Monday, 31 October 2011

31.10 Aristotle on Human Nature

Book one

Part I
"Every state is a community of some kind, and every community is established with a view to some good; for mankind always act in order to obtain that which they think good. But, if all communities aim at some good, the state or political community, which is the highest of all, and which embraces all the rest, aims at good in a greater degree than any other, and at the highest good."

Part II
He who thus considers things in their first growth and origin, whether a state or anything else, will obtain the clearest view of them. In the first place there must be a union of those who cannot exist without each other; namely, of male and female, that the race may continue 

Hence it is evident that the state is a creation of nature, and that man is by nature a political animal. And he who by nature and not by mere accident is without a state, is either a bad man or above humanity; he is like the

"Tribeless, lawless, hearthless one,

The proof that the state is a creation of nature and prior to the individual is that the individual, when isolated, is not self-sufficing; and therefore he is like a part in relation to the whole. But he who is unable to live in society, or who has no need because he is sufficient for himself, must be either a beast or a god: he is no part of a state."

Nicomachean   Ethics
Book II

"Virtue, then, being of two kinds, intellectual and moral, intellectual virtue in the main owes both its birth and its growth to teaching (for which reason it requires experience and time), while moral virtue comes about as a result of habit, whence also its name (ethike) is one that is formed by a slight variation from the word ethos (habit). From this it is also plain that none of the moral virtues arises in us by nature; for nothing that exists by nature can form a habit contrary to its nature. ... Neither by nature, then, nor contrary to nature do the virtues arise in us; rather we are adapted by nature to receive them, and are made perfect by habit.
For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them, e.g. men become builders by building and lyreplayers by playing the lyre; so too we become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.

Book VII

it is easier to change a habit than to change one's nature; even habit is hard to change just because it is like nature, as Evenus says:

I say that habit's but a long practice, friend,
And this becomes men's nature in the end.
There is no one thing that is always pleasant, because our nature is not simple but there is another element in us as well, inasmuch as we are perishable creatures ..." 

Program and some basic ideas:

First, to quote my sum-up from last year:

There is no one definition or approach to what culture is. This is why I did not begin from one, this is why I am ”walking” through different texts and theories which try to grasp what it is.

That culture is not a specific field of human activity, but the human being’s natural habitat – and it is not natural in the sense that the world around is natural, but it is always something that we make and produce; thus making and producing ourselves.

Wherefore ”culture” is not a nice little thing to keep in one’s living-room but an object of struggle reflecting social divisions, differences, relations of power.

And as it is the world we make and by making we make ourselves, we can never step outside culture and society and regard it from an objective vantage-point. We have to jump in in the middle, and literally try to grasp our world in motion, alive.

Which is why I am not giving you a list of textbook definitions about cultural phenomena, but introducing to you thinkers and theories, concepts and approaches that try to grasp what culture is and how it is made. And I am introducing original thinkers and their texts, because in their texts the thing we want to understand – culture, ourselves, the world – remain alive, and not severed into meaningless lists of words that bear no resemblance to true concepts.

And that we jump into this thinking and the texts in the middle as well – that these texts have hundred and thousands of years of discussion behind them, embedded into them.

This is also why I think it is good to read and discuss them in smaller groups, because thinking is not done alone and is not a one-way street. It is also something that is made and that in turn makes us.

Program for this year:

Note: I will be giving you a small excerpt of a text to read before each lecture - hopefully so you can be more ready with some questions for the lecture. For the final assignment you will form groups - free choice - choose a text and read it with the group, discuss what you have read and make a report of what you have found out or thought or wondered as you read for the last meeting.

31.10 Aristotle and human nature
3.11. Nietzsche and Freud
8.11. Marx (note: a Tuesday! 12 - 14)
10.11. Frankfurt School and Adorno
17.11. Benjamin
21.11. Levi-Strauss
24.11. Debord
28.11. Foucault
1.12. De Certeau

15.12 presentations by groups on what they discussed and thought of the text they choose. To be part of a general "Critique-day", where various courses will be presenting their works, and people can also bring individual works to be discussed. Our session will start to the day from 9 - 12.