Continuing the occasional after a gap short enough that maybe “series” is the right word after all title series, in which philosophical classics are reduced to their elements as a service to students and scholars.
#2: Aristotle’s Ethics
What is the good life? Some say this, some say that, some say something completely different. The point is, they’re all a bit right and they’re all a bit wrong. It’s hard to be more precise than this because ethics isn’t precise and wise people know this, so never, ever, ask me to be less vague or ambiguous.
A good life is lived according to one’s nature. Vegetables grow, so a good vegetable life is one in which it grows in a vegetably way. Animals move, so a good animal life is one in which it moves in an animally way. Fox News lobotomises, so a good Fox news programme is one which lobotomises in a foxy way. Humans think, so a good human life is one in which it thinks in a humanly way. We also kill, act with prejudice, lust, look after number one and so on, but that doesn’t define our nature, because I don’t want it to.
What is virtue? It is finding the mean. For example, generosity isn’t the opposite of greed, it’s the inbetweeny virtue between the opposite vices of greed and profligacy. Courage is the mean between rashness and cowardice. Writing well is the mean between writing badly and writing in a way that is so good it’s bad. Having good judgement is the mean between being a bad judge and what might be called over judging, if you were foolish enough to take this mean idea to its logical conclusion. You may think this golden mean think doesn’t work all the time, but it’s not precise and only stupid people expect too much precision, remember.
A few other questions answered. How many friends should you have? Not too many, not too few, but enough. When can you say if a person’s life has ever been truly happy? Who knows? Why am I renowned as a subtle thinker when I’m really just a soggy one? Well, some say this, some say that, some say something else. I say they’re all right. And wrong.