Organic Unities as Value-Creating and Identity-Constituting Contexts in Aristotle and in Bernard Williams

Dissertation, Duke University (1991)

Matthew Freytag
University of Maine at Farmington
Bernard Williams, Alasdair MacIntyre and others writing in a similar vein about ethics agree with Aristotle that good activity is good because of the relation it bears to a human life well-lived. This view leads them to reflect both on questions concerning the nature of value and on questions concerning the structure of personhood. They purport to reject Aristotle's static view of human nature; and they replace it, in otherwise roughly Aristotelian schemata, with their own notion of a value-creating and identity-constituting context--they allude variously to practices, projects, narrative unities, and structures of character. The formal nature of this context remains unclear, however, in their writings, and its role in deliberation problematic. I argue that their rejection of Aristotle's view is based on a misunderstanding of his biological metaphysics; the introduction of the core notion of organic unity, already implicit in Aristotle's ethics and more prominent in his metaphysical and biological works, can help Williams, MacIntyre, et al. resolve difficulties each of their theories faces as it stands.
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