Lecture 5

Lecture 5

Plato determines this virtue of dikaiosu/nh as a being-in-joint within the individual soul in its relations to the world, in the way it encounters the world, and not as an in-jointness of relations among members of society (pro\j e(/teron V i. 1129b27, 1130a3, 8, 13), as Aristotle does in Book V of the Nicomachean Ethics. The phenomenon of being-in-joint refers to a proper structure of human being in both the relations among the various aspects of the soul and relations with the world.

Recapitulation and summary

What can be concluded from this rough sketch of how Plato unfolds the four principal virtues and the structure of the human soul in Book IV of the Politeia with regard to the phenomenon of manliness, which is the focus of attention? First of all, that manliness is a steadfast holding of a stand and a stance in view of all that is terrible or detrimental in human being's encounters with the world in the openness of its being. Second, that practical understanding plays the lead role in assessing the situation within which an individual finds itself. Third, that practical understanding itself is a kind of bringing-the-world-to-a-stand within the looks which beings offer of themselves and the categories that allow beings qua beings to be addressed and discussed and deliberated upon in the medium of the logos. Fourth, that practical understanding mobilizes and directs the strong and sometimes violent passions of the human heart (another aspect of the openness to being) in line with its assessment of the situation. Fifth, that, in contrast to sophrosyne, which has the task of bridling the desires in their striving to acquire the goods of the world, manliness controls rather the relations to what is dangerous and harmful, i.e. bad, in the world. It bridles recklessness, on the one hand and, on the other, it encourages where the heart shrinks back in cowardice. Sixth, that the moods which always hold sway in and move the human soul in any given situation endanger the firm stance which an individual adopts and have to be controlled. In succumbing to the mood of fear which pulls it down, the individual becomes cowardly, whereas standing manfully in the face of fear is the adoption of a steadfast stand (e(/cij), the resolute grasping (proai/resij) of the situation. Seventh, that manliness may have to maintain a stand against a groundless fear which seems to arise out of nothing, casts the individual down and endangers the stand adopted vis-à-vis the world. Eighth, that human being itself means having and upholding a stand in the world in several senses and maintaining steadfast relations with the various aspects of the soul's relations to the world under the guidance and control of understanding.

If the phenomenon of manliness is viewed not specifically from the Greek virtue of a)ndrei/a, but more generally from the Latin translation of Greek a)reth/, namely as 'virtue', which also can be understood from its etymology as 'man-ness' or 'manliness', then manliness is seen to be the proper stance (e(/cij) of a human being in the world, oriented toward what is good for human living, with four aspects covering the proper relations between the ruling instance of understanding (lo/goj, fro/nhsij) and the desirous (e)piqumi/a) and ardently and evenly violently passionate (o)rgh/) parts of the human psyche or soul (yuxh/). If all these relations are in joint, according to Plato, the human being is virtuous and just (di/kaioj).

The striving of human being

The human soul, the yuxh/ in Greek thought has to be understood as the relation of human being to beings in their being. Such relations are those of striving (filei=n), a striving for what human being as finite lacks and a fleeing (feu/gein) from what appears harmful, both borne by a directedness of the heart (e)piqumi/a). Thus philosophy, filosofi/a as an erotic undertaking is not simply the 'love of wisdom', but the striving for wise insight inspired by Eros, the demigod whom Plato characterizes in the Symposion as always lacking and always inventive in finding a way through despite obstacles in the search for insight into truth. Plato's attribution of desire to the human soul as its major part is tantamount to naming human finitude. Human being as finite is always a relation to and a striving for what it lacks. There are two strivings of the human heart and soul which figure throughout Plato's and Aristotle's thinking that reveal something of the essential structure of human being in its relations with the world. These are filoxrhmati/a and filotimi/a.

Filoxrhmati/a is the striving for goods, money, assets, i.e. for all those things which are beneficial for living well. Xrh/mata are goods, useful things employed in the usages of daily life and good for leading a life. Human being sets its heart on acquiring the goods that contribute to living well. All those goods which lie present to hand at the disposal of an individual are ou)si/a, the estate of that individual, its property. Ou)si/a is also the term in Greek philosophy, and in Aristotle's metaphysics in particular, for a being or, a being in its mode of being, its beingness. The word ou)si/a itself is formed as the abstract substantivization of the feminine present participle for 'being' ou)=sa: beingness. Ou)si/a signifies the steady presence of a being in the mode of its being, either directly as being present-to-hand like a person's estate and property, or indirectly in a making-present or Vergegenwärtigung through the lo/goj in fantasy (fantasi/a) or discussions and deliberations, i.e. in some form of discursive communication with others.

To be continued...

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