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Hey Philosophers,

Hey Philosophers, I was having a discussion with my girlfriend about what the "meaning of life" was. A tired, perhaps ultimately pointless, question... but suprisingly, we actually ended up both agreeing that the purpose of life is to "flourish." However, we sort of ran into a brick wall when we realized we couldn't even explain what that is. Like, what is "human flourishing?" We thought that was maybe to complex a question, so questioned what "plant flourishing" was; if a seed is planted with the capacity to flower, and it begins to grow, yet, some problem hinders it's growth and because of that it doesn't flower, it can be said that the plant didn't 'flourish' - the plant did not fulfill it's potential to flower. Would it be fair to say, then, that "human flourishing" comes down to humans fulfilling the potential they have in life? This is problematic, though, since humans are so complex, we simply can't put a finger on one thing and say "that's flourishing" like we can with the flower. The limits on...

Maybe you should read a little more Aristotle. Book I of the Nicomachean Ethics deals directly with this issue. So does the end of Book IV of Plato's Republic, from a somewhat different perspective. Plato also has Socrates talk about what it means to value "the most important things" in the Apology (see 22d-e, and then his famous statement about what makes life worth living at 38a). This same viewpoint may be echoed somewhat in the famous "intellectualism" of the last book of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics.

To make a very clumsy summary of Aristotle: human beings are, for him, rational animals. That means that what is good for us will include what is good for all animals (such as nutrition and so on) but must also include something of the life of the mind. He thinks that human flurishing will be realized in acting in accordance with a rational principle, which is to say acting virtuosly--by which he does not simply mean doing what the virtuous person does, but doing it as the virtuous person does (i.e. from the right motives and information, etc.). So in brief, Aristotle's answer to your question would be that human flourishing consists in being virtuous and having the things necessary (sometimes called "external goods") to acting in accordance with that virtue.

Many contemporary philosophers continue to think that the account Aristotle gives is the correct account, and so in this case, Aristotle's views remain as current as when he first expressed them.

Maybe you should read a little more Aristotle. Book I of the Nicomachean Ethics deals directly with this issue. So does the end of Book IV of Plato's Republic , from a somewhat different perspective. Plato also has Socrates talk about what it means to value "the most important things" in the Apology (see 22d-e, and then his famous statement about what makes life worth living at 38a). This same viewpoint may be echoed somewhat in the famous "intellectualism" of the last book of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics . To make a very clumsy summary of Aristotle: human beings are, for him, rational animals. That means that what is good for us will include what is good for all animals (such as nutrition and so on) but must also include something of the life of the mind. He thinks that human flurishing will be realized in acting in accordance with a rational principle, which is to say acting virtuosly--by which he does not simply mean doing what the virtuous person does, but doing it ...

Is it possible to strike a balance between being content and being ambitious?

Is it possible to strike a balance between being content and being ambitious? Both are desirable qualities but aren't these mutually exclusive?

I don't see the incompatibility, to be honest. I think you are thinking in terms of results rather than in terms of processes, and I think that those who tend to think in terms of results rather than processes are quite likely to lose most of the value in life that is available to them. Yes, one probably cannot achieve the results of ambition and also not be motivated to pursue those results. But why cannot one be content with a life that is shaped around trying to become better at something?

When I was younger, I was an avid volleyball player. I was always working very hard to become better. Truth is, I was never really tall enough to be really good (I topped at at a meager 5'11''). But I sure enjoyed doing what it took to be the best player I could be. I actually enjoyed practicing with my team even more than the tournaments we played (and I played with a good enough team that we often won at tournaments). Was I content with practicing and working hard to get better. You betcha! Was I also ambitious to become better. Absolutely! So the goal was to get better, and the process was all that practicing--and I was content (until an injury finished me off--sigh!).

