Plenary 2: Aristotle and International Relations
Chair: Dr Paul Blackledge (Leeds Metropolitan University)
Virtue Ethics Beyond the Nation State
London School of Economics and Political Science, Lecturer in International Relations
The paper begins with the observation that some of the most interesting critiques of the liberal political philosophy that dominates international political theory – critiques of the notion of moral obligation, put forward by virtue ethicists – have been ignored in International Relations scholarship. Virtue ethicists argue that the notion of moral obligation employed in contemporary life is foundationless, and that trying to live by rules without foundations can lead to harm. In place of obligation is offered a focus on character, practical reason and human flourishing, all situated in social contexts. The argument throughout the paper is that a concern with virtue offers us an original way to think about the kind of ethical dilemmas that we face beyond the nation state, by moving away from an unrealistic and ultimately doomed search for universal rules and moral stability and towards the much more challenging, dynamic and rewarding endeavour of developing the practical judgment to answer questions about what it means, as individuals and as groups, located in time and place, to live life well.
Towards a General Theory of Human Rights
Saint Elias Seminary and Graduate School, Virginia, Lecturer in Political and Moral Philosophy and Cultural Diplomacy
Human rights are rights possessed by human beings a priori. The idea of a human right is that of a right which is ‘natural’, in the sense that, according to Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, 189, “the natural is that which has the same validity everywhere and does not depend upon acceptance”.
Given that human rights are universal in scope and, additionally, have an essentially egalitarian character and categorical validity, the following question emerges: how are human rights to be justified? Before articulating my answer to this question, I will clarify why this question is important. My arguments will be based on the research results that I have published in my book Foundations of Cultural Diplomacy –Politics among cultures and the moral autonomy of man (New York: Algora Publishing, 2011).
In the 20th century, two particular approaches to the question of the validity of human rights predominated: the ‘interests theory approach’ and the ‘will theory approach’. I will explain the limits of the previous approaches, and I will argue that a universal theory of human rights is based on epistemological and ontological presuppositions which necessarily lead us to the concepts of ‘theory’, ‘truth’ and ‘polity’ developed by Plato and Aristotle. In fact, following the interpretation of Plato’s and Aristotle’s philosophy which I propose in my above-mentioned book, I will attempt to show that a universal theory of human rights is possible.
In particular, in my Foundations of Cultural Diplomacy –Politics among cultures and the moral autonomy of man (New York: Algora Publishing, 2011, p. 153), I argue that, if we acknowledge that a human being is not only its actual, transient self at each segment of space-time, but also it bears an absolute (trans-historical) meaning (its potential perfection), then we can create a society which is characterized by absolute individualism and absolute universalism. Due to its participation in the perfection of the idea, the individual human being acquires an absolute, inherent value. Simultaneously, because all human beings participate in the perfection of the idea, all human beings equally acquire an absolute, inherent value. From this perspective, the foundation of an authentic ‘society’ – namely, the essence of social unity – is not a ‘politically correct’ freedom which simply recognizes and legitimizes the existence of all the agents which constitute a given society, but it is the humans’ relationship with a truth which transcends every social agent and, therefore, it cannot be manipulated by any social agent. This universal truth is the spiritual substance of the human being, since the spiritual substance of the human being transcends – and, hence is free from – every historical/social necessity. That is why, according to Aristotle’s Politics, 1253a 20-21, the term ‘catastrophy’ can be defined as the separation of the part from the whole.
Plenary 3: Aristotle and Work
Chair: Dr Tony Burns (University of Nottingham
On the Distinction between Virtue and Skill
Newcastle Business School Northumbria University, Reader in Organization and Business Ethics
In his paper ‘Social structures and their threats to moral agency’ (1999) Alasdair MacIntyre describes J, a railway scheduler, who later justified his role in sending his passengers to concentration camps by denying the need to consider the purposes he was serving in executing his orders. MacIntyre argues that not only J. but the whole and social and cultural order whose inhabitants are required to restrict their moral reasoning within boundaries laid down by socially prescribed roles, are guilty of moral failure. MacIntyre uses both the case of J. and the case of compartmentalised social orders such as our own to illustrate the relationship between agent’s self-understandings as moral agents and the social structures they inhabit.
This paper’s purpose is to illustrate these relationships at the level of a single concept which serves our compartmentalised social order in a variety of ways: as an aspirational object, a signifier of value, and an organising principle in the allocation of work. This concept is skill. The paper will provide a phenomenology of ‘skill’ considering its dimensions and uses in a variety of contexts, including that of J. To a social order in which skills are prized the development of both specific and transferrable skills becomes a managerial objective at the levels of the state, corporate, educational and individual activity. One consequence is that the selection of skills that warrant investment becomes a critical matter as states, corporations, educational institutions and individuals attempt to anticipate the skills that will be of continuing value in the markets of the future and those which will not. The types of skills that can be subjected to such criteria of choice-worthiness are also those that deny a role to the questioning of the purposes for which they are deployed. This denial itself becomes a meta-skill, essential for the coherence of the notion of skill as such and for the effectiveness of agents. Such skills are essentially instrumental.
The paper will contrast this with self-understandings based upon the virtues. The virtues have no place for such a notion of skill because the virtues teach us that human powers are always deployed in the service of some or other purpose. For those informed by the notion of virtue a failure to question the purpose that their powers have been set to serve is simply a failure to exercise the virtues. It follows that those entrusted with teaching the virtues of a particular practice must point their students towards the internal goods of that practice and the development of its standards of excellence so that students learn at one and the same time both how and why virtues are to be deployed. In such an understanding the student has no selection to make between the virtues, they simply learn them or fail to learn them and the extent of their learning marks the extent to which they are becoming practitioners.
