PHIL 181: Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature

Lecture 26

 - Concluding Lecture


In this concluding lecture, Professor Gendler charts four paths through the course. The first path traces how the course’s three main goals were realized: the goals of introducing students to the discipline of Philosophy though a number of central texts; of considering certain central questions raised by those philosophical texts in light of alternative approaches from related disciplines; and of considering more generally the how various disciplines might provide complementary perspectives on important questions. The second path traces how students’ understanding of the main course topics-–happiness and flourishing; morality; and political legitimacy and social structures–might have changed over the course of the semester. The third path traces the course’s main topics in light of three themes that unify the material-–the multi-part soul; luck and control; and the relation between the individual and society. And the fourth path looks at the course in light of three three central quotations, from Plato, Aristotle and Epictetus.

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Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature

PHIL 181 - Lecture 26 - Concluding Lecture

Chapter 1. Three Goals of the Course [00:00:00]

So where are we? Well it’s the closing lecture. When we first started gathering in this room three and a bit months ago, there was a photo essay in the Yale Daily News with snow everywhere. On January 13, when our second meeting began, campus looked like this, and this, and this, and this, and this. Whereas exactly three months later, the Yale Daily News ran a photo essay with this, and this, and this, and this, and this, and this. It’s spring. And we’re done. What did we do? Well we started with Plato’s Republic and we ended with Plato’s Republic. The seasons changed. We, in some ways, performed an intricate reading of one of the most foundational works in the western philosophical tradition.

So what I want to do in today’s lecture is to take you through the course, using four different paths. The first thing I want to do is to think through how it is that the course goals were realized. The goals of helping you think about how material that you learned in a lecture in Linsly-Chit might relate to material that you learned to a lecture in WLH and how that might relate to thoughts that you had in the library or ideas that came up in the context of conversations in your dining hall.

The second path I want to take through the course is to go back to the syllabus’s initial description of the three main course topics and to point out to you the way in which your understanding of those topics have changed. So we’ll look at the question of happiness and flourishing as we encountered it in the works of Plato, of Epictetus, of Csikszentmihalyi. We’ll look at the question of morality as we encountered it in the works of Kant and Mill and again in the context of trolley cases. And we’ll think about the questions of social legitimacy and political structures, both in the context of Rawls and Nozick, Hobbes, and in the context of the Prisoner’s Dilemma.

In the third part of the lecture, I want to move to three themes, which I see as having unified the course. Three central questions, each of which provides us with a way of tracing a path through our readings. The first, unsurprisingly, is the theme of the multi-part soul. The second, the theme of luck and control. And the third, the question of the relation between the individual and society. And I want to close the lecture with, what for me are the three central quotations around which I see the course as having been organized. One from Epictetus, one from Aristotle and one, which we haven’t discussed yet as a group, from the closing pages of Plato’s Republic.

So let’s start out by remembering what it said on the syllabus that the goals of the course were. The syllabus told us that the course had three goals, the first of which was to “introduce you to a number of traditional philosophical discussions that address profound questions about the human condition and to help you think about ways in which the methodology of philosophy provides insight regarding them.” And in the course of so doing, we encountered work by Plato, by Aristotle, by Epictetus, by Hobbes, by Kant, by Mill, by Judy Thomson, John Rawls and Robert Nozick. And what I tried to provide you with, in each of these cases, were the tools to make these texts your own for the rest of your life. Some of your exercises involved learning how to use the front material or the indices or the critical material that is attached to the texts. So in the case of Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics we used highly annotated editions of a kind that let you make your way into an ancient text that might be otherwise unapproachable.

In some of the cases the problem was having the terminology necessary to make sense of technical words that the author was using. And there we learned to make use of the Blackburn Dictionary of Philosophy and other resources as a way of orienting yourself in texts that seemed technical.

Sometimes the language of the text got in the way. So for many of you reading the Hobbes in the original 16th century English made it harder to understand what the concepts were. And there we learned the possibility of making use of modernizations of texts as ways of understanding them. And throughout, with the reading guides, the reading questions, the lectures and the discussions, the goal was to provide you with the tools so that for the rest of your life when you look on your shelf and you see your copy of Plato’s Republic you can open it up and learn from it on your own.

