Aristotle on the Sources of the Ethical Life (Oxford Aristotle Studies Series) 9780198835004, 0198835000

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Aristotle on the Sources of the Ethical Life (Oxford Aristotle Studies Series)
 9780198835004, 0198835000

Table of contents :
Cover
Aristotle on the Sources of the Ethical Life
Copyright
Contents
Acknowledgements
1: Introduction
2: Aristotle in the Ethic Wars
The Uses of History
Refinements and Responses
Some Take-Home Lessons, and Two Research Questions
3: Nature and the Sources of Normativity
The Complacency Charge
Metaethics in the Fifth and Fourth Centuries BCE
. . . And Plato, of Course
The Explanatory Hypothesis and the Natural Good
Does the Natural Good Extend beyond Species Development?
4: Is Aristotle an Archimedean Naturalist?
An Embarrassment of Riches: The Ethical Treatises
The Place of Ethics within the Hierarchy of Sciences
The Human Ergon
The Developmental Story
Natural Virtues, Natural Justice
5: Naturalism in Aristotle’s Politics
The Politics and Aristotelian Natural Philosophy
Evidence for a Naturalist Reading: Hierarchies
Evidence for a Naturalist Reading: The Polis
Aristotle as a Social Scientist
6: The Case against a Naturalist Reading
The Non-Instrumental Value of the Virtues
The Missing Blueprint and the Non-Deductive Nature of Practical Reason
‘No Deliberation About Ends’
Aristotle and Contemporary Particularism
The Story So Far
7: Aristotle’s Metaethics
The Rejection of Metaphysical Abstractions
Human Agency as the Source of Normativity: Eudemian Ethics 2.6
The Primacy of Action
The ‘Guise of the Good’
The Formal Reading
8: The Practical Good
Two Kinds of Value
Bootstrapping as an Argument Form
Socratic Bootstrapping
Finding the Phronimos
Conclusion
CODA: Aristotle and the Practical Turn
Constructivist Accounts of the Practical Good
Constitutive Varieties of Constructivism
Glossary of Greek terms
Bibliography
Index Locorum
Subject Index

Citation preview

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Aristotle on the Sources of the Ethical Life

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OXFORD ARISTOTLE STUDIES General Editors Julia Annas and Lindsay Judson     Passions and Persuasion in Aristotle’s Rhetoric Jamie Dow How Aristotle gets by in Metaphysics Zeta Frank A. Lewis The Powers of Aristotle’s Soul Thomas Kjeller Johansen Aristotle on the Apparent Good Perception, Phantasia, Thought, and Desire Jessica Moss Teleology, First Principles, and Scientific Method in Aristotle’s Biology Allan Gotthelf Priority in Aristotle’s Metaphysics Michail Peramatzis Doing and Being An Interpretation of Aristotle’s Metaphysics Theta Jonathan Beere Aristotle on the Common Sense Pavel Gregoric Space, Time, Matter, and Form Essays on Aristotle’s Physics David Bostock Aristotle on Teleology Monte Ransome Johnson Time for Aristotle Physics IV. 10–14 Ursula Coope Political Authority and Obligation in Aristotle Andres Rosler Aristotle’s Theory of Bodies Christian Pfeiffer Aristotle and the Eleatic One Timothy Clarke

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Aristotle on the Sources of the Ethical Life Sylvia Berryman

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Great Clarendon Street, Oxford, OX2 6DP, United Kingdom Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. Oxford is a registered trade mark of Oxford University Press in the UK and in certain other countries © Sylvia Berryman 2019 The moral rights of the author have been asserted First Edition published in 2019 Impression: 1 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of Oxford University Press, or as expressly permitted by law, by licence or under terms agreed with the appropriate reprographics rights organization. Enquiries concerning reproduction outside the scope of the above should be sent to the Rights Department, Oxford University Press, at the address above You must not circulate this work in any other form and you must impose this same condition on any acquirer Published in the United States of America by Oxford University Press 198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, United States of America British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data Data available Library of Congress Control Number: 2018960618 ISBN 978–0–19–883500–4 Printed and bound in Great Britain by Clays Ltd, Elcograf S.p.A. Links to third party websites are provided by Oxford in good faith and for information only. Oxford disclaims any responsibility for the materials contained in any third party website referenced in this work.

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Contents Acknowledgements

vii

1. Introduction

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2. Aristotle in the Ethic Wars

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The Uses of History Refinements and Responses Some Take-Home Lessons, and Two Research Questions

3. Nature and the Sources of Normativity The Complacency Charge Metaethics in the Fifth and Fourth Centuries  . . . And Plato, of Course The Explanatory Hypothesis and the Natural Good Does the Natural Good Extend beyond Species Development?

4. Is Aristotle an Archimedean Naturalist? An Embarrassment of Riches: The Ethical Treatises The Place of Ethics within the Hierarchy of Sciences The Human Ergon The Developmental Story Natural Virtues, Natural Justice

5. Naturalism in Aristotle’s Politics The Politics and Aristotelian Natural Philosophy Evidence for a Naturalist Reading: Hierarchies Evidence for a Naturalist Reading: The Polis Aristotle as a Social Scientist

6. The Case against a Naturalist Reading The Non-Instrumental Value of the Virtues The Missing Blueprint and the Non-Deductive Nature of Practical Reason ‘No Deliberation About Ends’ Aristotle and Contemporary Particularism The Story So Far

7. Aristotle’s Metaethics The Rejection of Metaphysical Abstractions Human Agency as the Source of Normativity: Eudemian Ethics 2.6 The Primacy of Action The ‘Guise of the Good’ The Formal Reading

8 13 20

23 24 28 38 41 48

53 54 62 66 73 76

80 80 89 93 98

102 103 108 114 119 127

128 129 134 143 152 157

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8. The Practical Good

161

Two Kinds of Value Bootstrapping as an Argument Form Socratic Bootstrapping Finding the Phronimos Conclusion

161 165 168 173 178

Coda: Aristotle and the Practical Turn

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Constructivist Accounts of the Practical Good Constitutive Varieties of Constructivism

Glossary of Greek terms Bibliography Index Locorum Subject Index

182 185

191 193 211 215

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Acknowledgements I have to confess that, as a sophomoric undergraduate, I acquired a distaste for ethics—especially Aristotle’s—and nursed that prejudice far too long into my philosophical career. Teachers who tried to enlighten me on the virtues of ethics in previous years—Tad Brennan, M. M. McCabe, Johanna Seibt, Richard Sorabji, and Stephen White—are in no way to blame for my obduracy on the topic. It is no exaggeration that graduate students at the Ohio State University and the University of British Columbia are responsible for nudging me to teach Aristotle’s ethics, and thus for coming to appreciate its virtues. Andy Arlig, Suze Berkhout, Ian Brooks, Lee Franklin, Tian Jie, Josh Johnston, Max Weiss, and Cathal Woods brought me, despite myself, into the circle of admirers of Aristotelian ethics. This work was substantially written during two sabbatical leaves from the University of British Columbia. I am grateful for the patience of many colleagues during the years of educating myself on the topic of ethics, particularly Alan Thomas, Justin D’Arms, and Scott Anderson. The friendly and supportive grilling provided by the Northwest Ancient Philosophy Workshop, instigated by Nick Smith, has been important to the shape of this work, as several chapters were first read to that formidable audience. I greatly benefited from comments from audiences at University of Texas at Austin, Vancouver Island University, APA Western Division panel on naturalism in Aristotle’s ethics, and Philosophy Desert Workshop. A special thank you to the organizers, participants, and commentators, including Jonathan Dancy, Matt Evans, Brad Inwood, Sarah Jansen, Kathryn Lindeman, Joel Martinez, Alex Mourelatos, David Plunkett, Jean Roberts, and Meg Scharle for advice and encouragement. To five anonymous readers and the Series Editor, Lindsay Judson, a heartfelt thank you for such detailed, thoughtful, and generous comments. I thank Review of Metaphysics for permission to reproduce material in Chapter 2, and Ancient Philosophy for permission to use material pertaining to Eudemian Ethics 2.6 in Chapter 7. All errors are of course my own.

