Finding the Mean

Finding the Mean: Theory and Practice in Aristotelian Political Philosophy

Stephen G. Salkever
Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 298
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7zvskt
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  • Book Info
    Finding the Mean
    Book Description:

    Stephen Salkever shows that reading Aristotle is a starting point for discussing contemporary political problems in new ways that avoid the opposition between liberal individualism and republican communitarianism, between the politics of rights and the politics of virtues.

    Originally published in 1994.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6370-9
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 3-10)

    This book presents and defends what I take to be a characteristically Aristotelian approach to problems of ethics and politics. This project originated not with any abstract theoretical interest but with the quite practical problem of how to go about teaching Aristotle’sPoliticsandNicomachean Ethicsto college students. As a teacher, I began with the assumption that these books, along with others like Plato’sRepublicand Hobbes’sLeviathan—works that have become an accepted part of the canon of political philosophy—are an important part of what we now call liberal education. Teaching, however, is a practice that encourages...

  5. Part I: From Practice to Theory
    • ONE ARISTOTLE’S TELEOLOGY AND THE TRADITION OF EVALUATIVE EXPLANATION
      (pp. 13-56)

      The theoretical basis of Aristotelian practical philosophy is a particular understanding of the human good, a particular kind of teleology. In compact form, this understanding goes as follows: practical philosophy takes its bearings from a concept of the human good, but a very precise conception of the human good makes practical philosophy unnecessary. The Aristotelian notion of the human good, which I will try to present and defend in this and the following chapter, thus must meet two challenges. The first is the relativist or reductionist claim that there is no such thing as a human good apart from the...

    • TWO THEORIZING THE HUMAN GOOD
      (pp. 57-104)

      In the first chapter, we examined the connection between Aristotle’s teleological philosophy or science and the kind of world it presupposes. We now move from the world of species in general to the human world, and from science as such to Aristotle’s human or social science; my aim is to show that the Aristotelian position suggests a way of being scientific without determinism or excessive and intrusive precision. I will argue that Aristotle’s approach to social science is superior to the two principal approaches characteristic of our time, empiricist and interpretive social science. My defense is not of the specific...

    • THREE HOW THEORY INFORMS PRACTICE: VIRTUES AND RULES IN ARISTOTELIAN PRACTICAL PHILOSOPHY
      (pp. 105-162)

      The Aristotelian account of the human good is undertaken with an eye to action—but how are the two to be related? The business of this chapter is to complete the defense of Aristotelian teleology, and the discourse of evaluative explanation it establishes, against the charge that it irrationally seeks to establish a dogmatic foundation for scientific and practical reason. In Chapter 1, I suggested that there are three principal grounds for regarding this style of thought as irrational and unscientific: the claim that Aristotelian teleology is “metaphysically” unempirical in positing strange entities, assuming special mysterious ways of knowing, and...

  6. Part II: Back Again
    • FOUR GENDERED VIRTUE: PLATO AND ARISTOTLE ON THE POLITICS OF VIRILITY
      (pp. 165-204)

      Aristotelian practical philosophy aims at bringing to light the presuppositions about human virtue that tacitly underlie political deliberation, and subjecting those presuppositions to criticism in the light of a theoretical understanding of human needs. Socrates describes his role in Athenian political life in much the same way when he tells the jury that his project has been to jolt decent Athenians into caring about the character, or virtue, of their lives (Apology30el–31b5). Neither Aristotle nor Plato takes the task of practical philosophy to be the formulation of entirely new rules or systems to replace the norms and practices...

    • FIVE RECONCEIVING LIBERAL DEMOCRACY, PART I: DEMOCRACY AS A RANGE OF POSSIBILITIES
      (pp. 205-236)

      In discussing ways in which Aristotelian theorizing can give direction to the contemporary theory of liberal democracy, I make two assumptions at the outset. The first is that liberal politics, a political order aiming at the elimination of arbitrary restraints on the power of individuals to make lives for themselves, is a good thing; the second is that modern liberal democratic theory does not successfully defend liberalism, because such theory tends incoherently to depend on a conception of liberal culture or character that it cannot defend. I want to distinguish my position from the more widespread critique of liberal theory...

    • SIX RECONCEIVING LIBERAL DEMOCRACY, PART II: LIBERAL VIRTUES AND THE PUBLIC LIFE
      (pp. 237-264)

      Civic humanists and classical liberals agree that education in virtue means a training in overcoming private interest for the sake of some public good or duty. If this is so, then democratic moral education must be radically transformative, if it is to exist at all. For republicans and Kantians, true virtue is defined by its opposition to interest, or at any rate to private interest. For classical or Millian liberals, virtue is strictly a private matter rather than a public concern.¹ For the classical republican, moral education is a good thing, and it means learning how to overcome your private...

  7. REFERENCES
    (pp. 265-282)
  8. INDEX
    (pp. 283-287)