Gabriel Richardson Lear presents a bold new approach to one of the enduring debates about Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics: the controversy about whether it coherently argues that the best life for humans is one devoted to a single activity, namely philosophical contemplation. Many scholars oppose this reading because the bulk of the Ethics is devoted to various moral virtues--courage and generosity, for example--that are not in any obvious way either manifestations of philosophical contemplation or subordinated to it. They (...) argue that Aristotle was inconsistent, and that we should not try to read the entire Ethics as an attempt to flesh out the notion that the best life aims at the "monistic good" of contemplation. In defending the unity and coherence of the Ethics, Lear argues that, in Aristotle's view, we may act for the sake of an end not just by instrumentally bringing it about but also by approximating it. She then argues that, for Aristotle, the excellent rational activity of moral virtue is an approximation of theoretical contemplation. Thus, the happiest person chooses moral virtue as an approximation of contemplation in practical life. Richardson Lear bolsters this interpretation by examining three moral virtues--courage, temperance, and greatness of soul--and the way they are fine. Elegantly written and rigorously argued, this is a major contribution to our understanding of a central issue in Aristotle's moral philosophy. (shrink)
The Nicomachean Ethics is generally thought to be a “dialectical” work, aimed at resolving aporia in a set of endoxa, which it takes as its starting-point. I argue that Aristotle’s aim in the treatise is, rather, to produce definitions of key ethical terms, and that his starting-points are limited to evaluative and discriminative judgments of a certain sort, which are demanded by the nature of the discipline and are not endoxa. I discuss also how the definitions are reached (...) (focusing on the cases of the virtues of character) and the roles that aporiai do play in the process. (shrink)
The ethics of Aristotle , and virtue ethics in general, have enjoyed a resurgence of interest over the past few decades. Aristotelian themes, with such issues as the importance of friendship and emotions in a good life, the role of moral perception in wise choice, the nature of happiness and its constitution, moral education and habituation, are finding an important place in contemporary moral debates. Taken together, the essays in this volume provide a close analysis of central (...) arguments in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics and show the enduring interest of the questions Aristotle raises. (shrink)
On the nature of Aristotle's Ethics, by R. A. Gauthier.--Reason, happiness, and goodness, by F. Siegler.--The nature of aims, by J. Dewey.--Thought and action in Aristotle, by G. E. M. Anscombe.--On forgetting the difference between right and wrong, by G. Ryle.--Aristotle and the punishment of psychopaths, by V. Haksar.--Suggested further readings (p. 121-123).
It is sometimes asked whether virtue ethics can be assimilated by Kantianism or utilitarianism, or if it is a distinct position. A look atAristotle’s ethics shows that it certanly can be distinct. In particular, Aristotle presents us with an ethics of aesthetics in contrast to themore standard ethics of cognition: A virtuous agent identifies the right actions by their aesthetic qualities. Moreover, the agent’s concernwith her own aesthetic character gives us a key to the important (...) role the emotions play for Aristotle, which further distinguishes him from the other two theories we have mentioned. (shrink)
ABSTRACT: This paper is distinctly odd. It demonstrates what happens when an analytical philosopher and historian of philosophy tries their hand at the topic of reception. For a novice to this genre, it seemed advisable to start small. Rather than researching the reception of an author, book, chapter, section or paragraph, the focus of the paper is on one sentence: Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics 3.5, 1113b7-8. This sentence has markedly shaped scholarly and general opinion alike with regard to (...) class='Hi'>Aristotle’s theory of free will. In addition, it has taken on a curious life of its own. Part one of the paper examines the text itself. Part two explores its reception from antiquity to the present day, including present-day popular culture, later ancient, Byzantine, Arabic, Latin Medieval, Renaissance, Victorian and contemporary scholarship. There are some surprises on the way. (The paper also serves as an introduction to the reception of the Nicomachean Ethics from its beginnings to the present.). (shrink)
In this essay I offer a new particularist reading of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. I argue that the interpretation I present not only helps us to resolve some puzzles about Aristotle’s goals and methods, but it also gives rise to a novel account of morality—an account that is both interesting and plausible in its own right. The goal of this paper is, in part, exegetical—that is, to figure out how to best understand the text of the Nicomachean (...) class='Hi'>Ethics. But this paper also aims to contribute to the current exciting and controversial debate over particularism. By taking the first steps towards a comprehensive particularist reading of Aristotle’s Ethics I hope to demonstrate that some of the mistrust of particularism is misplaces and that what is, perhaps, the most influential moral theory in the history of philosophy is, arguably, a particularist moral theory. (shrink)
ABSTRACT: This is a short companion piece to my ‘Found in Translation – Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics III.5 1113b7-8 and its Reception’ in which I examine in close textual analysis the philosophical question whether these two lines from the Nicomachean Ethics provide any evidence that Aristotle discussed free choice – as is not infrequently assumed. The result is that they do not, and that the claim that they do tends to be based on a mistranslation of the (...) Greek. (There is some inevitable overlap with Part 1 of the 'Found in Translation' paper.). (shrink)
