Aristotle on the choice of lives: Two concepts of self-sufficiency
Graduate studies at Western
|Abstract||In Nicomachean Ethics I 5, Aristotle discusses four sorts of lives, giving preferred attention to the lives devoted to gratification, politics, and philosophical contemplation, and dismissing the one devoted to making money. On his account, those who live these different sorts of lives pursue manifestly different goals, and their different goals shape different evaluations of all of their actions, reactions, relations, and possessions. Hence, Aristotle simultaneously engages the traditional inquiry into which sort of life is best and extracts from that inquiry beliefs about what the goal of life (called eudaimonia)1 should be. He first rejects pleasure, the goal suggested by the life of gratification (that is, the "apolaustic" (épolaustikÒw) life), and then he disdains honor and virtue, either of which might be pursued by the political life. But Aristotle's inquiry pulls up short. He considers only static conceptions of eudaimonia (pleasure, honor, virtue), and he explicitly postpones a discussion of the goal suggested by the contemplative life. Not until Nicomachean Ethics X 6-8 does Aristotle repair these defects. At this point he argues against pleasant activity as the goal suggested by the apolaustic life, and he compares the activities central to the political life and the contemplative life. The delay is awkward in two ways. First, it makes difficult any attempt to relate the traditional inquiry on lives (in I 5 and X 6-8) to Aristotle's own long and complicated discussion..|
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