Posts Tagged ‘family’

an introduction to Aristotle’s Ethics

October 18, 2009

How close to a self-help book is Aristotle’s Ethics? Imagine Aristotle as the Oprah of his day… Yesterday I picked up a book from the Thrift Shop on Main to pass the time in a coffee shop while my son was at a nearby birthday party. Bradshaw On: The Family, a 1988 self help book, a follow-up of a PBS television series, a preface by Carol Burnett, starts with the thesis that the family is dysfunctional, and well, here are the ways to get it functional. Hitler came from a family. I’m not just making this up. This is just one of the pieces of evidence Bradshaw holds up against the family. I read the first chapter, and a difference between the common self help book and Aristotle’s Ethics, is that Aristotle waits until the last chapter/book before he lets his contemporary society have it. The Ethics was apparently written because pretty much everyone living in A.s time was an asshole. Bradshaw goes on about how shit everything is upfront.

In the introduction to the Penguin edition Barnes gives the eleventh thesis on Feuerbach as A.’s purpose. “Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.” Today still, issues surround the family. Just today I watched Where the wild things are. That Eggers, who came to fame with his autobiography, and collective fantasy, (that’s cold, but consider Atwood’s Handmaid silently inseminated by the husband of her female master while held tight to her masters body, we live in a messed up world of rape fantasies and idealized family relations after death – recall the funeral scene from Heathers when the father cries, “I love my dead gay son.”) of our parents dying in quick succession, has this time, put out the saddest fantasy of collective loneliness I’ve seen since Mister Lonely.

Aristotle’s ethics proposes friendship as the way to a happy life. Friend, is sometimes used as a quality, as in: “He has no friend.” where friend is used in the same sense as say pride, as in: “He has no pride.” I’m mentioning this, because the friendship, the friend that you present to others must be of a certain quality to lead to a happy life. A man must act with virtue. These virtues are fully explained by Aristotle.  He later informs us that these virtues are rare qualities. So while the point of the Ethics, and philosophy for that matter is to change the world, seems the world is resisting.

Aristotle sets us up for an incredible amount of work. This might be the main difference between the ethics and a self-help book. The Ethics, while written more than 2000 years ago, includes in its pages, an opening for the entirety of human knowledge. We, according to Aristotle, are to learn absolutely everything, and then through deliberation, a kind of good and right thinking, act virtuously in accordance with a kind of harmony with this good and right thinking.

The opening, the space left for the sphere of deliberation, the future of knowledge, the openness of the Ethics, might be the key to its longevity. Look at Bradshaws book. Close down the new knowledge, fix it, then fix it. If you believe that we know, then you can believe that you know and feel better about yourself. Aristotle proposed a kind of experimental life, the good life as the experiment of the good man. There are a lot of unknowns in that proposition.

Focus on the Family and Michael Moore

March 27, 2007

All this is an attempted dialogue. There’s a possibility of dialogue. There is no dialogue. There original article is here. The comments are here. I post this here because I like the connections. The Michael Moore review is on some 666 site, and Focus on the Family says a very similar thing, plus the original article talks of the same phenomenon as Hold On To Your Kids. I like connections.

His is a rather sentimental and weak argument. Teenagers have been teenagers for decades; he does not adduce what, if anything, is different about today’s teenagerdom from yesterday’s teenagerdom.
Dave | Homepage

I’ll push your first claim further, and note that teenagers have been teenagers for centuries, at least.

I think the post was fairly clear in it’s contention that what’s different about today’s teenagers is that they spend much more time with one another, and only one another, and they are taught by less competent individuals.

There are plenty of ways to attack both arguments, but it seems false on the surface to assert that I did not adduce a difference between present and past.
Tony | Homepage | 02.26.07 – 10:25 am |

What derisive, prejudicial and ignorant commentary. Many teens are creative, insightful and have excellent work ethic. Of course, some reflect poorly on each other, but many help each other improve in the hours the spend together.

What you say is sort of like saying all bloggers offer only ridiculous, self-aggrandizing commentary, just because they spend a lot of time reading each other’s blogs.
Mark Barnes | Homepage | 03.04.07 – 9:31 am |

Or like saying that one commenter who has trouble spelling words correctly is proof that all commenters are poor spellers.

I think the qualifiers were clear enough: “a large portion of high-school seniors,” for example. Of course I wasn’t talking about all teenagers, or all teachers, for that matter. The fact that many teenagers are brilliant, and their teachers highly competent, doesn’t refute what I had to say.
Tony | Homepage | 03.05.07 – 12:19 pm |

This author/psychologist gives parents and teachers some advice for dealing with peer orientation. That teenagers prefer to keep company with themselves is having a “devastating impact in today’s society”, according to Neufeld, and parents actually spending time with their kids is his new and innovative solution.

I’m guessing the tone of your post was what the two previous commentors were really on about. I see the same phenomenon but well, there’s this: “But perhaps picking a fight with higher education, in the same post where I pick on high schoolers and their teachers and their parents and the rest of us who let news like this roll off our backs without changing our behavior one bit, is, well, just one fight too many.” It’s a mexican standoff, like that scene (50) in Reservoir Dogs, but you’re blaming the actors in our social drama. Doesn’t blaming the script writers ever cross your mind?

Society is changing, but so has the economy. Why are kids working as much as they do? Why are parents working as much as they do? Why are you “picking on” the little guy? I take for fact our responsibility to ourselves and our children. But by your own understanding (“If you study about ten times harder, and have an ounce of common sense, and work really long hours, then perhaps you can build yourself a plane, and then you can fly. Otherwise, get used to walking.”) citizens are being worked beyond socialization. Is it stupidity or the underclass that’s spreading?
Rodger Levesque| | 03.12.07 – 4:38 am |

Given that real income in the lowest quintile of American households more than doubled in the past half-century, I would say you’re barking up the wrong tree if you want to contend that economic need is the driving force here.