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1 Introduction ‘Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and choice, is thought to aim at some good.’¹ So begins Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, one of the most widely read texts in ethical thought. This arresting opening has received quite a lot of attention, yet little that illuminates the significance of its place at the beginning of a work of ethics. Why commence normative inquiry with such a claim? One reason why that question is seldom asked is that the opening of Nicomachean Ethics has been understood as a lead-in to an outright logical fallacy. Elizabeth Anscombe suggested that Aristotle is making a fallacious inference from the claim that ‘every action aims at some good’ to the idea that there must be a single good at which all actions ultimately aim.² Scholarly attention has focused on defending Aristotle from the charge of fallacious reasoning.³ This leaves untouched the assumption that his opening sally is motivated by the attempt to show that there is a single goal—a common conception of happiness—that we all seek. The search for an account of the good life is unquestionably Aristotle’s aim. Yet there may still be independent significance to the fact that he commences ethical inquiry from the notion that actions are goal-directed. The claim that all action aims at some good—a thesis Velleman labelled the ‘Guise of the Good’—has its own history, its own logic, its own implications. Aristotle has been read as making a statement that is plainly false;⁴ as asserting the existence of global teleology;⁵ or as offering another of those broad generalizations to which he is prone.⁶ The opening statement has seldom been given its due as a starting point for ethical inquiry, even though it also forms the starting point of his metaethical position.⁷ To do so is the project of this book.

¹ NE 1.1, 1094a1, trans. Ross/Urmson. ² Anscombe (1957), p. 34. ³ e.g. MacIntyre (1966), p. 59; Ackrill (1980); Engberg-Pedersen (1983), pp. 30–1; Dahl (1984), p. 102ff.; Urmson (1988), pp. 10–11; Kraut (1989), pp. 217–20; Broadie (1991), pp. 8–15; Richardson (1992), pp. 346–7; Broadie and Rowe (2002), p. 264. ⁴ e.g. Irwin (1980c), p. 35; Williams (1985), p. 58. ⁵ Verbeke (1971), p. 150. ⁶ Urmson (1988), p. 9; Karbowski (2015), p. 113. ⁷ Those who acknowledge the importance of the opening question in defining the study of ethics include Engberg-Pedersen (1983), p. 7; Salkever (1991); Kenny (1992). None understand it in the way that I propose here.

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But is Aristotle even aware of the kinds of questions that we would describe as metaethical?⁸ In the opening chapter of her Tanner Lectures, The Sources of Normativity, Christine Korsgaard suggested that Aristotle did not adequately appreciate the need to question the status of ethical demands: he saw no need to ask where values come from, that is, nor why we should treat them as authoritative.⁹ On her account, the quest for the sources of normativity is a project peculiar to the modern ‘disenchanted’ universe, wherein the need to establish the reality or objectivity of moral claims becomes apparent.¹⁰ On this he differs from us moderns—the story goes— who no longer see the world as infused with moral order and are thus compelled to invent new justifications for morality: at least in ethics, Aristotle doesn’t seem to have made much of the problem. A well-brought up person would not need to have excellence forced upon him—he would move naturally towards the achievement of his perfect form.¹¹

Korsgaard’s is only one of a number of ‘big picture’ narratives about the history of ethical thought in which Aristotle has played a starring role. In recent years, several such narratives have been offered by those looking to history to reclaim ethics from the subjectivist Slough of Despond. Bernard Williams and Philippa Foot are among those who have assumed, with Korsgaard, that Aristotelian ethical thought—for good or ill—is characterized by the appeal to human nature to provide the grounding for substantive ethical claims. Others, however, have cast doubt on the idea that Aristotle regards human nature as an external standard—an ‘Archimedean Point’¹²—that could serve as a court of appeal to settle substantive ethical questions. Thus a central aspect of the way Aristotle is interpreted in these contemporary narratives turns out to be in dispute. These modern appropriations of Aristotle highlight important questions for scholarly interpreters. My aim in this monograph is to show that Aristotle should not be interpreted as an ethical naturalist, in the ‘Archimedean’ sense that Williams articulates. That is, Aristotle does not attempt to draw substantive ethical guidance from impartial study of the natural world. Nature does not, for Aristotle, straightforwardly supply answers to the twin questions that—according to Korsgaard—dog modern ethicists: ‘whence value?’ and ‘why is it authoritative?’ Among the multiple

⁸ I thank David Plunkett for alerting me to a contemporary controversy about the meaning of ‘metaethics’, and especially Korsgaard’s use of the term: cf. McPherson and Plunkett (2017); Hussain and Shah (2006), (2013). I use the term broadly here, to include second-order reflection on justification for substantive claims, as well as to issues in metaphysics, psychology, and epistemology: cf. Darwall, Gibbard, and Railton (1992), pp. 125–6. ⁹ On Korsgaard’s use of the notion of the metaethical, see the Coda. ¹⁰ Korsgaard (1996a), p. 7. Annas (1993), p. 135, remarks that ancient Greek theorists did not distinguish metaethics as a distinct field. This does not preclude them from having asked analogous questions, however. ¹¹ Korsgaard (1996a), p. 3. ¹² The label is not meant to imply, of course, that Archimedes held any such view.

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uses of the term ‘naturalism’ in contemporary philosophy, Williams’s notion nicely captures a position Aristotle is often taken to hold. I will be arguing that Aristotle’s considered view does not depend on viewing human nature as an external point that provides substantive ethical guidance. There are, of course, unmistakable appeals to human nature in Aristotle’s treatises on ethics and politics. The famous ‘function’ argument of NE 1.7 appeals to the idea that reasoning is the definitive feature of human nature, in order to determine which life is best for human beings. The first book of the Politics argues for the naturalness of the city, and defends the practices of slavery and the subordinate place of women, by claiming that these practices are natural. I shall argue that, despite such prima facie evidence, Aristotle intended the appeal to human nature only to delimit the kinds of normative positions that could guide practical reason. There are at least three considerations against reading Aristotle as an Archimedean ethical naturalist.¹³ One is the absence of a sufficiently determinate form of good living or good community, i.e. the lack of evidence that Aristotle thought any such blueprint could be found in nature. A second is that such a reading would render the virtues instrumental, whereas Aristotle insists on their non-instrumental worth. Virtues are not merely the qualities that serve natural goals, i.e. some distinct end beyond themselves: rather, Aristotle insists, they have value in their own right and should be pursued for their own sake. A third concerns the nature of practical reasoning. If human nature, as discovered by theoretical reason, were intended to settle substantive ethical questions, practical reasoning would be reduced to an application of a pre-established system. It would thus function much like theoretical reasoning, applying general truths to a particular situation. There are indications, however, that Aristotle thought of practical reasoning in a way that precludes such a picture. These three considerations—the missing blueprint, the non-instrumental value of the virtues, and the non-deductive nature of practical reason—together undermine the supposition that Aristotle’s ethics is primarily grounded in the appeal to human nature. I also draw on a positive argument in Eudemian Ethics, wherein Aristotle claims that the practical good has a source that is different from the natural good. Thus, I conclude, he would not have taken our species nature as the right kind of standard by which to evaluate human choices. Undeniably, Aristotle thinks that how we ought to live is a problem that must take account of the kind of being that we are. Aristotle does make substantive use of the appeal to human nature on some specific, boundary-setting issues. Nonetheless, he does not take the constraints of our biological nature to be sufficiently detailed to settle fine-grained questions about the good life. Theoretical inquiry into the nature of action and choice and value is an aspect of inquiry into human nature: the Eudemian and Nicomachean Ethics set out some theoretical considerations about

¹³ Here I draw on McDowell (1998a).

