Monday, July 27, 2015

Miles Kimball — "Aristotle saw people not as striving to maximize a state of satisfaction, and also not as striving..."

Aristotle saw people not as striving to maximize a state of satisfaction, and also not as striving to perform a list of duties. He saw them, instead, as striving to achieve a life that included all the activities to which, on reflection, they decided to attach intrinsic value.

Confessions of a Supply Side Liberal
"Aristotle saw people not as striving to maximize a state of satisfaction, and also not as striving..."
Miles Kimball | Professor of Economics and Survey Research at the University of Michigan

14 comments:

Michael Norman said...

Maybe that's why nobody's fucking happy. We've all been brainwashed to go after the wrong things.

Anonymous said...

One of my kids sculptured a clay torso and head for a school project – the right hand went up through the head and held the brain aloft above the head; the left hand held the heart in front of the chest. The eyes were closed. That's all that needs to be understood: the difference between the mind (which uses the brain as a transponder) and the human 'heart' (not the physical one that pumps blood) – which is the center through which we understand via feeling (the way that kids learn about everything before mind kicks in). Fulfillment, is something that only the heart can understand; just like it is only the heart can feel love. Mind just thinks about it, round and around, chasing its fat tail. It is the heart that perceives the secret, hidden in every human being. For that, mind needs to be still – very still! For that, there is only one activity – going inside! Whether Aristotle knew how to go inside or not I do not know – but he obviously knew how to think; a lot …... Not all of our solutions lie on the outside in the affairs of the persona, or in the mind which is its picture plate reflecting our world back to us. When the picture plate is still, calm, then awareness of what is in the heart begins to grow. Slowly, slowly, slowly, mind begins to understand and allows the heart to lead. Scary huh?

Bob said...

Why would mindfulness be scary? Or are you referring to the sculpture?

Tom Hickey said...

jrbarch Whether Aristotle knew how to go inside or not I do not know

Aristotle: Now if you take away from a living being action, and still more production, what is left but contemplation? Therefore the activity of God, which surpasses all others in blessedness, must be contemplative; and of human activities, therefore, that which is most akin to this must be most of the nature of happiness.
Nichomachean Ethics, X, 8

Aristotle explains the divine nature as αὑτὸν γὰρ νοεῖ, εἴπερ ἐστὶ τὸ κράτιστον, καὶ ἡ νόησις νοήσεως νόησις
Metaphysics Lambda 1074b33–35 a

This is usually translated something like, “Therefore, it thinks itself, since it is the best, and its thinking is thinking’s thinking."

I would render it, "Therefore, it knows itself, since it is the most excellent, and its knowing is knowing knowing" (or "knowing's knowing"). For Aristotle, divine being is knowing whose knowing is self-knowing. This is akin to but different from humans knowing that they know, which is reflective rather than direct and immediate. The divine being is self-knowingness.

This knowledge is of nothing (no-thing), beyond space, time and change (eternal and immovable). But it is not nothing in the sense of passivity or potential, but activity (ἐνέργεια),

It is difficult to establish exactly what Aristotle was driving at, since he was using a model of the human mind to model the divine being, and it is evident that Aristotle did not think that they were at all on the same level.

But it seems clear from his writing that he thought that the highest human happiness was in being as close to the state of the divine as possible. This is the aim of "philosophy," not as speculation but contemplation, which is the usual translation of Aristotle's term theoria θεωρία. Perhaps Aristotle thought that human knowledge could approach divine knowledge as a limit never actually reached, or perhaps he thought that humans could attain it temporarily, but not permanently.

While is difficult to establish that Aristotle's view is substantially that of perennial wisdom, I believe a plausible case can be made, especially, since the conceptual models of perennial wisdom contain many levels and Aristotle can be interpreted in that light. The highest level of Aristotle's model is a level that is not ordinarily experienced. Few achieve the state of human excellence and the happiness it affords although all can aspire to it and approach it by pursuing excellence. This is the meaning of "philosophy," which is literally "love of wisdom." For Aristotle, wisdom or sophia (σοφία) is the highest virtue or arete (ἀρετή). Another translation of arete is excellence. So of the excellences, wisdom is the most excellent. "Philosophy" combines love and knowledge, which are one at the apex in Plato's ladder of love (Symposium 210a - 212c).

continued

Tom Hickey said...

continuation

Aristotle also held that the human excellence was the by-product of a full life. He distinguished three types of life. The first and lowest was the productive life of making and having, which occupies most people. The second and middle was the political life of doing and receiving recognition (honor), to which fewer aspire and only a few of them attain. The third is the contemplative life, which is characterized by the state of being in accordance with the highest aspect of one's nature, which Aristotle considered to the rational (λογικός) faculty. This is the rare life of the "philosopher."

Aristotle thought that anyone could attain a modicum of happiness by pursing a life of virtue and building one's character, at least aiming at achieving excellence as both an individual and a human being by progressively unfolding one's potential. This is the subject of Nichomachean Ethics.

"Rational" did not mean the same thing for the ancient Greeks as it does now. For them it mean the human principle that distinguishes humans from other animals. It was semi-divine, since intelligence (νοῦς) is also attributed to the divine. As Aristotle clarifies in Nichomachean Ethics Book 6, human beings are not only reasoning but also knowing, and their knowing is of the essential nature of things. Just as the sense grasp material properties through sense intuition; so too, intellect (νοῦς) grasps intelligible form through intellectual intuition. Human knowing is just knowledge of mental presentations or experience but of reality. This view is now called critical realism.

Tom Hickey said...