The second goal of the course was to “introduce you to related discussions of these topics from the perspective of other academic disciplines, particularly contemporary cognitive science and psychology, and to help you think about the ways in which the methodologies of those disciplines provide insights regarding these fundamental questions.” So we started our discussion of The Ring of Gyges by looking at empirical work by Daniel Batson inspired by Plato’s challenge as posed by Glaucon. When we looked at Plato and Aristotle and Epictetus on flourishing, we did so in light Jon Haidt’s Happiness Hypothesis, which brought to bear on these historical questions study after study from the contemporary psychological tradition.

When we thought about how the notion of parts of the soul is manifest in our contemporary idiom, we made use of the work of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, the heuristics and biases tradition, as a way of trying to use our vernacular to think about insights that have been part of every wisdom tradition since human civilization began. When we thought about what Plato meant by the harmonious soul and what Aristotle meant by the cultivation of habit to allow virtue to become easy, we thought about it in light of Csikszentmihalyi’s notion of flow and considered the ways in which that notion might, in a contemporary idiom, give voice to the concerns that we saw in these earlier authors.

When we thought about what the costs of a disordered soul might be, we read Jonathan Shay’s extraordinary work, Achilles in Vietnam. And we thought about the ways in which the war experience as described in Homer’s Illiad and the war experience as described by returning veterans give voice to a common human experience in the face of the loss of a certain sort of structure.

When we thought about the ways in which social activities of those around us–the inevitable human tendency conform to the demands of authority–when we thought about those questions and how they might affect people we did so in light of the work of Stanley Milgram. When we thought about how it is that we might go about cultivating virtue in ourselves we considered what implications that might have for parenting. When we thought about the question of how it is that we should explain our responses to trolley cases, we considered the question of whether the neural underpinnings with respect to activations in particular part of the brain might be doing some of the explanatory work to answer the questions with which we were concerned.

When we thought about how it is that we might make sense of questions in political philosophy and the legitimacy of the social contract, we helped ourselves to game theory’s notion of the Prisoner’s Dilemma and to the idea of the Problem of the Commons. When we considered the ways in which social structures affect us, we looked at the question of social norms and we thought about the ways in which, though we had cut a fairly wide path through one intellectual tradition, that there was a world full of other intellectual traditions which we had barely touched.

In all of these cases the goal, as with the philosophical texts, was to give you the tools and resources to make use of this sort of literature on your own in the future. You performed a directed exercise where you were given a core text and asked to find articles that cited it and articles that it cited. You were asked to take a particular article from an empirical psychological journal and to figure out what question it was asking, what alternatives it was considering, what the logic of the argument was, what the methods were that were being used, what the results were and what the implications were. And then you were asked to come up with your own experimental design, having thought through, in the case of someone else’s study, what a study might look like.

The goal of this was not only to introduce you to a broad swath of psychological literature, but also to let you know that this too is a body of intellectual resources, which is at your disposal for the rest of your life.

The third goal of the course was to help you to think about your own education in a synthetic way by “encouraging you to be sensitive to how insights from one academic or other contexts might be echoed or illuminated by insights from another.” This course is a case study, a model, an exemplar, for how it’s possible to look at a problem from multiple perspectives. And your final exercise, which asks you to think about, for a question that concerns you, how you might bring multiple perspectives to bear on it, is an attempt to get you to think, for the rest of your time at Yale and the rest of your time on this planet, in a synthetic way. To think about the range of courses and choices that are available to you as being interrelated in exploring the fundamental question that defined human experience. So that’s path one through the course. Three goals. Three skills.

Chapter 2. How One’s Understanding of the Course Themes has Changed [00:13:11]

Path number two looked at three fundamental, substantive, questions. The question of what can be said, at least in the context of the Western tradition and perhaps beyond, about the conditions under which authentic happiness and true flourishing are possible. The second was the question of what sorts of demands morality makes on us. And the third was the question of political legitimacy and social structures and the ways that those affect us. So if you look back at your syllabus you will see that the set of questions which we aim to explore there are the set of questions which we actually explored.

In the context of happiness and flourishing, we ask ourselves how we might think about Plato’s suggestion that the human soul has various parts in light of contemporary work in psychology. And we explored, not only Plato’s idea that we are composed of a reasonable part, a spirited, and an appetitive part, but looked also at numerous manifestations of what’s now known as the dual processing tradition. And we’ll talk more about that when we talk about the organizing themes.