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the shape and character of ethics. Facts of human nature are discovered by the theoretical reflection and classificatory expertise of the natural philosopher. However, when we turn to using practical reasoning—to contentful ethical deliberation— we are no longer inquiring into the nature of things. While practical reason and the ability to choose belong to us by nature, the contents of the choices that we make are not regarded as constrained or determined by nature, and could not be reached by a value-neutral process of investigation. Although ethical demands must respect the kind of being that we are, the account of the ethical life does not end there. Korsgaard is not alone in denying that Aristotle could have engaged in a quest for the foundations of ethics, since—it is thought—such a project only makes sense against the background of a disenchanted picture of the universe produced by modern science.¹⁴ Attention to Aristotle’s intellectual milieu is enough to cast doubt on claims that Aristotle was naively naturalist, or that he was unconcerned with second-order justificatory questions. Presocratics, sophists, Cyrenaics, and Platonists of the fifth and fourth centuries had raised questions about the source and justification of ethical demands; many of the kinds of concerns that drove twentieth-century philosophers to second-order reflection about the status of ethical claims would have been alive to Aristotle, albeit in somewhat different guise. When Aristotle claims we are political animals and naturally live in communities, he is merely resisting a sophistic view that the demands of ethics are illegitimate impositions. His intent was never to deny the need for human reason to design and evaluate the best ways to realize our ends, nor to suggest that ethical questions are settled by value-neutral investigation of our biological heritage. Aristotle’s intellectual context is not that of twentieth-century positivism, or the disenchanted universe that produced the fact–value divide. Nonetheless, I suggest that questions about the origin of ethical values would arise for Aristotle because of his hierarchical organization of nature and his picture of the relationship between the axioms of different sciences. Aristotelian natural science begins from the study of more basic and general principles and proceeds to the understanding of the more specific; what is learned at each level is cumulative. Certain features are common to all substances; others to all things with natures; others to all living things. Only after studying these, we come to animals—which are characterized by the capacity for self-motion—and finally human beings. Because we have reason, we have the capacity for deliberation and choice about ends. Thus for Aristotle, as I interpret him, ethics arises only within the world of human actions. This hierarchical organization of the sciences, I will argue—a hierarchy that is taken to reflect the organization of reality—would raise the question whence practical value arises. The structure of Aristotelian science supports the notion that

¹⁴ I discuss these issues further in chapters 2 and 3 below.

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practical choice—the search for good in action—has its own principles. It occupies a different metaphysical location than the goal or end found in the natural world, entering into inquiry at a different level. A fundamental statement about the nature of ethics, I suggest, is implicit in the first line of the Nicomachean Ethics. Ethics is the study of good choices in action: to act is to aim at something we take to be good. The claim that action aims at some good is an important statement about the nature of intentional action, and shows his recognition that the practical good—the ‘good’ in the sphere of action—is quite distinct from the goals of our biological nature. Just as Aristotle’s notion of the good in the natural world begins from the observed directionality and normativity of change in the natural and organic world, so his analysis of the normativity of human action elaborates on the structure of action and its differentiation from animal pursuit. At the heart of his implicit position lies a move I call ‘Socratic bootstrapping’, wherein agents not only value certain goals but take them to be valuable, i.e. to be reasonably defensible goals for agents like themselves to hold. Taking a goal to be reasonably defensible commits agents to engage with the views of other practical reasoners, and so to strive for truth. I argue that, thus understood, Aristotle’s attempt to ground ethics within an analysis of the nature of action offers a promising perspective on the origin of normativity. Although the aim of this work is to reconstruct Aristotle’s own view, this issue is not one of merely historical interest. Aristotelian virtue ethics is one of the most active research programmes in contemporary ethics, yet many regard the usefulness of an Aristotelian framework as limited by his apparent assumption that human nature is the source and justification for ethical demands. This is viewed as a limitation, either because the prospects for an Archimedean naturalism are hampered by the direction of contemporary biology (which seems to deny that well-being or flourishing of individuals is a natural goal) or because our biological nature does not look very attractive as a basis for ethics. Scientific study of our biological heritage might reveal us to have oppressive or hierarchical tendencies that we might nonetheless rationally reject or reform. Clarifying the extent to which Aristotle’s view is hampered by an Archimedean naturalism is important to appreciating its potential applicability as well as its historical value. The methodology here is somewhat unorthodox for a work on the history of philosophy, since it begins by asking how Aristotle would respond to questions from modern ethics. I extract two research questions from modern readings of the Aristotelian programme before turning to consider the ancient philosophical evidence, where I believe that it is possible to discern implicit answers. The following study engages more with readings of Aristotle and with his contemporary appropriators than is customary for ancient scholarship, keeping textual discussion to a minimum. It also involves more reconstruction than is usual for readings that begin from questions asked by the texts themselves.

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The persisting scholarly controversies surrounding Aristotle’s views may be testimony to the uncertain nature of any reconstruction, since the various layers of Aristotle’s thought may not arrange themselves neatly into any completely cohesive picture. It may be foolish to expect that works written in the early days of philosophical inquiry would stand up to the scrutiny of scholarship for two millenia as completely consistent in their thought. But Aristotle’s ethical writings continue to prove fertile inspiration for philosophical readings. I argue that this is for a good reason, and that Aristotle was alive to many of the questions that concern ethicists today, albeit in somewhat different form. This work is neither a general introduction nor a thorough survey of all issues and controversies arising from Aristotle’s ethical treatises; it offers less than a full account of Aristotle’s ethical theory. It does not attempt to be comprehensive in its treatment of the secondary literature, merely pointing the reader to relevant controversies. Nor is it offered in a spirit of adulation or defence. There is much to be regretted in Aristotle’s normative work, but also ideas that are worth recovering. This work is written from the perspective of ancient philosophy scholarship, but recognizes that such scholarship is informed by dialogue with ideas from the history of philosophy and with our contemporary colleagues. There is much divergence among his modern readers about the extent to which Aristotle should be regarded as an ethical naturalist, and moreover whether he questioned the foundations of his ethical views at all. It is here that I begin.

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2 Aristotle in the Ethic Wars La docte Antiquité dans toute sa durée A l’égal de nos jours ne fut point éclairée. Charles Perrault, Le siècle de Louis le Grand

Aristotle’s ethical views have featured prominently in some recent debates. Among those struggling to unseat the prevailing non-cognitivism of twentieth-century ethics, some prominent figures have turned to the history of philosophy to reveal and challenge the metaphysical picture thought to undergird this prevalence. The intellectual dominance and respectability of the modern sciences is sometimes credited with casting doubt on the status of truth claims in ethics, since the latter seem to lack comparable truth-makers, methods of verification, or patterns of convergence. Many ethicists today accept the force of arguments based on the so-called ‘is–ought gap’ or, following J. L. Mackie, the ‘argument from queerness’.¹ Ethical statements are treated as fundamentally different in kind from statements about the natural world. Not only this, but their status as truth-apt is thought to suffer by comparison. Ethical claims are variously reinterpreted by non-cognitivists as reflecting commitments, desires or feelings of the participants, rather than as literal truth claims. Yet in the latter half of the twentieth century, some prominent ethicists have challenged this picture and urged the strength of Aristotle’s outlook as a potent alternative. The challenges at issue are those which question the status of the very worldview that has given rise to non-cognitivism. Korsgaard’s account stands in the company of a number of major ethical works, all of which can be seen as in some way responding to Anscombe’s ‘Modern Moral Philosophy’ (1958). These include MacIntyre’s After Virtue (1981); Williams’s Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy (1985); Foot’s Natural Goodness (2001),² and McDowell’s ‘Two Sorts of Naturalism’ (1998a). These challengers have quite different projects, and—whether or not this is explicit—can be seen to echo different features of Anscombe’s article.³ But they ¹ Mackie (1977), pp. 38–42. ² Foot’s book is somewhat out of sequence here: McDowell and others were aware of her ideas from articles published prior to the publication of the book. ³ Iris Murdoch’s 1957 essay ‘Metaphysics and Ethics’ voices some of the themes of ‘Modern Moral Philosophy’, including the role of the disenchanted universe in the rise of metaethics and the contrast between thick and thin ethical concepts: Murdoch (1957).

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are alike in that they offer competing historical narratives, aimed at challenging contemporary non-cognitivism; all of them consider Aristotelian virtue ethics as a serious contender for an alternative ethical framework. From one perspective, the Rezeptionsgeschichte or subsequent interpretation of our subject matters little to scholars: historical exegesis might seem better served by ignoring modern appropriations of Aristotle and focusing on the questions and topics that arise directly from the text. But there are two reasons why scholars might need to pay attention to contemporary readings. One is that those readings are philosophical, and as such help expose assumptions, categorizations, and lenses that scholarly interpreters might be bringing to the text. Since scholarship cannot avoid interpretation, awareness of our own biases is critical. A second is that larger interpretative framings can sometimes expose questions that are missed by close textual readings. To regard textual exegesis as straightforwardly revealing a philosopher’s intent presupposes that the received texts are a finished product, constructed to be read as complete arguments. With Aristotle, we cannot assume that. There is more than one surviving ethical treatise, and reasons that I will explore in Chapter 4 for doubting whether even Nicomachean Ethics can be read as a finished statement of Aristotle’s position. Understanding Aristotle’s thought may thus require us to step back from the transmitted texts, and also to consider the relationship between various works. Moreover, the assessment of the validity and viability of Aristotle’s ideas plays a role in philosophical scholarship. This can be enhanced by considering how his ideas look from the vantage point of history. The modern narratives listed above present very different accounts of Aristotle’s metaethical position. The very point that Korsgaard treats as his weakness—the centrality of the appeal to human nature—Foot regards as a strength. Williams is ambivalent: he sees a commitment to ethical naturalism as central to the coherence of Aristotle’s view, but also as an aspect that makes it unavailable to modern audiences.⁴ McDowell, conversely, denies that Aristotle intended to make any such appeal.⁵ Two questions are highlighted by considering these interpretations: is Aristotle to be read as a certain kind of ethical naturalist, and did he engage in second-order reflection on the foundations of his ethics at all? Accounts of the supposed gap dividing us from the philosophical world of the ancient Greeks are important to considering whether he could even have asked the questions that preoccupy philosophers today. It is here that I begin.

