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Posts Tagged ‘aristotle

Senator McCain, CEO Tim Cook, Apple, Fashion, and God

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Yesterday I caught some of the Senate hearings on Apple avoiding paying taxes.  The issue of taxes aside, something that Senator McCain said gives great insight into his personality and perhaps a generation.

Senator McCain to the Apple CEO, Tim Cook:

Sir, there’s only one thing I really wanted to ask you today. Why do I keep on having to update all the apps on my iPhone? Can’t you guys fix that already?

Can’t you fix it?
Once and for all…
So I don’t have to get these updates…

Tim Cook replied that  McCain’s iPhone got updates because Apple is making things better all the time.

The Static, Finished Universe

John McCain, like many, thinks in terms of a “static universe”.  Things  should work in a certain way and then stay that way forever.  Change is bad; I am satisfied what with I have; why change it?

Perhaps such an idea is generational.  McCain is of the generation who have one career, work at one place their entire life, and defend the status quo at all costs no matter what.  I meet these people all the time in just about every organization.

Pre-rational belief systems

Henry Ford once said, “If you think you can or think you can’t – you’re right”

The idea is that your attitude has a direct effect on outcomes.  If you think the World is static then it is; if you think it’s not then it’s not.  These sorts of decisions are pre-rational.  The outcome will be what your pre-conceived ideas make it.  You make your own Reality.

God’s perfection

Perhaps we have been influenced too much by the traditional Christian theological position of the perfection of God.  The idea that God, in his/her perfection is “changeless”.  This is pure metaphysics.  Why should “changelessness” be perfection?  In the 13th century St Thomas Aquinas brought Aristotle’s metaphysics into the Catholic tradition.  That’s the long and short of it.

A different idea

If you saw the movie The Social Network about Mark Zuckerberg and the creation of Facebook then perhaps you remember this scene in the movie.  Someone asks Zuckerberg this question, “When will Facebook be finished?”

Zuckerberg replies, “Facebook is like fashion, it will never be finished.”

It’s matter of perspective – and it makes all the difference in the world.

Like fashion, nothing should be finished.  No idea, no concept, no product, no innovation, no organization,, and even your career – should never be finished.  There is no life when one is finished.

The Take

McCain is probably not alone.  Fix this software and be done with it.  To change something implies that it’s broken.

Fashion is not  broken.  Innovation is only broken when it stops changing.

Traditional Theology got a shock in the 20th century by Process Theology.  That movement in theology in the 1950’s “outted” traditional theological debt to Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas in the notion that “changless” is some sort of perfection.

Shocking as it might seem, the Process Theologians held that “God’s future is open”.  God is not static and not finished.

As the McCain and Cook short exchange demonstrates, just about every organization, every government, and every social context is a collision between those who want to stop the world and those who want to change the world.  Exchanges like McCain-Cook demonstrate how people differentiate themselves in thier pre-rational belief systems about change and what it implies.

There are insights every day about how people think, if you know where to look. Hopefully, McCain and Cook learned something interesting about themselves and their view of the world in this exchange.  And now you know it too.

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“Friend Me”: What would Aristotle say?

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For without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods; even rich men and those in possession of office and of dominating power are thought to need friends most of all; for what is the use of such prosperity without the opportunity of beneficence, which is exercised chiefly and in its most laudable form towards friends?      —   Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics – 384-322 BCE

One might wonder, after a period of 2,000+ years, has there been any (what is called) “progress”.

Surely we can distinguish between “progress” in the area of technology and progress in other areas such as culture and society.

Aristotle (384-322 BC) lived more than 2000 years ago .  Surely, if Aristotle were transported from ancient Greece to the modern world he would find the progress in science and technology absolutely astounding.  But, if he were to look at our social relationships 2000 years distant from his own time what would he discover?  Would Aristotle say that, after two millennium, we have made any progress in human relationships?

Perhaps he would say we have taken several steps back from the “golden age” of Greek culture.

Aristotle on Friendship

Aristotle wrote about friendship in Nicomachean Ethics.  He divided friendship into three categories.