The paper will therefore argue that self-understandings of agents committed to the acquisition of skills and of the agent committed to the acquisition of virtues are in conflict. In short, skills are what virtues are reduced to in the culture of emotivism.
MacIntyre, A. (1999). Social Structures and their threats to moral agency. Philosophy 74 , 311 – 329
Work and Practical Reasoning: On Two Rival Visions of the Workplace
Queen’s University Belfast, Lecturer in Political Theory
This paper explores two rival understandings of production and what it means to be a rational productive subject. Against ‘technicist’ models of productive reason, it defends a ‘phronetic’ model on both normative and pragmatic grounds. It begins with a description of the general principles underpinning technicist theories of workplace organization, principles which continue to inform work design approaches to this day. The technicist model is thereafter criticized on three counts: that it represents a specific managerial agenda which privileges sectional interests; that it is suspect morally for a number of reasons; and that despite its aspiration of arriving at ‘one best method’, it represents but one way of organizing work processes. The phronetic model is then set out using the notion of ‘practices’ as a guide. This notion is important in providing a view of production in which technical reason is subsumed under a broader practical reason incorporating individual experience and judgement. The paper then moves to rebut the charge that this idea is an instance of nostalgic craft romanticism having little relevance to present industrial realities. Against this, there are recognizable contemporary instances of phronetic production, one of the most interesting being Volvo’s innovations in automotive assembly systems.
Panel 1 Virtue
Chair: Kim Redgrave (London Met)
How to get out of our heads: gentleness as a political virtue
Open University, Professor of
This paper is a meditation on two different encounters with Jews from which, I think, political philosophy and ethics have something to learn: one is Hitler’s, in Mein Kampf;; the other is Patrick Leigh Fermor’s, in his Between the Woods and the Water. Hitler’s encounter with Jews famously led him to a rabid hatred; Leigh Fermor’s quickly leads him to something close to friendship. How so? I argue that the differences lie in the detail of the two encounters. While it is all very well to use Big Words like “love”, or in a different vocabulary “the politics of recognition”, there is much to be learned from the particularities of these encounters that could not possibly be learned from the Big Words alone. It is unfortunate, therefore, that most ethicists and political thinkers do not move from the level of the generalities to that of the particularities.
Can a Virtue Be in the Service of Bad Acts? The Possibilities of Solving a New Problem with Old Formulas
Laura Cortés i Andreu
University of Barcelona, PhD Candidate
In his article “Can Virtue Be in the Service of Bad Acts? A Response to Philippa Foot” (1984), Janet Smith deals with the solutions proposed by Philippa Foot to the problem that she formulates in the last part of her well-known article “Virtues and Vices” (1978). It is the question whether a virtue can be in the service of bad acts. Smith’s purpose with her article is double: on one hand, to examine the claims of Foot about virtue and to suggest that there are some difficulties in her solution to the problem; on the other hand, to show that Foot’s vision of virtue differs from the classical one. Both things Smith does through the examination of the two ‘ways out’ that P. Foot had given to the problem of the courageous murderer.
According to Smith, one of the ways out proposed by Foot is that the bad man may be brave, but in him the courage is not being displayed as a virtue in his bad action. This would not be a satisfactory solution for three reasons: 1) it is based on an invalid analogy –that one which Foot establishes between a poison which in a particular situation does not have poisonous effects and the bravery of the murderer in his bad act-, 2) it is the product of confusions within the common language, and 3) it results from a misunderstanding about what it is that really acts as a motive in the man who seems to have a virtue which helps him in his bad acts. The other way out proposed by Foot, says Smith, is the idea that the bad man is courageous, but in him the courage is not a virtue. According to Smith, this is neither a correct solution because, like the first one, it moves away from the classical conception of virtue, according to which we could never say that a man can be courageous and, at the same time, not having this characteristic as a virtue. Smith’s final conclusion is that what at first sight seem a disagreement between Foot and the classics – mainly Aristotle and Aquinas – stops seeming like that as soon as we realize that they are not using the same meaning to the words associated with virtue.
The purpose of this paper is to defend the idea that, although Smith’s criticisms cannot be considered as erroneous, her response to Foot can be formulated from another perspective. This new perspective could be able to show more explicitly what Smith tried to highlight, i. e., the problems of the “transcultural” discussion which must be conducted by all those who are interested in virtue. This new perspective will consist of dealing with Foot’s example from the starting point of the Aristotelian exposition of virtue.
Possibly some contemporary problems like Foot’s one can be solved by revisiting the Aristotelian doctrine. However, this leaves us in a position where some ulterior difficulties appear.
On Openness – An Essay in Aristotelian Moral Psychology
University of Cambridge, Faculty of Classics
Psychological naturalism is a desirable feature of an ethical theory; an ethical theory ought to be appropriate for beings with the kind of mental lives we have. In recent years, a great deal of ink has been spilt in responding to the situationist critique of virtue ethics, which charges, on the basis of findings in social psychology, that virtue ethics fails to be psychologically naturalistic. I will pass this debate by and try to show how another branch of empirical psychology, personality psychology, can serve as a constructive interlocutor in the virtue ethicists’ quest for psychological naturalism. For personality psychology, like virtue ethics, assumes that we can reasonably and reliably make character-trait ascriptions to explain each others’ behaviour.
Personality psychologists have for some time described openness to experience as one of five factors that underlie and explain variation in character-traits. I will argue that openness, when developed into a rationally informed disposition, meets the basic Aristotelian criteria for being a virtue of character. Interestingly, openness is linked in empirical work with an aversion to political authoritarianism, and one version or expression of openness might constitute a political virtue of being suitably sensitive to the value both of traditional and of novel practices.
Why consider openness as a potential virtue? First, the empirical research into openness suggests that it is a robust and global feature of the kind virtue ethicists would want the virtues to be – that it is stable over time and that it is reflected in a wide variety of behaviours. Second, if openness is a character-virtue, it is one that has been profoundly absent in philosophical treatments of the subject. Hence, it is especially interesting to observe the consequences on the broader theory of its being a virtue.
