In this video, Monte explores an approach to the question “What is the purpose of life?” developed by the Greek Philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BC). Aristotle reasoned that just as artificial things (such as tools and workers) have characteristic capabilities with respect to which they are judged to be good or do well, so each kind of natural thing (including plants and humans) has characteristic capabilities with respect to which can be judged, objectively, to be good or do well. For plants and animals these mostly have to do with nutrition and reproduction, and in the case of animals, pleasure and pain. For humans, these vegetative and animal capabilities are necessary but not sufficient for our flourishing. Since reason and the use of language are the unique and highest capabilities of humans, the cultivation and exercise of intellectual friendships and partnerships, moral and political virtue, scientific knowledge and (above all) theoretical philosophy, was argued by Aristotle to be the ultimate purpose of human life.
Speaker: Dr. Monte Ransome Johnson, Associate Professor, University of California San Diego. Created by Gaurav Vazirani.
Speaker: Dr. Monte Ransome Johnson, Associate Professor, University of California San Diego. Created by Gaurav Vazirani.
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- 1:32, now I realize that the human being wearing ancient costume (That appears in several videos!) is a visual metaphor of God. What is the hidden meaning of the old woman pushing the trolley at6:54?(9 votes)
- Great question Cyan Wind! I had to go back and watch the video again to see the "old woman", but @6:47Dr. Monte Ransome Johnson, Associate Professor, University of California San Diego, says, "similarly mere sensation, pleasure and satisfaction of our bodily appetites, can not, as they are for brute animals be the purpose of our life." Then goes on about what makes Cows and Pigs flourish isn't the same for folks. While he's saying that first part about pleasure and satisfaction of bodily appetites the lady clutching her coat and pulling a shopping cart is drawn, and this seems to be illustrating the ideas of bodily sensation that he is speaking about, hot, cold, hard, soft, etc. The coat she's clutching represents the sensations from the elements, weather. The shopping cart seems to represent other "bodily appetites" like food. It looks to me like the old lady is just a visual representation of what he's speaking about, good teaching technique.
Now it could be that, or there is a rare off chance that she is supposed to represent the Gnostic idea of Sophia, the feminine aspect of the Divine Wisdom, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sophia_(Gnosticism) which would be the counter part to the other visual metaphor you were speaking about, the dude in the costume. I really don't think that is where it was going but a possible interpretation. I think it's the first one. Hope this helps! T.S.(9 votes)
- So what would Aristotle think about the facet of our modern office culture today? Would he agree that the cubicle system is a hinderence to achieving the ultimate purpose of human life?(7 votes)
- I don't think Aristotle would object to the cubicle structure itself so much as to what happens during work, and outside of work. He might ask, for instance, if hustle culture provides space to use reason fully and cultivate virtue.
For a 21st century version of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, see Susan Sauve Meyer's new translation, How To Flourish, Princeton Press, 2023.(1 vote)
- Is this ancient argument for the fundamental purpose of life still being considered?
It seems like a non sequitir to me because the observation that reason and language may be the highest and unique capabilities of humans needed to live a true human life does not directly imply that it must be that the world is metaphysically structured for the purpose of human life to be to engage in these high and unique capabilities. The modern popular theory of non-theist evolution seems to argue against this as it says it just happened to be from evolution that humans have these capabilities and thus there is no metaphysical property of the world outlining the purpose of humans. Although non-theist evolution or there being no fundamental purpose for human life as I am a theist, that doesn't change that Aristotle's argument is a non sequitir.(2 votes)
- One would would really think otherwise if one really understood Aristotle, though Aristotle has metaphysical argument at the end of the day he deals on practical non-metaphysical and transcendental reality by saying there is an end all man seek "happiness" and only through doing "good" morally good can one arrive to it..He does not even emphasize importance of deities, metaphysics or what have you, there is no transcendence on his moral philosophy which deals on the fundamental purpose which for him is to live a good life, through philosophy and therefore arrived at happiness. simple.(1 vote)
- humans belong to the category of living things, yet why do we separate ourselves from the spectrum of all life forms?(2 votes)
- Good question. We separate ourselves from the spectrum of all life forms because, we human beings are special. Because we are the crown of God's creation.
But aside from that, I think we separate ourselves from the spectrum because we are capable to remember history, to do mathematical equations, to think rationally, to invent things, to innovate, to create cure, and to give meaning.(1 vote)
- Is there a connection between Aristotle's theory of ergons or end-purposes, and Maslow's hierarchy of needs? Seems like there's a parallel in that humans have both basic needs that plants and non-human animals do, but also have uniquely human, higher-order needs, like the need to use reason and language to flourish?
