agents of change in a community to communicate and to “eliminate war” or communicative conflict in society. The essay goes on to address the human aspect of rhetoric, where humans use language to address subjects and indicate the best and worst qualities of humanity. For example, he states that people are “rotten with perfection,” meaning that the desire to use language to impose perfection on surroundings to make a proper name, which is what makes us “perfectionists.”

Ethics in our Justice System

Our application of Aristotle's writings and philosophy is evident in our current justice system. We take a similar discourse to that of Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics towards the distinction between voluntary and involuntary actions based on the agent’s original intentions.

In cases where the question of the severity of punishment that should be received for a committed crime comes down to whether the crime was committed voluntarily or involuntarily our justice system has the task of making that distinction. Black’s Law Dictionary defines voluntary as "Free; without compulsion or solicitation. Without consideration; without valuable consideration; involuntary as that which is performed with constraint or with repugnance, or without the will to do it. An action is involuntary, then, which is performed under duress."

A False Sense of Good

I really enjoyed that Aristotle not only defined good, but also brought up the many different ways men falsely define good in Nicomachean Ethics.  He mentions that a man of good morals will live his life with goodness because he knows the principles of goodness and seeks to live his life this way. He goes on to state that only vulgar men mistake good with pleasure. An obvious false sense of good as pleasure is wealth- yet, many people still seek out wealth more than anything else in life. Aristotle does acknowledge that wealth can help make Good useful—but he makes sure to distinguish that although it can enable good, wealth is in no way good inherently. I think what he means by this is that wealthy men have more opportunities to inspire goodness, because their wealth allows them more power and influence in a community. If they choose to live a life seeking goodness, they can spread lots of good with their fortune. I like that Aristotle distinguishes the two, because so many people mix up leading a good life with leading a successful one.

September 5, 2012

Life with Aristotle

Aristotle had the opprtunity to bless our lives with life lesson 101. He sat down and wrote Nichomeans Ethics for us, and the true impact is so great. He pointed out that we as every day people walk our every day lives with the thought of one thing, HAPPINESS. Some of you might read this and disagree, which you can for it is called your opinion, and this is mine. We as college students came to school in order to reach our "happy" state of being. We felt that by coming to FSU that we will be equipped with the necessary tools to become a great person. We will be able to move forward in our lives with the thought of us doing wonderful things that in the end made us happy and come to a state of being accomplished/successful. Aristotle has given us the ground work or the foundation for this to become a reality in our lives. We have been aiming for happiness, which is at the top of the pyramid.

You create your reality?

I found interesting the point that Herrick makes about Mikhail Bakhtin makes about reality. He says that "Language is not reflective of a materialistic world". Bakhtin believes that our language and our words create our reality. this resides with me very well. I have always wondered to myself why a chair is called a chair and a door is called a door and who put a name to all of these tangible objects that we see and use on a daily basis. This brought me back to some movies about quantum physics. Some scientists say that you can in fact shape your reality. They did an experiment where kittens who were born were placed into an environment where there were only horizontal lines. They were raised having never seen a vertical line. When the kittens were placed into the real world, they made no response to the any type of vertical lines. For instance, the legs of a chair, which they ran right into as if they could not even see them at all. Do things exist in our reality that we do not see because language has shaped us as we grew to see only the things that others believed to have existed? who came up with the original names for all of the items that our universes possesses.

Aristotle and science of Politics

Every man is a critic but it seems that Aristotle is trying to say that people are only good critics on things that they are knowledgeable in. And to be knowledgeable in a subject they must first have been taught that subject. But he goes on to say that to have good knowledge on one subject you must have been taught all subjects to understand it in full. Because someone has to have this much knowledge and life experience to be credible on a subject those of the younger generation, like me, cannot be true students of Political Science. He argues this statement by saying that we cannot be students of this subject because we do not have enough life experience or life conduct to be able to correctly argue this branch of philosophy. So what I want to argue is when someone is supposed to have enough life experience to be a good student as you could say. Because later he goes on to say something along the lines of it is not even a matter of age at some points but he also calls into question a person’s maturity level as well. For if it is the science of politics that determines who is able to learn what and to what extent they are allowed to learn it how is anyone to know when someone is ready for this power. 

