Michael Gorman - December 2016 Meeting Topic

Thomistic Tango

In the Aristotelian-scholastic tradition, moral or ethical goodness is understood to be crucially related to the flourishing or full actualization of human persons: the idea, to a first approximation, is that a fully good human is a human who is fully carrying out a full range of human operations. This proposal could be understood in a rather individualistic way, as the thought that the good person is the one who is doing best for himself. That this has not been the traditional understanding is fairly easy to show, if only by pointing to the fact that of the ten books of the Nicomachean Ethics, one is devoted to justice and two to friendship. Nonetheless, I think there is an under-explored aspect of the tradition's non-individualistic side, and exploring it is the goal of this paper. I am interested in the idea that some of the activities that one can engage in as part of living excellently are, in a very strong sense, activities that cannot be engaged in individualistically. In some cases, that is, the activities that contribute to goodness are not merely activities that an individual can't do well without others, and also not merely activities that an individual can't do unless other individuals are doing them too, but activities that can't be done by individuals at all, but only by two people or more.