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Thread: Aristotle: Friendship Vs Capitalist Crisis

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    Default Aristotle: Friendship Vs Capitalist Crisis

    I've just been reading Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics (Eoghan Harris came around for breakfast), and the following passages struck me as being key to our current crisis:

    Without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods...

    [Friendship] helps the young, too, to keep from error; it aids older people by ministering to their needs and supplementing the activities that are failing from weakness; those in the prime of life it stimulates to noble actions-'two going together'-for with friends men are more able both to think and to act. Again, parent seems by nature to feel it for offspring and offspring for parent, not only among men but among birds and among most animals; it is felt mutually by members of the same race, and especially by men, whence we praise lovers of their fellowmen. We may even in our travels how near and dear every man is to every other. Friendship seems too to hold states together, and lawgivers to care more for it than for justice; for unanimity seems to be something like friendship, and this they aim at most of all, and expel faction as their worst enemy...


    ...and when men are friends they have no need of justice, while when they are just they need friendship as well, and the truest form of justice is thought to be a friendly quality.


    Now, in complete contrast and contradiction, capitalists say that individualism and greed are what make the world go round. They say its a dog eat dog world, that competition is the rule, and only the fittest deserve to enjoy life. Capitalist law is not based on friendship, but on property rights, i.e. that he who has managed to sqeeze wealth out of others should have the armed strength of the state to protect his private and singular enjoyment of the fruits of the earth. In short, capitalism is not based on friendship, but on viciousness.

    Aristotle says of such vicious people: But vicious men have no steadfastness (for they do not remain even like to themselves), but become friends for a short time because they delight in each other's wickedness.

    So, a chairde, is it not time to take our fate, and the fate of our children, out of the hands of the vicious men, the sociopaths, and base our lives on the friendship of equals? As Aristotle says, friendship must be based on equality: If friends become separated by some wide gap in virtue, vice, wealth, or something else, they are friends no more, and don't even expect to be.

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    Thanks Cael, I didn't know the Greeks wrote in this way about friendship. It sounds like the same concept as solidarity.

    When did western public morality get so corrupted that to even stand up for the good results in ridicule as happens so often on this site? The self-styled 'realists' and 'libertarians' (who are no such thing) are the ones who want to convince us that their own poor sense of morality based on self-interest and individualism only, is natural and human nature. It's total rubbish of course and very interesting to know that that was clearly understood in Aristotle's time.

    Thanks for that.

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    Politics.ie Member bormotello's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mar Tweedy View Post
    When did western public morality get so corrupted that to even stand up for the good results in ridicule as happens so often on this site? The self-styled 'realists' and 'libertarians' (who are no such thing) are the ones who want to convince us that their own poor sense of morality based on self-interest and individualism only, is natural and human nature.
    You missed that often individualism is based on better knowledge of reality and bad experience from past, when good intentions were abused under smokescreen of hypocrisy


    Quote Originally Posted by Mar Tweedy View Post
    It's total rubbish of course and very interesting to know that that was clearly understood in Aristotle's time.
    It wasn't difficult for greeks to think about friendship, when slaves did all dirty job for them

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mar Tweedy View Post
    Thanks Cael, I didn't know the Greeks wrote in this way about friendship. It sounds like the same concept as solidarity.

    When did western public morality get so corrupted that to even stand up for the good results in ridicule as happens so often on this site? The self-styled 'realists' and 'libertarians' (who are no such thing) are the ones who want to convince us that their own poor sense of morality based on self-interest and individualism only, is natural and human nature. It's total rubbish of course and very interesting to know that that was clearly understood in Aristotle's time.

    Thanks for that.
    Tá fáilte romhat a chara. Of course, we should bear in mind that Greece was a slave society, and that Aristotle was a philosopher, rather than someone who actually had power. But, the Greek idea of a slave was very different to the British idea of a slave. The Greeks did not have the racist, Darwinian, idea of racial superiority. The Greeks certainly thought Greek culture was superior, but they had no concept of racial superiority. It was clear to Greeks that slaves were slaves because of misfortune in war, etc. and even an enemy prince or princess could be a slave if captured - a Greek could also be a slave if captured. Aristotle councils the Greeks to accept their slaves into their friendship, and in Plato's Symposium, the householder tells his slaves to treat him and his guests as their guests for the evening. Indeed, many Greeks were later taken to be slaves by the Roman aristocracy to be tuitors to their sons.

    So, to a great extent, we have to accept that Aristotle was a man of his times, and accepted slavery. But, what is really interesting to us here, is that he posits a society based on the friendship of equals (even if they were just Greek freemen (not women) in his mind.)

    It seems to me that the transition from the Greek to the Roman was the point when a great deal of anti-human ideas began to really take hold in European thought. The "Enlightenment," ironically, led to the darkest crimes against humanity, as an instrumental view of nature took hold, i.e. that nature (including humanity) was only there for increased production and increased profits for the ruling class. Wooded groves were no longer the haunting places of gods and nymphs and poetry, but only timber for potential profit.

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    Greek philosophy is fascinating. I intend to study in great detail. It is the foundation of Praxeology or Human action, a cornerstone in a lot of the Austrian school works over the past 200 years.
    “The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.” - Friedrich A. Hayek

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    Politics.ie Member Akrasia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bormotello View Post
    It wasn't difficult for greeks to think about friendship, when slaves did all dirty job for them
    Um, if you look at the way our global economy is doing, we have plenty people to do our dirty work for us.

    We might not call them slaves, but the people who work under extremely harsh conditions to mine our raw materials for a pittance, people who grow our foods, clothing materials, make our clothes...



    The standard of life we take for granted in the west would not be possible if there weren't legions of workers supporting our industry
    Actual morality is doing what is right regardless of what you're told. Religious morality is doing what you're told, regardless of if it's right.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bormotello View Post
    You missed that often individualism is based on better knowledge of reality and bad experience from past, when good intentions were abused under smokescreen of hypocrisy



    It wasn't difficult for greeks to think about friendship, when slaves did all dirty job for them
    Yes, I agree that losing sight that we are also individual as well as social relational beings can result in abuses.

    However, the vast majority of the world's 6 billion + people have precious little chance of expressing or acting out freely the individual part of their natures. The so-called freedom loving libertarians are only interested in protecting the 'freedom' of the tiny minority who control much of the world's wealth and resources. There are degrees of slavery.

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    Politics.ie Member Hazlitt's Avatar
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    In summary your argument is: Friendship is important to peoples happiness - therefore Communism is a superior economic/social system to Capitalism.

    Is that the jist of it? It's a non sequitur Cael.
    Last edited by Hazlitt; 25th October 2010 at 12:23 PM.

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    Politics.ie Member Clanrickard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cael View Post
    and especially by men, whence we praise lovers of their fellowmen.
    He was talking here about homosexuality which was part and parcel of Greek life. As Bromotello correctly pointed out the Greeks had slavery and had a fairly nasty society in many respects where intrigue and assassination were rife and there were strict dichotomies between haves and have nots. You need to read a lot more but as I doubt you are doing much that is constructive I reckon you have the time.

    capitalists say that individualism and greed are what make the world go round. They say its a dog eat dog world, that competition is the rule, and only the fittest deserve to enjoy life.
    You have quotes to back this up yes?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hazlitt View Post
    In summary your argument is: Friendship is important to peoples happiness - therefore Communism is a superior economic/social system to Capitalism.

    Is that the jist of it? It's a non sequitur Cael.
    No, the arguement is that friendship between healthy human beings, i.e. the great majority, and a society based on that friendship is more important that the psychopathic "happiness" of a few sociopaths, i.e. the capitalist ruling class.

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