Aristotle's Ideas

I feel that Aristotle is defining art as any activity that one practices or exercises for pure enjoyment or the good it can do to the body physically or mentally. This is done through knowing political science. If you know political science it is seen as the supreme good. He argues that politics is the most “authoritative” science and this is the one to know. He says that political science “lays down laws as to what people should do and what they should refrain from.” The aim of people should be the study of politics (moral nobility and justice). Aristotle believing that young people “are led by their feelings” is a misconception because he argues that people need to have experience to know political science and if that is the case, then that is to say that young people have not had a lot of experiences. Yes, the youth have not lived to see all their experiences, but some have seen more than a person twice their age. In cases where the youth have experiences before they have some years lived I feel that they have matured enough to not be led by their feelings. Aristotle’s views on happiness and good go hand in hand because having a “good life” is the same as what makes people happy.

Aristotle on Virtue

Men want to look virtuous, therefore they do what they believe is honorable and has merit to those that they respect enough to be judged by. Yet even if a person is considered to be virtuous it is not an end. For virtue is not a greater good, but a virtuous persons actions can lead to and end that is.

Aristotle says that virtue is concerned with emotions and actions, but more importantly we see that, depending on the circumstances, it is ultimately peoples choices that determine their virtue. The actions that people do are usually voluntary, even those done in ignorance, such as when one is drunk, has to be considered to some extent voluntary because they chose to drink even though they may act in a bad way. Thus we must determine that choices are a big part of virtue. It is a persons choices that determine the virtue of a person, not just the actions, for we understand what motivated them to work towards this good or bad. 

What is Rhetoric?

I see that most of the posts here are about Aristotle’s article that we had to read before class, but I still have some things on my mind about one of the first articles we had to read in this class for our first preliminary exercise. We had to choose an article to read out of three theorists and I picked Jennifer Richards’ What is Rhetoric?, which happened to be the hardest article of the three. I would not classify this article as hard since I could read it and understand it, but it was definitely dense. Richards took it into her own hands to sort of chronicle the definition of the word rhetoric throughout the years and how people viewed the term and its relevance. This seems like a difficult undertaking since rhetoric is the art of discourse and almost everything falls under this category. Even though many things throughout time fall under this category, she was able to set up an article that covers the transition of the term rhetoric to a certain degree. I felt that one sentence in the article embodies the structure of her article and the journey that rhetoric has gone through over the years, “rhetoric is an art, but it is not; rhetoric is dead, but it thrives” (Richards 18). I thought this was the most confusing definition one could use to define rhetoric, but as I reread the article it actually defines the term perfectly.

The Death of the Author

Throughout Roland Barthes article, “The Death of the Author,” it was stated that the author should not be the main focus when it comes to anything read or written, but the reader should be held at a higher level. Barthes proclaimed this statement at the end of this article, “the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author” (Barthes 877). As we said in class the word Author is capitalized, which means Barthes is referencing a person or better yet the Author is a person. I hope you know where I am going with this because maybe Barthes is proclaiming the Author is more than just a person but the entity that is the writing, “explanation of a work is always sought in the man or woman who produced it, as it were always in the end, through the more less transparent allegory of the fiction, the voice of a single person the author “confining” in us” (Barthes 875). That was the last time he spelt author without a capital letter, which is a shift in the thought process of what an author is.

Are you Happy?