The Uses of History In The Sources of Normativity, Korsgaard begins from a supposition that the question whence normative constraints arise is an exclusively modern one.⁶ The rough picture is that, in a Platonic or Aristotelian universe, the belief that the world is teleologically ⁴ Williams (1985), p. 53. ⁵ McDowell (1980), p. 371. ⁶ She recognizes that this view may be vaguely formulated, and is not even committed to its truth: Korsgaard (1996a), p. 18. Her reading of Aristotle’s function argument in Korsgaard (2008a) suggests a rather different picture.

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ordered forms the metaphysical underpinning to the notion that ethical demands are binding on all. She claims that our own natural direction of development towards virtue seemed sufficient reason—to Aristotle—why we should be moral. On this view, inquiry into the origin and obligatory power of normative constraints would not have been considered a serious question, but rather a symptom of some failing in the person asking it.⁷ Korsgaard claims that it would have seemed credible to the ancients—as it did not to the moderns, living in a disenchanted universe—that the natural world was normatively informed. Aristotle ‘came to believe that value is more real than experienced fact, indeed that the real world is, in a way, value itself ’.⁸ On this account, only the ‘disenchantment’ of the modern world picture brought metaethical questions to the fore.⁹ In the modern world, by contrast, the idea that Form is somehow embedded in nature lost credibility. Korsgaard uses ‘Form’ to stand in for whatever principles were thought to govern the proper direction of organic development, i.e. the means whereby the directionality to change was supposedly embedded in the natural world. This account of natural development, she tells us, could no longer be sustained against the background of modern materialism. The two questions Korsgaard sees as distinctively modern are whence normative claims originate, and why they should be regarded as authoritative.¹⁰ Korsgaard offers only a very brief outline of pre-modern ethical thought: her point is to invoke a historical platitude that Plato and Aristotle—sometimes ‘the ancients’¹¹—did not engage in the kind of metaethical reflection about the sources of normativity that preoccupies modern philosophy. This opposition of ancient and modern has a distinguished pedigree, but it is not unproblematic. The claim would be plainly false if it were that Plato and Aristotle were unaware of challenges to teleological naturalism. She proposes that it might have seemed credible in antiquity, as it does not in the modern world, that ethical striving is simply part of our nature and thus not in need of defence. A modern worldview—wherein the material world has come to be regarded as ‘reluctant, recalcitrant, resistant’—made it incredible that nature provides the grounding for moral demands, thus prompting reflection on the metaethical grounding of ethical demands.¹² Korsgaard’s point in sketching this narrative is to present a specific response—the Kantian notion of obligation—as the culmination of a historical process.¹³ She sees the notion that ethics is grounded in obligation as first formulated in Judeo-Christian ethics, which posits the imposition of ethical demands by a divine lawgiver. ‘The ancients’ are considered by Korsgaard only as a precursor to the modern perspective,

⁷ Korsgaard (1996a), p. 3. ⁸ Korsgaard (1996a), p. 2. ⁹ Korsgaard (1996a), pp. 1–10. ¹⁰ Korsgaard (1996a), pp. 7 ff. ¹¹ Korsgaard (1996a), p. 3: ‘the ancients thought of human virtue as a kind of excelling’; ‘[i]n Greek thought, becoming excellent is as natural as growing up’; cf. p. 66. On the tendency to take Aristotle as typical of ancient Greek ethics, Annas (1996b), p. 238. ¹² Korsgaard (1996a), p. 4. ¹³ See Williams (1996), p. 217 for a critique of Hegelian aspects of this narrative. In Korsgaard (2008a) and (2009), she offers a more sympathetic presentation of Aristotle’s thought.

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         inasmuch as the appeal to divine legislation is purported to have filled a perceived gap or failing in earlier ethical thought. As Korsgaard acknowledges, this narrative is vaguely formulated;¹⁴ it is also problematic as a historical account.¹⁵ Are we to believe that Judeo-Christian morality flourished because of a loss of faith in the notion that Form is embedded in nature? This triumphal narrative seems to originate with seventeenth-century Christian philosophers seeking to demonstrate the superiority of their own metaphysical picture.¹⁶ Nonetheless, it is striking to witness a contemporary ethicist resurrecting this ‘quarrel of the ancients and the moderns’. And Korsgaard is not alone in this: a common theme in several of the historical narratives written in response to Anscombe is that changing ideas about the natural world brought a new problem about the status of ethics to the fore. It is undoubtedly the case that certain assumptions about the nature of the physical world were sharpened and clarified at the time of the emergence of the early modern sciences. In ancient Greek natural philosophy, there was little agreement as to the properties that could properly be ascribed to matter. A solidifying consensus about a mind–body distinction was an early modern artefact, one which helped highlight questions about the status of ethical properties and normative claims. Yet it is not at all clear that so sharp a divide exists between the reflective abilities of ancients and moderns merely because of the development of the modern sciences and a sharpened mind–body distinction. The variety of ethical positions formulated in antiquity belies the notion that failure of traditional answers in a disenchanted universe was a necessary trigger for reflection on the source and grounds of ethical claims. There is more continuity and overlap between ancients and moderns than Korsgaard’s narrative implies. Her historical account may be offered lightheartedly, but it has problematic implications, particularly when it reinforces mistaken assumptions about Aristotle’s naivety.¹⁷ Korsgaard’s history should be read in contrast to that offered by Elizabeth Anscombe. Written in 1958, Anscombe’s ‘Modern Moral Philosophy’ juxtaposed modern and Aristotelian perspectives to make a quite different point.¹⁸ Anscombe may appear to be the source of the emphasis, among contemporary readers, on

¹⁴ Korsgaard (1996a), p. 18. ¹⁵ Detel (2005) critiques some aspects of the presentation of ancient ethics, including the claim that the search for normativity is absent. ¹⁶ Although I shall not argue this here, the origins of this narrative may be traceable to works in the vein of Cudworth’s True Intellectual System: cf. Cudworth (1678/1845). ¹⁷ Korsgaard later considers the possibility that Aristotle might have embraced a version of what she calls ‘reflective endorsement’: Korsgaard (1996a), p. 51 n. 4. She also notes that he recognizes a distinction that substantive realists do not allow, between practical and technological reasoning: Korsgaard (1996a), p. 44 n. 4. These footnotes cast doubt on her initial positioning of Aristotle in the camp of naive naturalism. ¹⁸ Their different readings of the place of Kant in this story is important to Korsgaard’s project: see Berryman (2018) for a more detailed account.

