Week 5 – Aristotle & Spartan society

1. Why was Aristotle a significant figure?

He is passionate about the world, studies imperfect and changing things, not only the perfect ones and he is considered to be the founder of logic.

2. How would you explain Aristotle’s main points in his Ethics to the average person?

Aristotle tries to explain the “human flourishing”, what makes humans good. He says that we can find this out by asking “What’s the human’s being function?”. E.g. a knife is good if it cuts well, a pen is good if it writes. Knife’s cutting and pen’s writing is their function. So what is our function? To figure this out, we have to look at our distinguishing characteristics – reason. Rational activity. If we want to have a fulfilled life, we have to act rational, live according to reason.

3. How have libertarians, or “Aristotelian liberals,” argued for liberty on the basis of Aristotle’s ideas?

Aristotle himself was not a libertarian, however, Aristotelian liberals (or libertarians nowadays) point at some things that are liberal. For example, Aristotle knew that to live a fulfilled and virtuous life, we have to have the freedom to make our own decisions – if I have a gun to my head, I will do whatever I have to do, but it will not be my virtue – I have to do it out of my own will. Aristotle once again points out to reason by saying that humans are not some beasts who force each other, we are humans with reason and rationality – we should not force each others into doing things we do not want to do.

4. What was Spartan society like?

In the beginning you had a cultural achievement, but as the time went, it became a militaristic state, meaning that Sparta forced their people into being slaves for the state. They thought they will stop people from running away by making a police state, based on the military. They tried to toughen up everyone since kids. Boys are forced to stay away from their families, forced to stay in the military until the age of 20, when they were moved to citizen army and could get married, but they could not visit their wives – only if they evaded the guards. At the age of 30 they were allowed to become citizens, but they still had to eat at the public hall with other men – this was Sparta’s way of showing them that military was their only real family. They were also forced to eat awful and disgusting meals, because men did not deserve luxury, that would only show weakness.

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