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Aristotle on Self-Sufficiency, External Goods, and Contemplation

Marc Gasser-Wingate

Abstract

Aristotle tells us that contemplation is the most self-sufficient form of virtuous activity: we can contemplate alone, and with minimal resources, while moral virtues like courage require other individuals to be courageous towards, or courageous with. This is hard to square with the rest of his discussion of self-sufficiency in the Ethics: Aristotle doesn‘t generally seek to minimize the number of resources necessary for a flourishing human life, and seems happy to grant that such a life will be self-sufficient despite requiring a lot of external goods. In this paper I develop an interpretation of self-sufficiency as a form of independence from external contributors to our activity, and argue that this interpretation accounts both for Aristotle‘s views on contemplation and for the role self-sufficiency plays in his broader account of human happiness.

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Published Online: 2020-02-29
Published in Print: 2020-03-01

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