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Aristotle’s appeal to human nature as a source of ethical norms.¹⁹ Certainly Foot, and perhaps MacIntyre—both of whom share Anscombe’s concern to resist the prevailing subjectivism of twentieth century ethics—take its teleological naturalism to be the appeal of Aristotelian virtue ethics. However, I do not believe this is the best reading of Anscombe’s article, nor of Aristotle. For Anscombe, the contrast between ancient and modern ethics is not the triumphant development of metaethical reflectivity. Rather, the division hinged on the modern creation of an artificial need to justify ethics to its audience, because of a restricted view about the kinds of facts that could legitimately ground knowledge claims. Anscombe’s account implicitly challenges the assumption that the modern preoccupation with the authority of morality results from our possession of a more sophisticated world picture. While Korsgaard saddles Aristotle with a faith in the naturalness of ethics that is now simply unsustainable, Anscombe rather sought to undermine the robustness of the fact–value distinction that supports this assessment. Anscombe’s challenge to the fact–value distinction negates the supposition that modern ethicists—expelled from the Garden of Eden of naive naturalism—are left with only subjectivist means to ground ethical claims. Anscombe notes that many everyday concepts—not just ethical terms—only make sense against a background of institutional practices that share both descriptive and normative aspects. The problem is not that the metaphysics of earlier times was too permissive, but rather that ours is too narrow. The metaphysics Anscombe decries is not necessarily that of a ‘disenchanted’ universe, but of a particularly positivist reading of the modern predicament.²⁰ It is perfectly possible to welcome the knowledge gained from the modern sciences without supposing that they render other, non-empirical discourses suspect. The spare landscape of positivism created the environment in which non-cognitivist metaethics flowered, since it bars us from knowing much that we might otherwise take ourselves to know. But the positivist programme imploded. There is no reason, then, for us to accede to its claims about the status of ethical truths. This challenge to the significance for ethical discourse of the ‘is–ought’ or ‘fact– value’ gap may be the farthest-reaching aspect of Anscombe’s complex article. She resituates ethics among other social practices, implicitly challenging the suggestion that there is anything ‘queer’ about normative facts.²¹ ‘Modern Moral Philosophy’ also laments the modern classification of the moral, as opposed to a part of the broader category of ethical evaluation that is found in Aristotle.²² The moral realm is viewed as an area of life defined by other-directed concern and self-sacrifice, in conflict with self-interest, so that the question why we should be motivated to accept

¹⁹ For the historical background to Anscombe’s article, see Welchman (2012). ²⁰ Cf. Foot (2001), p. 6. ²¹ Anscombe (1958), pp. 4–5. ²² Anscombe (1958), p. 1. For a critique of the boundary Anscombe draws between a modern notion of moral and the ancient sphere of the ethical, see Annas (1993), pp. 452–5.

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         its demands seems particularly pressing. A related but more subtle claim is that it is the tendency to think that the language of ‘ought’ has a special moral sense—one not grounded in human or social facts—that led modern moral philosophers to create an artificial problem about the sources of normativity. From this perspective, the difference is not that ancient ethicists failed to recognize a need for justification because they naively saw the world as normatively laden, but rather that modern schools of thought created a pseudo-problem by dividing the world of facts from that of norms. Anscombe’s own historical account of the rise of subjectivism and the shift away from the notion of ethics as truth-apt is not the aspect of her account that has won most adherents. Alisdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue offers an important addendum to Anscombe’s article, in that he traces a more complex and convincing history of ethics.²³ He is particularly concerned to show how the Aristotelian virtue approach persisted and infused Christian thought, only to be properly supplanted by what he calls ‘the Enlightenment project’. It was the Enlightenment, with its faith in human reason as a source of value, that led to the denial of the authority of other sources of ethical guidance grounded in ways of living, evolving traditions, or the ‘thick’ ethical language of every day.²⁴ On MacIntyre’s account, the Christian appeal to divine decree did not, in fact, replace virtue ethics, which continued to inform medieval and early modern ethical thought. This friendly revision to Anscombe’s historical narrative would preclude the supposition that the Judeo-Christian ethical view flourished because it filled a perceived gap in the Aristotelian view, or was necessarily seen as inimical to the latter. This more complex history weakens any argument for a sharp divide between ancient and modern, or for one that coincides with the Scientific Revolution.²⁵ MacIntyre challenges the belief that the fact–value distinction is a timeless truth discovered from within the modern disenchanted worldview, rather than a normative view in its own right. Charles Taylor elaborates on MacIntyre’s criticism of contemporary subjectivism, showing more clearly how it is the heir to the nominalist rejection of Aristotelianism.²⁶ Just as some advocates of divine will saw more potential for divine power in a morally neutral picture of the universe, so modern advocates of human autonomy put over their ‘ethic of disengaged freedom’ as timeless truth.²⁷ Nothing about the modern scientific project—on MacIntyre’s account—requires us to ‘discover’ the groundlessness of ethical language. Rather, he suggests, the ambition to view human will as the source of value gave rise to non-cognitivism. We find—in reviewing alternative historical narratives—just how thoroughly ideological considerations shape the telling of history, and especially the formulation of an opposition between ancient and modern. The distinctions drawn between the different historical periods are based on supposed changes in views about the nature of the natural world and our knowledge of it. But there are various and conflicting ²³ MacIntyre (1984), p. 53; Taylor (1994), p. 16. ²⁴ See Long (1983), for a helpful commentary. ²⁵ Cf. Crisp (2004). ²⁶ Esp. Taylor (1994), pp. 17–21; MacIntyre (1984), pp. 51–9. ²⁷ Taylor (1994), p. 21; cf. MacIntyre (1998), pp. 85–6.

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explanations on offer of the reasons for the divide. Korsgaard sees the modern concern with metaethics as a response to the disenchantment of the world: she does not suppose that the distinction between ancient and modern is based on heightened awareness of cultural relativity. The concern with cultural variation does feature in some of the narratives offered in Anscombe’s wake—Williams makes much of it—but this concern alone would not have sufficed to yield such a supposed divide between ancient and modern ethical worlds.²⁸ Ancient Greek ethicists were perfectly capable of recognizing cultural variation. More is needed to explain why moderns are inclined to lose confidence in their own views in the face of the evidence of variability, rather than to conclude that their own practices are nonetheless superior. MacIntyre’s account is different again. Anscombe suggested that the Aristotelian schema had much to recommend it, as an alternative to the subjectivism she found so ethically problematic. At least it shows us a way to do ethics without a divine legislator,²⁹ since Aristotelian ethics focuses on what came to be called ‘thick’ ethical concepts, like ‘chaste’ and ‘truthful’, rather than ‘thin’ concepts like ‘right’ or ‘good’. Thin concepts have lost their moorings for those who have abandoned the metaphysical underpinnings of Judeo-Christian morality, she argued. The practice of contemporary philosophical inquiry reflects that confusion, so we would be better theorizing with thick virtue concepts. We understand their descriptive content, and thus make fewer fundamental mistakes in using them. Anscombe’s complex paper had an enormous impact on ethicists: the contemporary revival of virtue ethics is often traced back to it. However, it is seldom noted that the article offers two quite distinct suggestions as to how an Aristotelian virtue ethics might help us escape the lures of subjectivism. One is the suggestion that the virtues are truth-apt because they are linked to an account of human nature; the other is that they are truth-apt because they are grounded in social practice. The first is the thread followed by Foot; the second is the line pursued by those like MacIntyre, Williams, and McDowell who ground the truth claims of ethics in ‘thick’ ethical concepts, social practices, and the norms embedded in our life world.³⁰ While the roots of both ideas can be found in ‘Modern Moral Philosophy’, I shall propose in what follows that the second is at once more representative of Anscombe’s piece, and a more promising approach to Aristotle.

Refinements and Responses Anscombe considers a number of different ways that philosophers might try to ground the notion of obligation, in the absence of belief in a divine lawgiver. One of several possibilities she considers is that the virtues can be seen as norms of a ²⁸ Williams (1985); cf. also Lovibond (1995), p. 104; Thomas (2006), pp. 2–3. ²⁹ Anscombe (1958), pp 14–15. ³⁰ Williams (1985) ascribes the former to Aristotle, but in his own voice pursues the latter.

