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Marxism and the moral standpoint

The key question Aristotle seeks to answer in these lectures is "What is the ultimate purpose of human existence? Everywhere we see people seeking pleasure, wealth, and a good reputation. But while each of these has some value, none of them can occupy the place of the chief good for which humanity should aim. To be an ultimate end, an act must be self-sufficient and final, "that which is always desirable in itself and never for the sake of something else" Nicomachean Ethics, a , and it must be attainable by man. Aristotle claims that nearly everyone would agree that happiness is the end which meets all these requirements.

It is easy enough to see that we desire money, pleasure, and honor only because we believe that these goods will make us happy. It seems that all other goods are a means towards obtaining happiness, while happiness is always an end in itself. The Greek word that usually gets translated as "happiness" is eudaimonia , and like most translations from ancient languages, this can be misleading.

The main trouble is that happiness especially in modern America is often conceived of as a subjective state of mind, as when one says one is happy when one is enjoying a cool beer on a hot day, or is out "having fun" with one's friends. For Aristotle, however, happiness is a final end or goal that encompasses the totality of one's life. It is not something that can be gained or lost in a few hours, like pleasurable sensations.

It is more like the ultimate value of your life as lived up to this moment, measuring how well you have lived up to your full potential as a human being. For this reason, one cannot really make any pronouncements about whether one has lived a happy life until it is over, just as we would not say of a football game that it was a "great game" at halftime indeed we know of many such games that turn out to be blowouts or duds.

Marxism and ethics

For the same reason we cannot say that children are happy, any more than we can say that an acorn is a tree, for the potential for a flourishing human life has not yet been realized. As Aristotle says, "for as it is not one swallow or one fine day that makes a spring, so it is not one day or a short time that makes a man blessed and happy.

In order to explain human happiness, Aristotle draws on a view of nature he derived from his biological investigations. If we look at nature, we notice that there are four different kinds of things that exist in the world, each one defined by a different purpose:. Mineral: rocks, metals and other lifeless things. The only goal which these things seek is to come to a rest.

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They are "beyond stupid" since they are inanimate objects with no soul. Vegetative: plants and other wildlife.

Human Society In Ethics and Politics

Here we see a new kind of thing emerge,something which is alive. Because plants seek nourishment and growth, they have souls and can be even said to be satisfied when they attain these goals. Animal: all the creatures we study as belonging to the animal kingdom. Here we see a higher level of life emerge: animals seek pleasure and reproduction, and we can talk about a happy or sad dog, for example, to the extent that they are healthy and lead a pleasant life.

Human: what is it that makes human beings different from the rest of the animal kingdom? Aristotle answers: Reason. Only humans are capable of acting according to principles, and in so doing taking responsibility for their choices. We can blame Johnny for stealing the candy since he knows it is wrong, but we wouldn't blame an animal since it doesn't know any better.

It seems that our unique function is to reason: by reasoning things out we attain our ends, solve our problems, and hence live a life that is qualitatively different in kind from plants or animals. The good for a human is different from the good for an animal because we have different capacities or potentialities.

We have a rational capacity and the exercising of this capacity is thus the perfecting of our natures as human beings. For this reason, pleasure alone cannot constitute human happiness, for pleasure is what animals seek and human beings have higher capacities than animals. The goal is not to annihilate our physical urges, however, but rather to channel them in ways that are appropriate to our natures as rational animals.

Nicomachean Ethics , a In this last quote we can see another important feature of Aristotle's theory: the link between the concepts of happiness and virtue. Aristotle tells us that the most important factor in the effort to achieve happiness is to have a good moral character — what he calls "complete virtue. Nor is it enough to have a few virtues; rather one must strive to possess all of them. As Aristotle writes,. He is happy who lives in accordance with complete virtue and is sufficiently equipped with external goods, not for some chance period but throughout a complete life.

Nicomachean Ethics, a According to Aristotle, happiness consists in achieving, through the course of a whole lifetime, all the goods — health, wealth, knowledge, friends, etc. This requires us to make choices, some of which may be very difficult. Often the lesser good promises immediate pleasure and is more tempting, while the greater good is painful and requires some sort of sacrifice.

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For example, it may be easier and more enjoyable to spend the night watching television, but you know that you will be better off if you spend it researching for your term paper. Developing a good character requires a strong effort of will to do the right thing, even in difficult situations. Another example is the taking of drugs, which is becoming more and more of a problem in our society today. Yet, inevitably, this short-term pleasure will lead to longer term pain.

A few hours later you may feel miserable and so need to take the drug again, which leads to a never-ending spiral of need and relief. The enforcement of procedural ethics may actually prevent the development of ethnographic work. Also, we critically assess procedural ethics as being not really about ethics, but rather about the risk management embedded in contemporary academia.

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The account offered here is based on the ethnographic experience of Portuguese and Scotland-based researchers. Portugal and Scotland are the background national scenes where we have sought to bring out the voices of those experiencing a turbulent and dangerous urban life, and where for many years we have each been involved in actively conducting ethnographic fieldwork while working actively as full-time academics.


We began to feel an intensification in terms of how we as researchers were being subjected to the politics of institutional surveillance, hence our desire to share the ideas in this paper. Others may also have encountered the policing of their ideas and research aspirations; we hope our discursive paper generalizes through psychological resonance, and shared politics.

At best, abstracted ethics formulated from the comfort of a proverbial armchair are a sort of anxiety reducing practice for giving the self the belief that dealing with the unpredictability of ethnographic life in the field is within the scope of abstracted reasoning nourished by immersion in appropriate canonical texts. The customary reliance upon written ethical approval based upon appraisal of written documents submitted is also obnoxious to us on moral grounds because it obscures attention from the virtues of the researcher upon whose own ethical integrity any research revolves.