Aristotle focuses on the question of "What is Happiness?" in his first book, as well as the goodness of man. He states on page 11 part (2) that most people conceive "the good life" and a healthy wellbeing is what makes you happy. He exclaims that the general concept of human happiness is when you go from rich to poor, or sick to well, or even gaining honor. That the state of the material life is what makes ones happy. Aristotle believes that in order to be truly happy, one must be feel self-sufficient and fulfilled. As stated on page 25 (vii) , “that which is always desirable in itself and never for the sake of something else,” he is basically saying that you can only achieve happiness by doing something for your self and never do something with an ulterior motive. I agree with Aristotle in this belief. I honestly don't believe things like money make you happy. Yes, money is freeing, but it doesn't remove any self-problems. I think the only way to be happy is by doing things because you feel as though it is what the soul truly desires.

Where is your happy place?

Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle is considered one of his most important works because it sets the stage for a very important ethical debate, which is the best way to live and what does it mean to be happy. “What constitutes happiness is a matter of dispute” (Aristotle 7). Aristotle saw how different people can be happy different ways and was not ignorant to the fact that that term could take on different meanings for different persons. He also tries to make “good living” for the whole population. It is interesting that although Aristotle recognizes that happiness can have multiple meanings, he also tries to create good living. Would this be the same kind of living for everyone? Or maybe it’s just everyone living their own version of happiness?

good, desire, choices?

Through out Book I Aristotle tries to define the term of Good and how we apply it to life (as ordinary people and philosophical people) and the more in depth he goes with is explanation, the more his definition seems to be blurring. I gathered that Good is a human trait, one that we tend to confuse with materialistic need. Aristotle in a way is saying we should enjoy things for more than just face value.But how do yo identify the good? Is the good there because we were raised to think one way about it or because we came up with that conclusion ourselves?

But in book III he talks about desire and choice and how they do not go hand in hand. I don't understand how you can't desire desire and that no choices have an emotion attached to them. What is the definition of a choice, how can it not be attached to an object or a specific thought that can be good or bad? Could desire and choices be another form of the Good, but a version that has been muffled? Maybe a version that has been down graded or even upgraded, depending on how you look at it?

What defines "good"?

For Aristotle’s essay I felt like it went back and forth between opinions. He tried to explain both sides of the story as a way to show how his was correct. But, I felt like a lot of what Aristotle stated could have been argued by talking about certain definitions or opinions of words. He gives us his definition of what he thinks “Good” means which is “That which all things aim” (Pg. 3 Aristotle). This definition in turn becomes his main thesis for the rest of the essay. How does this definition help define Happiness? Knowledge? Politics? Virtue? What is the relation between all of these terms? How do they interact with each other?

The answer? His definitions relate to one another and lead up to each other. Politics was introduced as a Master Art and as a way to achieve the Supreme Good and Ultimate End. Which he later comes to dispel by arguing what makes one good better, or more supreme than the other? The relationship between the definitions of “good” and “politics” in our culture now are very different, from my perspective, to how it was back then. Not the dictionary definition but rather maybe more of a personal opinion.

Three Little Pigs

The highlight of class on Friday had to be the segment in which we were exposed to the modern adaptation of the three little pigs. Something so simple yet so abstract to the norm is the fresh air I seek in literature. What at first seemed like a few illustration changes turned into a whole new book that presented that seem to point out the fact that writing doesn't have to be so literal and caged. What I picked up from the story was the advantage take the opportunity to be taken outside of the box.

Thinking back on the story the modernize version seems to blend effortlessly from one story to the next without really causing much confusion yet still unpredictable enough to surprise the reader. Unlike other moderns day spoofs such as South Park and other cartoons that seem to rely on dry humor and profanity. The book seemed sort of preserve the innocence and nostalgia of the original piece. The pictures set up the set for your brain to act out the characters. However, the fact the piglets literally move around and (in this case hide behind things) make them stealthy and creates the new realm of a story.

Good: Not as Simple as It Seems

At the very least, I admire Aristotle for taking the time to think about and dissect the things he did. Thinking like this could only have occurred in a time before electricity. I applaud Aristotle for thinking overly deeply into matters of good, choice, and such things. It is much more productive than my attempts to understand the logistics of Pixar’s Cars universe. Aristotle starts out his lecture with a seemingly simple definition of good as that which any art or science works to achieve, be it the act of the art itself, or a product the art results in. In medicine, the good is health. In strategy, the good is victory. Several other examples are given before he complicates the concept by discussing politics, where the good is that which is best for a nation or state and all the people in it. However, even before he complicates things himself, things aren’t quite as simple as he hopes to make them out to be.