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         kind for human beings.³¹ It is one of several different options countenanced, and receives only a short paragraph: it is not explicitly endorsed, but on the other hand, it does look like the last man standing. This is the line of inquiry pursued by Philippa Foot, who takes the appeal to natural norms to offers an escape from non-cognitivist ethics. Foot—and Rosalind Hursthourse, who follows her lead in many respects³²— develops a virtue ethics based on the notion that human nature provides a grounding for the truth of value claims. As I shall show, the robustness of this naturalism turns out to be either untenable or deeply qualified. Other readers follow what I take to be the more sophisticated and viable thread in Anscombe’s thought: that of recognizing the truth-claims of specific features of ethical discourse, i.e. thick concepts and the internal evaluation of practices. Rather than accepting the fact–value divide and trying to resolve it by grounding the evaluative in the natural, these readers take up Anscombe’s challenge to the cogency of that divide. In Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy, Bernard Williams articulates a naturalistic reading of Aristotle’s ethics. Although Anscombe only appears in a footnote, Williams could be read as a sceptical alternative to the Anscombean suggestion that Aristotle’s ethics constitutes a viable alternative for modern ethicists.³³ Bernard Williams reads Aristotelian natures as intended to provide an ‘Archimedean Point’ or external point of leverage.³⁴ Williams introduces the metaphor of the ‘Archimedean Point’ to signify a location outside of the ethical realm, from which we can get leverage against the sceptical challenge. We need such a point of leverage to justify morality to doubters such as the character Callicles, who appears in Plato’s Gorgias. Williams takes Aristotle to be offering a substantive promise of well-being via the appeal to human nature. This promise—the idea that we have real interests and not just subjective preferences—is meant to provide the rationale for ethics.³⁵ We have, as he puts it, an ‘inner nisus’ towards developing civic virtue.³⁶ This vision depends, Williams believes, on Aristotle’s teleological picture, wherein it is feasible to believe that nature provides for the well-being of individuals and provides reason to believe that actualizing our nature is a desirable and achievable goal. Williams himself is sceptical of this vision. For one, our psychology may well be such that evil pays off, at least judging by the naturalist’s standard of the ‘bright eye and the gleaming coat’.³⁷ For another, many different ethical visions are compatible with human nature, and could conflict both with one another and with other legitimate pursuits:

³¹ Anscombe (1958), pp. 14–15. ³² Hursthouse (1999). ³³ A footnote tracing Williams’s interest in ‘thick’ concepts to Foot and Murdoch suggests that Williams may have been reacting to Foot’s version of the narrative: Williams (1985), p. 218 n. 7; Thomas (2007b), p. 48. ³⁴ Williams (1985), pp. 28–9, 40–53; (1995), p. 195; Thomas (2007). The reference to Archimedes comes from Hannah Arendt’s description of Galileo. Arendt (1958), pp. 257–68 compared the purely descriptive stance of the modern sciences to Archimedes’ boast that he could move the earth from some external location. ³⁵ Williams (1985), pp. 28–9. ³⁶ Williams (1985), p. 44. ³⁷ Williams (1985), p. 46.

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Aristotle saw a certain kind of ethical, cultural, and indeed political life as the harmonious culmination of human potentialities, recoverable from an absolute understanding of human nature. We have no reason to believe in that.³⁸

Williams recognizes that Aristotle is not trying to justify ethics to everyone: those who are corrupted will not heed the call. However, Aristotle could still view eudaimonia as justifying morality for every individual:³⁹ we have ‘real interests’ that validate naturalistic prescriptions for the good life. Williams distinguishes this Archimedean ethical naturalism from a broader notion which defines itself merely in opposition to the supernatural, asserting only that ethical properties must be part of the natural world.⁴⁰ The Archimedean notion, importantly, allows for the possibility of investigating and establishing substantive ethical truths from a value-neutral perspective. It moreover allows us to justify the claims of ethics as ‘good for’ recalcitrant individuals—whatever their subjective beliefs—on account of its possession of some value-independent facts about what it takes for human beings to flourish.⁴¹ Williams doubts, however, that such an ethical theory could be revived. The modern sciences suggest that natural norms are geared towards reproductive fitness—a very different goal—and leave us no reason for confidence that nature favours individual flourishing.⁴² Philippa Foot disagrees that the appeal to human nature is otiose as a philosophical alternative. First in some papers and then a monograph, Foot follows Anscombe’s lead in looking for an alternative to contemporary non-cognitivism.⁴³ Foot finds considerable appeal in the idea that human nature offers ethics a nonarbitrary ground. Her notion that virtue ethics can offer a non-subjective basis for the account of goodness rests on notions she calls ‘Aristotelian necessity’ and ‘Aristotelian categoricals’:⁴⁴ she seeks to ground virtue ethics on the notion of kinds. Like MacIntyre,⁴⁵ she draws on the notion that, as beings with functions, there are norms built into our very nature. Foot draws on the work of Michael Thompson, who elaborates on Anscombe’s notion of an ‘Aristotelian categorical’, a distinctive kind of claim evident in statements about what was typical or appropriate for members of a species kind.⁴⁶ Statements like ‘cats are four-legged’ articulate natural norms: they may not be true of every member, and yet they are more than statistical generalizations. A cat failing to have four legs would be judged defective. Not all abnormalities in species members would count as defects: Foot contrasts the blue tit that lacks a coloured patch on its

³⁸ Williams (1985), p. 52. ³⁹ Williams (1985), p. 49. ⁴⁰ Williams (1985), p. 121. ⁴¹ For the denial that flourishing is meant to offer an antecedently accepted benefit for ethical living, see Broadie (2007a), pp. 115–16. ⁴² Williams (1985), p. 44. ⁴³ Hursthouse (1999), McDowell (1998a), and Fitzpatrick (2000) refer to Foot’s articles, including ‘Rationality and Virtue’ and ‘Does Moral Subjectivism Rest On a Mistake?’ More recent critics focus on Natural Goodness (2001). ⁴⁴ Foot (2001), pp. 15, 17, 27–37, 46. ⁴⁵ MacIntyre (1984), pp. 58–9. ⁴⁶ Thompson (1995); Foot (2001), p. 28.

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         head with a peacock that lacks a bright-coloured tail. If the coloured patch plays no important function, as the tail does in the reproductive life of the peacock, the one bird counts as defective, the other not.⁴⁷ The notion of species functions is thus critical to her view. Foot suggests that these ‘kind’ predications supply norms in the sphere of ethics as well. The difference is that in human beings, the relevant defects are shortcomings of practical reason. Virtues are the qualities required by the form of human life. The sense of ‘good’ we use in ethics, she argued, takes its sense from natural teleology. ‘Good’—following Geach—is to be understood as an attributive adjective: its interpretation depends on what kind of thing it is applied to. Unlike a predicative adjective like red, which maintains its meaning robustly across different contexts,⁴⁸ attributive adjectives like ‘small’ mean quite different things depending on the domain of application. Knowing what makes us good thus requires studying human nature. More provocatively, Foot announces herself to be ‘quite seriously, likening the basis of moral evaluation to that of the evaluation of behaviour in animals’.⁴⁹ She takes the resistance to this idea to come from the hold of emotivist or prescriptivist ways of thinking.⁵⁰ It is because we have artificially separated moral from natural evaluation that we are driven to seek some non-natural grounding for the former. The connection between ethics and the evaluation of species members lies in the idea that virtues cluster around practices that are essential to furthering the human good. Foot turns to Anscombe’s paper ‘Promising and its Justice’, in which Anscombe notes that many human endeavours depend on our being able to bind one another to future action. Foot takes from this paper the notion that virtues are grounded in the human good: virtues, that is, are considered part of human ethology.⁵¹ They facilitate the characteristic behaviours that are required to qualify as good specimens of a kind.⁵² For Foot, natural norms are meant to be the ultimate ground: they are not justified on, say, utilitarian grounds.⁵³ In evaluating one another ethically, then, we are using ‘good’ in much the same way as a judge at a dog-andpony show. However, what we assess in one another is the mastery of practical reason and the working of the will. Foot is attracted by the notion that vices can be seen as defects. While this term may have a reassuringly objective appeal to ethicists floundering in the quagmire of twentieth-century non-cognitivism, it is not clear how consistently Foot takes biological nature to be a source of norms. As Woodcock notes, it is unclear whether she intends to apply the language of ‘defect’ to natural disabilities in human beings, or how she would address the potentially offensive implications of a hierarchical evaluative

⁴⁷ ⁴⁸ ⁴⁹ ⁵²

Foot (2001), pp. 30–3. There are in fact variations even with colour terms, e.g. ‘red hair’ versus ‘red face’. Foot (2001), pp. 2–3. ⁵⁰ Foot (2001), pp. 16, 39. ⁵¹ Foot (2001), pp. 45–6, 52. Foot (2001), pp. 44–51. ⁵³ Foot (2001), pp. 48–51.