Indeed, conformity to institutional research ethics board prescriptions may undermine the quality and originality afforded by autonomous researchers Deuchar ; Locke, Ovando and Montecinos Capitalism contains a model of the virtuous person and models of research impact or relevance. As critical criminologists, we are sympathetic to the vision of Jock Young expressed in The Criminological Imagination , where he makes us aware of how criminal justice is biased towards serving vested interests of the existing social class hierarchy.

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In brief, if as researchers our ethical stance involves moral empathy towards the marginalized groups we work with, this potentially puts us at loggerheads with the universal ethical orientation inherent in institutional ethics approval processes. In terms of our argument, the decisions they enforce upon researchers, especially in the light of the contemporary nature of higher education, means that the oppression we seek to highlight is reinforced as one is legally obligated to respect a capitalist order culpable for producing the injustices that Jock Young eloquently exposes.

It should be clear that we take a position of ethical relativism in terms of the conduct of research relations in the field and knowledge production. In this dystopian framing, regulatory research ethics is not really about ethics, but risk management. We then explore the supposed contribution of reflexivity to the production of unresolved contestations in the field.

We believe this is important for the sake of clarity, as there has always been contestation within ethnography as a concept and material praxis Atkinson, Coffey and Delamont Also, this is necessary for the sake of relevance to our questioning political project, as such variety inevitably provokes conflicting ethical concerns and provisional solutions. Finally, if we concur with Adler and Adler that epistemology and reflexivity are at the heart of ethnography, then surely a text on reflexivity in ethnography must celebrate and model critical reflexivity.

Therefore, ethnography is an endeavour to write about, to describe, a given group or community with a focus on its cultural features. For some this is but a part of a wider project to advocacy and support mobilization. In the s, Malinowski [] had already pointed out that inside knowledge is a central feature of ethnography, although his personal diaries demonstrated prejudices which contaminated his integrity of respect for other ways of being. Whatever the extent of the immersion, asking questions too early in fieldwork is a recipe for negative experience and ostracism.

Despite appearing trivial, the two paragraphs above set political frontiers and discursive boundaries. Namely, they leave out the so-called auto-ethnographies Brunt , as well as research that relies heavily on more structured arrangements for data collection focus groups, interviews, and so on or on technical equipment namely video and audio recorders.

More on that later. This is a consequence of the centrality of a typically solitary participant observation and deep immersion in fields historically at great distances from the homes of the researchers. The process of data collection relies upon becoming accepted by those one is trying to research.

This focus on data collection and analysis is fundamental if one concurs with Anderstaay that the goal of ethnography is the production of knowledge rather than, for example, the emancipation of the people one is researching. However, we do not see the ethnographer as a mechanistic kind of knowledge-production machine. Quite the contrary: the concentration of technical activities is necessarily accompanied by an emotional approximation to the field and the people in it Neves Identities have to be flexible, caring and empathetic if the immersion is to work.

Indeed, generating inside knowledge requires personal implication of the ethnographer, often leading to significant — sometimes difficult to integrate — amounts of resocialization in the field Emerson, Fretz and Shaw ; Neves This, of course, is a result of the descriptive goal of ethnography, as mentioned above. Texts, in the form of field notes, are the main recording device in ethnography, coupled increasingly with the affordances of visual technologies, cameras and videos. Goal, method, main instrument, and recording and analytical device: the four core elements of ethnography as we understand them.

Surely, they are presented separately not because they are independent, but for presentational clarity. Being reflexive is also being aware of the inevitability and bias of any rational reconstruction of the research process Bourdieu Why do some researchers decide to study prostitution, violence, the addictions or madness? What for? What drives us, ethnographers of crime and deviance? If we seek to understand the values of others and how they socially construct the meanings defining who they are and the choices they make, we benefit from clarifying our own constructs as they help define these encounters with strangers.

We need not only worry about the people in the field and the people who will read our work, but also about continuing to live with ourselves Whyte [] , a theme resonant of the gap in the ethics approval process which neglects attention to the ethical values of the researcher as a person. Of all people, ethnographers should know the limits of an apparent context-free, disembodied bureaucratically constructed ethical code Deuchar If not, how are we as critical researchers to suggest alternatives to administrative, aprioristic, impersonal, anticipatory regulatory regimes on whose employment and power to approve we depend?

It is striking that those ethical themes are simultaneously, more often than not, also central methodological issues connected with immersion through participant observation. All of these social dynamics are on-going, dynamic encounters; the processes are typically tacit and invisible to the players. It might be argued that the degree of manipulation and seduction varies as a function of the difficulty of gaining access to a given field. Dowding, Keith , 'Pluralism', in Keith Dowding ed.

Dowding, K , 'Rationality', in Keith Dowding ed. Dowding, Keith , 'William H. Riker ', in Keith Dowding ed. Clegg, M. Haugaard and C. Lester ed. Shepsle ed. Pattanaik, Clemens Puppe ed. LXV1, no. Dowding, Keith , 'Why are inheritance taxes unpopular? Montero, Mark. White ed. Hoen and Torsten J. Selck ed.

Introduction: Aristotle's Definition of Happiness

Dowding, Keith , 'Can populism be defended? Dowding, Keith , 'Is it Rational to Vote? Dowding, Keith, Goodin, Robert E. Dowding, Keith , 'Revealed preference and external reference', Rationality and Society , vol. Dowding, Keith , 'Model or Metaphor? Dowding, Keith , 'There must be end to confusion: Policy networks, intellectual fatigue, and the need for political science methods courses in British universities', Political Studies , vol.

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