My goal isn’t to pick on the little guy. It is to pick on the big, fat slob of a parent who spends too much time in front of the tube, and not enough time engaging his children in the real work of becoming responsible adults.
Tony | Homepage | 03.12.07 – 4:30 pm |

The real income more than doubled for everyone else as well. But fifty years ago a household would have had one bread winner. Today, that’s not the case. Two people are now working per household.

And sure not every household has two incomes, but not every teenager has no adult contact.

What do you call this? A cultural shift? Can it be called an economic shift? If one earner were to devote himself to the kids, would the household earning then be nearer to what it was fifty years ago? And is that doubled household income going straight to a materialistic lifestyle? I read in the paper often about the average household credit card debt. Was this a problem 50 years ago when households were bringing in half what they do now? How are these real dollars calculated? If the dollars take into account only necessities, is cable included? How about these gas prices? Computers? Cell phones? insurance? Are all these things taken into account?

I’m not going to try to tell you that the fat guy picture you paint doesn’t exist, I’m sure he’s washing down pork rinds with a miller lite watching deal or no deal right now, but the problem of family socialization time has to be more complex than that. You’d know better than I if you can call it an economic shift, but definitely a cultural shift has occurred.

It doesn’t matter which side of the polemical divide your argument falls.

This is from Focus on the Family:

“Dr. Steve Farrar presents a message on how the spiritual virus of affluenza (the pursuit of material success) is sweeping the country and destroying the family. Affluenza causes good people to make unwise choices by distorting their thinking, their judgment, and eventually causes them to sacrifice their children on the altar of success.

He gives three components to success in America. Attaining these three components equals status, and if you have status in America, then your perceived importance goes up. Steve provides tremendous perspective from the Scriptures (1 Timothy 6:6-11) and expresses that contentment is destroyed by comparison.

On Day Two, Steve talks about the God-ordained family and lists the two things that every family needs, presenting God’s ideal plan for the father to be the primary provider and for the mother to be the primary caregiver.

He traces the course of affluenza beginning with the Industrial Revolution, when men were first taken out of the home and into the factories for work, followed by the feminist revolution in the past 25-30 years which has taken women out of the home, and Steve asks who is taking care of the children.

Dr. Dobson closes by assuring listeners that he knows that materialism and greed are not the reason all mothers work, some are working out of need.”

And this is about a Michael Moore documentary:

“Moore first shows us how the mother from the impoverished town of Flynt, Michigan was left without work following the closing of the local GM plant as jobs were given to cheap labor out of country. We then travel with Moore before sunrise on a two hour bus ride to the wealthy suburban mall where the state’s privatized work-for-welfare program sent her (the program, incidentally, was run by defense industry giant Lockheed Martin, who also builds nuclear missiles in Littleton Colorado, site of Columbine High School). We get quick tours of the Dick Clark fifties-theme restaurant and the fudge factory where she performed her minimum wage jobs before bussing home after sunset. Despite the two jobs, the woman still did not have enough to pay her rent. Consequently, she was evicted from her house and taken in by her brother. Soon after, while she was bussing to work, her young child found her brother’s handgun, carried it to school and killed another student.”

I’m not proposing a solution. Tony, you’ve written provocatively on a very real issue. I think it’s more complicated than your presentation, and I’m still wondering, what’s really happening? When I asked if it was stupidity or the underclass that was spreading, I meant is our culture becoming oppressive? The problem has spread well into what was once called the middle class and on into academia. Is all this work, creating poverty of the mind? I think Camus had something to say about this. I guess if there’s a question in here anymore, it’s: Don’t you think you’ve simplified the problem (a problem you had the ability to recognize and examine) a little too much?
Rodger Levesque |  | 03.12.07 – 11:40 pm |

Chapter 1: Technology, Philosophy, Politics (notes)

February 8, 2007

This might be a trick I use to move on. I’ll simply pull quotes from a chapter. They may or may not become useful to me later on…

“If human significance of technology is largely unmapped territory, this is mainly due to the idealism of Western higher culture.”

“Technological development transforms what it is to be human.”

Essentialism holds that there is one and only one “essence” of technology and it is responsible for the chief problems of modern civilization. I will offer both a critique of essentialism, which continues to set the terms of most philosophy of technology, and an alternative to it, in the concluding chapters of this book.”

“It is not easy to explain the dramatic shift in attitudes toward technology that occurred in the 1960s. By the end of the decade early enthusiasm for nuclear energy and the space program gave way to technophobic reaction. But it was not so much technology itself as the rising technocracy that provided public hostility.”

“Part I of this book therefore includes two chapters on particularly revealing events and debates of the late 1960s and early 1970s. I have chosen subjects which seemed important to me at the time and which shape the philosophy of technology presented in this book. I do not claim that these examples are typical, but I do believe that close attention to them opens a window on the revolution in the thinking about technology that continues to this day.”

“[Marcuse and Foucault] relate technical domination to social organization and argue that technology has no singular essence but is socially contingent and could therefore be reconstructed to play different roles in different social systems.”

“The debate between Habermas and Marcuse is the subject of Chapter 7.”

“In part II I attempt to develop and apply this new democratic conception of technology in the light of what social constructivism has taught us in the intervening years.”

“Whatever the ultimate status of scientific-technical knowledge, it is what we use for truth in making policy.”

“Must we choose between universal rationality and culturally or politically particularized values?”

“In the third part of the book, I will attempt to preserve these thinkers’ advance toward the critical integration of technical themes to philosophy without losing the conceptual space for imagining a radical reconstruction of modernity.”

“Its political implications appear where it interferes with human communication in essential lifeworld domains such as family or education.”