Configuring the Moral Self: Aristotle and Dewey [Book Review]

Foundations of Science 13 (3-4):239-250 (2008)
Focusing on the concept of “the moral self” this essay explores relationships between Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and John Dewey’s moral pragmatism and tries to evaluate the extent to which in his work on ethics Aristotle may be considered a pragmatist. Aristotle foreshadows pragmatism, for example, in preferring virtue-based to rule-based ethics, in contending that the moral status of a person’s actions and the nature of the person’s selfhood are interdependent, and in stressing the key role of habits in character formation. Aristotle, however, may seem far from the status of pragmatist when he privileges the life of contemplation and posits a moral self that is more static than the one proposed by Dewey. This essay contends that if more attention is paid to Aristotle’s treatment of friendship and to his highlighting of the need for reciprocity then the moral self that emerges from Nicomachean Ethics becomes more dialectical and more at one with that proposed by the American pragmatist. Aristotle, then, may be regarded as setting Dewey on the path towards a model of moral self that is not only deeply concerned about the lives of others but that is also dependent on others for its own existence
Keywords Dialectical self  Human flourishing  Moral self  Pragmatism  Reciprocity
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