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Sam Lammie Professor Kaylan Curtis UNIV 111 6 November, 2013 Aristotles Virtue vs. Modern Free Will The Case Against Free Will by James Rachels and Stuart Rachels and Aristotles Nicomachean Ethics by Bahadr Kkuysal and Erhan Beyhan are both summaries of modern understandings of the human psychosis, but at first glance they seem to illustrate different things. Aristotles work focuses more on the theoretical, such as why people seek happiness or the way that virtues are practiced before they are learned. Whereas, the Rachels article tries to focus more on the physical reasons that things happen, such as nurture and genes. But there exists a part in both where they overlap, when they begin talking about fate, or peoples own ability to decide their future. Aristotle believed in what is now defined as fatalism, that everything which happens can only be true or false, there are no other options. If it is true that something in your future is going to happen, there is nothing you can do to prevent it. On the other hand, Rachels claims a more likely and a more problematic system is that of determinism, which is to say that everything happens as a direct cause and effect chain; once the cause happens, the effect will follow according to the laws of nature. After both sources have made their claim, it is clear that Aristotle manages to make a better argument then does Rachels; Aristotles thoughts about human nature are easier to understand and more complete in their reasoning then Rachels. Aristotle argues that people become or do things by performing and practicing actions with a similar end result. For example, as an entity, people manage to learn how to become selfcontrolled by acting justly, or they learn how to become courageous by acting bravely. He

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argues that virtues are self-taught, and require no outside influence other than what can be personally provided. He goes on to say that in order for virtue to be itself, it must have the quality of aiming at the intermediate (Beyhan 6). By doing something too much or too little, you waste the virtue, Beyhan makes the comparison that a man becomes coward when he cannot stand his ground when necessary, and he becomes foolhardy when he is not [ever] afraid. (6). Later Beyhan cites the most important of Aristotles statements about human nature and fate that choice is voluntary, but not every voluntary action is made by choice (7). According to the article, this is because choice only relates to the means, and the only thing people are ever capable of thinking about are the means, what we are able to personally do. A doctor does not deliberate that his patient will heal, rather he assumes the end and considers the means to achieve it. (Beyhan 7). Rachels starts his article by discussing the case of Richard Leob, and Nathan Leopold, which he uses as an example for his first key idea, of responsibility. This raises many questions though, such as what defines right and wrong? Or, how can different people have different virtues or morals while existing in the same society? From this point, Rachels moves through modern logic and the theory of determinism, or cause and effect, and into modern Psychology. A good passage to help understand Rachels opinions occurs in this passage, the article reads If we are to use the methods of science in the field of human affairs, we must assume that behavior is lawful and determined. We must expect to discover that what a man does is the result of specifiable conditions. (Rachels 268) An interesting piece about the author can be read in the footnotes, where we learn of the history of the article. It was originally written and published by James Rachels, and later revised and republished by his son, Stuart Rachels. However, the elder Rachels claimed in his first edition that The failure of free will would not undermine our

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ordinary beliefs about human virtue and responsibility. (Rachels 275) Or, that the fact that we now realize how little room there exists for free will in human psychosis will not change how people see and understand virtue and responsibility. In the end of his footnote, the latter Rachels claims that With apologies, I now claim the [complete] opposite at the end of the chapter. (Rachels 275) The three way split between the authors which this creates is very intriguing, as it examines a whole new lens about humanity; that the theoretical lack of free will undermines or does away with Aristotles thoughts about virtue and morality. But as he largely believed in a fatalism, the lack of free will is nothing new, and should really not effect anything. Both of the sources share a fairly common audience and purpose. They are both summaries of current understood information about a subject that is often times purely theoretical; the general philosophy of human nature. It can be said that Aristotles work appeals to a larger or more general audience then the Rachels, as he is often given credit as one of the best philosophers in the history of the world. This is not to say that Rachels is not a well credited moral philosopher just that this particular essay focuses on a more specific area, and may therefore only be useful to people in the area of Psychology and philosophy. Often times people read or cite Aristotle simply because it is considered classic literature. Both the texts defend their idea well, they are both the culmination of many years of research and thought and represent very current understanding of what will likely always remain a mostly theoretical subject. In this way, both sources contribute to a much improved understanding of the subject as a whole. As to my personal understanding, being a student currently enrolled in psych, the article by Rachels had fewer groundbreaking ideas then the one by Aristotle, and therefore had a much less significant impact on my interest in the subject. What they did for my understanding, however, is seemingly less important then what they did to

