Nicholas SakkosProfessor Avery GoldmanPHL 10019 December 2017Final Paper Socrates, Aristotle, Nietzsche and Arendt, all present valid arguments about how to view a soul. Their arguments are valid because they all talk about components of life like wealth, deliberation and conscience. While each of them feel strongly that their interpretation is correct, each philosopher presents a sound point that would go against the other philosopher’s case.
After reading each of their pieces, I have tried to come to the fairest interpretation of the soul that all four philosophers would have some sort of agreement on. Regardless of whether or not somebody believes that the soul and body are separate, one should try to live life through reason and better their character by doing good for themselves and society.”I go around doing nothing but persuading both young and old among you not to care for your body or your wealth in preference to or as strongly as for the best possible state of your soul” (pp. 34, Apology, 30b). Socrates says this to a jury during his trial where he is accused of corrupting the youth of Athens with his philosophical teachings. He has been trying to persuade the youth to value their souls over their bodies because their souls will carry the truths of themselves if there is a separation from their bodies at death. If somebody lived a life greed and gained wealth as a result, the greed of the person will be the truth that gets attached to their soul. It is crucial to note that while Socrates does not know for certain if our souls are immortal, he wants to make sure that if there is an afterlife, he will have a good soul.
“Wealth does not bring about excellence, but excellence makes wealth and everything else good for men, both individually and collectively” (pp. 34, Apology, 30b). Socrates uses this statement as part of his philosophical teachings to place a larger emphasis on the soul than the body. Pursuing only wealth does not bring out the best in the individual or society. Instead, trying to be excellent at something and making a positive impact on society will lead to wealth and prosperity for both the individual and society.
According to Socrates, the soul will be in good condition if the individual tried to do well for himself and the rest of his people. Contrary, if the individual only pursued wealth and focused on the body in life, his soul will be tarnished because he was not caring about the people around him. To Socrates, if there is indeed an afterlife, a good soul will lead to a positive afterlife, and a tarnished soul will lead to a harsh afterlife. Socrates also emphasizes the soul over the body to the members of the jury when it comes to possibly facing death. He believes that he is god’s gift to the people of Athens, and mistreating god’s gift may result in far worse harm to the jury than to him. If there is an afterlife, the jury will find their souls to be tarnished for killing a man like him. While the jury can decide to convict Socrates and hurt his body, Socrates will still have a good soul.
He wants the jury to understand the possible consequence for their action.While Socrates tried to persuade a change in character by preaching that the soul may be immortal, Aristotle tried to stress good deliberation as a way to and make better decisions and live a life of virtue. Deliberation is a long and careful thought. However, Aristotle believes that humans do not deliberate about just anything. “We deliberate not about ends, but about what promotes ends” (pp. 35, Book III, C3, S11). For instance, a paramedic does not deliberate about whether his victim is going to survive.
Alternatively, a human being deliberates about how which job offer is the best to accept. We set out a goal, and we investigate the ways that we can achieve it.When something has an unknown outcome and the right way to perform is undefined, we deliberate about it. For example, there is a college student who has to decide between two job offers to accept once he graduates. When he is sitting down to think about what job offer is the best, he thinks about factors like salary and benefits. The college student is in full control of the situation, and it is a difficult decision to come to since there is no ‘right’ answer. Once he makes a decision, the outcome of accepting the job offer will be whatever he makes of it.
At some point during his time at the company he decided to work for, he will be the only one to look back and see if he deliberated well about choosing the ‘right’ place to work. He deliberated about the action that he could do, and the action is for the purpose of things like retirement. For this reason, “we deliberate about things that promote an end, not about the end” (pp. 36, Book II, C3, S15)If people deliberate about ends, they are wasting their time. A paramedic deliberating about whether the person he is trying to save from massive earthquake is going to live serves no purpose. It is his job to work in medical emergencies. He must try to save the person who is injured, and get them to the nearest hospital. Rather than deliberating about saving somebody injured, the paramedic should deliberate about what steps will be best method to take to safely remove the person from the area without putting himself at harm.