In my thesis, I examine the role of character friendship for the agent’s moral development in Aristotle’s ethics. I contend that we should divide character friendship in two categories: a) character friendship between completely virtuous agents, and, b) character friendship between unequally developed, or, equally developed, yet not completely virtuous agents. Regarding the first category, I argue that this highest form of friendship provides the opportunity for the agent to advance his understanding of certain virtues through the help (...) of his virtuous friend. This process can be expressed in two ways. In the first way, I take character friendship in (a) as a relationship that is based on mutual relinquishing of opportunities for action or giving up external goods based on each agent’s needs. This process helps the agents develop their character in certain virtues which have remained slightly underdeveloped than others due to nature (NE 1144b4-7), or development (Politics 1329a9ff). This means, for instance, that if agent A is wealthy and his friend B is a middle class worker and they win the lottery together, A will relinquish his share of money to his friend so that he will be able to practice the virtue of magnificence; a virtue that his previous financial condition prevented him from developing appropriately. The second process is rather different and new in scholarly debate concerning Aristotle’s theory of moral development. I suggest that the completely virtuous agent is able to further develop his character through a process I will describe as interpretative mimesis. In this process, the agent receives the form of his friend’s action and is able to apply this pattern of behavior in a situation that he thinks is appropriate. I have to highlight though the fact that he does not just ape his friend’s action. Instead, he interprets the action based on his skills and abilities and the demands of the situations he faces. Thus, this pattern works as an extra epistemological tool in the agent’s hand in new and challenging moral situations. Now, case (b) comes on the opposite side of the majority of scholars’ view on character friendship. They think that Aristotle reserves character friendship only for completely virtuous agents. I argue that this is not the correct approach, and that less than completely virtuous agents can take part in character friendships as well. This view has the advantage of making character friendship in (b) a tool in Aristotle’s hands for his agents of lower moral level to develop their understanding of virtue and its applications. I propose that the route of moral development in case (b) resembles the one in the second process of case (a). Namely, the agent receives the form of his friend’s action and uses it as a pattern in some new situation he has to face. I will not name the process though as “interpretative” or any kind of mimesis. The reason for this is that Aristotle gives us textual evidence (NE 1172a9-14) for an imitative method of moral development only for the second process of case (a). I will take case (b) then as a pattern guide application of my friend’s action which we could call pre-interpretative mimesis period of the agent’s moral development. If my arguments are correct then character friendship is much more valuable than scholars thought. Our friends turn out to be examples of good action who guide us through the sweaty and painful path that is called virtue. And this path never stops; even if we have become “moral heroes”; or, put it differently, “masters” of practical wisdom. (shrink)
The significance of imitation for moral development during childhood, in Aristotle’s ethics, has been recognized and studied. However, what role does imitation play in the morally mature agent’s character development? In this paper, I argue that moral development is possible for the advanced moral agent, when she imitates her character-friend. But the mature agent’s imitation is of a thoroughly different type than the imitation of the young moral agent; the mature imitation mechanism is selective and interpretative. The agent (...) selects from the goodness in her friend, depending on the agent’s own sensitivities, and adopts this goodness as a pattern that allows for personalized implementations, depending on her own dispositions and skills. In this way, the morally mature agent develops her moral character by enriching her epistemic tools and experience within the spectrum of the good. (shrink)
The analysis of 'mixed acts' in Nicomachean Ethics III, 1 has led scholars to attribute a theory of 'dirty hands' and 'impossible oughts' to Aristode. Michael Stocker argues that Aristode recognizes particular acts that are simultaneously 'right, even obligatory', but nevertheless 'wrong, shameful and the like'. And Martha Nussbaum commends Aristotle for not sympathizing 'with those who, in politics or in private affairs, would so shrink from blame and from unacceptable action that they would be unable to take (...) a necessary decision for the best'. In this paper I reexamine Aristotle's analysis of putatively 'mixed acts' in Nicomachean Ethics III, 1, maintaining that Aristode denies that there are acts that are (i) voluntary under the circumstances, (ii) right, all things considered, under the circumstances, but nevertheless (iii) shameful or wrong for moral or prudential reasons under the circumstances. The paper defends this interpretation with reference to Aristode's discussion of shame in EN IV, 9 and Rhetoric II, 6, as well as his overall meta-ethical commitment to a position I call 'mitigated circumstantial relativism'. By focusing on Aristotle's analysis of putatively 'mixed acts', we come closer to a true appreciation of Aristode's ethical theory, even though 'mixed act' is not, I argue, a category in Aristode's considered ontology of action. (shrink)
I review Gabriel Richardson Lear's excellent essay on Aristotle’s conception of the human good. She solves some long-standing problems in the interpretation of Aristotle’s ethics by drawing on resources in his natural philosophy and Plato’s conception of love. Her interpretation is a compelling and, to my mind, largely true account of Aristotle’s view. In this review, I summarize the book's main argument and then explain two fundamental points on which I have concerns.
