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.
The other question is about fairness. Is it fair to require Callie to do splits and tumbles if she has cerebral palsy?
“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).
“What counts as the purpose of cheerleading depends partly on what virtues you think deserve recognition and reward
“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.
“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.’
“Many orchestras conduct auditions behind a screen, so that the quality of music can be judged without bias or distraction” (188).
“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).
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).
What’s the Telos of a University?
Who has the right to be admitted?
“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).
What’s the purpose of politics?
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.
“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).
“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).
“If the political community exists to promote the good life, what are the implications for the distribution of offices and honors” (194)?
The leaders of the polis should be those who are best at “deliberating about the common good.”
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).