Death of the Author

I found Barthes' essay to be extremely interesting and informative.  When Barthes discussed the role of the author and how it affects writing, it reminded me of a discussion I had in my Writing and Editing in Print and Online course about originality.  My professor posed a question asking what we think originality is and whether or not we think anything actually is original.  Barthes somewhat addresses the idea of originality when it comes to the roles of the author and the reader of a text.  Barthes claims that in order for a text to be good, it must have a separation from the author who wrote it and be completely up for interpretation by the reader.  He states that text is “a multidimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of the original, blend and clash” (Barthes, Death of the Author).  Barthes also claims that “the writer can only imitate a gesture that is always anterior, never original” (Barthes, Death of the Author).  I disagree with these statements by Barthes.  I think that texts can be original because of the influence of the author of the text and that these influences like writing style and tone are needed to make a text have the impression it will have on the reader. 

Aristotle's Choice

     Aristotle’s big points on the difference between involuntary actions and voluntary actions, what makes a person act on their own accord given dissimilar circumstances? For the most part it’s thought that “actions are involuntary when done, under compulsion or through ignorance”, with that being said Aristotle conducts that only voluntary actions are admirable and or worthy of blame. He defines voluntary actions as any action that originates within the individual and not caused by a driving outside force. The voluntary action is purely by choice, decision and rational thinking. The individual will determine the best action for the best desirable outcome. 
     This discussion on choice and voluntary or involuntary action ties into his debate about what makes an individual good or evil. He says “we choose to take or avoid some good or evil things”, individuals sway back and forth between the black and white line of the two on what is good and what is bad. People make “bad” decisions every day to either better themselves or better others. The same could be said for making “good” decisions, but what constitutes either? There are cases when someone is propelled to behave dishonorably and no other option can be made, this does not entirely make the person “evil”. 

Aristotle's "Good"

Throughout The Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle expounds on many principles that are essential to human life, such as happiness, character, choice, and virtue. But it seems to me that all these terms seemed to be couched in the concept of “Good” and “Goodness”. Man cannot achieve any one of the aforementioned principles if he does not first have an understanding of Goodness on which to build. He cannot be virtuous if he does not define for himself what ‘virtue’ is, which must stem from a concept of what is Good for his fellow man. A man cannot have character (by Aristotle’s definition of character) if he does not build upon the knowledge of what is just and Good.  In order to make a choice, a man must have an understanding of what is the Good choice and what is not, regardless of which one he picks. And of course, that by consulting what is Good, one can achieve “true” happiness. In my opinion, nothing of substance can be attained without consulting what is Good, and that all these traits that Aristotle purports must stem from an understanding of Good and Goodness. Without a basic Good, whether it be a Supreme Good like Aristotle debated over the existence of, or a far more simple, individualistic Good, Aristotle’s principles could not exist.


I am curious as to how Aristotle came up with his opening idea, “Good is that at which all things aim.” This idea made me wonder about “Good” more than any of the possible definitions of throughout the passage. For instance, if a criminal successfully robs a bank, everything has been “Good” from their perspective because their ends have been met. However, the situation turned out horribly for the majority of the people involved. Is there a majority balance that would dictate whether that situation would be considered good or bad? The beginning idea led me believe that Aristotle was going to come up with a solid definition of “Good” by the end of the passage, so when I reached the end, I was relieved to find a vague conclusion: "For good appears to be one thing in one pursuit or art and another in another: it is different in medicine from what it is in strategy, and so on with the rest of the arts." (Page 25) Good is used to describe too broad of a spectrum of positive things to place a hard definition upon it.

Death of the Author/Writer?

