In this paper, I investigate Aristotle’s claim in 'Nicomachean Ethics' III.1 about situations that “overstrain human nature.” By setting out and answering several interpretative questions about such situations, I offer a comprehensive interpretation of this passage. I argue that in (at least some of) these cases, the agent voluntarily does something wrong, even though there is a right action available. Furthermore, I argue that Aristotle would think it is possible for a rare agent to perform the right action in (at (...) least some of) these cases, overcoming the limitations of human nature by identifying with the divine part of the soul. (shrink)
Why does someone, S, deserve blame or reproach for an action or event? One part of a standard answer since Aristotle: the event was caused, at least in part, by S’s bad will. But recently there’s been some insightful discussion of cases where the event’s causes do not include any bad will from S and yet it seems that S is not off the hook for the event. Cheshire Calhoun, Miranda Fricker, Elinor Mason, David Enoch, Randolph Clarke, and others include (...) in this category some cases of glitches, forgetfulness, inattentiveness, the actions of one’s children or one’s country, and certain instances of explicit bias and implicit bias. Enoch and Mason argue that in these cases S should extend the realm of S’s responsibility. Drawing on Aristotle’s emphases on retrospective attitudes and the non-voluntary, this paper attempts to clarify the relation between quality of will and blameworthiness. I analyze cases where (1) S is clearly not morally responsible for an action or event, E, yet (2) S deserves reproach for E unless S has the appropriate retrospective attitudes (such as regret) or the absence of inappropriate attitudes toward E. (shrink)
In recent decades, it has been argued that the modern concept of forgiveness is absent from Aristotle’s conception of συγγνώμη as it appears in his Rhetoric and Nicomachean Ethics. In this paper, I argue that Aristotle’s view is more modern than it might appear. I defend the idea that Aristotle’s treatment of συγγνώμη, when seen in conjunction with his theory of ethical decision, involuntary action, and character alteration, commits him to a cognitive and emotional theory of forgiveness that is both (...) well-grounded and thoroughly modern. I go on to claim that Aristotle’s view of συγγνώμη helps to solve at least four controversial problems about the nature of forgiveness raised by modern philosophers: how one can forgive a wrong without condoning it, whether forgiveness is a duty, whether moral luck requires us to forgive more widely, and whether forgiveness ought to be unconditional. (shrink)
The author discusses Aristotle’s notion of deliberation and shows that it differs considerably from the model of deliberation as is common in contemporary discussions of free will and moral responsibility. As opposed to the contemporary model, Aristotle’s account does not require that the deliberator has any belief (or lack thereof) concerning the availability of possible courses of action. However, the action chosen by deliberation, before it is performed, is still contingent––i.e. such that it can both be and not be done––and (...) up to us. Moreover, the action’s being up to us can be seen as grounded in our having rational capacities that are necessarily two-sided. This might suggest that the agent can do otherwise than she has decided by deliberation. The author argues that this is not the case: after deliberation, or after forming the relevant desire, the agent can actualize only one arm of her two-sided capacity, and hence, she cannot act differently than as decided by deliberation. If it makes sense to say that she can act differently, it is only because there may occur, in the interval between deliberation and action, some other desire which takes over a role of the decisive factor. (shrink)
Scholarship on Aristotle’s theory of action has recently veered toward an intellectualist position, according to which reason is in charge of setting the goals of action. This position has recently been criticized by an anti-intellectualism revival, according to which character, and not reason, sets the goals of action. I argue that neither view can sufficiently account for the complexities of Aristotle’s theory, and suggest a middle way that combines the strengths of both while avoiding their pitfalls. The key problem for (...) intellectualism is that Aristotle explicitly states reason cannot set the goals of action. The key problem for anti-intellectualism is that he also holds that the soul’s rational part must guide and prescribe over the non-rational part. I propose indirect intellectualism, a promising middle path. (shrink)
Neste artigo é apresentada uma interpretação dos critérios propostos por Aristóteles para separar as ações voluntárias das demais ações, assim como do tratamento aristotélico das ações mistas, das não-voluntárias e das reações morais que lhes são devidas. A interpretação defendida se concentra na Ética Nicomaquéia (EN) e faz uso da Ética Eudêmia (EE) apenas ocasionalmente. Só podemos afirmar que agimos de forma involuntária ou não-voluntária quando somos constrangidos a sofrer uma determinada ação ou quando realizamos algo por acidente.
