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PHC | Rhetoric | Notes from Folette's Seminar in Ethics


FALL ‘82

Ethics is central to the study of philosophy because it answers the question--”How shall we live our lives?”

The Nicomachean Ethics is Aristotle’s core work; the others evolve from it.

Dialectic is that aspect of philosophy which deals with definition. The ethical system may be correct, but the application, due to a flaw in dialectic, can be wrong.
Greeks held that women and slaves were less than human. Ethics deals with the good in human relations. They did not deal in full ethicality with them, because they did not warrant that. This is an error in application. We would attack their application, not their ethic.

Evolution theory provides no need for respect of persons. “After all, we’re just primordial sludge.”

B.J. Diggs is the best ethicist in America.
Human beings deserve respect because they reflect their Creator. Why should we respect human beings unless we see in personhood something holy?

What is good?------axiology
What is my obligation to that good?----deontology


--See diagram in notebook.--

The ethical good is reflexive. In other words, I must also consider the question, “How shall I treat others?” Because they are like me. He is a person too.

What is the grounds of Ethics? Can we say, finally, that humans are worthy of respect because it is right? Human being is separated from the rest of nature according to Aristotle because:

1. Rational animal. (not totally cut off from nature)
2. Sentiment. (The only animal that weeps)

Do not confuse ethics with morals. Etiquette is not morality. You cannot talk about ethics apart from some source of personness.

A reply such as “God said so, period.” does not engage the rational mind. It is not amenable to rational critique. In that sense, you have to leave your religion at home when discussing Ethics. We have no way of proving whether something is right or wrong in this type of religion. Not open to rational critique.
What we are studying is philosophy. The critique of presuppositions. this is not a theory class. We are going to derive a personal ethic. If you cannot examine it by the light of reason, you cannot deal with it in this type of course.

31 Aug 82

If you haven’t read the Ethics, you don’t know Aristotle. In it, his worldview is expounded.
B. J. Diggs called this a course on elementary morality from an advanced perspective. Ethics is non-progressive. In dialectic, the only measure of truth is non-contradiction.
Proper name for Aristotle’s Ethical view is Eudæmonism.
Primary elements of modernism:
1. Worship of science.
2. Whigism.
3. Egalitarianism.
Don’t read Nicomachean Ethics from a modernist perspective. Take it seriously.

Ethical questions:
How should we deal with others?
How should I live my life?

Ethics boils down to obligations toward others by virtue of their being a person. “Human beings have a right to respect” must be the starting point. When a person asks “why?”, they need a reply or their ethics falls apart. You need a reply. Christianity provides that explanation.

2 Sept 82


Humans are different.
Should we weed out 3rd generation ghetto dwellers and reservation dwellers who are destined to amount to nothing? OK, What about a herd of cattle? Do we “cull out” a herd? Why don’t we feel bad about it? What is there that is inherent to man which deserves respect?

Science can describe the “is” of the world via material causation and accident. Ethics tells us the “ought” by prescribing.
prescriptive = ought
descriptive = is

Hume refuted Whigism by proving that you cannot derive an ought from an is.

If you do not accept a difference between mind and body you have no grounds for ethics.
Personality =
will (choice)
imagination (visualize alternatives)
Ethics is possible because we are unique creatures, therefore unique responsibilities occur.

Stephen Pepper says (in World Hypotheses) that “If you’re going to philosophize you’ve got to reject out of hand skepticism and dogmatism.”
Skepticism--to doubt first principles is crazy. The sceptic denies the undeniable. DesCartes: I cannot doubt that I am. He says, “Let us doubt what we can. Now, I cannot doubt that I exist.”

Dialectic: Something cannot be true if its presupposition is false.
Dogmatist: “I’m right because God told me.” Not open to rational critique.
“The only answer to skepticism is the silence of the universe.”

ACTION results from making decisions.
BEHAVIOR does not involve choice.

