Action and Character According to Aristotle

Action and Character According to Aristotle

Kevin L. Flannery
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    Action and Character According to Aristotle
    Book Description:

    This book will appeal to professional scholars and graduate students with an interest in Aristotle’s ethics and in ethics generally. It proposes comprehensive interpretations of some difficult passages in Aristotle’s two major ethical works ( the Nicomachean Ethics and the Eudemian Ethics ). It brings to bear upon the analysis of human behavior passages in Aristotle’s logical works and in his Physics. It also draws connections among areas of particular interest to contemporary ethics: action theory, the analysis of practical reason, and virtue ethics.

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-2161-8
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xxxiv)

    I have tried in this book to get to the bottom of some issues in Aristotle’s theory of human action and his philosophical psychology, but my original reason for looking at a good number of these issues in Aristotle was to resolve—or, at least, to shed some light upon—related issues in contemporary ethics and in the interpretation of Thomas Aquinas. It may be useful, therefore, before offering summaries of the arguments of the various chapters, to go briefly into a few (certainly not all) of these background issues so that the reader might understand why some of the...

  4. One Logic, Perception, and the Practical Syllogism
    (pp. 1-38)

    ARISTOTLE TELLS US any number of times that ethics does not admit of the methods of analysis proper to the sciences.¹ This is largely due to the fact that the character of one’s moral acts depends directly upon how one understands what one is doing. Since one’s understanding of what one is doing depends in turn upon the particular circumstances in which one acts—which accept of infinite variety and can, indeed, alter in a trice—there is an inherent unpredictability or fluidity in the very subject matter of ethics which excludes it from science. And yet there are passages...

  5. Two The “Physical” Structure of the Human Act
    (pp. 39-70)

    WE ESTABLISHED in chapter 1 that the proper subject matter of ethics is the singular human act and that, as such, it ought not to be conceived of as part of a syllogism such as those studied in Prior analytics (the syllogistic). We begin now the task proper of analyzing singular human acts, showing first of all, in section I, how Aristotle treats them in his Physics, where he often uses human acts as examples of movements (κινήσεις).¹ Although human acts depend upon human beings, this does not mean that the entirety of what it is to be a human...

  6. Three Internal Articulation and Force
    (pp. 71-109)

    IN CHAPTER 1, I argued that the standard passages on the practical syllogism have more to do with the material of the practical than is commonly thought. This turned our attention to the singular human act and so, in chapter 2, we considered the human act according to the model of a physical movement proceeding toward a single object (“the movable,” as Aristotle puts it at the beginning of Phys. iii,3). But the individual human act is a more complicated entity than the merely physical act, primarily because of its internal articulation. This articulation becomes apparent especially in Aristotle’s account...

  7. Four The Constituents of Human Action and Ignorance Thereof
    (pp. 110-138)

    WE CONTINUE IN this chapter to explore the perceptual realm of practical reason, in contrast with what I referred to in chapter 1 as the realm of the syllogistic, whose coin is the universal term. So, as in chapter 2, we are concerned here with the type of human act which is analyzable straightforwardly as an Aristotelian movement (or κίνησις). In chapter 3, we considered the first of two factors that shape and internally articulate individual human acts: force (or βία); in this chapter we consider the second, knowledge (or ignorance) of what have traditionally been called the “circumstances,” which...

  8. Five Intelligibility and the Per Se
    (pp. 139-172)

    IN THE FIRST half of this book (chapters 1 through 4), we treated human acts primarily as acts, considering their singular nature, their structure, and the factors that shape them. Not much of that treatment was explicitly moral in content. A voluntary act as such, with an object, an end, using a certain instrument, in a certain way, etc., can be either good or bad. In the second half of the book, beginning with the present chapter, our argument becomes at once more general and more moral. That is, we move on (gradually) from the consideration of individual acts qua...

  9. Six Action, Φρόνησις, and Pleasure
    (pp. 173-206)

    IN CHAPTER 5, especially in sections III and IV, we were concerned with an important aspect of Aristotle’s philosophical psychology of action: the way in which behaving virtuously is very often a matter of taking aim at the target (the mean) determined by right reason. This approach is of a piece with ideas set out in chapter 2, where we argued that human acts share the basic structure of physical movements, as depicted in the Physics. A human act has, in some sense, “a whence and a whither”: its intrinsic orientation is toward its own object and ultimately toward the...

  10. Seven Φρόνησις and the Φρόνιμος
    (pp. 207-239)

    A MAJOR IMPEDIMENT to understanding the character type called by Aristotle the φρόνιμος is the sheer difficulty of the first chapter of the eighth book of the Eudemian Ethics.¹ The difficulty stems from what has to be called the weirdness of Aristotle’s argument. At one point, for instance, he says that φρόνησις—the quality that characterizes the φρόνιμος—cannot be understood as dancing girls using their hands for feet are understood; and then he conducts a fairly complicated argument in which he hypothesizes that parts of the human soul might perform similar contortions with one another. Understandably failing to understand...

  11. Eight Some Other Character Types
    (pp. 240-270)

    ARISTOTLE EMPLOYS IN his ethical writings a veritable menagerie of character types, most of whom we have already met. They include the φρόνιμος (the practically wise man), the σπουδαῖος (the good man), the ἀκρατής (the incontinent man), the ἀκόλαστος (the depraved man), and the ἐγκρατής (the self-constrained man). Aristotle’s analysis of these character types exploits many of the ideas we have seen in previous chapters of this book, especially the principle of non-contradiction and the distinction between the per se and the per accidens, although he brings in also other logical principles we have not yet seen.

    The present chapter...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 271-276)

    I STATED in the Introduction that the overall movement of this book is from the consideration of individual acts to the consideration of ethics itself and ethical character types. The earlier chapters (chapters 1 through 4) had to do primarily with acts, the later (chapters 5 through 8) with matters of larger scope. But there has also been evident right from the beginning a particular orientation of the larger argument. Although, as its subtitle suggests, the book itself has to do with logic (“The Logic of the Moral Life”), chapter 1 turns our attention immediately away from formal logic as...

  13. APPENDIX 1 On the Text of Metaph. ix,6, 1048b18–35
    (pp. 277-279)
  14. APPENDIX 2 Eudemian Ethics ii,6–9
    (pp. 280-290)
    (pp. 291-298)
    (pp. 299-302)
    (pp. 303-312)
    (pp. 313-314)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 315-315)