I don't see the incompatibility, to be honest. I think you are thinking in terms of results rather than in terms of processes , and I think that those who tend to think in terms of results rather than processes are quite likely to lose most of the value in life that is available to them. Yes, one probably cannot achieve the results of ambition and also not be motivated to pursue those results. But why cannot one be content with a life that is shaped around trying to become better at something? When I was younger, I was an avid volleyball player. I was always working very hard to become better. Truth is, I was never really tall enough to be really good (I topped at at a meager 5'11''). But I sure enjoyed doing what it took to be the best player I could be. I actually enjoyed practicing with my team even more than the tournaments we played (and I played with a good enough team that we often won at tournaments). Was I content with practicing and working hard to get better. You betcha! ...

Doesn't the fact that prostitution is illegal imply that pleasure is not a

Doesn't the fact that prostitution is illegal imply that pleasure is not a considered a legitimate and significant moral good? Prostitutes are said to be people who provide nothing of value to society. Nothing of value? Really? Perhaps this is because our society has a deontological system of values? In a utilitarian standpoint wouldn't it not only be moral to make prostitution legal wouldn't it in fact be extremely immoral to make it illegal since sex is extremely pleasurable and in a utilitarian calculus more pleasure equals more good?

I don't think the illegality of prostitution has direct implications for whether or not we think pleasure is a moral good. We might think that pleasure is a moral good, but might ban an activity that promotes short term pleasure because we think (rightly or wrongly) that it results in a long term overall reduction in pleasure. So, even a group of hedonist utilitarians might ban prostitution if they think (correctly or incorrectly) that it spreads STDs too much (including deadly STDs) thereby producing a net decrease in overall long term pleasure.

Someone might also be in favor of banning prostitution because they think pleasure is of genuine worth, but merely of less worth than other goods (virtue, stable family relationships, etc.). You may also recall that Mill's version of utilitarianism weighs the 'quality' of pleasure and not just the 'quantity'. So, someone might think (correctly or incorrectly) that physical pleasure is of a lower quality than other pleasures and therefore should be weighed less.

I think the very complex pattern of the worldwide laws (and lack of laws) concerning prostitution does not fit the explanation offered by Nicholas Smith. If you look at the information concerning the legality of prostitution in 100 different countries at: http://prostitution.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000772 you will see that there prostitution is illegal in places that have never even had a widespread religious concept of 'sin' such as China, India, North Korea, and Thailand. At the same time, it is legal in many places where a high percentage of people identify themselves with traditional religions that view prostitution as 'sinful/religiously unacceptable' including Turkey, Italy, Poland, and Greece (though perhaps, high religious identification in these places does not entail that people think it is appropriate to legally enforce the morals of these religions). In any case, I think a better explanation for why prostitution is illegal in such a strange assortment of places (and not in others) depends on whether or not people judge it to be causing unacceptable harm. For example, despite the complete lack of anything like 'puritanical motivations' in Thailand, it is not difficult for people to see that the widespread prostitution there has harmed lots of people (such as women involuntarily trapped in the 'sex-trade') and has been responsible for spreading a lot of disease. Perhaps, even the religious values that often motivate attitudes against prostitution are ultimately grounded in the belief that it harms individuals and society in a tangible way.

I think the historical fact of the matter is that prostitution is illegal (where it is illegal, which is not everywhere--there are lots of places where it is quite legal, including a few places in the US) is because from a religious point of view prostitution involved adultery, and adultery is regarded as a sin. We have lots and lots of laws with the idea of sin as their basis of origin, some of which even non-religious people would accept (e.g. laws against murder), and some of which non-religious people are increasingly opposed to, because their sole moral basis is in religious doctrine of some sort (e.g. laws against various kinds of sex acts between consenting adults). In some cases, people have found some secular reasons to give support for keeping laws that had the concept of sin as their historical basis (for example, what are called "blue laws," against the sale of alcoholic beverages on Sundays). So the question really is whether there are good non-religious reasons for keeping prostitution...

