Accessible Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter July 11, 2015

Aristotle’s Dichotomous Anthropology: What is Most Human in the Nicomachean Ethics?

Harald Thorsrud
From the journal Apeiron

Abstract

Many commentators have noted how the conflict in Aristotle’s account of human nature in the Nicomachean Ethics is passed on, via the function argument of I 7, to his view(s) of happiness (eudaimonia). But the general consensus has been that Aristotle must have a single, unified view of eudaimonia, which in turn presupposes a single, unified account of human nature. Accordingly a great deal of exegetical energy has been spent resolving the apparent conflict in the Nicomachean Ethics. Although others have maintained that there is a real and irresolvable conflict here, I believe a stronger case can be made. In addition to making this case, I argue that given Aristotle’s view of rationality, he was right to be so conflicted: our capacity for theoretical reasoning is not easily accommodated in a life governed by practical reasoning and vice-versa. What’s more, it may in fact be the case that we are driven by our nature to incompatible ends. If so, there will be no single best life for us to live. With this possibility in mind, we can see that saddling Aristotle with a fundamental inconsistency in his ethics is not necessarily disappointing or uncharitable. For if we are such complex creatures, the inconsistency is in us; and Aristotle should be commended for saving the phenomena.

Published Online: 2015-7-11
Published in Print: 2015-7-1

© 2015 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston