A month or so ago I started reading Julia Annas‘s excellent The Morality of Happiness – while visiting family in New York City. Because of the New York setting, I was particularly drawn to this passage:
It is also not surprising that ancient ethics, with one marginal exception, never develops anything like the related consequentialist idea of a maximizing model of rationality. If my ethical aim is to produce a good, or the best, state of affairs, then it is only rational to produce as much as possible of it. But ancient ethics does not aim at the production of good states of affairs, and so is not tempted to think that rationality should take the form of maximizing them. Rather, what I aim at is my living in a certain way, my making the best use of goods, and acting in some ways rather than others. None of these things can sensibly be maximized by the agent. Why would I want to maximize my acting courageously, for example? I aim at acting courageously when it is required. I have no need, normally, to produce as many dangerous situations as possible, in order to act bravely in them.