As I hope to show, openness is dissimilar in important respects to the virtues identified by Aristotle himself. Indeed, I will argue that treating openness as a virtue could ameliorate some of the features of Aristotle’s account of virtue of character that are unpalatable for modern readers of his Ethics. In particular, openness poses a challenge for Aristotle’s view that the virtues are exemplified in maturity and that the unity of virtues depends solely on practical wisdom. In this regard, my project can be seen as an attempt to make good on Alisdair MacIntyre’s call for a revisionary account of virtue in light of the particular historical situation and forms of social organization in which we find ourselves.
Aristotle and the Problem of Defining the Mean
University of New Brunswick, Department of Philosophy
One standard objection to the Aristotelian mean (meson) says that it is interesting but arbitrary to claim that each virtue must fall between two vicious extremes. Why shouldnʼt we think that some vices like injustice only refer to a single bad disposition– one that opposes the virtue of justice rather than two (if there even is such a disposition, as Williams disputes) ? Why not think, as Hursthouse suggests, that there could be multiple vices that oppose a virtue in some dispositional sphere, rather than just two? I make the case that these objections can miscontrue how Aristotle characterizes excess and deficiency. In some cases, what is central to the wrongness of a vicious disposition is its inclination to be excessive or deficient with respect to emotion. In other cases, its propensity for excessive or deficient action is more central to its wrongness. In yet other cases, it is the tendency for excess or deficiency with respect to desire (either orexis or epithumia) that best captures its wrongness. I contend that to understand Aristotleʼs standard description of the mean, as a virtuous disposition falling between two extremes, we must consider all three interlocking aspects of an agentʼs disposition (concerning desire, emotion and action). On Aristotleʼs account, some virtues seem to be more emotion-laden (such as good temper), whereas others like generosity are most distinctive as dispositions for action. In the case of temperance or right ambition, the quality of the desire that the agent tends to be driven by is more central in understanding how the vices are characteristically extreme. When we have a more textured account of the mean that considers the diversity of dispositions included in Aristotleʼs treatment of virtues and vices, the standard objections to the mean are less significant. This paper outlines some of the objections to Aristotle’s traditional view of the mean, and then offers a response that draws from three very different kind of virtues ( a more emotion-ladden disposition, a more actiondefining disposition and one with a disposition that is richer in the desiderative sphere). This response retains the major features of Aristotle’s account of the mean, but makes more explicit the range of dispositional mean needed to fit the virtues he advances while also mitigating the force of the objections.
Panel 2 Tradition
Chair: Dr Kelvin Knight (London Met)
Alasdair MacIntyre’s Analysis of Tradition
University of Kent
Since the publication of After Virtue, the notion of ‘tradition’ has been at the centre of Alasdair MacIntyre’s thought. Almost single-handedly, he introduced and made it common currency within Anglophone moral philosophy, thereby enlarging extant debates and challenging predominant modes of moral enquiry. The challenging nature of MacIntyre’s project lies primarily in explicating and defending a form of moral enquiry that is both historicist, yet also firmly anti-relativist. That is, ‘traditioned’ enquiry claims to be essentially historical in form, eschewing appeal to foundations that are meant to be acceptable at any time or place – as if there were rational agents as such – while at the same time maintaining the aspiration to moral truth simpliciter, viz. truth that is not relativised to some point in history or other.
My argument will be that, in analysing the mechanics, as it were, of moral traditions, MacIntyre relies primarily on a model of scientific traditions derived from his reading of the work of Thomas Kuhn. I will unpack what I think are three foci of Kuhn’s conception of the sciences, and the ‘revolutions’ he claims they undergo. These foci are, in turn: the ‘crisis’ conception of scientific development, what I will call the ‘systematic conception’ of scientific paradigms, and the view that successive paradigms are incommensurable. I hope to show, along the way, that – notwithstanding certain minor differences – these three foci are integrated into MacIntyre’s account of the development of moral traditions with a surprising degree of faithfulness to Kuhn. And crucially, I will argue against the overall cogency of his account, given the disparities I will pinpoint between scientific and moral traditions.
Overall, then, my approach to MacIntyre’s Kuhnian model of moral traditions will be critical, for I will be arguing that it is (although illuminating in certain respects) also procrustean, because it effectively forces the notion of a moral tradition into a mould it does not clearly and in all salient respects fit. And a corollary of this will be that MacIntyre’s model here tends to lead him away from an analysis of moral traditions directly and per se. Having said this, I want to emphasise that my critique is fundamentally constructive and friendly in spirit, since nothing I have to say invalidates the very notion of a moral tradition, and if anything, all I am calling for are less problematic construals of that notion.
