Sunday, March 12, 2006

Aristotle and Duty

A great post over at Grim's Hall:

The Overpraising of Dissent:
I'm going to write a bit more about happiness and ethics. This post picks up where yesterday's left off.

Yesterday's post considered the possibility that ethics includes a "duty to unhappiness" -- that our inherited biological reasons for feeling happy must often be set aside in order to be a good citizen. I cited the example of Socrates, whose devotion to the pursuit of truth led to his execution. This tradition of dissent and its protection, informed by the examples of both Socrates and Jesus, is at the core of Western culture.

Yet I think it is very much possible to overpriase dissent -- and on reflection, I think it's necessary to explore that idea as well. The duty is to set aside happiness in favor of good citizenship, not to pursue your own happiness in favor of what society needs. It is the case, furthermore, that personal happiness must be set aside for the survival and prosperity of the nation.

The best way to explore this is by beginning with the problem posed by Aristotle: that he said, and I have always believed, that happiness is the goal of ethics. How, then, can there be a duty to be unhappy in ethics?

Read it all!


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