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Outline and Illustrate Aristotle(TM)s account of voluntary action and responsibility

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Introduction

Assess Aristotle's claim that man has a function Aristotle believes that man has a function in life. In Book I, chapter 7, he states the following: "...if the function of man is an activity of the soul in accordance with, or implying, a rational principle; and if we hold that the function an individual and of a good individual of the same kind - e.g. of a harpist and of a good harpist and so on generally - is generically the same, the latter's distinctive excellence being attached to the name of the function (because the function of the harpist is to play the harp, but that of the good harpist is to play it well); and if we assume that the function of man is a kind of life, namely, an activity or series of actions of the soul, implying a rational principle; and if the function of a good man is to perform these well and rightly; and if every function is performed well when performed in accordance with its proper excellence: if this is all so, the conclusion is that the good for man is an activity of the soul in accordance with virtue, or if there are more kinds of virtue than one, in accordance with the best and most perfect kind." ...read more.

Middle

but this does not add anything factual to it. In comparison, the function of our eyes give us the ability to perceive the world but this adds nothing factually to simply saying that our eyes causes us to perceive. When we speak about function we give it a normative status to causation but this is subjective to every individual. This works for all teleological ideas and it reflects our own interests. As for teleological arguments, they can only be defended, mainly, by religion and also by anthropomorphic ideas of nature. For example, Thomas Aquinas believed that natural law was not made up by humans but rather an unchanging rule or pattern which is there for human beings to discover. Aquinas says that natural law is so complex that it had to have been designed by a higher power and he stated that the only plausible answer is God. However, using God as the answer to the existence and aim of human beings is a weak argument. Jean-Paul Sartre believes in the concept that "existence precedes essence" and that the idea that existence precedes essence means that a human being, as well as human reality, exists prior to any concepts of values or morals. ...read more.

Conclusion

For example, we can gamble, give to charity, make art and become intoxicated by drugs but that does not mean that any of these are our functions. On what grounds does Aristotle use that animals cannot use reason? Surely what we call "reason" is no more than instinctive response but on a conscious level than any action in the animal kingdom. Aristotle could simply argue that these are all examples of humans not using their reason well because a tyrant, terrorist or gambler is using their reason but not in conjunction with their virtues. A good example of this would be the terrorist Osama bin Laden who thought he was doing good for the world where in reality he was creating devastation. In conclusion, although Aristotle's belief of man's function in life gives us as human beings something to aim for (eudaimonia) it does not mean that man definitely has a function in life. Just because our organs work in a certain way does not mean our body must work towards something, and if our bodies are indeed working towards something then why must it be towards eudaimonia? As Sartre says, our function could be made up as we go through life. Why must we live life according to reason? Also, why must it just be reason we function upon? It is these questions that pose a problem to Aristotle's function argument and therefore make his claim flawed. ...read more.

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