As the Lays Potato chip ad goes, "bet you can't just eat one." Yet I will

As the Lays Potato chip ad goes, "bet you can't just eat one." Yet I will sometimes find myself eating potato chips even when they no longer taste good. Why do we continue to desire things that when they no longer give us pleasure?

I think that what philosophers call "moral psychology" (the analysis of why people act as they do, where by "act" we mean behavior that is voluntary, rather than involuntary) would hold that the relevant factors here are a bit more complex. Some eating is, as you suggest, simply a matter of pursuing the pleasures of taste. But the whole notion of "comfort food," for example (which which I hope you are familiar) adds yet another factor--namely, that eating some foods provides us with a sense of comfort that is at least somewhat independent from the special pleasures of taste. Eating can also be habitual, and the very act of eating (even when we are not hungry or not enjoying the taste of what we are eating) can provide us with a sense of well-being. In brief, then, I think the explanation of why we pursue things even when they no longer give us pleasure will probably be very complex indeed, because our psychologies of desire are not as simple as just pleasure-seeking of a single, simple kind.

I think that what philosophers call "moral psychology" (the analysis of why people act as they do, where by "act" we mean behavior that is voluntary, rather than involuntary) would hold that the relevant factors here are a bit more complex. Some eating is, as you suggest, simply a matter of pursuing the pleasures of taste. But the whole notion of "comfort food," for example (which which I hope you are familiar) adds yet another factor--namely, that eating some foods provides us with a sense of comfort that is at least somewhat independent from the special pleasures of taste. Eating can also be habitual, and the very act of eating (even when we are not hungry or not enjoying the taste of what we are eating) can provide us with a sense of well-being. In brief, then, I think the explanation of why we pursue things even when they no longer give us pleasure will probably be very complex indeed, because our psychologies of desire are not as simple as just pleasure-seeking of a single, simple kind.

Why does it always seem that inner beauty, or beauty in personality and

Why does it always seem that inner beauty, or beauty in personality and character is more often believed to be more beautiful than just outer beauty? As such, you will hear people saying, "I'd rather have an ugly wife with a beautiful soul than a gorgeous woman with an ugly soul?" Should this kind of attitude towards beauty be followed?

It doesn't look that way to me!

OK, seriously, then...

I think we are doing just a little bit of apples and oranges here. I would certainly rather spend the rest of my life with someone who was decent and kind and patient and nururing and... (we can see where this is going), than someone who was all of the opposites of these, but physically attractive. But I don't think this is correctly depicted as an "attitude towards beauty." Good ethical/moral/social characteristics can make someone attractive in these ways (ethically/morally/socially), but do not make someone attractive in that way (physically). So if we must talk about "inner" and "outer" beauty, then let's be clear that we are talking about two completely distinct qualities or characteristics, and these qualities are not really commensurable--each has its own value and counts as more important in some areas of endeavor. Physical attractiveness has been shown to be a significant benefit in career advancement, social success, and is obviously advantageous in the area of opportunities in finding a mate. People who are physically attractive and generally also seen to be more intelligent, more successful, and generally better in every way in which we all try to do well. Having a "beautiful soul" is a great advantage in some ways, but doesn't do all that well in a job interview or at the local bar on Friday night.

What does seems to be right here is something that I will try not to overstate, because the platitudes about the greater beauty of "inner" beauty always seem to me to overstate the case. But I do think that something interesting does happen when we identify someone else as having "inner beauty," and that is that whatever physical defects they may have deem to become less important (even to the point of invisibility), and we may also found ourselves becoming more attracted to such a person (physically) than we were at first glance. People in long-term relationships typically get to the point where they would actually find it difficult to appraise (as if at first glance) the "objective" attractiveness of their partners, because such a judgment becomes inseparable from the whole picture of that partner and his or her role in their partner's life. In other words, long-term, it is the "inner" beauty that comes to matter in a relationship, and this can actually have some influence over the way we respond to whatever the "outer" may present.

