Complete Virtue and the Definition of Happiness in Aristotle

Frontiers of Philosophy in China 15 (2):293-314 (2020)
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Abstract

In this paper, I challenge the standard reading of complete virtue (ἀρετή τελεία) in those disputed passages of Nicomachean Ethics and Eudemian Ethics. I argue that, for Aristotle, complete virtue is neither (i) wisdom nor (ii) a whole set of all virtues. Rather, it is a term used by Aristotle to denote any virtue that is in its complete or perfect form. In light of this reading, I offer a pluralist interpretation of Aristotelian happiness. I argue that for Aristotle, the life-long exercise of a predominant virtue—as long as it is exercised in its complete or perfect form—will suffice for human happiness. The so-called inclusivist and intellectualist notions of Aristotelian happiness, thus understood, are merely two forms (viz. the composite and the non-composite form) of the pluralist notion of Aristotelian happiness. And if I am right, my pluralist interpretation provides an alternative, if not better, solution to the long-standing problem of “dual happiness” in Aristotle.

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Xinkai Hu
Southeast University

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