The Historiography of Ethics in the Aristotelian Tradition: MacIntyre and Irwin
University of the Balearic Islands, Assistant Professor of Legal History
In my exposition I compare two conceptions of Ethical Historiography in Aristotelian Tradition. First of all, I try to define “Historiography of Ethics” and “Aristotelian Tradition” and secondly I explain the differences between the historiographical ideas of MacIntyre and Irwin. For explaining the conception of MacIntyre I start in his A Short History of Ethics and finish in his God, Philosophy, Universities, and in order to comment Irwin’s thought I only take his long and careful masterwork The Development of Ethics. I claim that MacIntyre and Irwin conceive History of Ethics as the development of the sub-discipline of Philosophy called Ethics. Along my exposition I would explain the origins of Aristotelian tradition (from Socrates to Aristotle) and how Stoicism Augustine, Aquinas and Suárez have a diferent role in MacIntyre and in Irwin’s approaches. Then, I compare the Thomistic arguments of MacIntyre and the neo-aristotelian claim of Irwin along the Middle Ages and the Modern Era. In my view, Irwin changes three historiographical trends of the 20th century: (a) the argumentation that history may reveal substantial agreements on the main principles of ethics, (b) the problematic equalization of morality and ethics, and (c) the necessity of theoretical philosophy for understanding moral philosophy. MacIntyre deems the History of Ethics to be an impossible intellectual journey since every historical moment offers a product of incommensurable traditions. According to MacIntyre, this history cannot be studied because it is impossible to reach a final agreement of the moral philosophers in history. Only every tradition can be studied. Irwin argues that Ethics has an historical evolution. Thus, the study of the History of Ethics is possible if it is understood as the enlargement of the Socratic Tradition which has its main exponent in Aristotle and Aquinas. This position is not incompatible with Modern Ethics, and MacIntyre claims that Modern and Ancient Ethics are divorced. Irwin sums up the Aristotelian tradition as a continuum (Socrates-Plato-Aristotle-Stoicism-Augustine-Aquinas-Suárez-Butler-Kant-Hegel-Sidgwick-Bradley-Green-Rawls) whereas MacIntyre is quite selective, anti-modern, and conceives history as a rivality among liberalism, genealogism and Aristotelian (Socrates-Plato-Aristotle-Stoicism-Augustine-Aquinas-Vitoria-Newmann) traditions. I conclude my paper explaining some resemblances between both philosophers in order to construct a general “Historiography of Ethics”.
Friendship as a Social Good: Aristotelian Civic Friendship versus Enlightenment Commercial Friendship
University of Ioaninna, Lecturer in Philosophy
My aim in this paper is to discuss the rôle that friendship, both personal and civic, plays into human flourishing and well-being, and to demonstrate the importance of civic friendship, and more specifically that of Aristotelian civic friendship, to contemporary society, by arguing that friendship constitutes a social good.
Aristotle maintained that ‘philia is the motive of society’ (Politics, 1280b38-39) and argued that friendship is even more important than justice since it generates concord in the city (NE, VIII, 1155b21-27). Indeed, Aristotle attributed a special kind of meaning to the idea of friendship maintaining that ‘Society depends on friendship –after all, people will not even take a journey in common with their enemies’ (Politics, 1295b23-25). One of the most striking factors of Aristotle’s account is that he sees an important relation between justice and political friendship. In his view, friendship is in some ways as important as justice for the prosperity of the state. As he says in Nicomachean Ethics, 1155a26-27: “when people are friends they have no need of justice, while when they are just they need friendship as well, and the truest form of justice is thought to be a friendly quality”. The city is a partnership for the sake of the good and, in the same sense that justice is the good in the sphere of politics, friendship is also a good and holds the state together. Lawgivers, according to this argument (NE, 1155b21-27), seem to care more for friendship than for justice, since friendship generates concord (homonoia) – i.e. unanimity of the citizens – which is similar to friendship. In that way, friendship can hold the state together – in the same sense that justice does – and can also expel faction. It is in this sense that, when people are friends, they have no need of justice, while when they are just, they need friendship as well, and the highest form of justice seems to be a matter of friendship.
Nevertheless, during the period of the Scottish Enlightenment, there has been, among some philosophers, such as David Hume and Adam Smith, a shift from the ancient meaning of friendship towards another one befitting the new moral economy of commercial age, the new ‘commercial’ society. In particular, Adam Smith proclaimed the fading of feudal and pastoral friendships based on beneficence and argued instead in favour of friendships animated by the virtues of prudence and justice (TMS, VI.ii.1.15). This new society envisaged by Smith is a society of strangers, and, according to this view, it is only a society of strangers, of mediated and indirect social relations that has the dynamism to achieve progress. According to Smith, this idea of friendship embodies two Enlightenment ideals: progress and cosmopolitanism –since commerce progressively enlarges markets and expands, thus, circles of friendships. In Smith’s new commercial society, friendships of an intense type are no longer necessary, and friendship is rendered into a kind of ‘amicable strangership’, as it has been succinctly labelled. It seems that, in Smith’s account, all that is left of the meaning of friendship is a mere ‘loose’ notion of civic friendship that hardly resembles friendship any more. Adam Smith, by defining friendship as necessitudo deprives friendship of most of its generally assumed qualities and renders it into a vacant concept that resembles more the ‘watery’ kind of friendship that Aristotle described when he criticized Plato’s Republic (Politics, II. 1262b17-22). Similarly to the Platonic notion of political friendship as criticized by Aristotle, such a type of ‘cool’ friendship could ultimately undermine the unity of the political community.
This notion of Enlightenment (and Post-Enlightenment) commercial friendship has influenced contemporary accounts of friendship (sociological accounts mostly) but also most interpretations of the ancient conception of friendship. Nevertheless, it is possible, in my view, to demonstrate the relevance of the Aristotelian notion of civic friendship to contemporary political discussion by demonstrating that it can function as a social good. Contrary to some dominant interpretations of the ancient conception of friendship according to which it can only be understood as an obligatory reciprocity, my aim in this paper is to argue that friendship between fellow citizens is important because it contributes to the unity of both state and community by transmitting feelings of intimacy and solidarity and, in that sense, it can be understood as an important relationship predicated on affection and generosity, virtues lacking from both contemporary politics and society that seem to be merely dominated by Post-Enlightenment ideals. In addition, it should be noted that Aristotelian civic friendship is not incompatible with justice and the rule of law. Aristotle’s notion of civic friendship is important, not only because it can help us develop a better understanding of his notion of political justice, but also because it can, if successfully applied to our notion of the modern state, contribute to its improvement.