The paramedic should deliberate about what it is that he is going to be able to do. If the paramedic deliberates about things that he can control, he will be more productive compared to deliberating about whether the victims will live. Ultimately, if human beings deliberate about the right things and analyze the effects of the consequences of their actions, they will be make good decisions. Good decisions will lead to good action, and good action will lead to virtue. This is how our character will change for the better; our thinking will have a profound impact on the decisions we make. “What we deliberate about is the same as what we decide to do, except that by the time we decide to do it, it is definite; for what we decide to do is what we have judged as a result of deliberation” (pp. 36, Book III, C3, S17).
What it is that people decide to do is the action that they deliberated about. So, deliberating about only the possibility of wealth will lead to a decision of chasing wealth. Likewise, deliberating about how to positively contribute to society will lead to a decision of positive impact. Aristotle conceives of the relation of the soul and body with his belief that good deliberation leads to good action, which then leads to virtue. He believes that virtues are habits of the soul when somebody is acting through reason and not passion. So, virtuous actions emit reason. Virtues are obtained through both habituation and practice. Since that is the case, we can become virtuous by doing what we should at the proper time and in the right way.
It is also important to note that a virtuous person is happy when acting in a virtuous way. Somebody who is giving money to the poor just so that he can say that he is charitable is not virtuous. Instead, giving money to the poor because he knows that it is right to help people is virtuous.”Different people have different natural tendencies toward different goals, and we shall come to know our own tendencies from the pleasure or pain that arises in us” (pp. 29. Book II, C9, S4). If somebody allows flawed ways of life to become habitual, he will become cruel. Virtue will not be easy to attain if we decide to follow our passions.
Even though there is a natural desire for happiness that lies within us, we must recognize that our passions will frequently lead us away from our correct happiness. It is because of this that a good upbringing is important.Aristotle emphatically disagrees with the position that becoming virtuous involves being unaffected by pleasure and pain. The reason for that belief is because he feels strongly that virtuous people are happy with doing what is good and noble, and they are pained at what is wrong. We need to learn to act right and feel right. If a young boy gets caught by the police for stealing from a store, he will surely learn from that pain that stealing should not become a habit.
Alternatively, personally paying for the item that he wants and leaving the store with no confrontations will be pleasurable, and he will learn that carrying out those actions are good habits to have.Aristotle also believes that when it comes to the soul, the human soul differs from that of plants and animals. He thinks that there is ranking when it comes to living things. Humans are above both plants and animals because they have the power of reason. “We have found, then, that the human function is activity of the soul in accord with reason or requiring reason” (pp. 9, Book I, C7, S14). To Aristotle, the soul is the grand total of the activity of a human. We witness human good when our activities involve reason.
When we look at Friedrich Nietzsche’s criticism of the soul, he uses a term called the ‘internalization of man’. He believes that “all instincts that do not discharge themselves outwardly turn inward” (pp. 84, Second Essay). In other words, instead of imposing cruelty on somebody else, we impose cruelty on our own selves. It is important to note that Nietzsche believes that encountering guilt is ingrained in our desire to cause pain to show how much power we have. He pinpoints a historical note between the German words “Schuld” (guilt) and “Schulden” (debt).
He suggests that, initially, guilt did not have anything to do with the accountability of not being able pay back the creditor. At the time, punishment was merely a comeback for not being able to pay back the creditor. Nietzsche also believes that even if we join a civilized society where those actions are not allowed, there is still going to be an instinct of cruelty. We will still have the urge to find a way to show our power, and bad conscience comes from this.Guilt and bad conscience are different because while they both include a feeling of disappointment in an outcome, bad conscience does not include the feeling that we are responsible for our character. For example, if I borrowed money from a friend and was unable to pay him back at the agreed time, there is a good chance that I am going to feel badly in the situation because the consequences are unfortunate for me. I now have a friend that is probably going to be tougher to ask for money in the future.
However, it is very possible that I will not feel that the action makes me a worse person. So, bad conscience can be described as a feeling of responsibility for the actions and feeling badly, but it does not include the feeling that carrying out those actions were wrong.In the case of guilt, we are only able feel guilty if we believe that we are responsible for our actions and our character. When we feel guilty, we start to favor the different solutions that could have dealt with the situation.