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my general thoughts about human morality and virtue. Something that these two articles taught me is that I much prefer to have ideas, specifically about theoretical things like the human psychosis and human morality, thought about in a theoretical way. To have things like this brought down and attempted to be explained by legitimate social and physical factors seems to bring up issue. For example, if there is a set way that people go about learning and developing, and the nature versus nurture argument is exactly even, with equal parts of each being required to develop a certain way, how is it that all people are still different? Why can two people growing up in a similar environment with similar factors about their life be entirely different people? Aristotles article defines the human psyche in a way that college students and philosophy professors alike can stop and marvel at. And he makes these definitions and discoveries based on his own experiences and thoughts about human behavior, about things which he personally observed. Due to the fact that human nature is inherently such a personal matter, only through this kind of lens is it easier and more fulfilling to consider how people and their virtues work. Psychology cannot account for everything, and Aristotles article does a great job of filling in the gaps and really making the reader think about themselves and the world in which they live.

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Works Cited

Virtue Ethics in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics International Journal of Human Sciences, International Journal of Human Sciences, 6 Dec. 2011. Web. 11 Nov. 2013 <https://blackboard.vcu.edu/bbcswebdav/users/jkalyancurti/fi%20fall%202013%20univ%20111/ unit%202%20reading%202/aristotle%20virtue%20ethics.pdf>. ______________________________________________________________________________

Rachels Stuart and Rachels James, The Case Against Free Will Evolving Ideas: Focused Inquiry, Patty Strong Plymouth, Michigan. Hayden-McNeil Publishing, 2013. (Page 263-275) Print.

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Sam Lammie Professor Kaylan Curtis UNIV 111 6 November, 2013

Writers Memo

1. How much outside of class time did you spend on the writing/revision process since turning in the first draft In total, I spent about 4-5 hours researching and developing my thoughts about the two sources, and probably another 5-6 writing and correcting and rewriting my essay. From these hours, probably around 2-4 hours of writing and editing and 1-2 hours of researching occurred since I turned in the first draft. 2. How did you use peer feedback to improve this essay? Be specific. I elaborated on ideas I had only started to explore, specifically on the debate between Aristotle, the younger Rachels, and the older Rachels. Also I tried to explain and justify my thesis further in my conclusion. Both of these were suggestions that came out of peer review. Also a fair amount of my grammatical corrections came from peer review, 3. What other steps did you take to improve this essay? I had other friends read and evaluate outside of class, and took the time to read more of Aristotles quotes and philosophy only because I find it interesting. 4. What global aspect(s) of the essay are you most confident about? Why? Im confident in my summaries of the very broad ideas, I believe I understand Aristotles ideas about philosophy fairly well, and I can understand Rachels citing of modern psychological research. 5. Which global aspects of the essay are you most concerned about? Why? Im slightly concerned I didnt do enough to accentuate or defend my thesis of philosophy being better than psychology in explaining the theoretical of human virtue. Also that in our times, it is possible Aristotle could have an entirely different view then the one stated in his writings. But that is more of a dilemma with the subject then the essay.

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6. What local aspects(s) of the essay are you most confident about? Why? Im confident that my essay flows well, that each of the paragraphs ends in a way that makes sense for a new paragraph to start, and that Im not just jumping around from all the necessary components of the essay. I say this because I have read over it multiple times, and at least to me, it seems to work. 7. What local aspects(s) of the essay are you most concerned about? Why? Im concerned that things I write which make sense in the moment, or when Im rereading them wont make sense to other people. Sometimes I like to carry over ideas from another sentence, but its easy to get confused as to what I mean. I tried to fix very obvious examples of this, and I think I did at least a fairly decent job. 8. If you had more time to work on the essay, what aspect(s) would you focus on improving, and why? How much time would it take? If I had more time to workshop and peer review I would probably have another paragraph defending my position and thesis. I felt like in between the comparing and contrasting there was not enough time to return to my thesis, although I felt it was defended at least a bit. This would probably take another hour to an hour and a half, and maybe a cup of coffee. 9. What kind of feedback would you like from me as I respond to your essay? (in addition to a grade of course) I would like to know your opinions on the subject, and on the Philosophy versus Psychology debate, because I think especially when it comes to human virtue and morality, there is a lot of grey area where the two disciplines completely disagree. 10. Compare your effort to the writing rubrics. What grade are you expecting, and why? Im expecting a grade in the High B to a Low A range, my essay has all of the necessary components, falls within the guidelines for amount of words and page length, and has all the needed formatting, as well as what I think is at least decent discussion about a fairly confusing topic.