The discussion of Barthes' "Death of the Author" on friday was centered around what this metaphoric death symbolizes. The working definition I understood was that death, in an writing context, embodies the loss of authorial identity, a removal from one's work and original intent once text is codified. Barthes presentes the idea that once ideas are written, the author no longer maintains control of their intent; ultimately, once writing occurs, the reader is now in control of the message received. This conception of writing brought about a discussion concerning co-meaning, the idea that both writer and reader create a collective meaning of a text, rather than writing being purely a means of communication/transmission. Who agrees with this concept? Personally I feel that writing, if done correctly, does not "kill the author." Rather, writing creates a separate identity, one which a reader can confirm, deny, or contemplate. Is the reader really creating a new, collective meaning, or just reacting to the identity a writer creates?

Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics

Aristotle's Book of Ethics sets out to define the Good of man and the essence of Virtue and Choice. "The Good is That at which all things aim," but all things appear "good" to different people. How then can we clearly define a Supreme Good when the term is primarily intrinsic and subjective? Aristotle suggests the subject of "Good" to be synonymous with the Life of Politics, where one's happiness is the root of all that is good in life. But again, one man's happiness is another man's folly, and the paradox continues. On the other side of the spectrum, is finding Good in honor. But because honor is more so how other's perceive one's actions rather than the individual himself, it is more fitting to regard virtue as a greater good than honor. Virtue, meaning concerned with emotions and actions, both voluntary and involuntary choices. Choice is a voluntary act, requiring thought and deliberation. At the root of one's choice is an eternal definition of Good and Desire.

Choosing Chosen Choice Choices

The element of "Choice" as Aristotle defines it is governed by two basic elements. 1) Being that in order for something to be considered a Choice, the option, or means that you decide on, has to be within your control. 2) Deliberation is essential to Choice, in that we cannot Deliberate means not in our control. "The reason we do not deliberate about these things is that none of them can be effected by our agency." (Aristotle 135) This is problematic. Namely for the reason that Aristotle makes some pretty severe assumptions from the get-go in his argument that come into conflict with these rules as they appear later. If Choice is something considered within our reach, and intrinsically voluntary, then one may assume that to a certain degree, there is a sense of the self, and more importantly, that this identity is under our control. However, Aristotle also says: "And we choose only things we absolutely know to be good." (Aristotle 133) Up till now, we still have that "control" of "Choice," yet there's one more problem. "But such is manifestly the science of Politics; for it is this that ordains which of the sciences are to exist in sates and what branches of knowledge the different classes of the citizens are to learn and up to what point;...For even though it be the case that the Good is the same for the individual and for the state..." (5-7) So if we intrinsically, voluntarily, choosily choose what is choicely "Good," is Aristotle contradicting himself? Isn't that a total absence of "Choice" as he later defined it? Is the goal of Politics to engender a necessary illusion that manifests a belief in the self in order for preservation of the State?

Death of the Author

     "To write, is to reach that point where only language acts, 'performs,' and not 'me.'" (Barthes) It intrigues me that Barthes find an author worth only a side but not a voice is his work. To kill an author off is to kill the language the context and even the structure in some cases. I have sided with various other scholars such as McGann in thinking that writing is co-constructed. In his book, The Textual Condition, he proves this point clearly. "If texts are to be produced critically, whether through writer, reader, or editor, the texts must emphasize their relations, and their relativities." (McGann)  No one work is truly original, only influenced by everything you have crossed. To hide one's voice is to hide those that you built your argument on. Text itself is ephemeral and so is the process of making it. The author, whether their fame over powers the writing, or creates expectations is no greater or less than him whom wrote it.

A "good" man?