This focus on flourishing in positive psychology also sounds Aristotlean to me.(1 vote)
- what is the meaning of life?(1 vote)
- You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.
But if you ask me, my answer will be as a Christian, the meaning of life for me is to bring glory to God because there is no one greater who is worthy of trust, adoration, and worship. And as a responsible member of society, I must reflect rationally and I must do my part to contribute to the community as a whole.
'''In the beginning, God created the earth, and he looked upon it in His cosmic loneliness. And God said, "Let Us make living creatures out of mud, so the mud can see what We have done." And God created every living creature that now moveth, and one was man. Mud as man alone could speak. God leaned close to mud as man sat up, looked around, and spoke. Man blinked. "What is the purpose of all this?" he asked politely. "Everything must have a purpose?" asked God. "Certainly," said man. "Then I leave it to you to think of one for all this," said God. And He went away ~ excerpt from Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut.'''(1 vote)
- Even though I kind of understand aristoteles argument, I wonder what he would think about a person in coma for example . That person would maybe grow and use energy, but he couldn
t reproduce, move nor feel anything and so on . That person would be more like a plant than anything else, even though we cant deny that he in fact is a human . What do you think about that ? Is he a person that just can`t do the most human things ? Or is he somehing else ? O.o Or could it be that I over analyzed that theory (Is it a theory ? Or what is that thinking called ? ) Or do I have an error in my logic ? Thanks for jour help, and you thoughts .(1 vote)
- Aristotle would probably argue that a human being in a coma is not a person because they are incapable of reasoning. Thus, they are not capable of becoming virtuous (i.e. being able to reason well) and therefore not capable of becoming happy.(1 vote)
- Will there be any quizzes for the material presented by Wi-Phi in any of the other area apart from Critical Thinking (which already has quite a few quizzes)? Thanks.(1 vote)
- I've already looked through them all and I have come to the conclusion, that, no, besides Critical Thinking, the other videos do not have any quizzes. Hopes this helps.(1 vote)
(intro music) Hi, my name is Monte Johnson. I'm a professor at the University[br]of California, San Diego, and today I want to talk about[br]the purpose of human life, Aristotle's Ergon Argument. The word "ergon" in Greek means "work," or "job," or[br]"product," or "function." The term is most clearly used[br]in the context of artifacts or skills. So the ergon of a saw is to cut. The ergon of a house is[br]to protect against weather and intruders. And the argon of an[br]architect is to build houses. A connected term is "arete," which means "excellence" or "virtue." The excellence of a saw is sharpness, since its function is to cut. The excellence of a house[br]is stability and security, since its function is protection. And the excellence of an architect is the[br]building of good houses. Do human beings have[br]an ergon, or a function? And if so, do they also have a corresponding[br]arete, or excellence? Aristotle argues that they do, And his argument can help[br]us think more clearly about the purpose of human life. But before we can discuss[br]the ergon argument itself we need to discuss some[br]background assumptions about the nature of life. Aristotle recognizes four[br]distinct classes of living things: plants, animals, humans, and Gods. And we'll set Gods[br]aside for a moment here. Aristotle defines living things by their capabilities. Plants have the ability to grow, use energy, and reproduce. When we talk about a[br]plant doing well or poorly, we refer to these capabilities. Thus, when a plant is growing properly, deepening its roots, throwing out leaves and flowers and shoots, and fructifying, we say that it is flourishing. The opposite happens when a[br]plant's capabilities are stymied, when a tree, for instance, is stunted, or leaves are withering[br]and dying on the vine. Botanists and gardeners know what is good or bad for plants, that is, what kinds of things help and what kinds of things[br]hurt the activities related to their capabilities. Notice that it is not a matter of opinion, but of scientific fact, what is good and bad for[br]plants in this respect. Different plants might require[br]different kinds of nutrients or different amounts of shade and water. But every plant is said[br]to do well or poorly on the objective basis of the activities related to[br]its specific capabilities. Animals, in a way, are like[br]superpowered plants. They too have the ability to grow, use nutrition, and reproduce. These things are just[br]as objectively important for animals as they are for plants, as veterinarians and[br]zoologists can tell you. But animals also have other[br]and higher capabilities. For example animals, unlike plants, can move themselves around in space. Animals that cannot do so, whether because of a birth[br]defect or because they're encaged, cannot be said to be doing well. This is why animal rights activists campaign for larger cages[br]or free ranges for animals, because it's obvious that[br]it is better for the animals if they are capable of exercising their capacity[br]for self-movement fully. Most importantly, animals have the capability of