Co-Reading Aristotle’s Practical Reasoning
Tarbiat Modares University, Assistant Professor of Political Philosophy
In Islamic Arabic /Persian thought there are many theories about ethics, such as textual/ scriptural, theological, religious, and philosophical. Therefore, when we refer to philosophical ethics (that has within itself Socratic, Platonic, Aristotelian and neo-Platonic trends and versions with such main thinkers such as Farabi, Avicenna, Averroes, Tusi and Miskawayh) we have to bear in our mind this specific (according to Skinner) ideological context. Therefore, in this atmosphere there can be a dialogue and common ground between those who study and do research in the field of “philosophical ethics”. Accordingly, there may be many topics for discussion but I think we have to make some priorities on the basis of shared issues that make a connection between urgent internal and external issues of Arab/ Persian Islamic countries. For me these are such subject matters: happiness, theoretical and practical thinking, philosophy of ethics, virtues and practical philosophy and religion. Among these, to see and think about “practical reasoning” is very basic and educational. Thus it is possible to arrange a co-reading of Aristotle’s practical reasoning among adherents and scholars of philosophical ethics.
With regard to practical reasoning, as “human beings” who are situated in different and various “positions” and states we face with different “issues and subjects” that as responsible and engaged individuals with different “intentions and purposes” we encounter with them differently. Accordingly, there is a set composed of three interrelated constituents: responsible human beings; diverse issues; and different concerns. For example, some human beings consider themselves as either knowers or agents or the like; some issues are their theoretical or practical or technical or the like; and lastly, some concerns are either for knowing or reaching truth or problem-solving and the like. Now there are some “common global” issues or more precisely problems that address themselves to us and we “should do” something in regard to them. It is here that Aristotle’s “practical thinking” on the ground of “ethics” becomes pertinent and relevant. His practical thinking is very crucial and vital for its far-reaching deep and alive influence as “philosophical ethics” in the Islamic philosophical traditions and circles in interrelations with Islam as religion. Thereby by discussing about Aristotle’s practical thinking in regard to contemporary global common practical problems there will be constructed an interactive intercultural co-reading. Such a forum may be shaped around these topics: Practical Syllogism or Reasoning, Deliberation, Choice, Will and Motivation, Structure, and End of action.
Panel 3 Policy and Economy
Chair: Prof Sean Sayers (University of Kent)
Cultural Production as a Practice
University of Edinburgh, Emeritus Professor of Political Theory
This paper explores the possibility of using the MacIntyrean concept of a practice as a basis for arguing against the marketisation or commercialisation of cultural production; or at least, for arguing in favour of publicly funded support for, or provision of, the production of cultural goods. The particular form of ‘public provision’ considered will be public service broadcasting, and the specific kind of cultural ‘product’ will be TV soap opera. In doing so I shall draw on an article by John Mepham, ”The Ethics of Quality in Television’ (in G. Mulgan ed, The Question of Quality, BFI 1990), which provides an account of the ethical character and purposes of soap opera and its production that resonates in several ways with the concept of a practice. I shall then apply MacIntyre’s claims about the institutional requirements for flourishing practices to see whether it could be shown that the organisational forms of commercial ‘culture industries’ are antithetical to this kind of cultural production being conducted as a practice, and whether this provides an argument for its non-commercial, public provision through public service broadcasting.
Aristotle, Marx, and the current financial crisis
University of Passau, Lecturer in Political Theory and History of Political Ideas
Aristotelianism is an important paradigm in disciplines like philosophy and politics, but is rather neglected in the field of political economy, where authors prior to Adam Smith are often considered as pre-modern. However, the current financial crisis illustrates the relevance of Aristotle’s critique of greed and chrematistics (the unlimited acquisition of wealth): Since the beginning of the crisis in 2007/2008, there is a new debate whether it has been caused by a systemic failure or by a lack of responsibility of economic and/or political actors. Most theoretical paradigms in political economy are focussing on the influence of systemic conditions on the actors’ behaviour; the Aristotelian paradigm is emphasizing the importance of an ethical relation of the actors to the economic and political system in order to prevent the system from collapse.
Rediscovering Aristotle for the study of political economy in the light of the current crisis is the first aim of the paper, which raises another question: What are the differences between the Aristotelian and the Marxian approach to political economy? Marx refers several times to Aristotle as a “genius” and considers his critique of chrematistics as a predecessor of his own critique of capitalism. The relation between these two critiques of unlimited acquisition of wealth is a complex one:
– On the one side, both critiques are opposed to each other: Aristotle emphasizes the ethical responsibility of the individuals, while for Marx man is dependent on the conditions of the economic system;
– On the other side, both paradigms are related to each other in at least two respects:
Already Aristotle is emphasizing the importance of economic conditions for the ethical formation of man (especially in the chapters on private property in Politics, Book II); and both Aristotle and Marx are criticising the unlimited acquisition of wealth on the ground of a similar ideal of acting for its own sake, either in theory (Aristotle) or in unalienated labour (Marx).
The paper examines the relevance of Aristotle’s critique of chrematistics in the field of political economy and compares his critique with the Marxian critique of capitalism. As a result it will point out that the comparison between the two paradigms is not just of theoretical importance: It is of practical importance to analyze the Aristotelian critique of chrematistics as an alternative to a system of political economy which drove the international community on the verge of collapse in fall 2008.
Schools vs. Markets: education as a form of Policy
University of Silesia, Assistant Professor of Ethics
In my paper I shall investigate the nature of good education as seen from an Aristotelian point of view. I start with some brief discussion on Aristotle’s concept of politics with special attention given to the relation between education as providing individuals with the tools of search for their good and the duties of the state. Then I point out the way in which the understanding of politics changes with the turn of modernity to sketch the consequences of this process for both the general idea and practice of (moral) education as subordinated to economy-influenced politics. Thus, I shall argue, it is education that should be seen as the crucial element of the tension between Aristotelian concept of politics as good-oriented and modern efficiency and interest-oriented one. Hence, I shall argue, education becomes a fundamental political activity and the first line of resistance against an overwhelming and all-permeating pressure of the economy.