Pleasure Friendship

Friendship of young people seems to aim at pleasure; for they live under the guidance of emotion, and pursue above all what is pleasant to themselves and what is immediately before them.

Utility Friendship

Those who pursue utility . . . sometimes . . . do not even find each other pleasant; therefore they do not need such companionship unless they are useful to each other; for they are pleasant to each other only in so far as they rouse in each other hopes of something good to come.

What’s in it for me?

According to Aristotle, Pleasure and Utility friendship is partly motivated by a  “what’s in it for me” attititude.  The friendship exists only insofar as there is some benefit – pleasure or utility – that can be derived from the relationship.  When the benefit erodes, so does the friendship

Therefore those who love for the sake of utility love for the sake of what is good for themselves, and those who love for the sake of pleasure do so for the sake of what is pleasant to themselves, and not in so far as the other is the person loved but in so far as he is useful or pleasant.

And thus these friendships are only incidental; for it is not as being the man he is that the loved person is loved, but as providing some good or pleasure. Such friendships, then, are easily dissolved, if the parties do not remain like themselves; for if the one party is no longer pleasant or useful the other ceases to love him.

Perfect (or True) Friendship

Finally, Aristotle defines Perfect Friendship:

Perfect friendship is the friendship… [of those] …who are good, and alike in virtue; for these wish well alike to each other qua good, and they are good themselves. Now those who wish well to their friends for their sake are most truly friends; for they do this by reason of own nature and not incidentally; therefore their friendship lasts as long as they are good-and goodness is an enduring thing. And each is good without qualification and to his friend, for the good are both good without qualification and useful to each other.

Here is how Philosophy Professor Dean A. Kowaalski sums it up:

So, for Aristotle, the highest form of friendship occurs between persons of equally good moral character (virtue), which is enhanced due to their interactions. Such friendships are admittedly rare; when they do obtain, it is because the friends spend a great deal of time together, developing a secure mutual trust. Their relationship is fostered by participating in joint ventures and engaging in activities that exercise their own virtues for the betterment of the other and the friendship. All of this is done primarily for the sake of the other person (and not for selfish purposes), even though their interests have grown so close together that it is difficult to separate them. Consequently, complete friendship results in a sort of second self, a true partner.

The Take

There may be a Myth of Progress.  In some contexts, progress seems obvious perhaps because of the selection or limitation of what one considers.  Surely, “progress” is an in-your-face fact when one looks only at technology and our understanding of how the world works – science in general and physics in particular.

But has there been any progress in social relationships?  Or perhaps there been a degradation brought about by the progress in technology.  Perhaps the more technology we have the greater distance we can put between ourselves and other people and still call them “friends”… to the point that they are no friends at all… merely markers or counts on a Facebook page or the number of  Twitter followers.

Technology is “enabling”.  Enabling to make True Friends as Aristotle would define it?  Technology may simply enable those who have a “what’s in it for me” motive of  finding merely pleasure or utility in others.  “Friends for pleasure” is now easy to find on the Internet.  Friends to scam and friends for transactional relationships are easy to find as well.  Have your “friended” or “liked” Starbucks or other organization or business?  Why are they your friends?

So, if Aristotle were to step into the 21’st century world of technology there would not be much he would understand.  We have made fantastic progress.  And, I think he would agree based on his writings of Universal Physics, Human Physics, Animal Physics, and Metaphysics of this time.  But Politics and (Nicomachean) Ethics where the above quotes on friendship came from?  Any progress here in two millennium?

What Aristotle wrote 2,000+ years ago about friendships being only for utility and only for pleasure and easily dissolved is as relevant for today as it was in ancient Greece.

It might be a revelation to you if you examine your friendships within Aristotle’s framework – friends of pleasure; friends of utility; and perfect friends.

How many perfect friendships do you really have?  Has technology been a benefit or a liability?  And have we made any progress in two millennium  in answering Aristotle’s basic question, “how should men best live”?

Read more

Read about Dunbar’s number – If You’ve Got More Than 150 Facebook Friends, They’re No Friends at All

Alone Together.  Why we expect more from technology and less from each other

Written by frrl

March 25, 2013 at 1:40 am

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