Aristotle: Lesson 1

Who deserves what? Aristotle

Callie Smartt, a wheelchaired bound girl with cerebral palsy, was kicked off the cheerleader squad. Sandel raises 2 questions: question of fairness, and the question of resentment.

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Translate this: ”If great cheerleading is something that can be done from a wheelchair, then the honor accorded those who excel at tumbles and splits is _________________ to some degree” (185).
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The other question is about fairness. Is it fair to require Callie to do splits and tumbles if she has cerebral palsy?

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Translate this: ”In order to decide what the qualifications should be, we have to decide what’s __________ to cheerleading, and what’s merely incidental” (185).
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“She(Callie) had shown that there’s more than one way to be a cheerleader” (185).

“What counts as the purpose of cheerleading depends partly on what virtues you think deserve recognition and reward” (186).

Translate this: If firing up the crowd is essential to cheerleading, and doing tumbles and splits incidental, then Callie should be on the cheerleading team. True or False?
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“What counts as the purpose of cheerleading depends partly on what virtues you think deserve recognition and reward

Translate this: If doing tumbles and splits is essential to cheerleading, and if these activities deserve recognition and reward, then Callie shouldn’t be on the team. True or False?
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“These parents(parents who wanted Callie off the team) wanted cheerleading to honor the traditional cheerleader virtues their daughters possessed” (186).

Justice, Telos, and Honor

For Aristotle, justice is teleological and honorific.

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Translate this: “The key to understanding Aristotle’s ethics and politics is to see the force of these two considerations, and the __________ between them” (187).
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Translate this: Do modern theories of justice try to separate questions of fairness and rights from arguments about honor, virtue, and moral desert?
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“For Aristotle, justice means giving people what they deserve, giving each person his or her due. But what is a person due? What are the relevant grounds of merit or desert? That depends on what’s being distributed. Justice involves two factors: ‘things, and the persons to whom things are assigned.’ And in general we say that ‘persons who are equal should have assigned to them equal things.’

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“Many orchestras conduct auditions behind a screen, so that the quality of music can be judged without bias or distraction” (188).

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“Aristotle claims that in order to determine the just distribution of a good, we have to inquire into the telos, or purpose, of the good being distributed” (188).

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Translate this: If we held a neutral position on what the purpose of flutes were, could we justly distribute them according to Aristotle?
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Teleological thinking in the ancient world

“With the advent of modern science, nature ceased to be seen as a meaningful order. Instead, it came to be understood mechanistically, governed by the laws of physics. To explain natural phenomena in terms of purposes, meanings, and ends was now considered naïve and anthropomorphic” (189).

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What’s the Telos of a University?

Who has the right to be admitted?

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“Closely connected to the debate about a university’s purpose is a question about honor: What virtues or excellences do universities properly honor and reward” (191).

Translate this: ”Arguments about justice and rights are often arguments about the purpose, or telos, of a social institution, which in turn reflect competing notions of the virtues the institution should _____________ and _______________”(191).
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Translate this: How does Aristotle answer the question on how one can reason the purpose of a social practice and figure out what virtues should receive honor?
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What’s the purpose of politics?

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Aristotle thinks that all theories of distributive justice discriminates; he wants to figure out what discriminations are just; and to do this, finding the telos of politics is necessary.

Translate this: ”These days, we don’t think of politics as such as having some particular, substantive end, but as being open to the various ends that citizens may ________” (192).
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“For Aristotle, the purpose of politics is not to set up a framework of rights that is neutral among ends. It is to form good citizens and to cultivate good character” (193).

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“Aristotle criticizes what he takes to be the two major claimants to political authority – oligarchs and democrats. Each has a claim, he says, but only a partial claim. The oligarchs maintain that they, the wealthy, should rule. The democrats maintain that free birth should be the sole criterion of citizenship and political authority. But both groups exaggerate their claims, because both misconstrue the purpose of political community” (193).

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Translate this: ”Both sides overlook the highest end of political association, which for Aristotle is to ______________ the _____________ of citizens” (193).
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Translate this: ”A ________ is not an association for residence on a common site, or for the sake of preventing mutual injustice and easing exchange” (194).
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“If the political community exists to promote the good life, what are the implications for the distribution of offices and honors” (194)?

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The leaders of the polis should be those who are best at “deliberating about the common good.”

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Translate this: ”According public recognition to those who display civic excellence serves the ____________ role of the good city” (195).
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Honoring and rewarding civic virtue is one of the ends of the polis, yet it’s also an educative role, a means, to the good life. This is how “teleological and honorific aspects of the justice go together” (195).