7 Sept 82


telos = “goal”
goal oriented theories.
It is the fundamental nature of humans is to seek goals.
Every ethical theory must contain an account of Axiology- what is good? and Deontology- what is my obligation?

Benevolence--(fellow feeling, to wish well) Humans have a built-in benevolent impulse.
There needs to be a distinction between descriptive (is) and prescriptive (ought) systems. Otherwise, you say, “If it’s right for them, it’s right. There is no wrong.” Hume taught that “You cannot derive an ought from an is.”

Reason--Kant’s approach tends toward rules.
In what does ethicality consist?
Principles (rules)
Virtue--for Aristotle, ethicality rests in acting virtuously.
Action--Ethics is practical. It is concerned with action. How are we going to do the good?

Nicomachean Ethics’ name derived from Aristotle’s son Nicomachea.

Aristotle’s system is known as “Eudæmonist”
Eu dæmon
good spirit/soul

Our ends are that at which we aim.

Products and activity may be the means to other ends. If we do something in order to achieve something else, the final good is that end product.

A -> B -> C -> D (D is the “final good”)

For Aristotle, politics is the master art. Polis = extended family like church. Rights weren’t emphasized the way they are today. Man is a social creature. He didn’t talk about it because the alternative would not have occured to him.
(“Philosophy helps one to clarify his impulses, ‘get a handle on things.’”)

9 Sept 82

One theme throughout the Nic.: Ethics is not an exact science.
Greek mind was radically dualist. Humans are dealt with differently than the rest of nature.



Ethics Rhetoric

Greek humanism = “Ain’t it great that we are humans!”

Should we proceed from or to the first principles?

first principle observable

p. 312 pleasure - self
politic - other
contemplative - universal

(logic is a means of validating our guesses)

What do people say “happiness” is? (Eudæmonia can be translated “blessedness.”) There are four answers most given:

1. pleasure
2. honor
3. virtue
4. money-making

Then he says, “Now, what’s wrong with pleasure?” “What’s wrong with honor?” etc. (dialectic)

ergon--it would be absurd to believe in a purpose without a “Purposer.” for Aristotle that is Logos. Concerning the nature of man he says, we start off with Being.

| |
material immaterial
| |
living non-living (characteristics of life= growth, nourishment, reproduction)
animal-->(perception, memory, imagination, locomotion)
human--> (reason) recreation of the logos.

(I noted the genera and differentia at work in this classification)

Therefore: If reason sets us apart from the other creatures, reason must have something to do with our ergon. Therefore, happiness must involve reason.

It can’t be pleasure. Honor depends on others. virtue, in this sense, has a lot in common with being asleep. It doesn’t require action, therefore it cannot be simply virtue. Money has no intrinsic value. It cannot be. These things are not adequate. Abundant life consists in all of these things. Aristotle will pull them all together.
p. 316 7:24, “Same point”--Now we have arrived at Plato’s summum bonum: the greatest good.

Chapters 7-13 Lay out Aristotle’s approach to ethics.
(“We cannot define the undifferentiated nor can we define the totally differentiated.”) Definition depends on distinction and hierarchy.

To Aristotle, that excellence which is appropriate to man is reason.
When Aristotle speaks of rationality he means reasonableness, the ability to function in a coherent manner. Coherence is the key to reasonableness.

He further divides the human being into two parts:

soul body

motivation = movement under control of our soul.

yuch swma
rational power sense, appetite, locomotion

The virtue of a thing is in its excellence. That which we seek must be final and self-sufficient. In order to define this for man, we must find his ergon.

14 Sept 82

Happiness is an activity of the soul.
1. activity
2. of the soul
3. in accordance with excellence.
a. Aristotle says we determine excellence “as a man of practical wisdom would determine it.”
b. FronesiV = the ability to do the right thing at the right time for the right reason to the right degree.
4. Appropriate to human powers.
5. In a full life-important to understand Greek humanism.
Well rounded--physical mustn’t be ignored and intellectual mustn’t be ignored. The specialist is perverse to the Greek mind.