Duas das principais controvérsias que têm ocupado aqueles que se dedicam à teoria aris- totélica do movimento animal são a controvérsia acerca da forma da cognição através da qual um animal irracional apreende um objeto como um objeto de desejo e a controvérsia acerca da função desempenhada pela cognição na explicação aristotélica dos movimentos voluntários de locomoção animal. Neste artigo, eu apresento uma teoria acerca das formas como o desejo e a cognição se articulam na teoria aristotélica segundo a qual (...) um animal irracional apreende um objeto como um objeto de desejo através da percepção incidental deste objeto e, ao contrário do que a maioria parece acreditar, esta percepção não tem sempre a mesma função na produção destes movimentos. Se o que for dito aqui estiver correto, em alguns casos esta percepção é responsável tanto pela geração do desejo quan- to pela sua orientação, mas em outros ela é responsável apenas pela sua orientação. (shrink)
Aristotle claims that in some extenuating circumstances, the correct response to the wrongdoer is sungnōmē rather than blame. Sungnōmē has a wide spectrum of meanings that include aspects of sympathy, pity, fellow-feeling, pardon, and excuse, but the dominant interpretation among scholars takes Aristotle’s meaning to correspond most closely to forgiveness. Thus, it is commonly held that the virtuous Aristotelian agent ought to forgive wrongdoers in specific extenuating circumstances. Against the more popular forgiveness interpretation, I begin by defending a positive account (...) of sungnōmē as the correct judgment that a wrongdoer deserves excuse since she was not blameworthy. I then argue that since sungnōmē is merited on the grounds of fairness, this shows that both the forgiveness interpretation and a third, alternative interpretation of sungnōmē as sympathy mischaracterize both the justification for sungnōmē and its nature. Moreover, I argue that Aristotle not only lacks an account of forgiveness but in fact, that his account of blame is incompatible with forgiveness altogether. (shrink)
I argue that the two criteria traditionally identified as jointly sufficient for voluntary behavior according to Aristotle require qualification. Without such qualification, they admit troubling exceptions. Through minding these difficult examples, I conclude that a third condition mentioned by Aristotle – the eph' hēmin – is key to qualifying the original two criteria. What is eph' hēmin is that which is efficiently caused by appetite and teleologically caused by reason such that the agent could have, in theory, acted differently. I (...) propose that praise and blame are justified only when 1: the behavior is voluntary and 2: the agent is susceptible to the positive influences of appropriate praise and blame to help form, improve, or strengthen a good character. Through concentrating on the agent's affectability in morally salient situations, we may better understand the qualified criteria's role in voluntary human behavior in general. (shrink)
I argue that Aristotelian decisions (προαιρέσεις) cannot be conceived of as based solely on wish (βούλησις) and deliberation (βούλευσις), as the standard picture (most influentially argued for in Anscombe's "Thought and Action in Aristotle", in R. Bambrough ed. New Essays on Plato and Aristotle. London: Routledge, 1965) suggests. Although some features of the standard view are correct (such as that decisions have essential connection to deliberation and that wish always plays a crucial role in the formation of a decision), Aristotelian (...) decisions sometimes must include non-rational desires such as appetite. Consequently, any exegetical account of Aristotle’s notion of decision must be able to accommodate this feature. (shrink)
There is a current debate about the grammar of intention: do I intend to φ, or that I φ? The equivalent question in Aristotle relates especially to choice. I argue that, in the context of practical reasoning, choice, as also wish, has as its object an act. I then explore the role that this plays within his account of the relation of thought to action. In particular, I discuss the relation of deliberation to the practical syllogism, and the thesis that (...) the conclusion of the second is an action. (shrink)
Este trabalho tem por objetivo a compreensão da ação em Aristóteles. Para este fim será utilizado o livro III da Ética a Nicômaco, passando antes por uma breve definição da virtude, tal como aparece no livro II, a qual, pode-se dizer ser o bem para a ação, na medida em que é aquilo que se deve alcançar com ela. No campo específico da ação será visto como ela pode ser distinguida entre voluntária, involuntária e não-voluntária. Neste espectro insere-se igualmente a (...) discussão sobre o que significa agir por e na ignorância. Além disso, se abordará também a questão relacionada à deliberação e à escolha.: This study aims to understand the action in Aristotle. For this purpose, we will use the book III of the Nicomachean Ethics, after doing a brief definition of virtue, as it appears in the Book II, which can be said to be the good for the action, as that is what should be reached by her. In the specific field of action, it will be seen how she can be distinguished between voluntary, involuntary and non-voluntary. This spectrum is also part of the discussion about what it means to act by and in the ignorance. In addition, the study will also address the issue related to deliberation and choice. Keywords: Deliberation, Choice, Action, Nicomachean Ethics. (shrink)
