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Aristotle's Concept of OecoO(c and the 'Ev pyet t-K( vvlotg Distinction MICHAEL J. WHITE IN Metaphysics 9, 6 Aristotle distinguishes between ~v~Oyetctt (usually rendered "activities," sometimes "acts" or "actualizations") and • ("motions," "processes," or "changes"). According to Aristotle, none of the latter ~xpd~Etg' "is an end ['tkLog], but is directed toward an end"; • in other words, are characterized by a "limit" (Jt~ctg). For example, a • such as "becoming slim" ('t6 ~oxvcdwtv) has as its x~kog slimness (~1 toxvctot~t). Aristotle characterizes a • as being "for the sake of what is not present or at hand" and as "not complete or perfect [x~ke~ct], since it is not an end" (1048b18-22). 2 An ~v~o~,etct, however, either is an end or is that sort of ~tptt~tg in which the end is present or "inheres" (1048b22-25). This distinction between ~v~pyet~tt and • is fundamental to both Aristotle's metaphysics and his physics. It is crucial to his ethical thought as well. Since a • is always "directed to an end outside itself," it cannot be an ultimate end of human life; the ultimate ends of human life must be EVl~)~ts 3 For example, the generic x6 e~)rat~oveiv ("being happy") is used as an example of an ~v~oyetet in Metaphysics 9, 6. And one of the more specifically characterized ultimate ends of human life, the intellectual "activity" Aristotle refers to as "0eo)p~et" or '"t6 0etope~v" (customarily translated as "contemplation"), Aristotle describes as the "most significant" of human ~v~oyetctt. ~ In view of the central role of the ~v~oyEtct-• distinction in Aristotle's thought, it obviously would be helpful to have a test for determining, in particular cases, whether a ~tOc2~tg is an ~vkoyetct or a • Aristotle has been interpreted by many contem1 have benefited from the criticisms of earlier drafts of th~s paper by a number of colleagues and friends and by two anonymous referees for th~s journal. 1 wish to thank all of these persons, and m particular, Professor Alex Mourelatos, Mr. Dan Graham, and Professors John Davtd Stone and Douglas Arner. r In this context "JtQd~r seems to be Aristotle's "neutral" term, applicable to both • (which may be "potetlc" or productive) and ~vk0yetat. However, m the Nicomachean Ethics "~xQ~t~tg"ts often contrasted with "rto(.rlOtg" (e.g., at 6 5. 1140b3-4), sometimes both with "~tO(rlOtg" and with "0e(.o~)(~t" (10. 8. 1178b20-21). '- Aristotehs Metaphysica, ed. W Jaeger (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1957). p 184. Noting m his apparatus crittcus that later in this passage (1048b29) "{oxvoto(ct'" Is said to be a •162 and must, therefore, mean "process of shmming," Jaeger brackets its occurrence at 1048b19. Most codices have it, however; and if it is retained, it must here, as Jaeger admits, have the sense of "slimness," the hmit or t~kog of the slimming process. 3 Vid. Nicomachean Ethics 1. 1 4 Artstotelis Ethica Nicomachea, ed I. Bywater (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1962), 10.7. 1177a1921 : • xl~ yrtp o.{3"tv I ~ot[v rl ~v~y~tct (• yrt0 6 rob_c, xr~v ~v ~ttv, • ttbv yv~ootCov, ~x~pi.6. 6 vo•g) ~'tt6iz ovvexso'td't~l. [2531 254 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY porary commentators, for example, W. D. Ross, Gilbert Ryle, and Zeno Vendler, 5 as attempting to supply such a test in the Metaphysics 9, 6 passage: the present form of a verb denoting an ~v~Qyet~t entails (or is consistent with the simultaneous assertion of) the perfect form of the verb, while in the case of a verb denoting a • such an entailment does not hold or--a stronger claim--the assertion of the present form of a verb denoting a • g is inconsistent with the simultaneous assertion of the perfect form of the same verb. 6 The perfect verb forms in the supposed "tense test" may be semantically interpreted in two ways, either "temporally" or "aspectually." I shall proceed to outline these two types of interpretation and to argue that rigorous adherence to the correct, aspectual interpretation yields a picture of Aristotle's central "ethical...


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