By scholarly consensus, extant fragments from, and testimony about, Aristotle’s lost dialogue Eudemus provide strong evidence for thinking that Aristotle at some point defended the human soul’s unqualified immortality (either in whole or in part). I reject this consensus and develop an alternative, deflationary, speculative, but textually supported proposal to explain why Aristotle might have written a dialogue featuring arguments for the soul’s unqualified immortality. Instead of defending unqualified immortality as a doctrine, I argue, the Eudemus was most likely offering (...) a dramatically engaging propaedeutic to the sort of philosophical inquiry about the soul and its prospects that Aristotle pursues more scientifically in the De anima and Parva naturalia. (shrink)
Traditionally, Aristotle is held to believe that philosophical contemplation is valuable for its own sake, but ultimately useless. In this volume, Matthew D. Walker offers a fresh, systematic account of Aristotle's views on contemplation's place in the human good. The book situates Aristotle's views against the background of his wider philosophy, and examines the complete range of available textual evidence. On this basis, Walker argues that contemplation also benefits humans as perishable living organisms by actively guiding human life activity, including (...) human self-maintenance. Aristotle's views on contemplation's place in the human good thus cohere with his broader thinking about how living organisms live well. A novel exploration of Aristotle's views on theory and practice, this volume will interest scholars and students of both ancient Greek ethics and natural philosophy. It will also appeal to those working in other disciplines including classics, ethics, and political theory. (shrink)
Aristotle’s views on the choiceworthiness of friends might seem both internally inconsistent and objectionably instrumentalizing. On the one hand, Aristotle maintains that perfect friends or virtue friends are choiceworthy and lovable for their own sake, and not merely for the sake of further ends. On the other hand, in Nicomachean Ethics IX.9, Aristotle appears somehow to account for the choiceworthiness of such friends by reference to their utility as sources of a virtuous agent’s robust self-awareness. I examine Aristotle’s views on (...) the utility and choiceworthiness of friends, and offer a novel reading of Nicomachean Ethics IX.9. On this reading, Aristotle accepts a version of instrumental conditionalism about final value, that is, the thesis that goods (including friends) can be choiceworthy for their own sake (i.e., possess final or end value) at least partly on account of their instrumental properties. In articulating what sort of instrumental conditionalism it is reasonable to attribute to Aristotle, I argue that Aristotle appeals to the utility of perfect friends as part of a broadly material causal account of why such friends are choiceworthy for their own sake. On this reading, perfect friends are not choiceworthy for the sake of their utility in eliciting self-awareness; rather, their choiceworthiness for their own sake is (at least partly) realized in, or constituted by, their conduciveness to the virtuous agent’s self-awareness. This reading, I argue, frees Aristotle from the charge of inconsistency: Aristotle can appeal to the conduciveness of perfect friends to the virtuous agent’s self-awareness as a way of explaining why such friends are choiceworthy for their own sake. (shrink)
This chapter offers a complete account of Aristotle’s underexplored treatment of the virtue of wittiness (eutrapelia) in Nicomachean Ethics IV.8. It addresses the following questions: (1) What, according to Aristotle, is this virtue and what is its structure? (2) How do Aristotle’s moral psychological views inform Aristotle’s account, and how might Aristotle’s discussions of other, more familiar virtues, enable us to understand wittiness better? In particular, what passions does the virtue of wittiness concern, and how might the virtue (and its (...) attendant vices) be related to the virtue of temperance (and its attendant vices)? (3) How does wittiness, as an ethical virtue, benefit its possessor? (4) How can Aristotle resolve some key tensions that his introducing a virtue of wittiness apparently generates for his ethics? In addition to exploring these questions, this chapter challenges some commonly accepted accounts of Aristotle’s views on the nature of the laughable. (shrink)
I briefly defend the philosophical cogency of inclusivism about human flourishing, the view that intrinsic goods are valuable for the sake of flourishing by somehow composing flourishing. In particular, I consider the stuctured inclusivist view that intrinsic goods are components of flourishing as body parts are components of a body. As a test case, I examine the conception of human flourishing offered by the early Confucian philosopher Mengzi (Mencius). I argue that by appealing to Mengzi’s account, one can respond to (...) worries (such as those of Richard Kraut) about how such a structured inclusivism could possibly make sense. (shrink)
In Plato’s Symposium, the mysterious Apollodorus recounts to an unnamed comrade, and to us, Aristodemus’ story of just what happened at Agathon’s drinking party. Since Apollodorus did not attend the party, however, it is unclear what relevance he could have to our understanding of Socrates’ speech, or to the Alcibiadean “satyr and silenic drama” (222d) that follows. The strangeness of Apollodorus is accentuated by his recession into the background after only two Stephanus pages. What difference—if any—does Apollodorus make to the (...) Symposium? Does his inclusion call the dramatic and philosophical unity of the work into question? I argue that despite initial appearances, Plato has important philosophical reasons for including Apollodorus as a character. Far from being an odd appendage to an otherwise complete narrative, the figure of Apollodorus is useful for our understanding of Socrates’s conception of eros later in the work. (shrink)
Given the importance of theoretical wisdom in Aristotle’s account of the human good, it is striking that contemporary virtue ethicists have been virtually silent about this intellectual virtue and what contribution it makes – or could make – toward human flourishing. In this paper, I examine, and respond to, two main worries that account for theoretical wisdom’s current marginality. Along the way, I sketch a neo-Aristotelian conception of theoretical wisdom, and argue that this intellectual virtue is more central to the (...) concerns of contemporary virtue ethicists than it has perhaps so far seemed. (shrink)
Confucius and Aristotle both put a primacy on the task of ethical self-cultivation. Unlike Aristotle, who emphasizes the instrumental value of legal punishment for cultivation’s sake, Confucius raises worries about the practice of punishment. Punishment, and the threat of punishment, Confucius suggests, actually threatens to warp human motivation and impede our ethical development. In this paper, I examine Confucius’ worries about legal punishment, and consider how a dialogue on punishment between Confucius and Aristotle might proceed. I explore how far apart (...) these thinkers actually stand, and examine the possibilities for a rapprochement between them. Doing so brings to light the self-cultivation perspective’s range of resources for thinking about punishment’s justification. (shrink)
This chapter examines key Confucian worries about the Aristotelian sophos as a model of human flourishing. How strong are these worries? Do Aristotelians have good replies to them? Could the Aristotelian sophos, and this figure's distinguishing feature, sophia, be more appealing to the Confucian than they initially appear?
