Monday, January 24, 2011

Reasoning: The Fragility of Goodness

I must take a break for this week from my continuing review of Gregory Vlastos' Socratic Studies, because I on my way up to visit my Alma Mater. When I was interviewing for my current job, an alumnus from my Alma Mater asked me how I could have possibly written my thesis on Plato and tragedy without reading Martha Nussbaum's The Fragility of Goodness. Remembering this, I switched the copy of Socrates: Ironist and Moral Philosopher for Nussbaum's book. I read the introduction on the first leg of the plane flight. I would have read a lot more, but I was frustrated by the formatting (dratted endnotes!) and am rather tired.
The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy
In her introduction, Nussbaum explains that she is departing from the traditionally Kantian-influence approach to understanding the Greek conception of ἀρετή [1]. She claims to use an Aristotilian approach and will spend the book concerned with the conception of ἀρετή in tragedy, Plato, and Aristotle. She starts her discussion with a quotation from Pindar, about a person being a vine. She posits that the quotation implies that the vine must come from noble lineage to be considered good, but also external conditions determine the goodness of the vine. She sees this as an important distinction, but also a set of principles in tension with one another.

I like Nussbaum's book so far, and I will report more as I continue to move through it.

  1. ἀρετή means excellence. It is often questionably translated as virtue. Although virtue is a fine word, and may be better in some ways than excellence, virtue has been framed as something distinct from the Greek conception by the Judeo-Christian tradition and many philosophers who claim to be Platonic or Aristotilian, but who use the term under a Judeo-Christian blanket. ἀρετή encompasses all of those attributes of a person required to lead a good life.

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