Books 2-4; part of 5--Moral virtues.
Book 6--intellectual virtues
Book 7-- Pleasure and its problems
8 & 9 -- Love and friendship
10 -- happiness

phronesis, happiness, and virtue. phronesis x hexis = virtue.
yucologia--psychology, the study of the soul.

For Aristotle, practical reason can affect our choices (desires) so that we habitually make the right choices.

Double characteristics of virtue:
intellectual--pure thought
moral--directive of life in terms of the animal function (appetite)

Reason can shape and direct life.
Everything Aristotle says presupposes a teleological outlook on man. He seeks goals. Wherein does happiness lie? Total sanctification = eudæmonia. It is unattainable in this realm. (Like beatification.) We must first be given spiritual body.

happiness > goal Is the goal where happiness lies?
To Aristotle, happiness consists in the action of seeking the goal. Happiness is in the action. It is not in the performing of acts wherein one is good--It is in performing them as a virtuous person would. It is doing what you are supposed to do and doing it well.

The good does not vary, the expression of the good may vary with circumstances.

If you want to talk sensibly about choice, you’ve got to accept the fact that somewhere there exists an absolute good.

21 Sept 82


Primarily about the moral virtues. (Intellectual/moral virtues.)

Hexis-- where ethics and rhetoric overlap.
To the Greek, Logos meant the “ordering principle of the universe.”
Logos = Word. The virtuous person is one whose words correspond with the way things really are in the universe, so that, what is in your head is a good copy of what is. Reality is preexistent to the Greek mind. Abstract terms stand for something real.

essence of man--rationality (ie, reasonability applied to choice-making.)
choice making reduces to this formula:
A is better than B with respect to C.

When Aristotle calls moral virtue a kind of habit, he means they are kinds of actions that a man of practical wisdom would do.
Hexis is a matter of developing the mind in the same way as habit is formed in the body. By consistently making decisions with respect to the Good.

FronesiV = habitually doing the good.

23 Sept 82

Intellectual and Moral Virtues (cont’d.)

Because man is rational, and rationality has to do with action, his ergon consists in action. Overall, Plato believed that that ergon consisted in contemplation. He reduced all of the “faculties” to reason.

(Deliberation is an intellectual virtue, Action is a moral virtue.)

Rhetoric deals with the truncated syllogism and so does morality. It is constructed, more or less, subconsciously. You “pick them up” as necessary inferences. Rhetoric and ethics depend on an “image.” Your picture of the way things are supposed to be.

The truth is coherent. That is, it is congruent with the Word. It can, therefore, be discovered by the seeker.

Summary of the Chpt:

Morality is a state of character concerned with choice. II, 6 (1107a)
If someone has character you can pretty much predict what they’ll do.

Aristotle makes a distinction between the virtuous person and the clever person. Clever man can choose a target and hit it. The man with intellectual virtue also has the capability to choose the correct target. The means whereby a clever man will attain his goals will not be virtuous.

If you have the right amount of fear and confidence you will be called courageous.

1 Oct 82

Book III Chpt 1- Voluntary/Involuntary.
Choice is voluntary, but not the voluntary.

voluntary | mixed | involuntary
| |
principle of move- | pardon | principle of
ment within | praise & blame | movement without

Voluntary has to do with the moment of action.
Pardon: Yes, it was a bad thing, but, under the circumstances, it was understandable. eg. You will assassinate the King or I will kill your wife and children.

General move that Aristotle makes:
How do we classify people? With respect to responsibility, under what circumstances will we:
1. Praise
2. Blame
3. Pardon

We do not praise people for doing what is pleasurable. We do not praise people for doing their duty. Someone who does not come to class will be blamed, but if they show up for class they’ll not be praised.

In order to explain the nature of virtuous acts the Greeks came up with four classifications:

forbidden permissible required heroic
no ethical impact duty does the right
involves pain at great cost

Actions, in and of themselves, cannot determine virtue. The axiological motivation + action must be taken into account.

