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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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The Task and the Puzzle of Reason in the Nicomachean Ethics

The Task and the Puzzle of Reason in the Nicomachean Ethics

(p.13) Chapter 1 The Task and the Puzzle of Reason in the Nicomachean Ethics
Reason and Character

Lorraine Smith Pangle

University of Chicago Press

Aristotle opens the Ethics with a strong case for the primacy of the political art that aims at the ultimate human good. He outlines the complexity of his audience, which explains the complex dialectical method he will use in developing his teaching on the human good. He defines happiness (eudaimonia) as the “most complete” human end, an ambiguous standard that has produced a stand-off between those who defend a "dominant" and an "inclusive" view of Aristotelian happiness. This discussion is best understood not as the launching of a single teaching but as the evocation of disparate hopes and expectations that Aristotle will interrogate and educate through the Ethics. Rather than begin from natural human needs discovered through a direct investigation of human nature, Aristotle sets up the project of the Ethics with his famous function argument that man's unique function is an activity of soul in accord with reason, or, as he reframes it, in accord with virtue. Thus the task becomes investigating opinions about virtue; as it does, reason recedes in importance. The chapter concludes with discussions of whether complete happiness is available, whether the soul has parts, and how the teaching on the mean provides guidance for ethics.

Keywords:   happiness, moral virtue, reason, human good, political art, dialectical method, human nature, eudaimonia, function argument

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