I spent the last two days attending the Faculty Workshop on Democracy and Civic Engagement at Wabash that was organized and facilitated mostly by members of the Rhetoric Department at Wabash. It’s been glorious to slow down and take some time to think about the teaching we spend so much time doing, so I’m feeling rejuvenated and enthusiastic about planning for civic engagement components in the classroom. One issue that kept recurring for me was the tension between, or at least, the question of whether there is a tension between, thinking and acting. Plato and Aristotle both distinguish between actions you do for themselves and actions you do for some end outside of themselves, and they argue that actions that you do for themselves are better than actions you do for some product or goal beyond the action. I found myself concerned that measuring the success of a course in terms of some action that might come of it beyond the thinking that takes place within it privileges action and makes thinking instrumental to action. This dispute reaches back to the ancients. In Politics VII.3, Aristotle remarks that some people think that politics is a better life than philosophy because they think that politics is action but philosophy is not. Aristotle accepts the view that a life of action is better than a life of inaction, but he rejects the idea that philosophy is not action in itself. Read more
Posts tagged ‘Public Philosophy’
I’m working on a paper on politeuma, a Greek word sometimes translated as government and sometimes translated as constitution, in Aristotle. Some ancient scholars argue that sometimes Aristotle means government by the term and sometimes he means constitution by the term. I think that drawing that distinction is a uniquely modern way of thinking about the relation and we might be well-served to consider the dual meaning of the term without trying to distinguish those meanings.
I’m also teaching a class on Rousseau this semester where we’ve been reading Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality as well as On Social Contract. I began to make an argument as a sidenote in the paper on Aristotle distinguishing Rousseau from Aristotle when I drew up short and realized that their positions might be so very close together that the differences between them might shed some light on the relationship between government and constitution in Aristotle and Rousseau. In the spirit of public philosophy, I’m presenting that argument here. I’m keen to hear your thoughts. Read more