Deliberation: Object is means
Wish: Object is ends.

You wish to win; you deliberate how to win. We deliberate on things which are in our power.
Good/apparent good: The difference between virtuous and non-virtuous person is that the virtuous person’s apparent good is good.

When we determine what is voluntary we determine what is responsible for a man to do.

Ch 5 @ 1114b--Aristotle uses reductio ad absurdum and touches on each of Carneades’ three points.

“If you are going to tell me that peoples’ actions are not voluntary, how are you going to account for praise & blame, deliberation or persuasion?” Your wish is to be for the good.

Dialectic is:
Beginning with a proposition, drawing out the implications thereof, and checking for contradictions.

7 Oct 82

Justice consists of the lawful and fair.
(We must not confuse happiness with contentment. Without exigence there would be nothing to strive for. If you confuse contentment and happiness you fall into this problem, for exigence is the feeling created by recognizing a difference between the actual and the ideal which causes you to strive. No exigence, hence no action.)

12 Oct 82
Aristotle has a great deal of difficulty moving from the intellectual to the moral virtues. He says intellectual virtues deal with things natural, moral virtues deal with things contingent.

The guiding ideal for the classical realists was pariV: proper measure. Everything in its place and nothing to excess. Oracle at Delphi read, “Ah, nothing in excess.” If there is a proper amount of a virtue there must also be an excess--vice.

The man of practical wisdom takes into account the particulars.


If you don’t draw this distinction, you lose all concept of personness. If we lose this concept we have no grounds for ethics.
Neither the positivist account nor the mystic account provides for human action because both rely on determinism.

The realist sees the big picture: the duality of Existence. “Look, there are two different categories of existence: those whose cause of action is within and those whose cause of action is without.”

Notice how we’ve got two distinctions within the mind itself: first, rational and irrational, then within rational: positive/contingent. My rational faculty has a positive side also (ala the “servo-mechanism” of Psycho Cybernetics.)

Science begins with the assumption that order exists in the universe and can be predicted upon and generalized upon. In order for positivism to work, theory-free data must exist. It is now generally accepted that theory-free data doesn’t exist.

(First Principles come via intuitive knowledge. They cannot, therefore, be demonstrated.)

Rational is the part of the soul that grasps the rule or the principle.

Contingent matters are things which could be otherwise.

14 Oct 82

For Aristotle, in order for the mind to grasp some aspect of the universe, the mind must have something in common with that aspect.

“States of the Soul”
Any proposition is either true or false, no in between. The virtue of the soul will be relative to its truth. How do we come to know the truth?

Choice: desire and reasoning with an aim to an end. Sense of the good and the means of getting it.

Knowledge of first principles comes by means of intuitive faculty and are therefore not demonstrable.

The warrant that validifies the prediction that the chalk will fall if I drop the 1,000th and first time comes via intuition. The fact that it fell 1,000 times already, does not warrant that prediction. The intuitive is very important. It is the philosopher’s stone, upon which all truth must be aligned.

6:7 & 19--Wisdom = intuitive reason combined with scientific knowledge.

Scientific knowledge is demonstration about necessary things.

Scientific knowledge + intuitive reason = scientific wisdom

Calculative knowledge is knowledge of the contingent. So,

Calculative knowledge + intuitive reason concerning (things to be made) = ART
Calculative knowledge + intuitive reason “ “ (individual life) = PHRONESIS
Calculative knowledge + intuitive reason “ “ (life of the polis) = POLITICAL WISDOM

Most people go through life with an utterly foggy intuitive faculty. They believe what they’re told; they don’t know how to think for themselves; they are, therefore, slaves.

Calculation is natural.

19 Oct 82

A virtuous man is a man of practical wisdom.
Intuitive knowledge is knowledge of first principles.
Scientific wisdom involves determined matters.
Practical wisdom involves contingent matters.