We asked ourselves how Plato’s and Aristotle’s discussion of the importance of friendship and human attachment are echoed in recent discussions of human happiness and flourishing. And sadly because of the weather that lecture was somewhat abbreviated. I promise next year when I do the class to do it in more detail and you’re all invited back, if you’re on campus, to hear that. We asked ourselves how the basic ideas of the stoic philosopher Epictetus are reflected in modern therapeutic practices. And we recognized that the central insights he has–of recognizing what is and isn’t in your control and of realizing that one can set one’s desires in such a way that the world feels more cooperative–lies at the center of modern therapeutic practice. And we read in this context the amazingly moving words of Admiral Stockdale describing the ways in which the words of Epictetus enabled him to survive and even flourish the degrading conditions of a prisoner of war camp in Vietnam.

We asked ourselves how Aristotle’s discussion of weakness of the will–what he calls akrasia–connects with current discussions of procrastination and how to avoid it. And we presented ourselves with various resources for structuring our external and internal environment in such a way that our reflective commitments could be what guided our practice, rather than our untrained habits.

And we asked ourselves how Aristotle’s reflections about the role of habit in cultivating virtue are reflected in 20th century and 21st century parenting manuals. All of those were questions that we considered in the context of happiness and flourishing. All of those were words on a syllabus page, whose significance to you three months ago was, I hope, less than it is now. All of these are questions worth asking yourself for the rest of your life.

In the context of our discussion of morality, we asked ourselves what are the basic tenets of the fundamental moral theories, which compose the Western tradition: Aristotelian virtue ethics, Kantian deontology and Millian consequentialism. We set aside, for the purposes of this course, a fourth very important strand that grounds morality in religion. But we have, as a result of having thought through the questions, what assumptions do these theories make about human nature and about the role of morality, the tools to think about even moral theories that we didn’t consider. We looked for differences in the moral theories, the ways in which they emphasize consequence or actor or character. We looked at similarities among the moral theories, the ways in which they stressed the importance of overcoming a certain kind of first-person exceptionalism. We looked at the ways in which these moral theories deal with the gap between intention and outcome. And we looked at the ways in which these moral theories do and don’t provide different answers to particular normative questions.

We went on to ask ourselves, in the context of our discussion of morality, how recent experimental work on moral intuition, particularly discussions of the Trolley Problem but also discussions of related cases, relates to traditional philosophical discussions of morality. And how this work connects with contemporary work in neuroscience and related work in cognitive and social psychology. And through the discovery that it was extraordinarily difficult to come up with systematic explanations for why it is that our intuitions were pulling us one way in one case and another way in other cases, we came to realize how challenging it is to come up with a systematic theory, and thereby gained further insight on our original question about the structure and complexity of the human soul.

And we thought about, in the context of our discussion of morality, the relation between moral responsibility and luck. Recognizing, perhaps in the most profound way, that some things are up to us and some things are not. And that the relation between good intentions and good outcomes, bad intentions and bad outcomes, are not as tight as we might wish they would be.

And we asked ourselves, finally in this context, when punishment might be justified and what moral political and psychological role it plays as a way of thinking about the counterpart of the moral question. And we learned thereby that one of the ways of thinking about how things should go when they go right is to think about how things should go when they go wrong. And thereby we gained another tool for thinking about a set of fundamental questions. Like the questions about happiness and flourishing, these are questions to ask for the rest of your life.

In the third part of the course we asked a question about the role of social structures in allowing human flourishing and moral behavior. And we actually previewed this part of the course back in the beginning section. We asked ourselves what the experience of Greek soldiers in the Trojan War and the experience of American soldiers in the Vietnam War tells us about the role of social order, thēmis, in allowing human beings to function effectively. And we, through that and through the discussion of Stanley Milgram’s work, got our first hint of the ways in which much of what we are and much of how we act is determined, not merely by things inside ourselves but also by the communal structures with which we are surrounded. And that makes all the more pressing, the set of questions that we asked in the final unit of the course. Inspired by Plato’s opening analogy, that to understand the structure of the human soul we must understand the structure of society. And to understand the structure of society we must understand the structure of the human soul. And we asked ourselves how it is that the fact that we are simultaneously desirous of possessing objects that others possess and desirous of being able to be in a position of security with respect to that to which we have become attached, we discovered that there was a mathematical representation, game theory’s notion of the Prisoner’s Dilemma, that could illuminate Plato’s discussion in the opening pages of book two of the Republic and Hobbes’s discussion in chapter thirteen of Leviathan of the ways in which social structures come into being legitimately.