It doesn't look that way to me! OK, seriously, then... I think we are doing just a little bit of apples and oranges here. I would certainly rather spend the rest of my life with someone who was decent and kind and patient and nururing and... (we can see where this is going), than someone who was all of the opposites of these, but physically attractive. But I don't think this is correctly depicted as an "attitude towards beauty." Good ethical/moral/social characteristics can make someone attractive in these ways (ethically/morally/socially), but do not make someone attractive in that way (physically). So if we must talk about "inner" and "outer" beauty, then let's be clear that we are talking about two completely distinct qualities or characteristics, and these qualities are not really commensurable--each has its own value and counts as more important in some areas of endeavor. Physical attractiveness has been shown to be a significant benefit in career advancement, social success,...

I was recently having a conversation with a friend about what should be the

I was recently having a conversation with a friend about what should be the ultimate goal of life. I suggested that happiness (although this was not strictly defined) may be one of the most worthy goals to aim for in life since it is not a means to anything else but an end in itself. In response my friend argued that if happiness were to be the ultimate goal of someone's life then it would be best achieved by taking a 'happiness' drug or otherwise stimulating the brain in such a way as to induce a state of perpetual happiness. Although this seemed inherently wrong to me it nevertheless seemed to fulfill my criteria of the purpose of a life. It is an important point to bear in mind when answering this question that my friend tends to offer explanations in terms of reductionist science. He is an undergraduate biologist and for him even emotions, such as happiness, can be simply reduced down to chemical reactions and electrical impulses. As a result it seems to me that if happiness is seen in these...

Most philosophers (including several you have no doubt heard of, such as Plato and Aristotle) who have thought that happiness was the appropriate goal of a good life have not understood the goal they had in mind as a purely subjective state, so I would encourage you and your friend to consider the possibility that it is not simply feeling happy that matters, but actually being a certain way.

Consider the case of a drug addict who is provided a lifetime supply of his or her drug of choice. If you wish, imagine miraculously finding a way to ensure that the addict's life and physical health would in no way be threatened--his or her expected life span would not be shortened, nor would the lifelong addiction threaten the addict's physical health in any way. In short, the addict could go through life high as a kite with all other necessities provided with indemnity against any of the usual deliterious affects of drug-addiction.

The case I am asking you to imagine is probably impossible on various grounds, for it is plainly impossible to remove all of the negative effects of going around high all the time, but anyway consider at least some period of time during which the addict is high all the time and well protected against the usual bad effects associated with drug use. Is that person happy?

In the purely subjective sense of happy, I think we have to say that such a person would be happy--maybe even supremely so. But if this subjective sense were all that mattered, why do we recoil from wishing for ourselves such a life? Why is it that we find ourselves preferring lives in which our entertainments, engagements, and activities include much more than simply sitting in a delighted stupor all the time? If such a person is really more happy as a result of the constant subjective happiness he or she feels, why would we prefer our admittedly less happy (subjectively) lives to their's?

This sort of example seems to me to show either that "happiness" is not actually what we have in mind as an ultimate goal, or else that the correct understanding of what it means to be truly happy must include both an objective as well as a subjective element. I do not wish to suggest that a subjective sense of happiness is unimportant or irrelevant. Rather, I am proposing that this is not by itself enough--that some objective conditions that wwe regard as choiceworthy must also be included in the correct and fully adequate sense of what our life goal should be. We wish to lead lives that sensible people would wish to emulate. That is why some philosophers and scholars have suggested that the sense of "happiness" we should be considering for such questions ought to be something like "well-being" or perhaps "human flourishing," both of which seem to require subjective and objective success.

I hope this helps!