Intuitive knowledge is our interpretation of the way that the world is.

28 Oct 82

The objects of practical knowledge are human choices. The object of intuitive knowledge is first principles. The object of scientific knowledge is causal processes. (Behaviorism begins with a faulty intuitive model of human nature.)


The scientist does not discover order in the universe. He proceeds on the assumption that the universe is orderly. He is born with that knowledge.
We attempt to manipulate our environment very early on in life. To manipulate presupposes manipulability which presupposes order. “If I do this, this will happen.”

Intuitive reason provides the linkages within a syllogism.

Humans function via reason, not causation.

First principles are the grounds of life; they are presupposed. To assume anything besides “the universe is ordered” will deny me the grounds for action. In this sense, it is possible for the human to deny his freedom; it is impossible for him to act unfreely. (Descriptive vs. prescriptive.)

It is better to do the noble thing.

Man exists in action. Contemplation is not virtuous--that is the same thing as being asleep.
Pleasure is not the goal of action. Pleasure is the bloom of the good.

Aristotle’s system of ethics is teleological. Teleology presupposes deliberation which involves calculation. Calculation is a non-ethical human faculty; that is, it is prudential in nature. We can, in this sense, speak of a “good” hit man: One who calculates all the angles, does the job well without getting caught. This, Aristotle called cleverness: the ability to calculate well.

Phronesis consists in calculating toward proper goals. The moral impulse comes from exigence.

Love is the relationship which exists between a person and his criterial absolute. So, Aristotle’s account of friendship.

(Immanuel Kant is very much a Christian philosopher.)

Back to friendship.
Positive attracts, negative repels.

Different classes of friendship:
Virtuous-- based on good
Pleasurable-- based on pleasure
Utile-- based on utility

Virtue is not a deliberate function.

(If you are a Christian in order to get to heaven, whom are you worshipping? If you serve God because he gives you goodies, whom are you serving?)

Plato really attacked pleasure.

Greek thought emphasizeds that that which is perfect need not change.
Aristotle said, we become what we think about. If we contemplate on the highest truths, we become like god.

IMMANUEL KANT’S “Groundwork of a Metaphysic of Morals”

Kant didn’t start writing until he was 60 years old. Two reasons why Kant is somewhat diff. to read:
Sentences are long.
You must take a lot of what he says on faith; he will explain it later.

Kant’s distinction:

Formal Material
LOGIC EMPIRICAL (Knowledge of things)
the Logos nature freedom He says, “We know
pure philosophy (positive) (contingent) two kinds of things”
(ie, philosophy that proceeds without
an empirical component) logical empirical | logical empirical
metaphysics physics | metaphysics practical
| of anthropology
| morality

Metaphysics is the pure study of nature. Physics is the simply empirical study of nature. Study of man must be preceeded by a metaphysic of morality.

Kant wants to talk about morality from a purely logical standpoint.

The logos is larger than the set of “all men” and is self-validating.
Reason should pay attention to itself.

p. 57-58. motive is more important than conformity.

Moral law is in harmony with freedom. The law of morality is present in all of us. It is not determinant such as the law of gravity.

The only thing that is taken as good without qualification is a good will.

p. 70. categorical imperative.

Maxim is personal; law is universal.

Kant is not giving us an ethic. He is laying a groundwork of a metaphysic of morals.

(*Moral law is an ought. [Freedom]
Natural law is a have to. [cause & effect])

Moral imperatives (maxims) | prudential imperatives
| (ultimately traced
Law to the moral law)
(categorical imperative)

For the Divine Will there is no imperative.

Rationality is not the same as reasonableness. It is calculative. It deals with prudential behavior.
rationality interests & inclinations
WILL (“I wantÖ”) these pollute the will

The Divine Will has no interests & inclinations. Not “I want” but, “I am.” The Logos.
(Our mind is of God because it participates in the Logos.)