We then went on to ask ourselves, looking at two central texts in the 20th century Western political philosophical tradition, how the work of John Rawls and Robert Nozick bring out the importance of what, in many cases, seem to be two competing considerations. Considerations of equality, on the one hand in the work of Rawls, and of liberty on the other, in the work of Nozick, in structuring a just and legitimate society. And we asked ourselves how work in social psychology and behavioral economics might shed additional light on these fundamental questions.

And we asked ourselves finally, in our discussion of norms and basic social structures and censorship, what the proper role for non-rational means of persuasion, including mass cultural influences such as cinema, television and music, is in a democratic society. And we noticed, in an uncanny way, that Dan Quayle’s remarks about Murphy Brown and the Madden video games’ views about displaying concussions in online gaming were echoing almost verbatim the words of Plato from book ten of the Republic when he discussed poetry and censorship. So that’s our second path through the course. The three fundamental themes that we identified, the sub-questions that we asked with respect to each of them, and the encouragement to all of you to keep asking yourselves those questions.

Chapter 3. Three Unifying Themes of the Course [00:25:07]

Path number three: three organizing themes. And I will, because I don’t want them to go to waste twice during this section, ask you to use for the very last time in this course, your clickers. So if you’ll take them out for a slide about four slides from now and then a couple of slides after that.

You will recall that we began our discussion of parts of the soul with Plato’s famous story of Leontius. He writes in the Republic of “Leontious, the son of Aglaion, who was going up from the Piraeus along the outside of the north wall of the city when he saw some corpses lying at the executioner’s feet. He had an appetite to look at them but at the same time was disgusted and turned away. For a time,” writes Plato, “he struggled with himself and covered his face. But finally, overpowered by appetite he pushed his eyes wide open and rushed towards the corpses saying, look for yourselves you evil wretches. Take your fill of the beautiful sight.”

Tempted by corpses, perhaps we are not. Tempted by contemporary analogs thereof, perhaps we are. And we introduced ourselves, as a tool for thinking about this, to George Ainsle’s idea of hyperbolic discounting, whereby a smaller, sooner reward, one that from a distance doesn’t seem as valuable as our ultimate reward, comes as the result of the way in which we relate to value over time to seem more valuable to us at a moment of decision making. So even if your goal is to spend the weekend preparing for exams, and even if now, from the perspective of Thursday, the larger, later reward looms greater in your mind, there is–let me remind you–the risk that as you move closer the curves will cross and you will find yourself consuming the smaller, sooner reward and losing the larger, later one.

We talked about this in the context of this class, where more than 50% of you committed to turning off the Internet, either completely or restricting your Internet usage in some way in the context of class. And I asked you on January 25th, back when the snow still covered the ground, how successful you had been. And at that time, of those of you who had committed yourself to some sort of restriction, 56% of you had strayed not even an itty-bitty bit. 25% had strayed just once or twice. 8% said, well a few times but I’m trying. And 11% of you had fallen off the wagon.

So the first clicker question, I’ll ask only for those of you who made some sort of commitment to yourself, is how did it work out? If you had the internet pledge, did you stray, one, not even once; two, a few times but not very often; three, pretty regularly but not all the time; or four, if for example you’re closing Facebook now and looking for your clicker, you might want to push yep. So let’s see in the next 10 seconds how our numbers came out in comparison to where we were at the beginning of the semester.

So of those of you who took the Internet pledge, 30% of you kept it tightly. From all 30% of you, the rest of us want advice. Why did it work? What did you do? What enabled you to carry through with your commitments? Another third of you strayed a few times but not very often. But nearly 50% of you, despite having resolved to do something, were unable to carry through on your commitments.

One of the goals of this course is to remind you that both in the Ancient tradition and in the modern dual processing tradition, there are theoretical frameworks for understanding why it is that we often find ourselves not carrying through on what we were committing to and how it is that we might structure our experience and our surroundings in such a way that that becomes easier. So that’s one of the ways in which we thought about the question of the soul having parts in this course.