Most philosophers (including several you have no doubt heard of, such as Plato and Aristotle) who have thought that happiness was the appropriate goal of a good life have not understood the goal they had in mind as a purely subjective state, so I would encourage you and your friend to consider the possibility that it is not simply feeling happy that matters, but actually being a certain way. Consider the case of a drug addict who is provided a lifetime supply of his or her drug of choice. If you wish, imagine miraculously finding a way to ensure that the addict's life and physical health would in no way be threatened--his or her expected life span would not be shortened, nor would the lifelong addiction threaten the addict's physical health in any way. In short, the addict could go through life high as a kite with all other necessities provided with indemnity against any of the usual deliterious affects of drug-addiction. The case I am asking you to imagine is probably impossible...

Let's say I want to justify my work or vocation by citing virtue X. (X might be

Let's say I want to justify my work or vocation by citing virtue X. (X might be practical value, social utility, human happiness, etc.) Must my particular work effect virtue X, or is it sufficient that my line of work effect X generally, my personal lack of any contribution notwithstanding. For example: Let's say I'm a scientist who, despite a great deal of effort, never discovers or creates or accomplishes anything useful. Could I justify my work by saying, "Science is useful"? (After all, even if science is useful generally, nothing I've done personally is useful.) [You can imagine analogous scenarios involving any pursuit, e.g., poetry or investment banking.]

One makes career choices on the basis of many reasons (or, in some cases, rationalizations!), but surely it cannot be required that one be able to forecast the degree to which one's own activity within the profession will succeed or fail in reaching some particular goal. Of course, when I decided to become a professional philosopher, I hoped that in some ways, my own work and thought would make a contribution to the field--but I could hardly be assured of that or take it for granted. So, it seems plain to me that one pursues a valuable activity because the activity itself is valuable--and not because one can anticipate that one's own participation in the activity will be valuable, or add value to the activity itself.

The sort of justification you seem to have in mind is retrospective: Can one really justify a life choice on the basis of the value of what is chosen, or is a life choice only justified (retrospectively) if one can show that his or her choice had produced real value within the chosen field? I can imagine one finding one's life (again, retrospectively) disappointing if one looks back and realizes that all of one's efforts have produced little of actual value. But even so, one is in no position to judge that one's efforts would have been more useful or worthwhile elsewhere, as those paths were not taken.

But I tend to think that someone who finds themselves disappointed by a certain lack of success, in retrospect, is probably measuring success too narrowly. Take your scientist, for example. Did he or she interact with the scientific community in ways that helped others make discoveries? Did he or she help others to see (or even see more clearly) the very value of scientific endeavor that led him or her into choosing a life of scientific inquiry? In his or her life as a scientist, was value added via his or her children, who could witness the parent's dedication (despite the scientist's lack of personal achievement)? Surely most people end up making some difference in the world, especially if they work in a profession that is itself valuable. So I think the question will turn out to be much less about making no difference, and will instead turn on how much difference counts. In the grand scheme of things, few of us make much of a difference in the relevant sense, and so I am very disinclined to measure the value of a human life on the basis of a measure that would count only a very few lives as actually having been worth living.

One makes career choices on the basis of many reasons (or, in some cases, rationalizations!), but surely it cannot be required that one be able to forecast the degree to which one's own activity within the profession will succeed or fail in reaching some particular goal. Of course, when I decided to become a professional philosopher, I hoped that in some ways, my own work and thought would make a contribution to the field--but I could hardly be assured of that or take it for granted. So, it seems plain to me that one pursues a valuable activity because the activity itself is valuable--and not because one can anticipate that one's own participation in the activity will be valuable, or add value to the activity itself. The sort of justification you seem to have in mind is retrospective: Can one really justify a life choice on the basis of the value of what is chosen, or is a life choice only justified (retrospectively) if one can show that his or her choice had produced real value within the...

