Aristotle, Virtue, Calvinism, Neuroscience, Freewill and stuff

Portrait of Aristoteles. Pentelic marble, copy...
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Doubtful that you’ll know the source, and I don’t feel like posting them at the moment. But… these are responses to readings… So, you know…



Aristotle is arguing that virtue is produced by nurture, or habituation (habits), rather than nature. I think that while the ancient philosopher is a dozen worlds removed from modern neuroscience, his truths and reality must be measured against such things. In 2007, a neuroscientist began an experiment that showed that a moral choice could be predicted by a scan of the brain, some seven seconds before the person made the decision. What then of Aristotle’s notion of free will? Could nature be overturned by nurture so easily? What if virtue and ethics then, or perhaps rather, the choices we make unhindered by laws, aren’t done so because of habit or something inside of us, but because of the way the brain functions? Then, wouldn’t virtue be afforded the same value which Aristotle gives to the natural senses? So that perhaps some humans are prone to be more ethical and virtuous by nature while others are left to simply be depraved? What’s left then is to continue to promote the model program of habituation in case there is a way to fight nature, that is, if Science and Calvin are wrong.

While I agree, generally, with the summation of Aristotle’s ethics, I find that in 2.14, we relate back to the decision of the action of virtue is concluded to be personal, and valid if the choices are made with good reason. I would argue that virtue, like all knowledge, is true regardless if we understand it to be so. Further, I play the anti-advocate here and surrender the position to Science. If the brain is chemically aligned to already make certain choices, then the idea of knowing, as well as having them performed in a perfect state, is removed, and the virtue becomes a Craft. If ‘doing’ is raised to the pride of place for Aristotle in virtue, then perhaps that motivation is retained, but I would again turn to the idea that in a Craft, the knowledge exists even before it is exercised. If Virtue is a craft, then it is enough that someone is pre-programmed, if you will, to be virtuous and thus the actual performance of the new craft, i.e. virtue, is counted for nothing, or rather, very little. To counter, again Aristotle, one cannot become good, or virtuous, simply by doing the actions proscribed by a habituation because if we are already slotted to do them, then they are our craft. To the effect, I am not given to grammar, but by habit, I perform the actions of a grammarian, I am still not a grammarian. I have, because of fear of ridicule, learned to curtail my natural impulses and natural craft of mutilation of words and sentence structures. I would then say, if I were to surrender to Science the position, that someone who makes the right choice out of fear of reprisal only performs the actions necessary to prevent personal enjoy, but the choice is still not made. The only real choice made is to prevent injury or to attempt to escape injury. The unvirtuous remain so, although they may from time to time look to be virtuous.

Then, I were to surrender to Science the position, virtue no longer requires habituation or practice, but remains a Craft which needs to be exercised by the virtuous. Further, it ceases to be a purely human function as we understand human function.

I do tend to agree with him, however, on what a virtue is and find it well suited to my current state of middle way, third way, or reconciliation.

Legacies of Christian Ethics:

Under Tension One I would count myself among the “many biblical scholars” whom the authors mentioned on page two, and in the back of my mind, I think of Ecclesiastes and Proverbs as well as Ruth and Ezra, but equally, I say that there is a core of unity, albeit for many it is the unity of the canon within the canon. I have one, and I’m not afraid to admit it. Although, I guess, it goes beyond the Protestant Canon. I appreciated the argument of reason v. relevation as well, and to sum up that the moral vision for Paul was Christ Crucified. This alone seems to stand against Reason and rationale thought, which was a stumbling block for many, and still is. And again, I come to the split between Reason and Revelation as the author notes that there is a way to properly use the two.

And again, under Tension Two, I find myself in disagreement about Creation, Psalm 8 and the Songs of Solomon, albeit due to private studies and not Church Tradition.  So, I guess a main point here, is that a correct, better, interpretation of the materialism of Creation may help prevent the contrast between Spirit and Nature.

Agreed with everything in Tension Three.

In regards to Tension Four, I have to say that I agree with him here as well, especially with the focus on the Love of God. Tensions Five and Six are equally good. I enjoy the presentation of arguments in Scripture.

Philosophical Legacies:

I am intrigued by this notion which the author mentions, this ancient Enlightenment in which ancient minds sought to get around the myths which were causing division. Perhaps, history does repeat itself, or at the very list, mimesis is natural. Equally so, I am attracted to the notion of a universal concept of justice. I do not believe that such over-arching notions are limited to time and space (culture) which puts me in the mind of the universalism of Israel’s mission. So, I’d agree that Truth is universal. So, we have Truth and Justice as universal. (If only there was something else, so other way to attach to those two…) Plato is right, about critical thought and about the philosopher kings. Overall, though, this section is rather interesting, but only informative.

Not to be confused with pulling a book of a shelf and declaring myself a scholar

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