PHIL 181 - Lecture 6 - The Disordered Soul: Thémis and PTSD

Lecture 6 - The Disordered Soul: Thémis and PTSD


Professor Gendler introduces Aristotle’s conception of virtue as a structuring one’s life so that one’s instinctive responses line up with one’s reflective commitments. Becoming virtuous, according to Aristotle, requires that we engage in a process of habituation by acting as if we were virtuous, just as musicians master their instruments by playing them. By contrast, when one’s behavior or experience is out of line with one’s reflective commitments, dissonance ensues. Exemplifying this dissonance are Vietnam veterans with PTSD, whose experiences author Jonathan Shay relates to those of the Greek soldiers in the Iliad. In both cases, the reflective commitment to “what’s right”, or themis, is betrayed by some commanding officers; the consequence is a loss of the possibility of social trust.



Shay, Achilles in Vietnam, Introduction, Ch. 1, 2, 11 and Conclusion (pp. xiii-xxiii, 3-38, 183-209)

Homer, The Iliad

Milgram, “Behavioral study of obedience,” pp. 371-378

Shay, Achilles in Vietnam, Ch. 3, 5, & 7

Course Media





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