I examine Zhu Xi's investigation thesis, the claim that a necessary condition (in ordinary cases) for one’s acting fully virtuously is one’s investigating the all-pervasive pattern in things (gewu格物). I identify four key objections that the thesis faces, which I label the rationalism, elitism, demandingness, and irrelevance worries. Zhu Xi, I argue, has resources for responding to each of these worries, and for defending a broadly intellectualist conception of fully virtuous agency.
In fragments from the Protrepticus, Aristotle offers three linked arguments for the view that philosophy is easy. According to an obvious normative worry, however, Aristotle also seems to think that the easiness of many activities has little to do with their choiceworthiness. Hence, if the Protrepticus seeks to exhort its audience to philosophize on the basis of philosophy’s easiness, then perhaps the Protrepticus provides the wrong sort of hortatory appeal. In response, I briefly situate Aristotle’s arguments in their dialectical context. (...) On this basis, I elucidate what sort of easiness Aristotle attributes to philosophy, and what difference Aristotle thinks philosophy’s easiness makes to its choiceworthiness. (shrink)
In fragments of the lost Protrepticus, preserved in Iamblichus, Aristotle responds to Isocrates’ worries about the excessive demandingness of theoretical philosophy. Contrary to Isocrates, Aristotle holds that such philosophy is generally feasible for human beings. In defense of this claim, Aristotle offers the progress argument, which appeals to early Greek philosophers’ rapid success in attaining exact understanding. In this paper, I explore and evaluate this argument. After making clarificatory exegetical points, I examine the argument’s premises in light of pressing worries (...) that the argument reasonably faces in its immediate intellectual context, the dispute between Isocrates and Aristotle. I also relate the argument to modern concerns about philosophical progress. I contend that the argument withstands these worries, and thereby constitutes a reasonable Aristotelian response to the Isocratean challenge. (shrink)
I examine and compare Confucian wu-wei rule and Aristotelian non-imperative rule as two models of non-impositional rule. How exactly do non-impositional rulers, according to these thinkers, generate order? And how might a Confucian/Aristotelian dialogue concerning non-impositional rule in distinctively political contexts proceed? Are Confucians and Aristotelians in deep disagreement, or do they actually have more in common than they initially seem?
In Nicomachean Ethics X.7–8, Aristotle defends a striking view about the good for human beings. According to Aristotle, the single happiest way of life is organized around philosophical contemplation. According to the narrowness worry, however, Aristotle's contemplative ideal is unduly Procrustean, restrictive, inflexible, and oblivious of human diversity. In this paper, I argue that Aristotle has resources for responding to the narrowness worry, and that his contemplative ideal can take due account of human diversity.
In the opening of Plato’s Lysis, Socrates criticizes the love-besotted Hippothales’ way of speaking to, and about, Hippothales’ yearned-for Lysis. Socrates subsequently proceeds to demonstrate (ἐπιδεῖξαι) how Hippothales should converse with Lysis (206c5–6). But how should we assess Socrates’ criticisms of, and demonstration to, Hippothales? Are they defensible by Socrates’ own standards, as well as independent criteria? In this note, I first articulate and assess Socrates’ criticisms of Hippothales. Second, I identify, examine, and respond to puzzles to which Socrates’ demonstration (...) to Hippothales gives rise. (shrink)
I explore Aristotle’s account in the Nicomachean Ethics of how agents attain self-awareness through contemplation. I argue that Aristotle sets up an account of self-awareness through contemplating friends in Books VIII-IX that completes itself in Book X’s remarks on theoretical contemplation. I go on to provide an account of how contemplating the divine, on Aristotle’s view, elicits self-awareness.