Aristotelian well-being: A response to L. W. Sumner's critique

Utilitas 18 (3):218-231 (2006)
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Abstract

Aristotle's ethical theory is often seen as instructing agents in the prudent pursuit of their own well-being, and therefore labeled egoistic. Yet it is also subject to the opposing charge of failing to direct agents to their well-being, directing them instead to perfection. I am here concerned chiefly with the second criticism, and proceed as follows: I first articulate Sumner's version of the criticism, and second assess his argument for his own (subjective) account of well-being. Third, I present reasons motivating a more objective account of well-being, reasons for taking another look at Aristotle. Finally, granting that Aristotle does indeed direct agents to pursue their perfection, I argue that perfection includes well-being within it. This shows how Aristotle escapes the second criticism, while at the same time pointing the way toward a defense against the first. (Published Online August 21 2006).

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Christopher H. Toner
University of St. Thomas, Minnesota

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