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1. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 13 > Issue: 2
Robert Metcalf Editor’s Introduction to the Special Issue on Ancient Philosophy
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2. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 13 > Issue: 2
Robert Talisse Socratic Citizenship
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For contemporary democrats, Socrates is a paradox: he is both the paragon of intellectual integrity and the archenemy of democracy. In this essay, the author attempts to navigate this paradox. By offering a revised account of the Socratic elenchus and an examination of Socrates’ objections to democracy, the author proposes a view according to which Socrates provides a compelling image of democracy citizenship. This image is then used to criticize and inform current versions of deliberative democracy.
3. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 13 > Issue: 2
Kathleen Poorman Dougherty The Socratic Elenchus and Moral Reflection
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Much recent attention has been paid to the Socratic elenchus, with considerable focus given to the structure of the elenchus and its desired benefits for both Socrates and his interlocutors. In this paper I focus on one of these benefits, namely the fostering of self-knowledge. I provide an examination of Socrates’ theory of self-knowledge and the way it is to be fostered through elenctic examination with an eye toward gaining afuller understanding of the foundations of our contemporary views. Though many commentators routinely dismiss the Socratic view as overly intellectual, I maintain that “knowing what we know and don’t know” remains an important component of self-knowledge, even if it needs to be supplemented by an understanding of our more general psychological traits and capacities. Additionally, I argue that the Socratic focus on self-examination as a means to gaining self-knowledge remains a timely and important moral task.
4. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 13 > Issue: 2
Scott F. Aiken, Mark Anderson Argumentative Norms in Republic I
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We argue that there are three norms of critical discussion in stark relief in Republic I. The first we see in the exchange with Cephalus---that we interpret each other and contribute to discussions in a maximally argumentative fashion. The second we seein the exchange with Polemarchus---that in order to cooperate in dialectic, interlocutors must maintain a distance between themselves and the theses they espouse. This way they can subject the views to serious scrutiny without the risk of personal loss. Third, and finally, from Socrates’ exchange with Thrasymachus, it is clear that uncooperative discussants must be handled in a fashion that reinforces the goals of dialectic. So Thrasymachus is refuted and silenced not just for the sake of correcting his definition of justice, but also for the sake of those listening.
5. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 13 > Issue: 2
Norman Fischer Fathers and Sons: On Piety and Humanity
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In the Apology of Socrates, Socrates is accused of corrupting the youth. Socrates accounts for this charge by saying that the young of Athens imitate him in revealing the ignorance of their elders. Philosophy is inherently, it seems, emancipatory, since it does not take any traditional opinion as per se authoritative. In this way, it seems that philosophy is essentially opposed to piety. In this essay, I willsuggest that the last few pages of Euthyphro indicate a conception of piety that is both consistent with philosophy in the Socratic sense as well as helpful in helping us understand more precisely the nature of philosophy’s emancipatory gesture.
6. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 13 > Issue: 2
Susan Schoenbohm The Meaning of Politeia: Dikaiosunê as the Telos of Technê
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The aim of this essay is to revise the meaning of politics today in light of the full range of meanings of the ancient Greek word politeia. In Plato’s Republic (Politeia), we see a careful intenveaving of this range of meanings as Socrates’ discusses the means and ends of justice. Socrates elaborates a basic meaning of justice: the well-functioning coordination of peoples’ various skills (technai). Enacting justice in this sense enables people to meet their needs. In addition, Socrates points to a further political aim that justice in this basic sense should serve, one that first qualifies enacting justice to be an end in itself rather than only a technical means to afurther end beyond it. In this essay, I explore especially the importance of this additional aim in relation to the first.
7. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 13 > Issue: 2
Matthew S. Linck The Harmony of Plato and Aristotle
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The pervasive tendency to characterize Plato and Aristotle as philosophers who are fundamentally in opposition blocks an adequate contemporary reception of their writings. This tendency results in superficial presentations of the philosophical concerns of both thinkers and obscures the historical affinity between their global projects. This article provides an example of a reading that respects the accord between Plato and Aristotle on one crucial issue: the foundation of a good life. With respect to Plato’s Republic, I demonstrate that the harmonization of the soul is the principal goal guiding the construction of the city in speech. Following this brief reading of the Republic, I turn to Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and argue that once one understands the parameters of the inquiry, one can see that the programmatic foundation hinges on the possibility of harmonizing the multifarious capacities and faculties of the soul. In the final section of the article I suggest that this harmonic reading of Plato and Aristotle has implications for the teaching of philosophical texts generally.
8. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 13 > Issue: 2
Corinne Painter Aristotle and the Moral Status of Animals
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In the last three decades, the consideration of whether non-human animals should be ascribed any moral status, and if so in what way it ought to be ascribed to them, has become of central philosophical, political and economic importance. Thus, given thecontemporary significance of what may be called (jar simplicity’s sake) the “animal issue,” it is worthwhile to examine in what way Ancient Greek philosophy might contribute to our understanding of the issue and to our philosophical response to it. With this in mind,in this essay I examine the issue of the moral status of animals from a “critical” Aristotelian perspective, on the basis of which I shall attempt: (§I) to show how, unlike the Cartesian view of animal nature, Aristotle’s conception of the non-moral status of animals stillinforms the prevailing contemporary view of the animal, and (§II) to establish that Aristotle’s failure to ascribe moral status to animals should be rejected (a) given his admission that animals are, by nature, capable of suffering while they are unable to engage in rational deliberation, and (b) given his understanding of the connection between moral blameworthiness, natural disposition, and various kinds of acts, particularly un-chosen and chosen willing acts. In this way, we shall show that although the prevailing contemporary view of the animal’s moral status represents a slightly more “elevated” view than Aristotle’s, insofar as (typically) we do not explicitly claim, as Aristotle did, that animals are due no moral consideration, by critically appropriating the relevant Aristotelian texts, we nonetheless findrich philosophical evidence that permits us to further elevate our conception of the moral status of animals such that we are prepared to grant them genuine moral significance, not just in theory but also in practice.
9. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 13 > Issue: 2
Audrey L. Anton Breaking the Habit: Aristotle on Recidivism and How a Thoroughly Vicious Person Might Begin to Improve
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Aristotle’s virtue ethics can teach us about the relationship between our habits and our actions. Throughout his works, Aristotle explains much about how one may develop a virtuous character, and little about how one might change from one character type to another. In recent years criminal law has been concerned with the issue of recidivism and how our system might reform the criminals we return to society more effectively. This paper considers how Aristotle might say a vicious person could change and what a penal system could do to facilitate such a transformation. It discusses how previous attempts to rehabilitate criminals may have failed because they do not address habit in the way that Aristotle advocates. This paper concludes that a rehabilitative model that addresses habit more aggressively than previous methods might be required to soften the hardest criminals.
10. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 13 > Issue: 2
James Highland Aristotelian Katharsis and Journalistic Ethics: How to Report on Disasters and Atrocities
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In this paper, I argue that journalists who report on tragedies need to avoid two extremes in reader reaction: a state of titillation, as well as a state of revulsion, with regard to the facts of the story. Either reaction distances the reader from experiencing the full reality of the tragic event. I suggest the benefit of studying Aristotle’s writings. In his Poetics and Rhetoric, Aristotle not only describes states of mind which the tragic dramatist takes care to avoid, but he also describes how such authors avoided these extremes. Reporters are not dramatists, but if reporters can apply Aristotle’s understanding of good tragic drama to their reporting, they can better avoid extremes in reader reaction which turn readers away from the full reality of disasters and atrocities, and thereby help them better cope with news that is often profoundly disturbing.
11. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 13 > Issue: 2
Eugene Garver Aristotle and the Will to Power
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Once we get past moral outrage, Aristotle’s notorious discussion of slavery has several ever more disquieting challenges to modern thinking. Not only are slaves in a certain sense “natural,” but so is the master/slave relationship and so is mastery. While he thinks that living the right kind of state and having the right kind of character is a permanent solution to problems of slavishness, problems of mastery, of the despotic cast of mind, are permanent political problems, since the desire to dominate others has the same psychic source as the desire for friendship and for political reciprocity.
12. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 13 > Issue: 2
John Russon The Elements of Everyday Life: Three Lessons from Ancient Greece
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Against the dualistic conception of mind and matter that is characteristic of much modern philosophy, ancient philosophers (Aristotle and Sophocles) show us that our powers are always embedded in nature, and the existence of those powers is dependent upon the existence of the bodies they are “of” Aristotle’s discussion of the habituation in particular offers us the chance to see the materialityand the labor that are presupposed in the acquisition of new powers. Thucydides, finally, shows us the care needed to maintain the existence of these powers, and equally the attitude of neglect that the possession of these powers naturally induces.
13. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 13 > Issue: 1
David K. Chan How War Affects People: Lessons from Euripides
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What do philosophers have to say about war beyond appeal to the just war doctrine? I suggest that they should concern themselves with the harmful consequences of war for the people who experience it. The ancient Greek tragedian Euripides was a moral philosopher of his time who wrote the plays Hecuba and The Trojan Women from the perspective of the losers in the Trojan War. There are striking parallels to the U.S. war in Iraq that began in 2003. Lessons that can be learned from Euripides include how good people learn to hate, how aggression has its own logic of necessary brutality, how each side is unable to recognize how much they are like their enemies, how the desire to end a war quickly disregards the cost to civilians, and how irrational the fear of the enemy can be.
14. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 13 > Issue: 1
Janet Donohoe Rushing to Memorialize
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In the wake of the current rush to memorialize tragic events such as the World Trade Center attack of 2001, this article explores thefunction and role of monuments and memorials in the production of places for collective memory, communal mourning, and the preservation of the past. It argues that the rush to memorialize indicates a desire to control the way that an event is understood in bothcontemporary and future times and ultimately limits the effectiveness of memorials. Finally, drawing upon Heidegger, Derrida and Nietzsche, this article addresses the characteristics necessary for a memorial to be open to the complexities of human existence and how we can approach memorials to preserve such openness.
15. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 13 > Issue: 1
Charles Harvey Reflective and Reflexive Selfhood: On the Sociology of the Self in High Modernity
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This essay briefly explicates, criticizes and supplements the work of two sociologists of “postmodern” society, Ulrich Beck and AnthonyGiddens, as their work develops and relates to the ideas of reflexivity and reflectivity with special regards to the self. Each of these writers bases some significant portion of his work on the idea of the inescapable “reflexivity” of contemporary life for both persons and institutions. For each author, the phenomenon of reflexivity has both positive and negative implications that relate to the traditionalenlightenment ideal of self-fashioning, autonomous selfhood; in each, the enlightenment ideal of reflectively grounded selfhood is existentially embedded in everyday reflexivity but it is simultaneously thinned and divested of many of its formerly most valued traits. This essay explores the nature of reflexivity in late modernity especially as it relates to the modernist ideal of deliberative rationality (reflectivity) and attempts to show that the latter is still necessary to complement the former and, indeed, how it is still possibIe for it to do so. I also try to show in what ways both the fact and the ideal of deliberative rationality lives on in what Giddens calls “post-traditional society” and sociological thought.
16. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 13 > Issue: 1
M. Andrew Holowchak Liberal Individualism, Autonomy, and the Great Divide
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Liberal individualism, in its atomic sense, asserts that people are autonomous and self-contained individuals, whose rights are prior to and independent of any conception of the good. It champions individual rights and toleration for different conceptions of the good life, and essays to secure justice for all in equal measure.In prioritizing right over good, liberal individualism demands that the state have a stance of strict neutrality concerning any particular conception of the good. It privileges political analysis, in that no conception of what is good must interfere with the fundamental rights, unconditionally guaranteed, of each individual. Consequently, it is essentially atomic ideal, and this atomism, whether metaphysical ormethodological, effects a separation of persons and institutions. This I call the “Great Divide”.In what follows, I argue that the liberal separation of persons from institutions is a disintegrative political and ethical ideal in personal, social, and ethical senses.
17. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 13 > Issue: 1
P. Eddy Wilson Regulative Control and the Subjectivist’s View of Moral Responsibility
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In this essay I focus upon John Martin Fischer’s notion of taking on responsibility. In his view moral actors must acquire a proper self-understanding to take on moral responsibility. I question whether Fischer steps out of his role as a subjectivist, when he maintains that having only guidance control is a necessary condition for moral responsibility. I suggest that subjectivists are committed to the notion that taking on responsibility includes the acquisition of a proper phenomenology of freedom. I compare actors who have not acquired a sense of regulative control to actors whom Fischer identifies as nonresponsible actors.
18. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 13 > Issue: 1
Patricia Trentacoste The Role of Aesthetic Competence for Moral Discernment
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The inclination to wrongfully harm others in the name of morality is a paradoxical behavior associated with much human misery, from suicide bombings to civil liberty violations. In this paper I argue that aesthetic competence plays a remedial role for moral self-deception. Consequently, aesthetic competence ought to be added to curriculum objectives for moral education and characterdevelopment. Since artists are by definition aesthetically astute perceivers and since their works are fairly accessible, both ought to be consulted, not for the casuistry they provide, but for their aesthetic insights and practices. Furthermore, because the arts offer efficient and pleasing means of acquiring aesthetic competence, their pedagogical value goes beyond showing us what morally charged scenarios might look like. At times they go as far as evoking moral epiphanies in which the extent andfolly of our own moral hubris become suddenly undeniable.
19. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 13 > Issue: 1
Stephen R. Brown Naturalized Virtue Ethics and Same-Sex Love
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There are certain traits that make us good human beings by enabling us to realize our natural ends. From the perspective of such a naturalized virtue ethics, there is nothing obviously unethical or imprudent about the capacity for same-sex love. Moreover, given the resources of this theory, such questions are empirical ones. If the capacity for same-sex love is a trait the possession of which makes one a good human being, then the just state will promote and encourage it, or at least not stand in its way. It can do so by allowing same-sex marriage.
20. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 13 > Issue: 1
Jeffrey Sebo The Ethics of Incest
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In this article I challenge two common arguments against incest: the genetics argument (that incest is immoral because it might lead to the conception of a genetically deformed child), and the family argument (that incest is immoral because it undermines the family, the emotional center for the individual). These arguments, I contend, commit us to condemning not only incest, but also a wide range ofbehaviors that we currently permit. I thus present the reader with a dilemma: on pain of inconsistency, we must either accept certain forms of incest in order to maintain these other moral judgments, or reject these judgments in order to maintain our condemnation ofincest. The reader is free to decide which alternative is preferable, but I suggest that the former is a much less radical shift in our moral system as a whole.