Sometimes I feel like my life would be easier if one day, I just got on the bus

Sometimes I feel like my life would be easier if one day, I just got on the bus and went away somewhere and left everything behind - my family, my friends, my belongings, my identity, everything. It's not that my life is bad - on the contrary - it's a perfectly good life that in many ways I am extremely grateful for. But apart from the impracticalities of that action (I would most probably not be able to create a new identity successfully or be capable of supporting myself and would end up homeless), what is stopping me? What stops me from taking huge risks and following impulses? Why should I stick to what is normal, or proper, or expected? I'm not asking a psychological question - I am curious to know the philosophical elements, if there are any. Why don't most humans follow their urges?

We don't all or always follow our urges, because and when we realize (just as you have, above) that our urges would lead us to doing things that are impractical, or worse.

Let's face it: Life is not easy. Only death is easy--you can lie forever in your coffin. RIP, right? Life, on the contrary, is messy and filled with complex relationships and demands on our time. But life is wonderful precisely because of all such things. Who wants "easy" if the alternative to "easy" is having family, friends, belongings, and an identity? Most of these things we choose (or choose to sustain) precisely because--for all their messiness and all the many irritations they really do create--they make our lives more valuable, more worth living. So, yes, you could run away and (at least in theory) have it "easier." But would you really be happier, would you really be more fulfilled? Would you flourish. I don't think so... Instead, you (and most of us) choose not to follow destructive, irrational, and detrimental (to us, and to those we care about) urges. That's because we are rational in our pursuit of a good life. Enjoy the fantasy while you're on the bus, if you want. But then--you've got a life, right? If so, enjoy it! If not...get a life! (Consider the alternative...)

We don't all or always follow our urges, because and when we realize (just as you have, above) that our urges would lead us to doing things that are impractical, or worse. Let's face it: Life is not easy. Only death is easy--you can lie forever in your coffin. RIP, right? Life, on the contrary, is messy and filled with complex relationships and demands on our time. But life is wonderful precisely because of all such things. Who wants "easy" if the alternative to "easy" is having family, friends, belongings, and an identity? Most of these things we choose (or choose to sustain) precisely because--for all their messiness and all the many irritations they really do create--they make our lives more valuable, more worth living. So, yes, you could run away and (at least in theory) have it "easier." But would you really be happier, would you really be more fulfilled? Would you flourish. I don't think so... Instead, you (and most of us) choose not to follow destructive, irrational, and...

WHAT IS GOOD? DONALD S. AMHERST MA.

WHAT IS GOOD? DONALD S. AMHERST MA.

German chocolate cake is good! ;)

Kidding aside, philosophers have identified several ways of trying to answer this question, and I will allow those whose views are different from mine to provide their own replies. As for me, I am inclined to follow the view of the ancient Greeks, who supposed that there may be several sorts of goods, but that ultimately the highest good for human beings is eudaimonia (a Greek word that is difficult to translate, but which is usually translated as "happiness" or--my own preference--as "flourishing"). But what is eudaimonia? Perhaps the clearest answer to this question is given by Aristotle in Book I of the Nicomachean Ethics. There, Aristotle identifies the highest good for human beings as something that must be

(a) distinctly human (hence pleasure, though generally good, cannot be the highest good for human beings),

(b) something for the sake of which we do what we do, but which we choose for its own sake, and not only for the sake of some further thing (so Aristotle calls it a "final" end, and this is why wealth cannot be the highest good for a human being, because we pursue wealth for the sake of what we can use it to obtain)

(c) something that, once obtained, is fairly stable and not easily taken away from one (hence, transient feelings of various sorts can't be the highest goods for human beings)--this is what Aristotle calls the "self-sufficiency" condition

(d) something that is realized in activity (because what's good for a human being is mostly to be assessed in what happens when we are awake and active, and not when we are unconscious).

Surveying this list of conditions, Aristotle decides that the highest good for human beings is activity in accordance with a rational principle (that within us by which we make deliberate and intelligent judgments and choices), or--in his theory, the same thing--activity in accordance with virtue or excellence.

Aristotle says that if we live our lives in such a way as to pursue this (eudaimonia) in intelligent and prudent ways, we will live the best lives possible.