Aristotle states that “The good of man must be the end of the science of Politics” (3). Therefore, the aim of a politician should be to secure the good of a nation. Since politicians generally employ more rhetorical devices on the public than anyone else these days, I always considered Quintillian’s definition of rhetoric as “the art of a good man speaking well” very perplexing due to the inability to pin down a concrete definition of a “good man”. Aristotle even states that man’s definition of ‘the good life’ is generally conceived to be the same thing as ‘being happy’, and that the definition of happiness is fluctuating among men. “Happiness to a sick man is health, and a poor man is wealth, etc”. General consensus would certainly lead one to believe that there are no “good” politicians these days, so therefore according to Quintillian’s definition these men would not be practicing rhetoric. Is Quintillian’s definition of rhetoric a substantial explanation of the practice, or art of rhetoric? Aristotle separates the idea of “good” in politics, and the idea of “good” in many of the arts and sciences, so which definition of “good” would the rhetoric employed by a politician fall under? Amongst all the contradictions in this essay, I feel like Aristotle makes some very profound conclusions, but I can’t seem to find anywhere that he really drives in the definition of a “good” man.

September 4, 2012

What is Good?

I found the first book of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics to be extremely thought provoking. The general idea/question behind the reading is simply: What is Good? It is thought that all means must end is good, but is Good the exact ending, or rather the path to get to that ending?

He goes on to question the reader about can Good be interpreted by different sciences? Or rather by different humans? He begins to agree upon the idea that the conception of 'the Good" is debatable and situational- therefore Aristotle focuses on the generalities of good (7), a broad outline of the truth (9). Aristotle brings up that most men agree that a combination of health, wealth, and honor constitutes "goodness", but reversely questions if another Good exists that causes of these things listed of being good.

A Different Look At Happiness

In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle says (about Happiness) that “for both the multitude and persons of refinement speak of it as Happiness, and conceive the ‘the good life or ‘doing well’ to be the same thing as ‘being happy.’ But what constitutes happiness is a matter of dispute” (Aristotle 7). However, what about those persons not of “refinement,” those looking to make others miserable and those who find happiness in making others miserable? The word that might come to mind is the German word, “schadenfreude” for which there is no English equivalent. It literally means “ pleasure derived from the misfortune of others.” So, what do you think Aristotle’s position on schadenfreude would be? Is it ethical? Would someone engaging in schadenfreude be “virtuous” or “good” in Aristotle’s mind?

Aristotle - Virtue

Aristotle proposes that virtue is a greater good than honor, because honor is granted by other people while virtue is intrinsic. Even though virtue is intrinsic, it is built upon voluntary actions. At the same time it seems like actions can not purposely create virtue.  This makes me wonder if virtue can be earned at all, similar to the way that Aristotle says honor is earned. Perhaps virtue is merely a byproduct of voluntary acts and a person cannot conciously control how virtuous they are. That doesn't seem right though, because Aristotle goes on to say that a voluntary action is a choice. Perhaps it is that a person cannot choose to perform a virtuous action because there is a motive behind their choice, and if there is a motive then the action is no longer virtuous. The action may gain them honor, but it will not gain them virtue. If this is true, then virtue is an inherent good that cannot purposefully be changed.

What is "Good"?

Aristotle focuses on goodness. That goodness cannot be achieved by wealth or by honor. That  Yet throughout his article, he goes back and forth trying to decide what goodness is. Is it maybe that there in no true defintion of goodness? "But the good we are seeking is a good within human reach." (pg.25) Does goodness come from what we want it to be? Or does it come from what society expects it to be? Aristotle talks about how he believes Good can take down Politics at any moment, which is why they shouldn't be together. Aristotle also dabbles with the idea of "Idea". That goodness is all just an idea that society can follow. "Is there nothing else good in itself except the idea?" (pg.23)

Aristotle and 'Good'

Aristotle says that "Good is the same for the individual and the state" but also says that "The Good of the state is manifestly a greater and more perfect good, both to attain and preserve." This seems contradictory to me, because it doesn't seem logical that two should are supposedly equal but one is more valuable or worthy than the other. Saying the good of the state is the greatest important, over the good of man, seems to excuse the state for any bad that happens its citizens. I think it's more reciprocal than the state simply being more important than anyone, maybe it's true on an individual level, but not for citizens as a whole. If most citizens have a good life, I think it contributes to goodness on both levels. Aristotle clearly assigns more value to certain kinds of good, rather than others, when he names them as Lives of Enjoyment, Politics, and Contemplation. I think he assigns these values to make it easier to find a Supreme Good. If good is relative to individuals, can Supreme Good be relative, too, so that it represents the best one can achieve?