Presents the Nicomachean Ethics as a work of political philosophy, emphasizing the interplay between its practical political concerns and its underlying philosophic perspective and arguing that it is rhetorical in the precise Aristotelian meaning of the term.
In this article I compare and, especially, contrast Aristotle’s conception of virtue with one typical of sub-Saharan philosophers. I point out that the latter is strictly other-regarding, and specifically communitarian, and contend that the former, while including such elements, also includes some self-regarding or individualist virtues, such as temperance and knowledge. I also argue that Aristotle’s conception of human excellence is more attractive than the sub-Saharan view as a complete account of how to live, but that the African (...) conception is a strong contender for a limited group of the most important virtues related to morality qua rightness. (shrink)
It may be nearly impossible to use standard principles to make a decision about a complex ethical case. The best decision, say virtue ethicists in the Aristotelian tradition, is often one that is made by a person of good character who knows the salient facts of the case and can frame the situation appropriately. In this respect ethical decisions and strategic decisions are similar. Rationality plays a role in good ethical decision-making, but virtue ethicists emphasize the importance ofintuitions and emotions (...) as well.Virtue ethics suggests a reconciliation of the factual and the normative. Virtues may explain as well as justify actions. The same is true of other psychological states and events. That psychological terms have normative implications does not render them useless in explanation. As Aristotle does not distinguish cleanly between the normative and empirical, so many moral philosophers today reject the is-ought dichotomy. They are prepared to learn from economists, psychologists,and other empirical scientists who offer information about the nature of the good life and of values. Social psychologists who study community or corporate culture suggest a close relationship between organizational and ethical features, much as Aristotle saw a close relationship between politics and ethics. We should infer from all this that in business ethics there is good reason for philosophers and organization scholars to work closely together. (shrink)
Stakeholder theory is an important part of modern business ethics. Many scholars argue for a normative instead of an instrumental approach to stakeholder theory. Recent examples of such an approach show that problems appear with respect to the ethical foundation as well as the specification of the norms and the relation between corporate and individual responsibilities. This paper argues for the relevance of Aristotle's ideas on ethics and politics, and especially the link between them, for stakeholder theory. (...) An Aristotelian approach suggests that the corporation should be considered as existing to allow the decision maker, who normally is a manager, to live a complete and good life and to make decisions that involve the interests of different stakeholders. This approach leads to a number of implications regarding the role of organizational politics and the managerial function. (shrink)
In this incisive study Sarah Broadie gives an argued account of the main topics of Aristotle's ethics: eudaimonia, virtue, voluntary agency, practical reason, akrasia, pleasure, and the ethical status of theoria. She explores the sense of "eudaimonia," probes Aristotle's division of the soul and its virtues, and traces the ambiguities in "voluntary." Fresh light is shed on his comparison of practical wisdom with other kinds of knowledge, and a realistic account is developed of Aristototelian deliberation. The concept (...) of pleasure as value-judgment is expounded, and the problem of akrasia is argued to be less of a problem to Aristotle than to his modern interpreters. Showing that the theoretic ideal of Nicomachean Ethics X is in step with the earlier emphasis on practice, as well as with the doctrine of the Eudemian Ethics, this work makes a major contribution towards the understanding of Aristotle's ethics. (shrink)
The paper asserts that the post-modern rejection of “modern” theoretical accounts including ethical-theoretical accounts as unacceptable meta-narratives would concur with an Aristotelian critique of contemporary ethical theories. Hence and Aristotelian critique will be similar to a post-modern critique. The paper sketches an account of what post-modernism in philosophy is and shows its similarity to Aristoteleanism in rejecting “modern” approaches in a significant way since an Aristotelian approach uses different criteria for what counts as ethical knowledge. The paper suggests that if (...) one follows the lead of Aristotle outlined in Book One Chapter Three of the Nichomachean Ethics applied ethics can be seen as similar to what Aristotle called “Rhetoric,” for in the Rhetoric Aristotle shows how one should engage in discourse about issues of the just and the good. The final section addresses the problem of how an Aristotelian approach can avoid the relativism of post-modernism. (shrink)