MacIntyre’s Aristotelianism and Public Institutions: Reconsidering Tom Burns’ Account of The BBC
London Metropolitan University, PhD candidate in Political Theory
This paper investigates the extent to which MacIntyre enables Aristotelian practical philosophy to become relevant and applicable to understand and evaluate contemporary public institutions. The main argument of the paper is that MacIntyre’s Aristotelianism renders Aristotelian practical philosophy capable of understanding and critically evaluating complex modern public institution – which were alien to Aristotle’s social and cultural context. This argument is developed in two main stages. First of all, MacIntyre’s classification of goods and his correlative distinction between practices and institutions are explored. In exploring these aspects of MacIntyre’s Aristotelianism, the paper aims to illustrate how these aspects of MacIntyre’s philosophy differs from Aristotle’s practical philosophy. Then, in the second stage, the paper moves on to examine how these differing notions of MacIntyre develops Aristotle’s practical philosophy into a critical sociology of contemporary public institutions. In this part, the BBC is considered as a case which could be understood and evaluated through MacIntyre’s critical sociology. One of the most extensive sociological accounts of the BBC – Tom Burns’ book The BBC: Public Institution and Private World – is reconsidered and illustrated as supportive of the main argument of this paper. Burns’ empirical account of the socio-political shifts within the BBC are re-conceptualized, from MacIntyre’s Aristotelian perspective, and critically evaluated. That is, Burns’ central emphasis on the shift from ‘working in the BBC’ to ‘working for the BBC’, between 1960s and 1970s, is critically evaluated, from a MacIntyreian perspective, as an institutionalized tendency to reduce the goods of excellence – maintained within social practices of broadcasting – to the goods of effectiveness. This critical reexamination of Burns’ study of BBC yields to the conclusion that MacIntyre’s Aristotelianism broadens Aristotle’s practical philosophy in such a way that it becomes possible to approach public institutions, such as the BBC, from an Aristotelian perspective.
Panel 4 Polities and Individuals
Chair: Prof Joseph Dunne (University of Dublin)
On the Notion of Collective Virtue
University of Hull, Professor of Political Theory
A key concern in ethics education for the military is whether the focus of attention should be on the individual or, alternatively, on the ethos or structure within which the individual operates. This raises the question of whether, if one is considering the virtues of the individual or the organisation, what sense it makes to assert that an organisation can have virtues or be virtuous. This further raises the issue of whether, in some sense or another, the organisation can have virtues which the individuals do not possess (or do not possess to the same degree). This paper seeks to answer these questions through an analysis of the notion of collective military virtue and to investigate some of the implications of its findings for the theory and practice of ethics education in and for the military.
Politeia and Practices: A Case for Empirical Research in Aristotelian Studies
Philip de Mahy
Catholic University of America
As he makes clear at the end of his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle considered his knowledge of constitutions to be a necessary prerequisite for his political writings. These documents are generally understood only in their formal sense, leading to comparisons between Aristotle’s Politics and Plato’s question of the best regime in the Republic and the Laws. Aristotle, however, understood himself to be doing something unprecedented. How do we take into account his observation that “our predecessors have left the subject of legislation unexamined” without dismissing it as an exaggeration or rhetorical flourish? Aristotle understood the radical nature of his Politics to come from his ability to approach these questions “in light of the constitutions we have collected.” This means that one of the foundations of Aristotle’s Politics is another work equally unprecedented that is almost completely lost to us, his library of 158 constitutions collected by himself and his students.
This paper argues that rival interpretations of Aristotle’s Politics lead to and are founded in rival interpretations of the nature of Aristotle’s constitutions as well as his uses of the term politeia. After briefly considering several interpretations rooted in the methodology of Leo Strauss, Hannah Arendt, Eric Voegelin, and Quentin Skinner, I go on to demonstrate that Aristotle’s practical philosophy, rooted in his understanding of the relationship between universals and particulars, as well as between theory and practice, necessitated the collection of an unprecedented body of empirical research on political life in Greece. Rather than imposing anachronistic conceptions of constitutionalism, I argue that Aristotle’s constitutions included historical, cultural, and economic particulars as crucial elements in their accounts, most of which had never been formally written down before. Finally, I will largely rely on primary texts from Aristotle, as well as the Constitution of Athens (generally attributed to Aristotle and his students), to make the case that the empirical rigor exemplified in his biological works plays an equally important role in his Politics.
I conclude by arguing that the work of Alasdair MacIntyre demonstrates that this foundation is still required for any practical philosophy that seeks to further human flourishing. Macintyre’s emphasis “the importance of empirical studies of past and present relationships between institutions and practices”, most recently expressed in his essay “How Aristotle Can Become Revolutionary”, is grounded in Aristotle’s example. Practical philosophers and political scientists alike must seek contemporary analogues to Aristotle’s constitutions if they hope to understand and further his pursuit of human flourishing.
How (not to) construct virtuous citizens
Maastricht University, Researcher in philosophy of technology, environmental philosophy, and bio-ethics
Political decisions regarding emerging technologies are commonly based on liberal, utilitarian questions such as “what costs, harms, and risks can be expected?” The current measures on nuclear power, Co2 emissions and nanotechnologies are clear examples of this. Sometimes, deontological arguments are taken into account: the right of privacy has for instance led to several policies regarding communication and information technologies. But arguments from life-ethics or virtue-ethics that are actually translated into a technology policy are rare.
