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Re: Thought is divided

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  • Jim
    Mary, You write: Jim, please correct me if I m wrong, but I understand you to be saying that responsibility is self-control. Self-control is simply applying
    Message 1 of 68 , Apr 3, 2010
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      Mary,

      You write:

      "Jim, please correct me if I'm wrong, but I understand you to be saying that responsibility is self-control. Self-control is simply applying more thinking to thought in order to control actions."

      Yes, that is pretty much my view. Let me phrase it slightly differently: It is only because human beings are capable of self-control that they are responsible for their actions. Or again, only a person who is capable of self-control is responsible for his or her actions.

      Most adult human beings are in control of their actions most of the time, or so I claim.

      Compare a `normal' person like you or I with two other types of human beings. First, the human being who is mentally handicapped. To the extent that such a person is not fully aware of what he is doing, he is not responsible for his actions. And we, rightly, don't hold him responsible for his actions.

      Second, the human being who suffers from mental illness. My experience of mentally ill people is that some of the time they have a reasonable amount of self-control, but they are prone to periods where they `go off the rails' or lose their normal functioning and behave in bizarre, out-of-control ways. At these times, I would say that these individuals were not responsible for their actions.

      Even so-called normal people like you or me, may be prey to addictions or compulsive behaviours. From my own life, I know there have been a few periods when I have been out-of-control due to an addiction.

      Even without addictions or compulsive behaviour, there are occasions when even the most rational and virtuous among us, suffer from `weakness of the will', when we act against our better judgement. We sometimes give in to temptation to do the thing we know is not the correct thing to do.

      So, we all fall on a spectrum, some of us can exercise more self-control than others, and a single individual can exercise more self-control at some times in his/her life than at other times.

      Why is this? Why can thought be divided? Well, partly because we have incompatible desires. I desire to be the reliable, faithful family man, but I also desire adventure, excitement and pleasure. I desire to do well in my exams, but I also desire to party with my friends.

      When we have conflicting desires, the `best overall judgement' does not always `win out' and guide the person's behaviour.

      Irvins's remarks on Aristotle are very much to the point here. To the extent that we want to live a good life, we want our best overall judgement to prevail at all times over our fleeting passions which we do not value so highly.

      We may attempt to train ourselves to develop good habits which are solid enough to prevent us going off the rails and messing up our own lives (and, more often that not, the lives of others).

      With regard to your questions towards the end of your post, my own view is similar to Aristotle's as characterised by Irvin: "Aristotle might emphasize that freedom is the ability to acquire those dispositions necessary for virtue."

      We gain more freedom, the more we are in control of our actions. This is not an all-or-nothing thing. And it is something we can develop in ourselves with practice, or so Aristotle argues. Freedom, self-control and responsibility for one's actions are ideals to aim for, although we do have them here and now to a greater or lesser degree.

      Jim
    • Herman
      Hi Jim, ... Well, yes, but not reasonably. Aristotle believed that it lay in the nature of slaves to be slaves, and that the possibility for freedom was
      Message 68 of 68 , Apr 6, 2010
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        Hi Jim,

        On 6 April 2010 22:43, Jim <jjimstuart1@...> wrote:
        > Hi Polly,
        >
        > Recall, Irvin wrote this:
        >
        > "Aristotle might emphasize that freedom is the ability to acquire those dispositions necessary for virtue."
        >
        > This account of freedom says nothing about the existence of slaves in a society. So even if Aristotle did mean his account of freedom to apply only to free men and women in a society where slavery existed, I can take Aristotle's account of freedom and say it is a viable definition of freedom, which can justifiably be applied to all human beings here and now.
        >

        Well, yes, but not reasonably. Aristotle believed that it lay in "the
        nature" of slaves to be slaves, and that the possibility for freedom
        was limited to the elite. So your notion of freedom is quite
        different, unless you believe that if Aristotle arrived on the scene
        today that he would not spy anyone who was servile by nature. (He'd
        best get his eyes checked if that was the case).

        Polly




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