In this fascinating introduction, David Bostock presents a fresh perspective on one of the great classics of moral philosophy: Aristotle's Nicomachaen Ethics. He argues that it is, and deserves to be, Aristotle's most widely studied work, for much of what it has to say is still important for today's debate on the problems of ethics. Here, Bostock guides the reader through explanations and evaluations of all the main themes of the work, exploring questions of interpretation and (...) the differing views of a range of commentators. He also emphasizes the philosophical merits and faults of the doctrines that emerge, critically discussing them in a simple, straightforward way. Each chapter concludes with suggestions for further reading on the themes discussed within the chapter, and the book finishes with an evaluation of the Ethics as a whole. The ideal companion for study of Aristotle's great insights, this book helps the reader to engage with his ideas and arguments as living philosophy. (shrink)
What is the good life? Posing this question today would likely elicit very different answers. Some might say that the good life means doing good—improving one’s community and the lives of others. Others might respond that it means doing well—cultivating one’s own abilities in a meaningful way. But for Aristotle these two distinct ideas—doing good and doing well—were one and the same and could be realized in a single life. In Confronting Aristotle’s Ethics, Eugene Garver examines how (...) we can draw this conclusion from Aristotle's works, while also studying how this conception of the good life relates to contemporary ideas ofmorality. The key to Aristotle’s views on ethics, argues Garver, lies in the Metaphysics or, more specifically, in his thoughts on activities, actions, and capacities . For Aristotle, Garver shows, it is only possible to be truly active when acting for the common good, and it is only possible to be truly happy when active to the extent of one’s own powers. But does this mean we should aspire to Aristotle’s impossibly demanding vision of the good life? In a word, no. Garver stresses the enormous gap between life in Aristotle’s time and ours. As a result, this book will be a welcome rumination on not only Aristotle, but the relationship between the individual and society in everyday life. (shrink)
This book is an exploration of the epistemological, metaphysical, and psychological foundations of the Nicomachean Ethics. In a striking reversal of current orthodoxy, Reeve argues that scientific knowledge (episteme) is possible in ethics, that dialectic and understanding (nous) play essentially the same role in ethics as in an Aristotelian science, and that the distinctive role of practical wisdom (phronesis) is to use the knowledge of universals provided by science, dialectic, and understanding so as to best promote happiness (...) (eudaimonia) in particular circumstances and to ensure a happy life. Turning to happiness itself, Reeves develops a new account of Aristotle's views on ends and functions, exposing their twofold nature. He argues that the activation of theoretical wisdom is primary happiness, and that the activation of practical wisdom--when it is for the sake of primary happiness--is happiness of a secondary kind. He concludes with an account of the virtues of character, external goods, and friends, and their place in the happy life. (shrink)
In the following paper I discuss the under-appreciated role that the concept of the morally serious person plays in Aristotle’s moral philosophy. I argue that the conventional English rendering of spoudaios as “good” has a tendency to cut us off from important nuances in Aristotle’s consideration of the virtuous person. After discussing aspects of his use of the concept in the Nicomachean Ethics and the Politics I dismiss a misunderstanding of seriousness as a kind of morally indifferent (...) personality trait. I close by briefly reflecting on how an absence of moral seriousness characterizes much contemporary moral theorizing and produces what Anscombe described as the “corrupt mind.”. (shrink)
_The Blackwell Guide to Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics_ illuminates Aristotle’s ethics for both academics and students new to the work, with sixteen newly commissioned essays by distinguished international scholars. The structure of the book mirrors the organization of the Nichomachean Ethics itself. Discusses the human good, the general nature of virtue, the distinctive characteristics of particular virtues, voluntariness, self-control, and pleasure.
'By identifying the extent to which Aristotle's thinking about ethics was shaped by notions drawn from the crafts Angier has thrown new light on a surprising number of topics and has deepened our understanding of tensions within Aristotle's thought. It is by now a rare achievement to have said something new, true and important about Aristotle.' -- Alasdair MacIntyre, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, University of Notre Dame, USA.
What is the good life for a human being? Aristotle’s exploration of this question in the Nicomachean Ethics has established it as a founding work of Western philosophy, though its teachings have long puzzled readers and provoked spirited discussion. Adopting a radically new point of view, Ronna Burger deciphers some of the most perplexing conundrums of this influential treatise by approaching it as Aristotle’s dialogue with the Platonic Socrates. This dialogue initially takes the shape of a debate (...)Aristotle stages with Socrates, identified in the Ethics as a proponent of the doctrine that virtue is knowledge. Tracing the argument of the Ethics as it emerges from the debate, Burger’s careful reading shows how Aristotle represents ethical virtue from the perspective of those devoted to it while standing back to examine its assumptions and implications. Providing brilliant insights into Aristotle’s understanding of the moral life, friendship, and philosophy, Burger’s study uncovers in the speeches of the Ethics an action that proceeds in a Socratic manner to offer a Socratic answer to the question of human happiness. (shrink)