Thursday, May 10, 2007

Seneca's version of the "philosophy of swine" objection.

The following is one of Seneca's argument for the Stoic thesis that the human good consists in virtue- Seneca actually uses the expression "honestum" "Quicumque beatus esse constituet, unum esse bonum putet quod honestum est".

This argument has some resemblance to what Crisp calls the argument "of the philosophy of swine", but it is, I believe, more elegant and effective.

Seneca first of all argues that, if there are other goods beside virtue (honesty), like for example
sensuous pleasures (libido), or banquets or riches; it would follow that a man can be more happy than a god, because the gods cannot enjoy the latter. The argument which interests us is symmetric and involves a comparison between man (sorry: humans) and animals.

Seneca argues that the apparent goods are available in greatest quantity to (non human) animals than to men (sorry: humans). For example, they can eat more, have more sex, more strength, they do not suffer from cheats, they know no shame and penitence.

Seneca's conclusion is: judge whether it deserves to be called good that in which animals overcome man. "considera tu itaque an id bonum vocandum sit quo [deus ab homine], homo ab animalium vincitur".

Two questions:
1. this argument has some rhetorical effect. What is the principle underlying this effect?
2. what is the relation between this argument and the "philosophy of swine" objection to hedonism? See the "well-being" entry on the S.E.P. Are they the same argument? Are they based upon the same underlying moral intuition?

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