We also thought about the question of the soul having parts in this course as a rather profound challenge to methodology in any discipline. We observed, in the context of the heuristics and biases tradition, that there are cases where we are faced with choices where we know what the right choice is and we are pulled one way by one sort of instinct and another way by another. So for example, in what are called frequency/probability cases, where, for instance, your goal is to choose from the box where you have the greatest likelihood of drawing a red ball. And one of the boxes has one red ball and nine white ones– a 10% chance–whereas the other box has 8 red balls and 92 white ones–an 8% chance. We know that there is a tendency, when under cognitive load or when exhausted, to be pulled towards frequency– the presence of eight red balls over here–as opposed to probability–the 10% case over here. But we also know that when we’re pulled towards frequency rather than probability in that case, we’re making a mistake.

In other of the cases that we considered, it’s not so easy to know which answer is the one that we reflectively endorse. We were presented twice in the course with Kahneman and Tversky’s famous disease problem. A terrible disease has struck 600 people in your town, you’re the mayor and two courses of treatment are available: plan A and plan B. It turns out that the plans are identical. But plan A is described as a plan where 200 people of the 600 will live. Whereas plan B, in the second case is described as one where 400 of the 600 people will die. And so too with the probabilistic determinations of them.

But here are the data that you as a class provided. Those of you who faced the green description of the choice between A and B were 2/3 of the time preferring plan A. Those of you who faced the blue description of the choice between plan A and plan B, the one that phrased it in terms of 400 deaths rather than 200 lives saved, showed exactly an inverse proportion of responses. But in contrast to the frequency/probability case it’s not clear what the right way to frame a question of decision-making under certainty versus uncertainty is. Should we think about how many will live? Should we think about how many will die? Which framing is the right one isn’t so obvious.

And this problem persisted as we over and over again, in the context of our trolley discussions, found ourselves giving different sorts of responses to cases that were theoretically challenging to distinguish. So only 15% of you thought it was prohibited to turn the trolley in the case of bystander. Whereas 78% of you thought it was prohibited to have the trolley hit the fat man in that version of the scenario.

We faced it again in the context of our ducking and shielding cases. Almost all of you thought it was fine, if a bear was approaching you, to move out of the way even if the inevitable consequence was that the bear harmed the person behind you. But almost none of you thought it was acceptable, if a bear is running towards you, to take the person from behind you and put them in front of you as a shield. Does that difference track something real? Or are those just the different responses that the different parts of the soul gives? Again and again we confronted this when we thought about ways in which we should use not reason, but habit as a method for regulating behavior. When we thought about flow as a state of the harmonious soul, where the parts of the soul that can be pulling us in different directions might come together.

In the context of the role and justification of punishment, where we asked ourselves whether there is any rational justification for retribution, or whether that only concerns something which, on reflection, we don’t endorse. We asked ourselves about the relation among parts of the soul in the context of our discussions last week of the influences of fiction, of norms, and other forms of non-rational persuasion in shaping our lives. And we asked ourselves about it tacitly every single day of this course when we thought about the difficulty, or perhaps impossibility given our complexity, of reconciling our intuitive and reflective responses and reaching what Rawls calls reflective equilibrium.

That it is difficult to bring principles and practice together, that it is difficult to bring systematic understanding to particular cases, does not mean that it is not worth trying. But that we discover ourselves repeatedly frustrated by it may in itself bring philosophical lessons. That’s theme of the course one: parts of the soul.

Theme of the course two: luck, control and circumstances. We presented ourselves as a paradigm case to hold on to with the contrast between two kinds of characters. On the one hand, Lucky Alert and Lucky Cell Phone. One, a person who did nothing wrong drove home and harmed no one. The second, a person who perhaps did something risky, drove home and harmed no one. And we contrasted those cases with their unlucky counterparts, who on their way home, following exactly the same course ended up, through no efforts of their own, harming a child. And when I surveyed you about this in March, almost all of you thought that lucky alert had done nothing morally problematic. 97% of you answered that he did not do something morally blameworthy.

In the case of Unlucky Alert, even though he brought about a harm, still 81% of you were willing to grant him full moral exculpation. But–and I’m going to retest you on this in a moment–when I asked you on March 3rd whether Lucky Cell Phone, somebody who did a slightly risky thing with no harmful consequences had done something morally culpable, 78% of you said that he did. An answer roughly, though not as extremely, in line with your answer to the question about whether Unlucky Cell Phone did something morally culpable, which 92% of you answered yes to.

So I’m curious, because these results perplexed me so, whether another six weeks of thinking about moral luck has changed your views. So question, our old friend Unlucky Alert–the one talking on his cell phone who drives home and harms no one–Unlucky Alert you, who take risks in your life every day, risks which could cause consequences that if they occurred, you might regret that you hadn’t taken precaution. In so doing, oh holders of clickers, do you do something morally blameworthy?