Aristotle's "Involuntary Actions"

I have struggled time and time again with Aristotle's first kind of "involuntary actions," under compulsion. Aristotle first defines a "compulsory action" as any case where the cause of the action lies in things outside the agent, and when the agent contributes nothing (121). I am sure of the definition of compulsion (the act of compelling; constraint; coercion) but I very much struggled with Aristolte's notion that a compulsory act is when an agent plays no role in the act. How can that be? Even if someone is "forced" to do something by penalty of death, they still have the choice to not commit the action they are being "forced" to do. How can an agent not play a role in a circumstance in which an action is committed. I can understand if you are standing next to your mom's favorite vase, the window happens to be open and the wind catches the vase and knocks it to the floor, shattering it. In that case, a natural force, not you, the agent, is responsible. Aristotle offers the case of "intrinsically involuntary" action are committed, when one acts but the circumstance prompts voluntary action. He says that in these cases, the action is approximated more into the voluntary class, like the act of choosing to commit a crime rather than face death. If most, if not all by estimation, "compulsory actions" fall under this category, how can they be defined by anything other than a voluntary action? An agent has every right to choose the alternative action, even if that right is threatened to be taken away from him or her, because in reality, that right cannot be taken.

Aristotle's Notion of Choice

In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle defines the nature of choice as a voluntary act. He notes, however, that voluntary acts cover a wider spectrum than those resulting from choice. He explains the process of choosing a means to an end, which follows the deliberation of something within our control and attainable through an action. Aristotle makes a distinction between choice an opinion, stating that opinion is a matter of truth vs. falsehood whereas choice is a matter of good vs. evil. In regards to this distinction, I have a few questions: Do we not choose a particular opinion as opposed to another, on the basis of which we hold higher value? Does my opinion of the Capitalist system based on deliberation about its grounds in good or evil, not result in my choice to reject it as a valuable societal construct (and possibly lead to several actions on my part to resist its constraints)? Or are those opinions on objects which are grounded by knowledge and subject to moral judgement exceptions to this distinction? Are opinion and choice separate but equal results of deliberation, one leading to an action and one leading to a view or belief? or Is opinion a middle ground between deliberation and choice?

Applying “Agent/cy” to “The Death of the Author”

Although Friday’s class was not my first encounter with “The Death of the Author,” I feel that it was not necessarily any easier to understand the second time around. Though the premise is simple -- the author must be evicted from the picture for the reader to construct his own meaning within the story -- it is still challenging for me to grasp that it is possible, and beneficial, to sever an author from his writing. It is similar to appreciating a Van Gogh painting only for its artistic quality. Of course, the painting is lovely. The brush strokes are practiced and precise. But isn’t what really makes this piece of art so special the fact that it was painted by Van Gogh? If the painting was created by an unknown artist, and hung above the couch in someone’s living room, it would not have nearly as much of an impact as it would if we are aware of its origins. I think the same often goes for an author and his writing.

Aristotle and "Good"

Aristotle seems to jump around with his definition of "Good" or a "Supreme Good" in Nichomachean Ethics. He claims that it cannot be a universal term as there is "Good" in everything and can be found in any action or example. He uses the term "Good" with Politics, Enjoyment, and Contemplation in support of his definition that "Good" is not necessarily universal and is different in each circumstance, yet the definition seems quite all encompassing of each example given. I agree that "Good" can be different for each circumstance, but I think that we all have a similar view of what is "Good" and what is not. Sure, the outcomes or the means may differ but the human still feels what it is "Good" and what is not good. Through our own experiences and expectations we have a standard we feel needs to be reached in order for us to find that "Good" we are looking for or happen to end up with.

voluntary v. involuntary choices

Aristotle argues a lot about choice; he claims that choice is either voluntary or involuntary but that each has it's own conditions. But as much as Aristotle talks about virtues and choices and happiness and good, and tries to explain how each is so distinctly definable, so many of his arguments are laden with so many conditions that it's hard to understand just how distinct each one actually is.