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schema.⁵⁴ Foot and Hursthouse reject some of the kinds of conclusions that might seem to fall out from infusing our biological heritage with ethical weight. Although both view reproduction as a natural norm, neither are willing to deem individuals who practice celibacy or homosexuality as thereby ethically defective.⁵⁵ While not strictly relevant to assessing Aristotle’s view—Foot is not doing Aristotle scholarship—the popularity and accessibility of Natural Goodness may have contributed to the perception that an Aristotelian naturalism could be updated and adapted to modern biology. The fact that Foot’s view is described as ‘Aristotelian’ or ‘neoAristotelian’ has doubtless contributed to the notion that Aristotle was an naturalist of Williams’s ‘Archimedean’ variety.⁵⁶ However, readers diverge on whether they think Foot’s notion of ‘nature’ is meant to be a contemporary scientifically grounded one, or whether in fact she requires an Aristotelian teleological framework to ground the notions she proposes to adopt. As FitzPatrick notes, it remains indeterminate whether her account considers nature to be an external or Archimedean foundation. What she is explicitly committed to is the existence of a single framework for the evaluation of animal traits and human virtues.⁵⁷ The insistence on this unitary evaluative framework, despite the acknowledged differences that come with human rationality, is critical to considering the norms at issue natural, but leaves unanswered questions about how the parallel between animal and human traits is meant to work. There are difficulties with the notion of substituting contemporary biology into a neo-Aristotelian ethical naturalism. Some who read Foot as doing so accuse her of ignorance. In evolutionary biology, the current view of the selection pressures is not that they favour the survival or well-being of the individual, or even the good of the species, but rather that they promote the survival and reproduction of those individuals who are genetically most similar.⁵⁸ To more sympathetic readers, however, Foot’s natural norms are not intended to be based on modern science. John HackerWright defends Foot from the charge that she is mistaken about contemporary biology, arguing that her naturalism never intends to appeal to a notion of human nature that is ‘scientific’ or external to the evaluative perspective. He argues that the notion of ‘kind’ at work in Thompson’s ‘Aristotelian categoricals’—a notion on which Foot relies heavily—is not that of biological species, but rather a logical notion.⁵⁹ Hacker-Wright stresses that the use of nature is one of ‘internal observations’ and not of ‘scientific detachment’.⁶⁰ Nature is no fulcrum here. ⁵⁴ Woodcock (2006): he suggests that, while Foot only explicitly refers to voluntary shortcomings as ‘defects’, she cannot consistently withhold this evaulation from organic disabilities. ⁵⁵ Foot (2001), p. 109; Hursthouse (1999), pp. 221 ff.; 245–7. ⁵⁶ e.g. FitzPatrick (2000); Gowans (2008); Toner (2008); Brüllmann (2013); Hacker-Wright (2013); Harcourt (2013). ⁵⁷ FitzPatrick (2000), pp. 19–21, esp. n. 23. ⁵⁸ Copp and Sobel (2004), p. 535; FitzPatrick (2000); Gowans (2008). ⁵⁹ Hacker-Wright (2009), p. 311; cf. Copp and Sobel (2004), p. 537. ⁶⁰ Hacker-Wright (2009), p. 320.

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         Hursthouse’s version of Footean virtue ethics also concludes, explicitly, that evaluation is ‘Neurathian’:⁶¹ human nature does not serve as an external, validating point, but is rather a matter of reflective endorsement of those aspects of our biological heritage we choose to affirm. No plank on the boat is immune to revision.⁶² Thus, we are left with the realization that the most viable Footean version of Aristotelian virtue ethics—in the eyes of its own advocates—is not one which regards the appeal to a biological conception of nature as justificatory. Aristotle did not need to contend with current science, of course: the question is whether he intended to use human nature as an Archimedean Point to leverage ethical claims. While Williams recognizes that Aristotle’s view of nature is not entirely empirical, he takes it to be intended to provide an external grounding for the demands of ethics.⁶³ This reading of Aristotle has been challenged by other scholars. Julia Annas trenchantly objected that Williams depends on a mistaken reading of Aristotle’s teleology, a theme I shall return to in the next chapter.⁶⁴ Martha Nussbaum also questioned Williams’s naturalist reading of Aristotle, arguing that Aristotle’s appeal to human nature should be understood as ‘internal’—as one that depends on reflection from within the evaluative framework—and not as an external point of leverage. Nussbaum argued that the appeal to nature is meant to provide reasons that would be apparent to somebody already committed to ethical practice, but would not convince an amoralist or sceptic who stands outside of the conversation.⁶⁵ This suggestion that Aristotle approaches ethics as a self-conscious reflection that can only be conducted from within the ethical perspective certainly accords with Aristotle’s claim that we need to be properly educated in order to enter the ethical conversation.⁶⁶ Writing in a Festschrift for Philippa Foot, John McDowell criticized the motivation for the reading of Aristotle offered by Foot and Williams.⁶⁷ McDowell offers an alternative reading of the history of philosophy, according to which the supposition that Aristotle must have sought a foundation for the objectivity of ethics is ‘metaphysically shallow’.⁶⁸ McDowell argued that the modern preoccupation with seeking foundations in the natural world resulted from the mistaken assumption that a globally disenchanted or empiricist perspective is required by those who accept the truths of the modern sciences. Aristotle, in his view, lacked any such reason for seeking foundations for his ethical views.⁶⁹

⁶¹ Hursthouse (1999) p. 166. ⁶² Levy (2009); Brüllmann (2013). ⁶³ Nagel (1986), in his review of Williams, endorsed this reading of Aristotle. ⁶⁴ Annas (1988), (1993), p. 139–40. ⁶⁵ Nussbaum (1995). ⁶⁶ Here, she seems to escape the criticisms of her internalist reading of the use of endoxa voiced by Cooper (1999a). ⁶⁷ McDowell (1998a); cf. Forman (2008); Gill (1990). ⁶⁸ McDowell (1998a), p. 186. ⁶⁹ Cf. Salkever (1990), pp. 4 ff., who argues that it is distinctive of Aristotle practical philosophy not to seek the kind of justification found in Archimedean Points.

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McDowell shares in the project of challenging the rise of non-cognitivism, and of rescuing the truth claims of ethics. He seeks to defend the notion of practical rationality, arguing that ethical reflection does not collapse into subjectivity and that ‘practical thought should be allowed its aspiration to objectivity’.⁷⁰ Where he sees Foot and Williams going astray is in accepting what he sees as a Humean, disenchanted conception of the world, according to which ‘whatever intelligible order there is in our world-picture is a product of the operations of the mind’.⁷¹ For many neo-Humeans, the natural corollary is to fall into—as Hume himself didn’t—a kind of ‘scientistic realism’, according to which ‘reality is exhausted by the natural world’.⁷² While this perspective may seem like common sense, McDowell advocates for a revised Kantian perspective, according to which the very fact of perceiving the world as a world and not a mere lump requires that we accord it structure.⁷³ Even our understanding of nature involves the operations of thought. McDowell does not deny the value of taking the perspective required for scientific investigation; what he objects to is the assumption that this perspective becomes global, offering exclusive access to objective truth or to reality. Practical reasoning, in his view, requires no external validation; and Aristotle did not suppose that it did.⁷⁴ McDowell denies that human nature is viewed by Aristotle as either value-neutral or susceptible to empirical investigation. McDowell particularly rejects Foot’s notion that Aristotle’s ethics centres on the appeal to natural norms. He takes Foot to be assuming that a substantive appeal to nature provides an external ground for ethical norms. McDowell doubts that the appeal to species norms can be authoritative over individuals, given the role that practical reason plays in our lives: no rational creature need think itself bound by Aristotelian categoricals. Any conception of rationality robust enough to allow us to reason practically would also enable us to step back individually from the traits that are typical of our species, so that an account of the authority of ethics cannot depend on our ‘first nature’. Claiming that a vicious individual is defective by species norms would carry little weight with the individual free-rider.⁷⁵ McDowell stresses—against the naturalist reading of Aristotle—how few substantive appeals to human nature can be found in the Ethics. His own proposal is that reflection on our commitments from within the ethical perspective—‘Neurathian’ reflection—allows human nature to set certain limits on the shape of ethical life, without serving as an Archimedean Point to validate any specific mandate. McDowell denies that Aristotle is self-consciously adopting any such distinction, however. Elsewhere, McDowell provides more clarity as to why he doubts that Aristotle can reasonably be taken to have striven for objectivity in ethics. He argues that the loss of

⁷⁰ ⁷² ⁷⁴ ⁷⁵

McDowell (1998a), p. 185. ⁷¹ McDowell (1998a), pp. 174–5. McDowell (1998a), p. 175. ⁷³ McDowell (1998a), p. 178. McDowell (1998a), pp. 185, 195; Forman (2008). McDowell (1998a), p. 171; Toner (2008), p. 226.

