Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Caucus Q's Answered: 11 AM Section

Hello!  I think I have correctly separated out the Q's by section.  If I have by chance misplaced your Q, please let me know!  Enjoy!

#1. Does society define a "good life" as a person's own perspective?  Well, this will depend on what kind of a theory of the good life the people in the society have.  For example, if the view is a hedonistic one, then a good life will consist of experiencing pleasures.  What we find pleasurable differs based on our individual perspectives.  However, some versions of hedonism, such as utilitarianism, categorize some pleasures as better than others, which is independent of a person's own perspective.  If the view is a desire satisfaction theory, then of course what desires are being satisfied will be a matter of personal desires and perspective.  If the view is a substantive good theory, then the standards for a good life will remain stable across the population.

#2. Does Epictetus agree with the idea of being fortunate?  Well, he certainly thinks that the universe is divinely ordered.  In a sense, we are all fortunate because we are all living in the best possible world.  All of the events in our lives have happened just as they were supposed to happen.  He does not, however, develop a theory of fortune in the way that Aristotle does.  Whereas Aristotle defines luck and fortune as things that are either good or bad for us, Epictetus would reject this way of classifying events.  According to Epictetus, all events are good.  There is no  "bad luck" according to Epictetus.

#3. Can you go over blame, shame, impartiality, personal grace and the future?  Epictetus says that it is not events that cause pain and sorrow.  Rather, our attitudes towards events cause pain and sorry.  Blaming someone is blaming them for an event.  Feeling shame is feeling shame about an event that you were part of.  Because the events themselves are not bad themselves, we should neither blame others nor feel shame ourselves for the events that we take part in.  Being impartial means not thinking that events themselves are good or bad.  You should be indifferent about events.  You should only care about how you react to events.  Personal grace means accepting that the world is the way it is and finding happiness and tranquility in yourself rather than in the outside world.  With regards to the future, we should not expect the future to form to our desires.  We should accept that we cannot affect our future.

#4. How do you define a good or bad life depending on your perspective of events?  I think this question is essentially the same as #1 above.

#5. To reverse fortune and the good life, does it take big events to do so or are small events sufficient if a person is well connected to others, politically and socially.  This will depend on how we define a big or small event.  If we define the size of an event by the consequences, then any event with consequences that reverse fortune would be a large event.  But if we define event size by how it appears at the time the event happens, then it seems as if small events can cause reversal of fortune.  For example, say that Tiger Woods accidentally backs into another person's car.  Perhaps this other person is vicious and tricky, and they are able to feign injuries and sue Tiger Woods for millions of dollars, which also makes him look bad in the public eye and further deteriorates his financial wealth.  This seemingly small event and similar ones could certainly reverse fortune.

#6.  Counterexample to the substantive good theory:  Aristotle says that happiness comes from being virtuous.  A student is being virtuous when he studies though he may not be happy while studying.  In addition, his happiness afterwards is not guaranteed.  To answer this question, I must first clarify that when Aristotle talks about happiness (eudaimonia), this is actually better translated as "living well" or "well-being".  For Aristotle, pleasure will often accompany living well, but it is not a necessary condition.  He thinks that when we first start to live well, it may indeed be hard and painful.  He says that eventually, pleasure will accompany living well.  Aristotle does not deny that pleasure is part of the good life.  Rather, he thinks that satisfying our function as rational social creatures is most important.

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