Contemplation and Action within the Context of the Kalon: A Reading of the Nicomachean Ethics

Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 83:173-182 (2009)
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Abstract

In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle seems to take it for granted that the contemplative man is morally virtuous. Yet in certain passages he suggests that morally virtuous actions can impede contemplation. In this paper I examine the relationship between contemplation and morally virtuous action in Aristotleā€™s ethics. I argue that, when understood within the context of the motivating power of the kalon, contemplation and morally virtuous action are related to one another in such a way that one cannot be contemplative without being morally virtuous and vice versa. I begin by showing how eudaimonia is used in the Nicomachean Ethics to interpret the erga kai ho bios, that is, lived experience, and to bring to light the kalon as the motive for morally virtuous actions. I argue that since the kalon is also the motive for contemplation, morally virtuous action and contemplation imply one another.

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Michael Wiitala
Cleveland State University

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