This book brings together twenty-three distinctive and influential essays on ancient moral philosophy--including several published here for the first time--by the distinguished philosopher and classical scholar John Cooper. The volume gives a systematic account of many of the most important issues and texts in ancient moral psychology and ethical theory, providing a unified and illuminating way of reflecting on the fields as they developed from Socrates and Plato through Aristotle to Epicurus and the Stoic philosophers Chrysippus and Posidonius, and beyond.
For the ancient philosophers, Cooper shows here, morality was "good character" and what that entailed: good judgment, sensitivity, openness, reflectiveness, and a secure and correct sense of who one was and how one stood in relation to others and the surrounding world. Ethical theory was about the best way to be rather than any principles for what to do in particular circumstances or in relation to recurrent temptations. Moral psychology was the study of the psychological conditions required for good character--the sorts of desires, the attitudes to self and others, the states of mind and feeling, the kinds of knowledge and insight.
Together these papers illustrate brilliantly how, by studying the arguments of the Greek philosophers in their diverse theories about the best human life and its psychological underpinnings, we can expand our own moral understanding and imagination and enrich our own moral thought. The collection will be crucial reading for anyone interested in classical philosophy and what it can contribute to reflection on contemporary questions about ethics and human life.
"This is a work of conspicuous erudition. . . . Although the books is very clearly written, reading it requires concentrated effort, for the material Cooper discusses is both subtle and in a different idiom from contemporary moral thinking. He nevertheless illuminates a variety of issues on which contemporary philosophers focus."--Library Journal
"This splendid book is a collection of twenty-three of John Cooper's papers on Greek ethical philosophy. . . . But more important, bringing these papers together has synergistic effects: we see Cooper returning to related issues in different contexts and elaborating the scope and depth of his analyses. . . . [T]hey are one of the handful of permanent contributions to the study of ancient ethics in the past one hundred years."--Chris Bobonich, The Philosophical Review
"This collection is the fruit of a lifetime's study of the great tradition of Greek moral philosophy.... [Cooper's] range is deeply impressive. So is the tenacity with which he wrestles a clear meaning from recalcitrant texts. So too is the philosophical rigour with which he sharpens up the issues and makes the reader face questions that modern philosophers have forgotten or neglected. This is philosophical scholarship at its best."--M. F. Burnyeat, All Souls College, University of Oxford
"This volume brings together essays on Greek ethics and moral psychology by one of the most influential scholars in the field.[I]t will be fascinating and instructive for scholars and students alike to follow John Cooper in his explorations of some of the most important questions of ancient and modern ethics."--Gisela Striker, University of Cambridge
Table of Contents
Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by John M. Cooper: