Ancient Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short by Julia Annas

By Julia Annas

The culture of historical philosophy is a protracted, wealthy and sundry one, during which the notes of debate and argument consistently resound. This ebook introduces historical debates, attractive us with the traditional advancements in their topics. relocating clear of the presentation of old philosophy as a succession of serious thinkers, the e-book supplies readers a feeling of the freshness and liveliness of historical philosophy, and of its big range of topics and types. concerning the sequence: Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and magnificence, Very brief Introductions provide an creation to a few of life's best subject matters. Written by way of specialists for the newcomer, they display the best modern considering the vital difficulties and matters in hundreds and hundreds of key themes, from philosophy to Freud, quantum concept to Islam.

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We do not have to start with an elaborate theory as to what is morally right; our account of this is deepened as the account of virtue develops. Virtue is a richer notion than this, but already it is distinguished from nonmoral concerns – the idea, for example, that virtue is a sort of non-moral ‘excellence’. (Unfortunately, a misguided attempt to ‘modernize’ ancient ‘excellence’ rather than the supposedly old-fashioned ‘virtue’, thus obscuring the point that the texts are about morality. ) Someone wanting to be prepared to do the morally right thing, not just occasionally but systematically, will have to have developed self-mastery and strength of mind to overcome the (very many) incentives we have to do something else.

At first, probably not much. It is only after thinking through some ethical theories that you will have much of an explicit idea as to what values are unifying your life. But there is one thing that you can say, even before venturing on to theory: as philosophers from Prodicus on agree, and as is most famously set forth by Aristotle, everyone agrees that their final end is happiness, and that what people seek in everything they do is to live a happy life. ) Why is this supposed to be so obvious? It would not be obvious at all if happiness were introduced via the notion of pleasure or feeling good.

And it is often taken for granted that the book should be taught as a contribution to political thought, with its other aspects as extras. But should we read the work this way? How else might it be read? In the ancient world the Republic was read as one of Plato’s dialogues, but by no means as the most important or as central for his thought. When philosophers began to study Plato’s thought systematically, the dialogue they privileged was the Timaeus, a poetically written cosmology. What the Republic was mainly famous for was the idea that ideal rulers would have no private family life, but ‘women and children would be in common’, which was notorious, but was seen as eccentric rather than profound.

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