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Ergon and Eudaimoniain NicomacheanEthics I: Reconsidering the Intellectualist Interpretation TIMOTHY D. ROCHE ARISTOTLE'S TREATMENT of the human good in the Nicomachean Ethics continues to be the source of a notorious debate. The debate is over whether (or where) Aristotle conceives of the good as a "dominant end" or an "inclusive end."' Roughly, a dominant end is an end consisting of a single good thing, the pursuit of which claims (or ought to claim) all of our energies. An inclusive end is one which is composed of several independently valued things, all of which we are enjoined to pursue. Many scholars support the view that Aristode presents a dominant end intellectualist theory of the human good. This view specifies theoretical activity as the sole component of the best life for man, and it implies that all other goods, including moral, political, and social activities, have value only as means to theoretical activity. It is conceded that Aristotle sometimes appears to regard the highest good as an inclusive end, but this is typically regarded as an inconsistency. It is urged that the Stagirite's I am grateful to Michael Wedin, Alan Code, Cathy CIosson, and the late Fred Berger for their criticisms of an earlier version of this paper. For helpful comments on the penultimate draft, I thank John Malcolm, Richard Kraut, and David Hiley. All translations of the Greek in this article are myown; Bekker numbers serve to indicate the original text. The distinction between a dominant end and an inclusive end was first drawn by W. F. R. Hardie in his paper "The Final Good in Aristotle's Ethics", inJ. M. E. Moravcsik, ed., Aristotle:A Collectionof CriticalEssays (New York, a967), 297-321 (reprinted from Philosophy4~ 0965): 27795 ). See, also, Hardie's Aristotle'sEthicalTheory(Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1968),Chapter 2. I shall cite the page numbers of the reprint when referring to the article. [x75] 176 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY ~6:2 APRIL 1988 explicit and final position is that the highest good is identical to the object of one prime desire--contemplation (the6ria). 2 A corollary of this thesis is that there is no room for altruism or any genuinely moral behavior in Aristotle's "ethical" theory: All action, choice, and practical cognition is supposed to be pressed into the service of promoting the monolithic end of theoretical activity.3 The alleged injunction to engage in this single-minded and self-centered pursuit has led at least one interpreter to claim that Aristotle's doctrine of the human good is ultimately selfish.4 And others have noted that the hero of the Nicomachean Ethics, the man who has attained the supreme good, would occasionally find it useful, even obligatory, to engage in morally reprehensible acts as a means to further his consuming interest in philosophical speculation.5 Support for this offensive picture of Aristotle's ethical ideal is based on certain passages of the first and tenth books of the Ethics. The salient passages of the first book are contained in chapters 7-13, and include, most importantly , the definition of the good at the conclusion of Aristotle's famous function (ergon) argument (NE 1.7. lo98a12-18 ). In the tenth book, the relevant passages fall mainly in chapters 7 and 8. The opening lines of lo. 7 are thought to signal a continuation of the first book~ account of the good, and it is argued that a more precise explanation, or development, of that account is then provided by the discussions which follow in lo.7-8. It is urged that these passages show that Aristotle endorses an intellectualist view of the good in the Nicomachean Ethics. Some years ago, however, John Ackrill argued that Aristotle advances an inclusive end conception of the good throughout the first book of the Nicomachean Ethics (NE 1).6 But his position has been challenged by several scholars , and their arguments seem to have confirmed the view that Aristotle's This claimis defended by many interpreters of the Nicomachean Ethics. BesidesHardie, the latestof these interpreters include Anthony Kenny,in The Aristotelian Ethics (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1978), 2o3-14, and "Happiness," Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 66 (1965...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 175-194
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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