Monday, May 9, 2016

Notes, February 10, 2016

-One of the major dichotomies in Aristotelian ethics is between the active and contemplative life. The active life is the life of the politician, the man-about-town, the Athenian gentleman, the small business-owner, the socialite, the local physician, the knight, the attorney, the parish priest.  Those who chose the active life include Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Johnson, my father, and Donald Trump.

The contemplative life is life of the ascetic, the scholar, the philosopher, the monk or nun, the mystic, the drug-abuser, the mathematician, the museum curator, the landscape painter. Contemplatives include the Desert Fathers, William Bronk, and John Milton.

Here is one argument for the superiority of the active life: It is less fragile. True contemplation can only arise in very unusual circumstances -- often only with the support of religion. Most contemplatives have a strong feeling of vocation. Indeed, a life of contemplation would be unbearable to someone who needs frequent conversation and activity. A life of contemplation often requires subsisting on the most limited resources and a belief in the unimportance of material things.

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