Thursday, June 02, 2005

Aristotle in the Cafe


Heart of Philosophy cafe regulars last night had the pleasure of listening to Steven Curry channelling Aristotle for a few pleasant hours last night at Murmur bar.

Aristotle (via transwarp conduit) presented convincing arguments for the virtue of the mean, as well as making some excellent points about rationality, heriosm and courage. One problem people sometimes have is a sudden rush of guilt over their fortunate position in the world. Taking this guilt to its extreme, it can seem as though nothing less that Sainthood constitutes a morally acceptable lifestyle.

The point put by A. was that this wasn't particularly rational. There's no judgement involved in becoming a saint. For A., the best place to seat yourself was half-way between cowardice and foolishness. One should neither be unable to take risks for moral goals, nor should one be so foolish that one ignored the inherent dangers in doing so. Ask yourself - consider the people you look up to as moral heroes. Maybe Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King - anyone on your personal list. You might admire their lives - but would you actually want them for yourselves? Would you really want to make your lives like theirs?

Many moral heroes, rather than being consistently saintly, are rather defined by a moment of moral courage. This, it is argued, is a good attitude. The best way to live is not a path of constant self-sacrifice, of foolhardy risks for the supposed benefit of others, but rather to have the capacity to recognise those moments when moral courage is called for. When to fight, and when to back down, in other words.

Variously during the procedures, Steven Curry would emerge from behind his ancient Greek persona to put some of his own views forward. His own position, he argues, was that people involved in moral thinking adopt any one of several modes. They then reach a final position by considering these on balance . Traditionally, however, it was proposed that people arguing philosophically tend to see these modes as exclusive, giving primacy to one or the other as the best way of thinking morally.

These modes are, loosely, virtue ethics of the kind proposed by Aristotle, virtue ethics of the kind proposed by Christianity, consequentialism and utilitarianism. No doubt I have missed some.

A. virtue ethics are very much concerned with what kind of character a moral person should have. Consequentialism, on the other hand, takes notice not of the actor but the actions. What kind of actions are morally good or bad? From their actions shall they be known.

Anyway, I have run out of time and space, and haven't managed to give anything like a proper covering of events.



Blogger Benno said...

hey philosopher dude guy, as a melbourne dude, shoud next year i study philosophy or economics? In either case I will be doing physics and the history and philosophy of science in science.

6/02/2005 09:17:00 PM  
Blogger MelbournePhilosopher said...

Those history-and-philosophy-of subjects aren't really what gets taught in a philosophy major. Obviously there are elements of it, but they have to cover both the nature arguing and the arguments themselves rolled into one.

If you study philosophy, you get to study what a good argument is, history of philosophy, logic, essay structure, modes of discussion.

Then, separate from that, you get to look at some issues - meaning of life, meaning of physics, meaning of religion etc etc.

I think that what you learn in philosophy is very useful, especially if you pick the right subjects. But the world isn't going to take you seriously if all you have is a philosophy degree. I would say than an excellent qualification for any industry X is a double-major of philosophy and X.

So don't do philosophy to the cost of X, but extend X with philosophy rather than some other Y.


6/03/2005 09:58:00 AM  
Blogger Bill Cooper said...

I would suggest that grumpyyoungman should stop using the word "dude" immediately. Perhaps he may know how to speak like an Australian rather than a B grade actor in an American college movie and is just trying to stir up people like me. He may like to look up the definition of "Dude" it's not very flattering.

6/03/2005 07:39:00 PM  

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