And let’s see how these numbers come out. So in contrast to your previous assessment, where in the case of Unlucky Alert, 81% of you thought he did something morally blameworthy, now only 36% of you do. Why? I don’t know. But it’s worth thinking about why that happened. Let’s contrast this with the case of Lucky Cell Phone. Sorry, I just asked you the question about Lucky Alert and put up the question and articulated the question of Lucky Cell Phone. My data are distorted and I’m going to have to skip this question. So I ask you to ask yourselves at home what you think about these cases. But because I misphrased things I need to go on to the next point. Although those are some nice numbers. What question they’re in answer to will remain a topic for future research.

Alright, there has been–I have only six minutes remaining so I want to talk quickly–a fundamental and recurring puzzle that we faced in this class. Determining what is and isn’t in our control regarding our attribution of praise and blame in cases of unintended outcome. Resolving the role of what is and isn’t in our control in our own internal reactions to events. In our recognition of the degree to which we’re shaped by our societal circumstances, as explored by Aristotle and Doris and Shay and Milgram and the WEIRD studies and Sunstein and Plato and exploring the ways in which this should be normatively factored in, both politically and morally. That’s theme number two.

Theme number three: individual and society. Sometimes things which are OK to do if you are the only one doing them become problematic if many others are. There’s no problem polluting if most of the environment remains clean. There’s a major problem polluting if the result is no air for anyone. There’s no disruption of patterning if one of us chooses to give money to somebody whose work we admire. But, as Nozick points out, there is a disruption of patterning if many of us have the same response.

The costs of those kinds of patterns may be minimal in certain contexts, but in others the fact that differences arise between us may cause a loss of our fundamental democratic institution. So in the context of our discussion of the relation between individual and society, we were taught, both in the context of the moral philosophy section and in the context of the political philosophy section, that if we want to make real our commitments to living as members of a community, we need to have a vivid way of representing before ourselves that we are only one among many. And we have two beautiful articulations of that. One in Kant’s formulation of the categorical imperative, that my own desires may serve as the basis for willed action only if I can at the same time coherently will that others in similar circumstances would act in the way that I am choosing to act.

And in Rawls’s articulation of the veil of ignorance as a way of thinking about what justice demands. What’s beautiful about these articulations is that they are an attempt to bring a consideration that reason had brought us to into a formulation that we can make use of intuitively. Their attempts to give us vivid ways of remaining committed to what all of you, or almost all of you in this class, suggested you are committed to. Which is in education, in housing, in healthcare, and in the distribution of resources, to a somewhat more egalitarian distribution of goods than might arise if we didn’t think about our experience from the perspective of the community as a whole.

And I’ll skip–though put up on the Internet for you–three slides from a recent study showing that your responses in these cases were not exceptional.

Chapter 4. Three Organizing Quotations [00:45:39]

Let me close by pointing you to three quotations, which for me epitomized the course. The first is the quote from Epictetus that tells us when we are about to encounter an experience that we worry we might find distasteful that we need to think about what it would be like and to prepare ourselves for it. What upsets people, says Epictetus, are not things but are judgments about them.

The second is the quote from Aristotle, which I put up almost every lecture in the beginning of the term. That we learn a craft by practicing it and that we cultivate virtues by acting as if we were already virtuous. If there is something that you wish to become, act as if that were what you already are.

And I close with, perhaps the most beautiful part of Plato’s Republic, the myth of Er, in which Plato describes the story of a bunch of disembodied souls, which people who were about to be born are permitted to choose among. They’re given models of lives and asked to select among them. And it is in the context of choosing what sort of life that one wants to live that the questions of this course become most pressing. Think over how the sorts of things we have mentioned from January until now jointly and severally determine what the virtuous life is like.

“From all this, by considering the nature of the soul, reason out which life is better and which is worse. Choose accordingly, calling a life worse if it leads the soul to become more unjust, better if it leads the soul to be more just.”

And remember that on the closing page of Plato’s Republic, Odysseus, the great hero, celebrated for his exploits in the Trojan War, comes to the recognition that the life which will allow him to flourish most is the quiet life of a private individual who does his own work, who focuses on the things around him in such a way that he brings joy to those near him and thereby to himself.

And with those opening and closing words of Plato’s Republic, I thank you for a wonderful semester.


[end of transcript]

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