I defend two main theses. First, I argue that Aristotle’s account of voluntary action focuses on the conditions under which one is the cause of one’s actions in virtue of being (qua) the individual one is. Aristotle contrasts voluntary action not only with involuntary action but also with cases in which one acts (or does something) due to one’s nature (for example, in virtue of being a member of a certain species) rather than due to one’s own desires (i.e. qua (...) individual). An action can be attributed to one qua individual in two distinct ways depending on whether one is a rational or a non-rational animal. One is responsible for one’s action in both cases, but only in the former case is one also responsible for being the sort of individual that performs it. Aristotle also distinguishes two ways in which an action can be compelled while still being an action of the agent. In the first case, one is compelled by (physically) external forces or circumstances to act against one’s internal impulse. In the second case, one is compelled to act on (internal) impulses that are fixed by one’s nature against one’s own individual impulse. This latter kind of compelled action is only possible in the case of rational agents. Secondly, I argue that Aristotle’s conception of what it is to be a cause of an action inevitably brings in certain normative features which support evaluative judgments and the practice of praise and blame. On Aristotle’s view, any goal-directed behavior that is properly attributable to an individual is (normally) subject to standards that pertain to behavior of that sort. At the most basic level, these standards establish what counts as a successful realization of the goal that one aims at. Thus even in the case of non-rational animals (or children), one can judge the success of what they are doing and encourage (or discourage) similar behavior by praise or blame. These standards are applicable to one’s conduct simply insofar as one is the controlling origin (or efficient cause) of one’s action qua individual. In the case of rational agents the practice of praise and blame can involve a further normative layer since they can be praised or blamed not only for acting in a certain way so as to encourage or discourage them with a view to the future, but also for being – and having become – individuals of a certain sort. Nevertheless, the applicability of such evaluative judgments and of praise and blame is still warranted by one’s being the controlling origin of one’s actions qua the individual one is (in this case, qua rational individual). (shrink)
The paper defends three claims about Aristotle’s theory of uncontrolled actions (akrasia) in NE 7.3. First, I argue that the first part of NE 7.3 contains the description of the overall state of mind of the agent while she acts without control. Aristotle’s solution to the problem of uncontrolled action lies in the analogy between the uncontrolled agent and people who are drunk, mad, or asleep. This analogy is interpreted as meaning that the uncontrolled agent, while acting without control, is (...) still in possession of her knowledge but she is unable to use it as knowledge due to the temporary disablement of her reason by appetite. Due to this disablement, the uncontrolled agent is temporarily unable to be motivated to act by her knowledge and acts merely on her appetite. Second, I argue that the second part of NE 7.3 provides an analysis of the particular mental state from which the uncontrolled action issues. Its central passage is a description of the uncontrolled agent’s state of mind before the uncontrolled action and not, as it has been traditionally understood, a description of her state of mind during the uncontrolled action. Third, I argue that, on Aristotle’s view, the transition from the state before the uncontrolled action to the state in which the agent already acts without control does not involve any psychological state that would constitute the agent’s choice to abandon her decision and give in to her desires but proceeds on a purely physiological level. (shrink)
En el artículo se examinan los dos intentos de Aristóteles por explicar el fenómeno de las acciones voluntarias e involuntarias: Ética Eudemia (EE) II 6-9 y Ética Nicomaquea (EN) III 1. Entre ambos tratamientos hay muchas coincidencias, pero también diferencias sustantivas, tanto en la caracterización de las acciones involuntarias como en la estrategia argumentativa general y la definición de lo voluntario. El artículo procura dar cuenta de dichas diferencias de contenido en función de la estrategia metodológica general por la que (...) opta Aristóteles en uno y otro caso. The article examines Aristotle's two attempts to explain the phenomena of voluntary and involuntary actions: Eudemian Ethics (EE) II 6-9 and Nicomachean Ethics (EN) III 1. Though there are notorious coincidences, there are also substantial differences between them in the characterization of involuntary actions, in the general argumentative strategy, and in the definition of voluntary actions. The paper endeavors to account for these material differences on the basis of the general methodological strategy used by Aristotle in each case. (shrink)
The article examines Aristotle’s two attempts to explain the phenomena of voluntary and involuntary actions: Eudemian Ethics (EE) II 6-9 and Nicomachean Ethics (EN) III 1. Though there are notorious coincidences, there are also substantial differences between them in the characterization of involuntary actions, in the general argumentative strategy, and in the definition of voluntary actions. The paper endeavors to account for these material differences on the basis of the general methodological strategy used by Aristotle in each case.
