Is the Life of a Mediocre Philosopher Better Than the Life of an Excellent Cobbler? Aristotle On the Value of Activity in Nicomachean Ethics X.4-8.

Journal of Value Inquiry (1):1-17 (2021)
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Insofar as living well is, for Aristotle, the ultimate end of human life, and insofar as our life comprises different activities (energeiai), the key prerequisite for living well is to rank and choose different activities according to their value. The objective of this article is to identify and discuss different considerations that determine the value of an activity in Aristotle's ethics. Focusing on selected passages from Nicomachean Ethics X, I argue that the structure of an activity's value displays considerable heterogeneity. An activity can be good on account of its excellence, excellence-independent worthwhileness, as well as its continuity; these kinds of value do not necessarily entail each other, and they can even occur at each other's expense. This interpretation shifts the focus from the notion of virtue to the notion of activity, and thus opens up a fresh angle on Aristotle's: virtue or excellence is just one source of activity's value, alongside its worthwhileness and continuity.

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David Machek
University of Bern

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