Review: Posted August 14, 1995 [Book Review]
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
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nnas' article is the first of three in a "Symposium on Ancient Ethics." She begins with the observation that ancient ethics are "eudaemonist" in form. That is, they assume "that each of us has a vague and unarticulated idea of an overall or final goal in our life," which we label eudaimonia or happiness, "and the task of ethical theory is to give each person a clear, articulated, and correct account of this overall goal and how to achieve it" (p. 241; Annas defends this generalization, which is controversial as applied to Stoic and Epicurean ethics, in her The Morality of Happiness [Oxford, 1993]). Furthermore, whereas modern ethical theories (e.g., those of Kant and Sidgwick) typically distinguish between "moral reasoning" and "prudential reasoning," ancient ethical theories do not. How come? One "widespread" and "traditional" view (pp. 244, 245) is that ancient ethics assimilate morality to prudence: "ethical theory guides the agent from an intuitive, restrictive view of what is in her interests (money, power) to a more expanded and elevated view (the virtues)" (p. 244). This interpretation is sometimes joined with the claim that the Greeks took for granted what Nicholas White terms "fusionism": the view that individual good is not ultimately distinct from social or collective good (p. 245). However, Annas notes, ancient Greek literature provides ample illustration that "fusionism" was not taken for granted.
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