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Philosophy Book Club

r/PhilosophyBookClub

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Tuesday not Thursday

This week we will examine Kant writings in their historical context. We will use Terry Pinkard's highly acclaimed German Philosophy 1760-1860 and Kant's letter to Charlotte von Knobloch, daughter of a Prussian general.

This meeting is not meant for specialists or experts.

This group examines the history of Metaphysics by looking primarily at European thinkers in chronological order. Great effort is made to include lesser known thinkers whose thought has historical significance. We will occasionally examine non-European metaphysics too to provide context and comparison.

The organizer is not an expert on Metaphysics but has a long experience in organizing similar meetings. He also has an Oxford PhD in European History as well as a Cambridge MPhil on the same discipline. He currently teaches foreign languages.

Our meeting time is: Thursday 1 pm(Los Angeles)/4 pm (New York)/9 pm (London)

You can join us on Meetup: https://www.meetup.com/the-toronto-philosophy-meetup/events/288324573/

edit: to fix the link

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Crossposted by14 days ago
Posted by14 days ago

Nicomachean Ethics Book III. Chs 6 to 9 - my notes, reflections, meditations

Chapters 6 to 9 – On Courage

When we study accounts of history, one of the things we come to recognise is that we humans are perfectly willing to spend lifetimes, several centuries even, ruled by laws and institutions which were never intended to be of service to us. We are capable of tolerating life conditions which destitute us, dehumanise us, degrade us, simply because we grew up in them, built our habits around them, came to accept them as “the order of things”. Where a farmer will not hesitate to axe and burn trees too old or diseased to bear good fruit, we tend to hold onto our circumstances, no matter how terrible, as to a mother’s bosom. We accept them as given once and for all.

We may surely come to criticise some thing or another which bothers us, complain about it endlessly, condemn it secretly or in public. Such activities, however, serve more often than not as a safety valve for pent-up tension. They may even hinder movements toward authentic change and merely contribute as a precondition for keeping everything as it is. If what we desire is change, then one ingredient is missing but which one?

Let us visualise a children’s climbing structure. Like little monkeys, several children are effortlessly navigating the ropes and metal bars. They hardly remember how their little hearts tickled with fear when they first encountered the balancing bars and climbing ropes of this structure. Yet, every one of them had to choose to face their fear in order to gain the confidence and competence with which they carry themselves now.

With every challenge in which we face our fear, we take a leap from a place safe and known to a place we perceive unsafe and unknown. We take a leap of courage. To be courageous means to carry a double-edged sword. As you pierce with it the thing that causes you fear, the sword pierces simultaneously that part inside of you which fears the thing you are fighting. On the river of our lives, courage is the boat which ferries us from a place of fear to a place of confidence. That is why Aristotle locates it as the mean(s) between them.

Chapter 6 – First observations on courage

Courage is a virtue of character. We think of it as the opposite of cowardice. It is not fearlessness, however, i.e. it is not the absolute absence of fear. We qualify courage rather as the mean between cowardice and fearlessness. Still, this is only a preliminary outline of how we understand courage. To gain a more sophisticated understanding we start by contemplating Aristotle’s observations below:

  • (i) we do not call someone brave simply because they do not suffer from phobias about things outside their control. (e.g. earthquakes, draughts, war)

  • (ii) Those who without noble reason put themselves in the way of a danger they cannot handle (e.g. running into a building in flames because of a game of chicken) we do not consider brave but stupid.

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