Tuesday 19 July 2011

For Aristotle, asceticism and hedonism were extreme expressions of “ … a ‘natural’ affinity for pleasure and an aversion to pain …” A man’s pursuit of honour for self, and the State, could therefore be rationalised as obeying the laws of nature – seeking the highest and most appropriate pleasures in order to constitute the supreme good (or hêdonê) as not only desirable but the duty of the full citizen-man. Aristotle deconstructed ‘goodness’ of the full citizen–man. Take for example, Aristotle’s detailed analysis of the meaning of ‘good’: Let us separate, then, things good in themselves from things useful, and consider whether, the former are called good by reference to a single Idea. What sort of goods would one call good in themselves? Is it those that are pursued even when isolated from others, such as intelligence, sight and certain pleasures, and honours? Certainly, if we pursue these also for the sake of something else, yet one would place them among things good in themselves. Or is nothing other than the Idea of good in itself? [sic.] In that case the Form will be empty. But if… things [are] good in themselves, the account of good will have to appear as something identical in them all … But honour, wisdom, and pleasure, just in respect of their goodness, the accounts are distinct and diverse. The good, therefore, is not some common element answering to one Idea (Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics, Book 6, p. 3).

For Aristotle, goodness was attained through plurality in one’s actions, where some actions were ‘more good’ than others. The greater one’s goodness, the greater one’s happiness and happiness was chosen implicitly.

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