From the view of contemporary Aristotelian political science, this is worrisome. Aristotelian political science argues that the task of politics is to make people happy by raising them as good citizens who share a set of basic virtues that are reflected in their behavior. Now both empirical and reflective studies on the moral impacts of technologies (e.g. the studies of Michel Foucault, Tsjalling Swierstra, Marianne Boenink and myself) have shown that technology development influences people’s virtues: the washing machine and electric steam iron made it easy and thus virtuous (well mannered and respectful) to wear freshly washed and smooth clothes; public transport (especially the train) made it necessary to establish one standard time in the Netherlands, and consequently it became virtuous to be either on time or fashionably late (pending on your social status); and so on. If technologies influence our virtues and the task of an Aristotelian policy maker is to support the virtuous development of the people, than this policy maker should take into account the interaction between technology and morality. But, how to develop an Aristotelian policy science for this policy maker?
In traditional philosophy of technology, the influence of technology on our virtues or being is commonly perceived in a negative manner and is closely related to the alienation thesis (consider for instance the works of Martin Heidegger, Jacques Ellul, AlbertBorgmann or Gunther Anders). Abandoning technology or resentment seemed to be the only two options in these accounts, which is of little use for the policy makers.
The observation that technologies can alter human behavior is recently taken up in a rather pragmatic political manner: several authors argued for deliberately designing technologies to stimulate good behavior of people, e.g. Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, both advisors of USA president Barack Obama. Their argument is that by for instance redesigning the road you can make people more willing to slow down and give way to others. This approach is called liberal paternalism.
But liberal paternalism has two substantial problems. First, it is too constructivist to actually work. The interaction between morality and technologies is not something that can be designed in laboratories: the interaction is partly emergent and hence complex to predict. Second, the approach is behaviorist and thus misses the point from an Aristotelian perspective: it is exclusively directed at their actual behavior. The question whether people also develop some virtues while they are stimulated to act in a certain manner is not asked.
Thus remains the question how an Aristotelian political science could take into account techno-moral interactions. In this paper presentation, I will provide a preliminary answer to that question by elaboration on how the interactions between people and their surroundings actually shape their morality, i.o.w: by providing some deeper understanding the mechanisms of techno-moral interaction, based on ongoing theoretical and empirical research projects about techno-moral change, smart surroundings (also called intelligent ambiences) and the family of the future.
Lon L. Fuller’s Procedural Natural Law and Douglas Rasmussen’s & Douglas Den Uyl’s Norms of Liberty
London Councils, Political Advisor (No academic affiliation at present)
In their most important work to date, Norms of Liberty: A Perfectionist Basis for Non-Perfectionist Politics (2005), neo-Aristotelian philosophers Douglas Rasmussen and Douglas Den Uyl argue that whilst human flourishing is objective, it is fundamentally agent-centred and thus highly individualised in nature. Rasmussen and Den Uyl argue that because there is a plurality of conceptions of the good life, any attempt to define human flourishing based upon a certain bundle of goods or activities simply privileges one vision of the good over another; instead, we must look at the basic condition required for human flourishing to be pursued at all: self-directedness. Individual rights are therefore seen as “meta-normative principles”: they provide the political and legal framework protecting the self-directedness necessary for human flourishing.
My paper explores further Rasmussen’s and Den Uyl’s conception of “rights as meta-normative principles” in the grounding of the legal and political order of liberalism. Specifically, their conception of how human flourishing requires an extended social order – of institutions, customs, laws, rights – is elaborated on. In doing so, I suggest that their conception of “rights as meta-normative principles” finds support in the writings of the eminent legal philosopher, Lon L. Fuller and his articulation of a “procedural natural law theory”.
Fuller’s legal naturalism is a natural law theory stripped of much of the substantive visions of the good life usually associated with the natural rights. For Fuller, writing in The Morality of Law (1964), his procedural natural law is “like the natural laws of carpentry, or at least those laws respected by a carpenter who wants the house he builds to remain standing and serve the purpose of those who live in it.”
In his proposal for “eunomics” – what he calls the “study of good and workable social arrangements” – Fuller, explicitly sets out his stall that there is such thing as human nature, that there are certain natural ends, that man and the institutions of the social order are not endlessly protean in much the same way that Rasmussen and Den Uyl argue for. A closer study of Lon Fuller’s procedural natural law thinking will, I believe, further reinforce the arguments of Rasmussen and Den Uyl in Norms of Liberty that perfectionism and human flourishing requires the protection of rights as “meta-normative principles”.
Panel 5: Deliberation
Chair: Prof Marco D’Avenia (Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome)
Genetic Modification of Embryos, Patents, and Deliberative Governance in the Aristotelian Tradition
University of Oxford, Associate Research Fellow at Centre for Socio-Legal Studies
University of Crete, Lecturer in Department of Political Science
Article 6 of the 1998 Biotechnology Directive in Europe which is transposed in Rule 23 of the European Patent Convention incorporates blanket prohibitions with respect to inventions intervening into human germ line, cloning humans, commercially exploiting the embryo, or allowing somatic and germ line genetic intervention in animal genome that is ‘likely to cause suffering without any substantial medical benefit to man or animal’. However, the question of germ line therapy is not settled yet.
Many argue that there are a number of diseases, which are inheritable and perhaps one day could be cured by germ line therapy. Therefore, it is crucial to avoid a blanket prohibition and instead allow some uses of the technology. The problem is to draw the line between beneficial and non-beneficial uses of the relevant technology, and this task will have to be accomplished progressively, debated in the context of specific products and processes. Patent Offices will have to play a crucial role in this respect, and society will have to keep a keen eye on the work of such agencies.In the light of the above, the argument of the paper is that Article 6 of the Biotechnology Directive needs to be rediscussed in deliberative forums of discussion where social ideals and legal categories ought to evolve hand in hand. Patent offices are one forum, albeit a very important one. We need to discuss the limits of commercialisation, the meaning of health, and how adequately our existing legal categories capture the ethical problems created by genetic interventions. If we find that our legal categories are inadequate, we will have to revise them to address the particular problems created by the technologies permitting genetic engineering embryos’ genetic constitution. The suggestion is that the right to hold property and the liberal values of autonomy and self-determination are potential candidates for this exercise., and that the conceptual tools of Aristotle’s account of deliberation offer important insights.
