PHIL 21723/31723 The Will: Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas
Aristotle’s approach to ethics is sometimes termed intellectualist, meaning that it has no room for a notion of the will, understood as a principle of human action distinct from intellect or reason. Such a notion, it is said, gained currency only centuries later, at least partly through influences alien to Greek philosophy. St Augustine is often cited as one of the thinkers most responsible for the notion’s becoming prevalent. St Thomas Aquinas, however, presents a highly articulated theory of human action that appears to integrate a robust conception of the will, and one heavily indebted to Augustine, into a largely Aristotelian framework. We will read and discuss substantial passages from these three authors bearing on the question of the will, in the hope that seeing them side by side can help to get at what they really mean and what the philosophical merits of their views are.
Led by Fr. Stephen Brock
PHIL 24098/ECON 12300 Character and Commerce: Practical Wisdom in Economic Life
Most of us seek to be reasonably good people leading what we take to be successful and satisfying lives. There is a mountain of evidence suggesting that most of us fail to live up to our own standards. Worse, we often fail to mark our own failures in ways that could help us improve ourselves. The context in which we try to live good lives is shaped by the vicissitudes of the global economy. The global economy is obviously of interest to those of us studying economics or planning on careers in business. Aspiring entrepreneurs or corporate leaders have clear stakes in understanding practical wisdom in the economic sphere. But anyone who relies upon her pay – or someone else’s – to cover her living expenses has some interest in economic life.
In this course, we will bring work in neo-Aristotelian ethics and neo-classical economics into conversation with empirical work from behavioral economics and behavioral ethics, to read, write, talk, and think about cultivating wisdom in our economic dealings. While our focus will be on business, the kinds of problems we will consider, and the ways of addressing these, occur in ordinary life more generally – at home, in academic settings, and in our efforts to participate in the daily production and reproduction of sound modes of social interaction.
Led by Candace Vogler.
PHIL 21509/31509 Practical Rationality
Humans are said to be rational animals. What does rationality, understood as a capacity, consist in? And what is practicalrationality, understood as a qualified way of thinking, feeling, and acting? – In this course we are going to consider a roughly Aristotelian framework for answering these and related questions. The place of reason in human nature is characterized by a complex teleology: its employment is both purpose and instrument. To make use of reason is, centrally, to infer, i.e. to think and act for reasons. The roles of reasons are various: they validate, justify, prompt and guide, explain … To act on a reason is, typically, to do something for the sake of some end. This is so, in particular, in the context of more or less technical reasoning. But the most basic and ultimate reasons, the ones by heeding which we act justly or unjustly and, more generally, well or badly, seem not to be of this form. How then do they enter the constitution of a good human life?
Led by Anselm Mueller and Candace Vogler
PHIL 21722/31722 Thomas Aquinas’s Commentary on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics
We will read through and discuss the commentary, looking at it both as an interpretation of the Ethics and as a philosophical work in its own right.