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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Good Is As Good Does

I am reading Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. It agrees with Plato's Republic in claiming there are two kinds of good. Things that are good because of the outcome they bring, e.g., medicine for producing health, and things that are good in and of themselves, e.g., justice. Plato adds a third category which is things that are enjoyable to do, but which do not produce a good outcome. This is an intellectually seductive way to view the world, but I wonder if it is accurate. For example, dieting may be pursued for the sake of the outcome, fitness, but many people report that they actually enjoy eating more healthful foods.

The discussion of greater and lesser views of the good or happiness reminds me of my understanding of Hinduism, which is derived entirely from Huston Smith's The World's Religions, and its notion that humans evolve their aims as they proceed through various lives. The lowest, but legitimate, aim is pleasure. Then humans seek prestige or honor. Next the goal of a life is service, and finally the most evolved soul seeks detachment.

2 comments:

Matt Dick said...

...dieting may be pursued for the sake of the outcome, fitness, but many people report that they actually enjoy eating more healthful foods.

But those people are wrong... less healthful foods are clearly more enjoyable to eat.

outedro

JimII said...

Yeah, that's a pretty good point.