Kant wanted to justify morality on reason alone because certain people were saying that there is no justification for the ethical impulse.
The vast majority of our statements are true. Universal law states that statements ought to be true, thus it would be absurd to have a universal law that says you can lie anytime you want to. The moral impulse has absolute ontic existence. It is not a figment of our imagination or of human convention.

Act on that maxim which you could will to become a law.

The ability to assimilate experience depends upon meaning making.

Kant says, there are those things that we know about experience; those statements are synthetic. Statements which rely upon sense experience for their justification are a posteriori. Analytic statements are true a priori.

Maxim is a subjective principle of action: “For what reason did you do it?” (as opposed to “Öwhat end?”)

The existence of excusing behavior proves the truth of the categorical imperative. “I know I’m doing that which is evil in and of itself, but, here are my reasons Ö.” Kant says, This is the action that the ideal (morality) demands a priori. “The right thing to do, in this case, all things considered, would be to lie. However, I would consider lying per se, wrong.”

cause & The word “because” is used to convey both these concepts
ground so they are confused.

Humans are rational because they act on the basis of principles. Their actions are grounded in principles. Your individual ground of action is your maxim. A person is not caused to do things as a rule. Wrong action will result from a wrong maxim.

Moral law is an ought (imperative) and recognizes that I could do otherwise.

23 Nov 82

Kant believes, as humans, we can distinguish between the good and the bad. To Hume, Benevolence (to wish well) wa common to humans. Altruism (self-sacrificing love of others) was not contained in Kant’s ethics.

Kant maintains that others are worthy of respect per se. Just because we are persons.
p. 100. Kant says you’ve got to dump all of the “in-order-to ness” of doing the law. eg, --“Follow the law in order to be happy,” etc.

When you do something in order to get something else that for which you strive is greater than the means of obtaining it. He says the law must be good in itself. You do not do it in order to gain something else.

An act of love done out of inclination is pathological p. 67.

(What in the world does it mean to love your neighbor as yourself??)

Kant says there’s only one good thing in the world. The good will.

formal (a priori reason) objective (external and universal)
will <
material (inclinations and interests) subjective

Kant calls the formal will the “Motive” for actions. So, will absolutely determines actionl
Some read Kant as saying that pure reason is the grounds for action. He doesn’t. Remember, this is a groundwork of a Metaphysic of morals. The apriori reason provides critique of practical applications. (Critique = theoretical explanation and classification.)

2 Dec 82

Kant insists, if there is such a thing as morality, it must exist a priori. If it has objective existence, then we must grasp it by universal, objective means.
To Kant, speaking of morality without God is just silly.

Categorical imperative:
1. Treat others as ends also, not merely means.
2. Act upon that maxim which you could will to become universal law.
3. Act upon a maxim which can have itself as an object.
rationality --> Logos --> God

Emotivism regards moral statements as explitives; non-statments. This is the positivist’s brand of ethics. Positivists say there are three kinds of statements:

Analytic Synthetic Meaningless
(They posit all moral statements here)


Weaver’s greatest work: Edmund Burke and the argument from circumstance.

Bases of Argument:
Argument from:

good definition
| similitude (analogy)
| cause & effect
| circumstance

Sophists believed language was a means to the end of manipulating people. Therefore, rhetoric, to them, was a tool of persuading anyone of anything.

Aristotle flambauyed the Sphists. He said: the substance of rhetoric is the enthymeme. No honest rhetoric without a preceding dialectic. Enthymeme = syllogism with one of the premises suppressed.

Cause and choice will not lie down together.

Surface rhetoric = talk.
Style = bases of argument
deep rhetoric = how you believe the world is put together.

The concept of Freedom
Freedom is not the abscence of restraint. If you have only one alternative and that happens to be your preference, you are free in that situation.

SEMINAR IN WEAVERIAN RHETORIC **find these notes and transcribe!**
Summer ‘83

(I put this here because it is short and because we ran out of time in the ethics seminar and, consequently, never did much with Weaver. The following notes take up
where we left off seven months earlier.)