Topics Worth Investigating

  1. Clarify as much as possible Aristotle's distinction between practical knowledge and theoretical knowledge. Does an understanding of this distinction help account for why persons who know certain habits or behaviors are harmful, still persist in those behaviors? Relate your analysis to a defense of the Socratic paradox.

  2. Explore the similarities of Aristotle's theory of the development of habits and character with the James-Lange theory of emotion. Do you think a change of actions precedes a change in states of mind, attitudes, or thoughts or do you think states of mind usually precede actions in our attempts to change our behavior? How do the cognitive behaviorists stand on this issue? Would the psychoanalytic approach to human behavior entail a different account of behavioral change?

  3. Aristotle's ethics is considered to be a teleological system of ethics since he is concerned with action conducive to the good of human beings rather than action considered right independently of human purpose. The rightness of actions is said to judged by their purposes. Bentham's hedonistic calculus is also a teleological system. Since Aristotle regards ethics as a branch of political or social science and since Aristotle asserts that political science studies the good for man, could Aristotle be considered an early adherent of utilitarianism? Discuss this possibility by referring to the main tenets of both ethical systems.

  4. Aristotle's theory of ethics is difficult to resolve in terms of moral obligations of human beings. A second major approach to ethics is sometimes called a duty ethics or a deontological ethics. Should the rightness of human actions be based on laws, principles, or rules of moral behavior? The deontologists believe ethics should be based on duty and rights, and those ethical theories are often based on social-contract theory. Explore the possibility that socially-based moral laws and principles are incompatible with the moral well-being of the individual. Where would the existentialist stand on this issue?