Monday, July 19, 2010

Good Points from dead philosophers

Here's one from Aristotle, from the start of Book III of the Nicomachean Ethics:

"An action is, properly speaking, compulsory when the origination is external  to the agent, being such that in it the agent (perhaps we may properly say the patient) contributes nothing; as if a wind were to convey you anywhere, or men having power over your person.

But when actions are done, either from fear of greater evils, or from some honourable motive, as, for instance, if you were ordered to commit some base act by a despot who had your parents or children in his power, and they were to be saved upon your compliance or die upon your refusal, in such cases there is room for a question whether the actions are voluntary or involuntary"

Afghanistan, anyone? The idea that 'they forced us to do it' or that we had no choice but to invade Afghanistan after 9/11 was one that was endlessly trumpeted at the time and that still makes the rounds (in a somewhat less ostentatious way) today. The question is what do you mean when you say you 'had' to do it. Did you really 'have' to do it or did you have a choice in reality but chose to do it? Did you 'feel' that you had to do it but in reality were not completely forced to do it?

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