Sounds good to me!

German chocolate cake is good! ;) Kidding aside, philosophers have identified several ways of trying to answer this question, and I will allow those whose views are different from mine to provide their own replies. As for me, I am inclined to follow the view of the ancient Greeks, who supposed that there may be several sorts of goods, but that ultimately the highest good for human beings is eudaimonia (a Greek word that is difficult to translate, but which is usually translated as "happiness" or--my own preference--as "flourishing"). But what is eudaimonia? Perhaps the clearest answer to this question is given by Aristotle in Book I of the Nicomachean Ethics . There, Aristotle identifies the highest good for human beings as something that must be (a) distinctly human (hence pleasure, though generally good, cannot be the highest good for human beings), (b) something for the sake of which we do what we do, but which we choose for its own sake, and not only for the sake of some...

One virtue that I see in people I admire is curiosity. As far as I know, it was

One virtue that I see in people I admire is curiosity. As far as I know, it was not a classical virtue, and its only appearances in the Bible resulted in someone being expelled from the garden or turned into a pillar of salt. What do ethical philosophers have to say about curiosity?

I agree that curiosity is a great virtue, but I disagree that it was not a classical virtue. You are simply looking at the wrong "classics"!

It is no surprise that curiosity is treated with suspicion (at best) in religious works whose whole goal is to get the reader to follow certain dogmas or patterns of thought. Curiosity is the very thing that overturns dogmas and questions all authorities, and those promoting dogmas and authority (usually their own) know this well.

But not all "classical works" were devoted to the promotion and maintenance of special dogmas or authorities. Have a look at ancient Greek philosophy, and see what they say about (and how much they exemplify) this great virtue of curiosity. Specifically, look through a book on the presocratic philosophers and ask yourself how curious they must have been, to come up with such theories to explain the world around them. Read Plato's Apology and find out how Socrates dedicated (and ultimately forfeited) his life in pursuit of his curiosity. Read Plato's Symposium and Phaedrus in which the curiosity that drives philosophy is characterized as powered by Eros, the most profound desire we experience. Have a look at Aristotle's Metaphysics I.2, in which Aristotle proclaims that "philosophy begins in wonder."

One of the best things about curiosity, I think--and what all of the ancient Greeks understood about it, often quite explicitly--is that it consists, in part, in the recognition of one's own ignorance. I wouldn't be curious about something if I already thought I knew everything I need to know about it. When Aristotle says that philosophy begins in wonder, he means that philosophy begins with a sense that there is something to wonder about, which we don't do with things we presume ourselves already to know completely. This is why religious texts do not generally promote curiosity--because they are peddling their doctrines as already known and thus not to be questioned. But philosophy (including ancient Greek philosophy) begins in wonder-- in curiosity--which involves a recognition that we do not know. And because we do not, but want to, know, we begin to ask curious questions.

And some of us still wonder, just as Thales (the first Greek philosopher) did, just as Socrates and Plato did, and just as Aristotle did. Some of us are still curious, and we promote this great and deeply human (even wonder-ful) virtue every chance we get.

I agree that curiosity is a great virtue, but I disagree that it was not a classical virtue. You are simply looking at the wrong "classics"! It is no surprise that curiosity is treated with suspicion (at best) in religious works whose whole goal is to get the reader to follow certain dogmas or patterns of thought. Curiosity is the very thing that overturns dogmas and questions all authorities, and those promoting dogmas and authority (usually their own) know this well. But not all "classical works" were devoted to the promotion and maintenance of special dogmas or authorities. Have a look at ancient Greek philosophy, and see what they say about (and how much they exemplify) this great virtue of curiosity. Specifically, look through a book on the presocratic philosophers and ask yourself how curious they must have been, to come up with such theories to explain the world around them. Read Plato's Apology and find out how Socrates dedicated (and ultimately forfeited) his life in...

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