His greatest example of this comes on page 119 where he talks about a sailor who has to throw things off a ship not because he wants to, "but to save his own life and that of his shipmates [as] any sane man would do." He claims that this is a "mixed" act because it was not a task he was willing to do but voluntarily did so. But, he later argues, it is a voluntary act because he did it without being forced to do so.

The Death of the Speaker

            We discussed the idea of the death of the author in class on Friday. The concept presented by Barthes in his essay The Death of the Author was interpreted by many people in the class differently. The idea of the death of the author that Barthes seemed to be trying to get across to his reader is the idea that the writing itself is best complimented when the author tries their best to disengage themselves from their writing. Unbiased writing is neigh impossible and while Barthes admits that it isn’t something that should be attained, it should be strived for,
 “To write is, through a perquisite impersonality (not at all to be confused with the castrating objectivity of the realist novelist), to reach that point where only language acts, ‘performs,’ and not ‘me.’” (Barthes, 875)

September 3, 2012

Weisner's "The Three Pigs"

As a whole, the class found the story we covered in class on Friday, Weisner's "The Three Pigs," amusing. And why shouldn't we? This was Weisner's intent. Following the example of adult cartoons such as The Simpsons and South Park, Weisner took a genre traditionally intended for children and addressed adults instead. We feel the discord between genre and content unconsciously because the specified audience of the genre is so ingrained in us. This uneasiness is then perceived as humor. At some point, we overcome the genre written in our culture and can appreciate the work for the questions it raises, not just its amusing qualities.

Aristotle's Struggle to Define Good

In the opening sentence of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics he references the saying, "Good is That at which all things aim" (Aristotle. Page 3). Remembering Burke's Equipment for Living, one can easily view this proverb as the strategy being expanded upon in this work. Noticing the capitalization of the letter "g" in the proverbs usage of the word good, it is obvious the "good" which Aristotle is searching for is a Supreme Good. The Supreme Good is not a materialistically attainable goal, according to Aristotle. While he makes the point that ordinary people may view good in a material sense, it is good in itself for which he frames his work around, as is understood in the following statement, "There exists another Good, that is good in itself, and stands to all those goods as the cause of their being good." The final statement here is vital, "and stands to all those goods as the cause of their being good", as Aristotle is reaffirming his position that within all attainable goods there must be-or should be-an intrinsic good that is good purely and in itself, regardless of its implications.

Aristotle on Choice

On page 129 of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, he states that, "The irrational animals do not exercise choice, but they do feel desire and also passion. Also, a man of defective self restraint acts from desire but not from choice; and on the contrary a self restrained man acts from choice and not from desire." This passage is very perplexing to me because I have issues with his idea of what choice is. In my understanding of what Aristotle is saying choice is, he is saying that it is a voluntary act. But at the same time, he says that a voluntary act is not a choice. (p. 129) He says that the most common misinterpretation of Choice is when people couple it with Desire, Passion, Wish, or Opinion. So then what is choice? Is it the nature of the act and the effect it will produce?

Aristotle's thoughts on happiness

The concept which was most interesting for me this week was trying to unearth what Aristotle meant by his word "happiness" in his paper The Nicomachean Ethics. The term was so interesting to me because Aristotle is never completely clear on what makes up happiness. In relation to his term Good, I began to think that perhaps happiness meant self-actualization after all your bodily need have been met. However, then Aristotle began to state that "Ordinary people identify it with some obvious and visible good..." (page 7) so my theory of self-actualization didn't seem to hold much weight. I was very confused as to where one would make the distinction between what makes someone an "ordinary" person and someone who is "extra-ordinary." Are extraordinary people the ones who seek happiness through wealth, honour and overall have the "good life"?