Action, Contemplation, and Happiness

Action, Contemplation, and Happiness: An Essay on Aristotle

C. D. C. Reeve
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 320
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2jbqsb
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  • Book Info
    Action, Contemplation, and Happiness
    Book Description:

    This accessible and innovative essay on Aristotle, based on fresh translations of a wide selection of his writings, challenges received interpretations of his accounts of practical wisdom, action, and contemplation and of their places in the happiest human life.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-06547-5
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. ABBREVIATIONS AND EDITIONS
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. 1 THE TRANSMISSION OF FORM
    (pp. 1-24)

    Action and contemplation involve desire, perception, and understanding, which are functions of the soul. Each of these, in turn, involves the transmission of form, either from the world to the soul, as in the case of perception and understanding, or from the soul to the world, as in that of desire and action. Our task in this chapter is to explore the underlying processes by which Aristotle conceives such transmission to take place. Since the soul is itself a sort of form, its nature, too, falls within the scope of our exploration. This begins on earth with animal reproduction, but...

  6. 2 TRUTH, ACTION, AND SOUL
    (pp. 25-57)

    “Three things in the soul control action and truth—perception, understanding, and desire” (NE VI 2 1139a17–18). The goal of this chapter is to begin decoding this laconic sentence by exploring Aristotle’s account of perception, understanding, and desire—a task that will also occupy Chapters 3, 4 and 5. In Chapter 1, our approach to these was from beneath, since we were looking at the more or less material processes that coded for them, enabling them to be transmitted in embryogenesis, and at the sorts of changes in those processes that occur when the potentialities are actualized by perceptible...

  7. 3 THEORETICAL WISDOM
    (pp. 58-92)

    Theoretical wisdom (sophia) is the virtue of the the scientific part, which is the part of the human soul responsible for scientific knowledge (epistêmê). As such, it is one of five states “in which the soul grasps the truth by way of assertion and denial” (NE VI 3 1139b15–16). As “the most rigorous of the sciences” (NE VI 7 1141a16), it involves not just knowledge of what follows from scientific starting-points but knowledge of the starting-points themselves. Since understanding is what provides such knowledge (NE VI 6 1141a7–8), “theoretical wisdom must be understanding plus scientific knowledge; scientific knowledge,...

  8. 4 VIRTUE OF CHARACTER
    (pp. 93-129)

    While theoretical wisdom ensures the well-functioning of the scientific part of the soul, shown by its correct grasp of plain truth about the most estimable things, practical wisdom does the same for the calculative or deliberative part, ensuring its correct grasp of the practical truth about human actions, ends, and goods. Without the existence of virtue of character in the soul’s desiring part, however, practical wisdom cannot exist in the calculative or deliberative one. It is with virtue of character, therefore, that an account of practical wisdom must begin.

    Virtue of character (NE II 1–6) is a starting-point of...

  9. 5 PRACTICAL WISDOM
    (pp. 130-194)

    The correct reason relevant to the virtues of character is the reason by which a practically wise man defines the mean with which actions and feelings should—since practical wisdom is a prescriptive virtue (epitaktikê)—be in accord (NE II 6 1106b36–1107a2, VI 10 1143a8). Indeed, practical wisdom is sometimes simply identified with the correct reason (NE VI 13 1144b27–28), just as the craft of medicine is sometimes identified with “the reason of health” (Met. XII 3 1070a29–30). Practical wisdom’s prescriptive reasons are as internal to it, in other words, as medical reasons are to medicine or...

  10. 6 IMMORTALIZING BEINGS
    (pp. 195-222)

    Previous chapters discuss things human beings can do, such as contemplate, deliberately act, and so on, because they have souls of a certain sort, and can do well because they can acquire various virtues, whether of thought or character. This chapter marks a change of direction, focusing instead on what sorts of beings human beings are, and what their place is among beings more generally.

    Being is “spoken of in many ways,” so that there are many different distinct kinds of being—substantial being, qualitative being, quantitative being, and so on for each so-called category of being, as well as...

  11. 7 HAPPINESS
    (pp. 223-249)

    Almost everyone agrees that the “highest of all practical goods” is called eudaimonia, and that living well (to eu zên) and doing well are the same as being eudaimôn, but they disagree about what eudaimonia is (NE I 4 1095a14–22). The majority think it is pleasure, and so consider “the life of gratification” to be the best one (NE I 5 1095b16–17). “Sophisticated people and men of action,” on the other hand, see honor as eudaimonia, hence they think the political life is best, since honor is pretty much its end or goal (NE I 5 1095b22–23)....

  12. 8 THE HAPPIEST LIFE
    (pp. 250-278)

    Since practical wisdom includes political science, it shares its status as most architectonic. Yet there are limits even to its control. Practical wisdom “does not control either theoretical wisdom or the better part, any more than the craft of medicine does health; for it doesn’t use it, but sees to its coming-into-being: it prescribes for its sake, therefore, but not to it” (NE VI 13 1145a6–9). To think otherwise would be like thinking that political science “rules the gods, because it prescribes with regard to everything in the city. (NE VI 13 1145a10–11). For while political science does...

  13. INDEX OF PASSAGES
    (pp. 279-294)
  14. GENERAL INDEX
    (pp. 295-299)