perception. They can feel hot and cold, smell, taste, hear, and see. And some of them can[br]do all of these things. Animals that are incapable of seeing, even though members of[br]their species are normally able to do so, are thought not to be doing as well as their relatives that can. With the ability to sense comes the ability to[br]feel pain and pleasure, and thus appetite and aversion. These capabilities are connected with an animal's capability for self-movement, since they pursue that which they have an appetite for and avoid things that might interfere with[br]their natural activities. Now an animal cannot do[br]well if it is deficient with respect to its plant-like[br]or vegetative capabilities. But even if it is fine with[br]respect to those capabilities, it cannot be said to[br]flourish if it is stymied with respect to[br]self-movement and sensation. For example, if an animal is in a lot of pain or is unable to satisfy[br]its desire for food because of injury to[br]its organs of movement, that animal will not be said to do well. For an animal to flourish, it needs to be able to move around and to sense the world in such a way that produces, for it, pleasure or at least more pleasure than pain. Now let's move on to humans. It's often pointed out[br]that humans are animals, animals with superpowers. But it is less often pointed out that we are plants too. That is, we, like other animals, have the capabilities of plants: growth, nutrition, and reproduction. And we need to exercise these capabilities if we are to live. And like the other animals, we have the capabilities for[br]self-movement and sensation. And with these, pleasure and pain, appetite and aversion. All life is deeply connected in this way. But humans also have unique capabilities that no other animals have, most importantly the ability[br]to reason and to use language. These capabilities allow[br]us to cultivate friendships and social relations, build and contribute to[br]political structures, plan for the future, modify our appetites and desires, educate our young, develop music and mathematics, and even to contemplate[br]the nature of the universe and the purpose of human life. If a human does not[br]have these capabilities, they are missing out on part[br]of what it is to be human. And if they also lack even[br]the animal capabilities we might consider them[br]less than animal, at least while they're in what we, for these very reasons, call a "persistent vegetative state." Thus, we can determine what is good for us in a parallel fashion to how we determine what is good with respect to the other kinds of living things. Those things that allow us[br]to engage in the activities that exercise our capacities are good, and those that impede[br]or prevent this are bad. Now that we have that background in place, we should be in a good position to answer "What, for Aristotle, "is the ergon of a human being?" It would be odd if the[br]purpose of human life was related to our lowest[br]vegetative capabilities, unless we aspire to being a good plant. Thus, the exercise of our[br]capabilities for reproduction, growth and stature, and even nutrition, however important for us, cannot be the ultimate purpose of our life any more than it could[br]be for a brute animal. Similarly, mere sensation, pleasure, and satisfaction of our bodily appetites cannot, as they are for brute animals, be the purpose of our life. What makes cows and pigs flourish can no more make a human flourish than what makes oaks and vine flourish can do so for cows and pigs. Even if those lower[br]vegetative capabilities must be in a satisfactory condition in order for the higher[br]ones to do their work. Thus, by a process of elimination, we arrive at the capabilities[br]to use reason and language. These are the capabilities that define us, which is why Aristotle[br]defined the human being as a rational animal, which is reflected in the[br]modern name for our species, "Homo sapiens." Thus, the forming of friendships[br]and social relations, the controlling of our[br]appetites and emotions, the cultivation of moral[br]and intellectual virtues, and the observing of the cosmos and our place in it are the activities that, because they correspond with our highest and most unique capabilities, give meaning to human life and represent the flourishing[br]of our kind of living thing. The things that are good for us follow from this, and thus can be determined with the same degree of[br]objectivity that gardeners and botanists can for plants, and veterinarians and[br]zoologists can for animals. These arts and sciences[br]can objectively determine what is good and bad for[br]those kind of living things, and so anthropology and[br]philosophy can determine what is good and bad for[br]our kind of living thing. In fact, the very highest activity, the one that Aristotle calls godlike, is philosophy, because this involves the pure exercise of reason and thought, just as the Gods constantly engage in, according to Aristotle. And philosophy engages[br]in reason and thought not only in order to serve our[br]vegetative and animal needs, but just for its own sake as well, for the sake of living a human life. For this reason, Aristotle[br]thought that doing philosophy was the ultimate end of human existence. In conclusion, you should be happy that[br]you're watching this video, because I have just shown[br]how you are now engaging in the exercise of your highest and most godlike capabilities. Good work. Subtitles by the Amara.org community