Introduction : what's the problem? -- The problem may lurk in Aristotle's ethics -- Aristotle's akratic : foreshadowing a solution -- A negligent omission at the root of all sinfulness : Anselm and the Devil -- Negligent vs. non-negligent : a Thomistic distinction directing us toward a solution -- Can I have your divided attention? : Scotus, indistinct intellections, and type-1 negligent omissions almost solved -- I can't get you out of my mind : Scotus, lingering indistinct intellections, and type-2 (...) negligent omissions -- Scotus's affection-ate corrective : a possible final solution to a type-2 variant -- Neglected treatises help solve negligence : the action theory of Francisco Suarez -- An answer that cannot be neglected : the solution -- Appendix A : translation of Nicomachean ethics 1146b31-1147b19. (shrink)
I argue that Aristotle endorses what I call the ‘strong link thesis’: the claim that virtuous and vicious acts are voluntary just in case the character states from which they flow are voluntary. Pace much of the literature, I argue that Aristotle does not defend some kind of limited or qualified responsibility for character: rightly or wrongly, he believes, and must believe, that character states are voluntary, full stop.
Advertimos que não temos como propósito a releitura de algum ponto específico de alguma parte da obra de Aristóteles ou uma nova interpretação acerca de alguma passagem, conceito ou ‘doutrina’ do corpus. Pretendemos tão somente estabelecer certo percurso de análise de um dos importantes conceitos da sua filosofia, a saber, o lógos, a partir da investigação de outro conceito de fundamental importância nos seus textos, a potência, percurso esse que conduz a um aparente paradoxo (o qual constituir-se-á no objeto norteador (...) da nossa pesquisa), qual seja, por um lado, de uma perspectiva física, o lógos confere potencialidade para o homem não ficar totalmente sujeito à necessidade do mundo sublunar, permitindo-lhe agir na contingência que este comporta; por outro, de um ponto de vista prático, esse mesmo lógos tende a encerrar o homem em certa necessidade. (shrink)
Pace much of the literature, I argue that Aristotle endorses what I call the ‘strong link thesis’: the claim that virtuous and vicious acts are voluntary just in case the character states from which they flow are voluntary. I trace the strong link thesis to Plato’s Laws, among other texts, and show how it functions in key arguments of both philosophers.
En los escritos de Aristóteles está frecuentemente relacionada la investigación (zethesis) con la deliberación (boulé). En el presente texto se hará una revisión de dicha relación, y se tratará de rechazar una relación meramente analógica entre investigar y deliberar, que, como se intentará mostrar, se basa fundamentalmente en una fuerte distinción entre razón teórica y razón práctica. Se tratará de probar una relación mucho más fuerte entre investigación y deliberación, mostrando que no es ni su objeto ni las habilidades racionales (...) y cognitivas lo que distingue la una de la otra, sino simplemente su finalidad: investigar es el género de la deliberación, y, por tanto, es preciso distinguir entre investigación teórica e investigación práctica o deliberación, cuyo fin, a diferencia de la investigación teórica, es hallar la manera de alcanzar un estado de cosas determinado, lo cual no depende tanto del objeto mismo, como es el caso de la teoría, sino del agente. (shrink)