On the strength of my persistently pestering him in the combox to his blogs, Irfan has invited me to contribute a few posts of my own to his latest venture in virtually public philosophizing. I’m delighted and honored by the invitation, but it would probably be helpful for me to say a few things about myself before inundating readers with my incompletely developed ideas. I am a classicist and historian of philosophy with special interests in Greek ethics and political philosophy and in Aristotle in particular. In some ways Irfan and I make strange blogfellows, since I am not a libertarian or classical liberal, am not especially influenced by or attracted to Rand, and do not have many firm and settled views about practical politics. But as a good friend of mine once put it, Aristotelianism transcends ideology. I have learned a great deal about Aristotle and philosophy more generally from so-called ‘libertarian Aristotelians’ despite not being converted to libertarianism, just as I have learned a great deal about Aristotle and philosophy more generally from Thomistic Aristotelians despite not being converted to Thomism. The shared background of a broadly Aristotelian orientation makes even disagreement instructive.
Just as importantly, however, Irfan transcends ideology. I have for some time admired the way that he writes with passion and moral seriousness while remaining receptive to a genuine diversity of ideas and maintaining a commitment to reasoned argument against the all too common tendency to fall back on ideological prejudices and academic party politics. I write almost exclusively about the history of philosophy without sustained consideration of its relevance to contemporary debates in academic philosophy, but I firmly believe that ancient Greek philosophy is relevant to those debates and, more importantly, to the questions that we should all be trying to answer for ourselves as rational animals. Irfan, I think, comes at things from the other end; he writes primarily about those first-order questions and turns to the history of philosophy when it offers some insight. I hope he and the readers of this blog will find that my approach complements his.
My first substantive post will be about as far removed as could be from Irfan’s thoughts and questions about Ferguson. I’ll take a look at some seemingly excessively detailed interpretive questions about the meaning of teleios in the first book of the Nicomachean Ethics and try to show that a proper understanding of the term helps us to adjudicate disputes about whether Aristotle’s eudaimonism is a kind of ‘egoism.’