So, when I borrowed money from a friend and did not pay him back at the agreed time, I will feel two senses: a sense of responsibility for that action, and a sense of guilt for failing to keep my promise. I will feel bad about my character because I want to be thought of as the sort of person who can be trusted to pay back money on time. After experiencing this situation, I will make it a priority to make sure that regardless of who I borrow money from, I am going to be able to pay it back on time.While Nietzsche tried to explain the development of our conscience, he also tried to explain the importance of finding a second nature. “We implant a new habit, a new instinct, a second nature so that the first nature withers away” (pp.
22, On the Advantage and Disadvantage of History for life). A first nature is a habit that we have been practicing for so long that it seems natural; a second nature is a new habit that makes the first nature fade away. Nietzsche thinks that this important because it is not good for human beings stop pursuing knowledge. He understands that it is very difficult to deny what we think we know, but human beings should not be stuck on what we learned in the past. If we try to find a second nature, we will never stop knowing what is good because of the different habits we adopt.The last philosophical view of the soul to look at is Hannah Arendt’s differentiation of labor, work and action. She believes that those three categories make up the vita activa, or ‘active life’; vita activa is the basic condition of our existence.
Labor consists of the actions that help support life; it is the necessity of the human condition. Manufacturing shelter is a basic example of labor; labor includes anything that humans do consume. Work consists of all the actions that help us convert the world; it is not a necessity of the human condition.
To Arendt, people work when they invent something. Action consists of all the activities with humans. Arendt was inclined to recognize action with political activities, but things people do that involve any relations can be thought of as action.
A good soul can come from carrying out these three categories because we are maximizing our abilities to benefit ourselves and others. The problem with this differentiation is that not too long after she describes the three categories, she says, “The problem of human nature, the Augustinian quaestio mihi factus sum, seems unanswerable in both its individual psychological sense and its general philosophical sense” (pp. 10, Human Condition). Essentially, she believes there is nothing that gives us the license to assume that humans have a nature. If there is a human nature, Arendt also believers that a god could be the only one to know and explain it. If that is the case, it eliminates all of the value attached her entire analysis of the three categories of vita activa.
Since god is the only one who can explain our human nature, that must mean that surely, he is the only one who can define our human existence. I personally agreed with her analysis of the three categories of vita activa, but she made a mistake by including that human nature is unanswerable. It is now a question mark as to how she would address the question of the soulEach philosopher first talks about how we can potentially better ourselves, but they all mention how our personal improvements can also help others. Socrates wants an individual to pursue excellence; this makes everything good for the individual and everybody else collectively.
Aristotle wants an individual to deliberate about the right things so that we can perform better actions to better everybody including the individual. He wants individuals to follow reason and not their passions so that their actions lead them to virtue. Nietzsche wants an individual to deny what they think is right, and try to explore what they think is wrong so that will not be stuck with their first nature. A second nature will come from this, and everybody else will benefit from more insight. Arendt wants an individual to carry out the three categories of vita activa so that he can take care of himself and convert others.While each philosopher agrees that we need to better ourselves, they do have some disagreements.
Aristotle and Arendt could get into an argument about the purpose of our human existence. Arendt mentions nothing in our readings about living virtuously, and Aristotle will argue with her that human beings need to prioritize acting virtuously in order to become virtuous. Socrates and Nietzsche would probably have a fierce disagreement about whether human beings need to focus more on life on earth or after death.
Nietzsche talks about how to better oneself during the existence on earth, but Socrates is concerned about how life on earth can affect the possible afterlife. While there are some arguments to be had, all four philosophers are just trying to educate their audience on how to better society. We all share this earth together, and we will feel the decisions that each of us make.
Every philosopher believes that as a result of a better individual, there will be a better world. They all challenge human beings to follow some sort of reason, and do not follow our desires. If human beings hold themselves to live that kind of life, it will better life individually and collectively.
So, living through reason and not passion, and trying to live virtuously will do good for the individual and others.