Maybe that's why nobody's fucking happy. We've all been brainwashed to go after the wrong things.

Yup. And it is the basis of conventional economics, political economy, and neoliberal political theory promulgated by propaganda and marketing & advertising. The notion that happiness can be bought is especially pernicious.

Tom Hickey said...

Oops. "Human knowing is just knowledge of mental presentations or experience but of reality" should be "Human knowing is NOT just knowledge of mental presentations or experience, but of reality."

Anonymous said...

@Bob – the sculpture is kind of scary. But I have noticed in some people it is possible to feel how powerful it is to be drawn to something on the inside. People are very familiar and comfortable, have had perhaps a long association with their mind (despite the grief it often gives them) and they know the pull is to somewhere where the mind cannot go. So mind makes excuses, gets anxious – anything for a distraction. Then, when they experience what is inside of them, the heart is overjoyed, and mind has to come to terms with something new (that is ancient, timeless)! That in the end is more familiar to them than anything that has gone on before. That is why I mentioned the sculpture: the mind and heart are two different worlds within the same being – only bridged by consciousness. Words are pretty useless really ….

Mike's observation is very true. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being the best Trader in the world: - but making the mind happy and the heart happy are two different pursuits – that's all. I don't know of anyone who has ever been able to make the mind happy; but the heart is a different story. Peace is possible.

@Tom – am just amazed that Aristotle could write such profound thoughts and nobody seems to acknowledge what he is talking about????? Kabir used to say that he would go inside, and his 'Beloved' would do his meditation for him.

Tom Hickey said...

am just amazed that Aristotle could write such profound thoughts and nobody seems to acknowledge what he is talking about?????

People interpret conceptual models from their own point of view and in terms of their own context. If the person commenting is not a deep person, then he or she is unlikely to be able to see the deeper meaning.

On the other hand, it's also a temptation to read more into a text than is actually there, projecting one's own viewpoint on others. This is a temptation in developing an account of perennial wisdom, for instance.

That's what I say it is possible to mount a plausible account that accords with the text and other relevant context. I have no idea what Aristotle's own experience may have been because he didn't say. On the other hand, some authors are quite explicit that what they are reporting is either their own experience or based on it.

Matt Franko said...

"that happiness can be bought is especially pernicious."

Its all about material and the flesh Tom... or the flesh and the flesh's material support systems...

Christendom these days is basically a flesh and its material support systems maintenance and repair facility... soup kitchens, shelters, habitat for humanity, family counseling, marriage, etc, etc... these things should be provided and we should be moving on by now towards more glorious things within 'the church' but instead it remains just all about flesh and material... pretty sad state of affairs...

Matt Franko said...

Tom look at the Pope running all around talking about "the poor", "inequality", blah,blah, blah... its all about the flesh and its material support systems... this is all the guy ever does for crying out loud...

If we ever get this fixed the guy wont have anything to do...

Paul wrote we are "the first fruit of a new humanity" and "Ambassadors for Christ" and "Administrators of the secrets of God".... etc...

Christendumb would have us slinging slop at a soup kitchen all day...

David said...

It seems to me that the Pope is just stepping into the vacuum left gapingly open by the pols. They're the ones selling the metaphysical wares. The "hope" and "change," "reform," "security," "competitiveness," whatever. Maybe Francis thinks he can shame them into doing their job of looking after the material needs of people,so he can in geed conscience go back to his.

Matt Franko said...

David imo he is confusedly trying to put his church institution in the place of the govt institution....

His "church" has no authority to impose economic justice....

For instance the govt could impose job and or income guarantees but his " church " cannot..

He manifestly doesn't realize this.

Instead they try to modify what they view as "freewill" fleshly behaviors thru coercion via their Hell Doctrine and other religious sectarian dogmas...

It wont work.... rsp

Anonymous said...

There are some interesting pov's in all of the above.

Kabir stood on a shore within himself and gazed at his 'Beloved'. Nobody else's beloved. His beloved – that he thought was infinite and everywhere; but he didn't presume to know that infinite in anyone else. Therefore a religion didn't make sense to him.

His mind was stopped in its tracks. Could make no sense of what was before him – it had to shutup. His heart knew and was at home. What his heart held was a tiny spark of the Beauty that he gazed upon, at One. From the heart came his songs and poems, trying uselessly to describe what he had experienced: ' all the trees in the world could not make enough pens and paper, and all the oceans enough ink'. His mind did not contemplate because it was useless – wrong tool for the job. From his heart came the contemplation, the concentration, the focus, the aspiration, the perception or vision, the will – to open the door within himself and act. Mind was as far below him as the streetlamps are to the stars. He was in a different 'space' as we like to say. Above him, he bathed in the warms rays of his Beloved.

Building character and virtue was all about preparing the vehicle for progress towards, reception and expression of what lay within Kabir. When the body is healthy, the emotional nature calm and sensitive, the mind still – then the work proceeds apace. But it is the opening of the heart to the energy within that floods the consciousness with a new experience (that is totally familiar, because we all have experienced it through the filters of the persona many times before). The enjoyment of a sunset is within you, not in the sunset.

Children learn first of all through feeling; then we are put in a 'school' and told to grasp everything with the mind. For me, it is feel first.

Matt, I think down here on planet earth, religion and philosophy are the 'heart' of humanity, as far as it has opened; politics the 'head' as far as it has grasped real power; economics and communications, science our 'active intelligence' - as far as we have developed it to date.

If they all end up standing on that shore where Kabir stood one day, I think they will laugh and laugh and laugh, and slap their forehead!