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Reason and CharacterThe Moral Foundations of Aristotelian Political Philosophy$
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Lorraine Smith Pangle

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226688169

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226688336.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
Reason and Character

Lorraine Smith Pangle

University of Chicago Press

The Nicomachean Ethics is best understood as Aristotle's foundation for his larger political project, in which he forges traditional civic virtue and Socratic wisdom together into a constructive new synthesis. Defending moral responsibility against the paradoxical Socratic claim that virtue is knowledge, Aristotle carves out a distinct, autonomous realm for action (praxis), governed by active wisdom (phronesis) and by the principle of doing what is right for its own sake. Yet even as he does so, Aristotle shows deeper agreements with Socrates than are generally recognized. Tracing the relation between the intellectual and moral virtues in the Nicomachean Ethics, this book will show Aristotle's defense and refinement of ordinary moral opinion as well as his indications of tensions within it that help explain his preference for the philosophic over the active life. The book proposes new solutions to the debate between intellectualist and non-intellectualist understandings of Aristotelian virtue and between inclusive and exclusive understandings of Aristotelian happiness, proposing that Aristotle is at once describing a politically constructive, habituation-based form of virtue leading to an inclusive form of happiness, and a more rigorous, reason-based form of virtue leading to a more purely intellectual form of happiness.

Keywords:   moral virtue, moral responsibility, civic virtue, praxis, phronesis, intellectualism, happiness

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