Ancient Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short by Julia Annas

By Julia Annas

The culture of historic philosophy is a protracted, wealthy and sundry one, within which the notes of debate and argument always resound. This ebook introduces historic debates, enticing us with the traditional advancements in their subject matters. relocating clear of the presentation of historic philosophy as a succession of significant thinkers, the booklet provides readers a feeling of the freshness and liveliness of old philosophy, and of its big range of issues and types. concerning the sequence: Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and elegance, Very brief Introductions provide an creation to a few of life's best subject matters. Written via specialists for the newcomer, they display the best modern brooding about the vital difficulties and matters in thousands of key subject matters, from philosophy to Freud, quantum idea to Islam.

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Sample text

Happiness and Virtue Until recently, though, the really alien idea in the Choice of Heracles would have been thought to be the role of Virtue. In modern ethical thought, until quite recently, virtue had become something of a joke concept, one that could be understood only historically and could not be seriously used in ethical thinking. In the last decade, however, ‘virtue ethics’ has had a 46 spectacular comeback. Once again, however, we find that there is not a perfect match between our notion of virtue and the ancient one, and so some explanation and comparison is needed.

Often he stresses that what is significant for living a happy life is not the goods you have but the use you make of them; just as the shoemaker does the best he can with whatever leather he has, and people who have suffered misfortunes do the best they can with what circumstances allow them. Hence he is unwilling to allow that a virtuous person who at the end of his life falls into great misfortune (such as Priam, the good king of Troy who lives to see his sons killed and city destroyed) must be considered to have lost their happiness.

This thought seems to have been found deeply unpersuasive; at any rate the Cyrenaics were never more than an eccentric school in ancient ethical thought. to present pleasure as a candidate for happiness that meets the overall demands, thus making his theory more acceptable and mainstream. Your concern with your whole life, he thinks, is not just a means to enjoyment of the present; rather, it matters to you in its own right, as people commonly think. However, the happy life is, in fact, a life of pleasure.

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