It persisted as the dominant approach in Western moral philosophy until at least the Enlightenment, suffered a momentary eclipse during the nineteenth century, but re-emerged in Anglo-American philosophy in the late s.
Preliminaries Aristotle wrote two ethical treatises: In any case, these two works cover more or less the same ground: Both treatises examine the conditions in which praise or blame are appropriate, and the nature of pleasure and friendship; near the end of each work, we find a brief discussion of the proper relationship between human beings and the divine.
Though the general point of view expressed in each work is the same, there are many subtle differences in organization and content as well. Clearly, one is a re-working of the other, and although no single piece of evidence shows conclusively what their order is, it is widely assumed that the Nicomachean Ethics is a later and improved version of the Eudemian Ethics.
Not all of the Eudemian Ethics was revised: Perhaps the most telling indication of this ordering is that in several instances the Nicomachean Ethics develops a theme about which its Eudemian cousin is silent. The remainder of this article will therefore focus on this work.
Page and line numbers shall henceforth refer to this treatise. It ranges over topics discussed more fully in the other two works and its point of view is similar to theirs.
Why, being briefer, is it named the Magna Moralia? Because each of the two papyrus rolls into which it is divided is unusually long. Just as a big mouse can be a small animal, two big chapters can make a small book.
A few authors in antiquity refer to a work with this name and attribute it to Aristotle, but it is not mentioned by several authorities, such as Cicero and Diogenes Laertius, whom we would expect to have known of it.
No one had written ethical treatises before Aristotle. The Human Good and the Function Argument The principal idea with which Aristotle begins is that there are differences of opinion about what is best for human beings, and that to profit from ethical inquiry we must resolve this disagreement.
He insists that ethics is not a theoretical discipline: In raising this question—what is the good? He assumes that such a list can be compiled rather easily; most would agree, for example, that it is good to have friends, to experience pleasure, to be healthy, to be honored, and to have such virtues as courage at least to some degree.
The difficult and controversial question arises when we ask whether certain of these goods are more desirable than others. To be eudaimon is therefore to be living in a way that is well-favored by a god. But Aristotle never calls attention to this etymology in his ethical writings, and it seems to have little influence on his thinking.
No one tries to live well for the sake of some further goal; rather, being eudaimon is the highest end, and all subordinate goals—health, wealth, and other such resources—are sought because they promote well-being, not because they are what well-being consists in.
But unless we can determine which good or goods happiness consists in, it is of little use to acknowledge that it is the highest end. One important component of this argument is expressed in terms of distinctions he makes in his psychological and biological works.🔥Citing and more!
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