Leadership and Deliberative Governance
Wynne Walker Moskop
Saint Louis University, Associate Professor of Political Science & American Studies
Like participatory democrats generally, deliberative democrats resist leadership, which is “on its face…opposed to participatory self-government; it acts in place of or to some degree encroaches on the autonomy of individual actors” (Barber 1984, 238; Hauptmann 2001; Medearis 2004). This stance presents a dilemma for deliberative governance, because it resists not only leadership but any kind of strategic thinking that does not admit public participation. How then can public deliberation achieve a result beyond public education and engagement? How can it promote just governance? This concern applies with particular force to elected political leaders who accept responsibility for achieving the common good or advantage. Understood in Aristotle’s terms, good, or prudent, political leaders must deliberate about what means, or strategies, will achieve the best end that is possible in existing circumstances (NE 3.3, 6.5, 6.11). For both Aristotle and contemporary leadership scholars, persuasive strategies of rhetoric, formulated in light of existing public culture, are particularly central to prudent leadership. When deliberative democrats exclude particular rhetorical strategies from speech that serves public deliberation, critics charge, they neglect the requirements of political reality and hamper just governance (Yack 2006, Galston 2007, Urbinati 2010).
While deliberative democrats have neglected Aristotle’s Rhetoric, following Arendt and Habermas, they have relied on the distinctions Aristotle articulates–in the Nicomachean Ethics and The Politics–between action (which is its own end) and production (which serves an end beyond itself). These distinctions provide the foundation for a free realm of public discourse where the ends of life and action can be discussed apart from the strategic, instrumental processes arguably needed to achieve those ends. I want to suggest that deliberative democracy could take a step toward strengthening its ties to political realities and enhancing its potential for just governance by re-examining Aristotle’s distinctions between action and production.
To this end, the first part of my argument elaborates the similarities and differences that Aristotle’s sees between action and production and between the corresponding processes of ethical and technical deliberation. The second part compare his perspective to those of Arendt and Habermas to locate room in their approaches for the strategic thinking that is essential for effective political deliberation of both elected leaders and citizens. The comparisons suggest that deliberative democrats miss an opportunity for effective governance by neglecting similarities and areas of overlap between production and action and overstating the opposition between them. As a result, deliberative democracy sacrifices the benefits to just governance that public deliberation might derive from political leadership. More generally, it loses track of the relationship between means and ends that must be at the core of political deliberation.
Non-Kantian Deliberative Democracy
University of Wales, Social Ethics Research Group
Deliberative democracy, in its various forms, has come to dominate the landscape of recent democratic theory – especially in its most innovative moments. In some respects such theories represent the culmination of thinking about what makes a decision democratic, as opposed to something else. But in other respects they can seem curiously one-sided, favouring idealised procedures and pure resolutions in ways dislocated from the inevitable mess of ‘real politics’. In this paper I will argue that these tendencies in deliberative democratic theory stem from the predominantly Kantian character of its mainstream variants – in the work of Rawls, Habermas, Joshua Cohen and others. Specifically, these accounts presume that democratic procedures themselves might guarantee a kind of equality of ‘illocutionary force’ between the speech-acts of differently situated citizens. This presumption is unwarranted, in ways which (I shall argue) are sociologically non-controversial and politically of great significance. Drawing on ideas from John O’Neill, Susan Bickford and Andrew Dobson, I outline an alternative model of deliberative democracy in which emotion is given space alongside reason, and listening alongside speaking, in ways which, I suggest, are both more accurate as a depiction of decision-making, and more defensible in a normative sense. This points to the value of developing an Aristotelian counterpart to deliberative democracy in its Kantian mode.
On the Limit of Aristotelian Deliberation
University of Edinburgh, PhD Candidate
My claim is that deliberation is only of the means (to pros to telos). This should not be a contentious claim since Aristotle seems to indicate as much: ‘deliberation (bouleusis) is not concerned with the end (to telos), but only with the means’ (NE 1112b11-13). However, a noteworthy group of scholars, including John Cooper, Martha Nussbaum, David Wiggins etc, argue for what I will call the received view. On the received view, deliberation is of both the means and the end. They believe that the division between the means and the end is not very sharp. That is, there are so-called ‘constitutional means’, which could be means in one sense and ends in another. Furthermore, they think means are sometimes the part of the end. I see some tendency to agree with the received view. However, it is somewhat myopic as it neglects a full and rich understanding of Aristotle notion of ‘to telos’. The arguments of the received view seem to be based on the premise that ‘to telos’ is a conception on the form of happiness (eudaimonia), or moral principle, rather than a practice or the actualization of eudaimonia. I think that this is a misconception of Aristotle’s ‘to telos’. I argue that (1) what Aristotle means by ‘to telos’ is an actualization of ‘eudaimonic’ action (NE 1.7, 1098a5-7 and 1.8, 1098b31-1099a7); and, (2) an actualization of ‘eudaimonic’ action cannot be the object of moral deliberation because (2.1) the objects of deliberation are the things ‘not determined yet’ (1112b8-11) and (2.2) the actualization of ‘eudaimonic’ action is, at least, not the things ‘not determined yet’ (1098a5-7, 1098b31-1099a7 and 1113a3-9). Therefore, deliberation cannot have ‘to telos’ as an object, so deliberation is only concerned with the means.(1112b12-13) Consequently, my interpretation of Aristotle is more consistent with a more complete understanding of to telos, whereby deliberation cannot directly initiate any moral action.