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         confidence in rational reflection on the nature of ethics is a modern preoccupation: that only against the background of this loss of confidence does it make sense to describe a view as self-consciously Neurathian, i.e. engaged in a project of revision from within.⁷⁶ Thus McDowell regards Aristotle as philosophically naive with respect to questions that, he thinks, only arise within the metaphysics of the ‘disenchanted universe’.⁷⁷ His position implies that Aristotle did not reflect on the justification for his ethical theory.⁷⁸ The oddity is that McDowell, like Anscombe, draws many resources from Aristotle’s work. We are left wondering why these Aristotelian resources turn out to prove so appropriate, if Aristotle was ignorant of the very questions to which his philosophy now provides such rich answers. McDowell is not alone in this hermeneutic stance. Korsgaard draws many resources from Aristotle, while denying that he could have been aware of the reasons why they are so applicable in a modern context;⁷⁹ Mark LeBar’s recent articulation of an ‘Aristotelian constructivism’ faces the same conundrum.⁸⁰ The aptness of Aristotle’s ideas to the modern predicament, I believe, should puzzle these thinkers more than it does.

Some Take-Home Lessons, and Two Research Questions A number of lessons can be learned from this survey. I have been examining several important attempts, from the second half of the twentieth century, to look back on the history of ethical thought and to try to understand the nature of the divide between our own moral outlook and Aristotle’s. These are serious attempts by wise and thoughtful philosophers, suggesting that Aristotle has resources to offer contemporary ethics, even while recognizing that a looming historical chasm remains to be crossed if those resources are to be meaningfully deployed. They have— unsurprisingly—different views on how and what can be salvaged from across the divide. The ‘Anscombean Revival’—if such a term might be used to classify so diverse a group of thinkers—seeks to resurrect resources borrowed from an Aristotelian framework, resources that were abandoned by the adherents to a strict fact–value distinction.

⁷⁶ McDowell (1998c), pp. 37–8. ⁷⁷ The idea that the modern sciences offer such a picture—rather than a historically situated form of knowledge—is addressed in McDowell (1998b), pp. 126–9. ⁷⁸ McDowell (1998a), p. 189, writes of Aristotle’s ‘immunity to the metaphysical sources of our modern diffidence about such things’: ‘diffidence’ seems to be used in its seventeenth-century or Hobbesian sense, to mean distrust. ⁷⁹ Korsgaard (2009). ⁸⁰ LeBar (2008), (2013a): the latter work makes clear that LeBar does not think Aristotle could have conceived a constructivist position. For more on this, see the Coda.

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Although turning to human nature as an external grounding may have seemed to Foot to be the key to Anscombe’s critique, I have argued that Anscombe’s article is best interpreted as dissolving the fact-value divide, not as using nature to cross it. Virtues, thick ethical concepts, social practices—perhaps even Korsgaard’s practical identities—are different versions of the attempt to reclaim the facticity of ethical language, without seeking an Archimedean Point. Both strands within Anscombe’s work present alternatives to non-cognitivism, inasmuch as they show how to recover the notion that ethical facts play a role in our moral discourse. The advocates of each disagree as to the extent to which Aristotle was self-conscious in his use of these notions, and the extent to which they are grounded in an empirically validated notion of human nature or depend on an a priori faith in the teleological structure of the natural world. They disagree also about the historical reasons why this vision of the ethical life was rejected, and whether that rejection can be renegotiated. Ascombe had highlighted the collapse of Judeo-Christian metaphysics—belief in a divine legislator—as the reason for the rise of subjectivism. Korsgaard and McDowell focus on the role played by the rise of modern science and the disenchanted worldview. Williams highlights the role of cultural relativism. MacIntyre rather credits the modern preoccupation with the autonomous individual to a modification of a kind of voluntarism: for him, it is the idea that we, rather than God, are the sources of the moral law through Kantian self-legislation that eventually undermined belief in the external warrant for ethical norms. Is it the rise of Christianity, the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment, or twentieth-century positivism that supposedly separates us from the worldview of antiquity? The recognition that Aristotelian virtue ethics was not supplanted by Christianity but continued to infuse ethical thought well into the modern world—suitably transformed, of course, and with some revisions of the canonical list of virtues—is critical to recognizing the viability of that resuscitation project. ‘Virtue’ has an old-fashioned ring, but it is the ring of language deeply embedded in modern literature and thought, not a mistranslation from the ancient Greek.⁸¹ That tradition is surely what licenses us to modify Aristotle’s list, without abandoning the notion of cultural continuity. Thus there is good reason to accept MacIntyre’s amplification and revision of Anscombe’s historical narrative. On MacIntyre’s account, there is no reason to see the intervention of Judeo-Christian values as having displaced a virtue ethical framework. What it did contribute—as Anscombe notes—is the notion that all value in the cosmos comes from a single source. I shall be arguing, however, that this is not what Aristotle thought. We have seen, further, considerable disagreement about the extent to which Aristotle was self-conscious about the position he articulates. Williams reminds us ⁸¹ Which literatures are in question depends on how we delimit the tradition. MacIntyre focuses on English literature from Britain and North America, but the point could be extended to other European languages and to other cultures shaped by that tradition.

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         of the background of Plato’s battle with the sophists, evidence that the need to justify the authority of ethics was indeed felt. McDowell, who disputes this, argues that the critique Callicles offered was too limited to provide an adequate foil. McDowell doubts that Aristotle could have been as concerned about this distinction as contemporary ethicists: he denies that the ethical challengers of Plato’s day were really comparable to the criticisms raised in the modern, disenchanted world. I shall address this question in the next chapter, since I believe it is important to the argument that Aristotle did reflect on questions about the source and justification of ethical demands, and that his proposal is worth reconstructing. In fine, we have arrived at the following questions. The degree to which Aristotle himself was aware of the philosophical value of his own ideas has been disputed by those who deny that he could have engaged with second-order reflections on the source and grounds of ethical claims. We need to consider both whether Aristotle thought that ethical demands were somehow grounded in a biological notion of nature, and whether he felt a need to justify or ground the practice of ethics at all. In the coming chapters I shall leave behind the substance of these modern projects, focusing only on the questions they raise for our understanding of Aristotle. I shall be asking whether he is an Archimedean ethical naturalist, in the sense Williams identified, and whether he was too philosophically naive even to reflect on the sources and justification of ethical claims. I shall reach a negative conclusion on both counts throughout the next four chapters, looking first at the background to Aristotle’s ethical work, then at the ethical and political treatises themselves. Finally, I shall reconstruct what I take to be Aristotle’s metaethical reasoning, and argue that—on my reading—he offers us an interesting and underappreciated view on the grounding of ethical demands.

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3 Nature and the Sources of Normativity Nature is drawn like a sponge, heavy and dripping from the waters of Sentience. George Santayana, Reason in Common Sense

In the previous chapter, I examined the appeal Aristotle has held for a number of contemporary ethicists, and noted the associated controversy surrounding his use of human nature as the ground for ethical claims. I discussed the role Aristotle plays in some historical narratives offered by twentieth-century ethicists who consider whether an Aristotelian ethical system could offer a viable way forward for modern ethics, or at least some resources towards developing an alternative to the prevailing subjectivism. The discussion revealed the extent to which ideological commitments enter into the telling of history, particularly of the supposed gap separating ‘ancients’ and ‘moderns’. I noted the variety of assessments made of Aristotle’s use of the appeal to nature, and the different readings of his awareness of the need for second-order reflection on the status of ethical claims. I have not, of course, done justice to the positive proposals offered: my aim is to focus on the uses made of Aristotle in these analyses of the modern malaise. I highlighted two research questions that emerged: does Aristotle consider the metaethical grounding for his ethics, and if so, is he an Archimedean naturalist? The latter position is sometimes regarded as Aristotle’s response to questions about the origin of ethical value and the justification for ethical demands. The view that Aristotle was not reflective on the sources and justification for his ethical views is important to dispel. It comes in two versions. So far, I have been examining a historicist claim about the kinds of questions that are available in a given period. There is another version of this charge, which also seems to have its origins in Alisdair MacIntyre’s work, and focuses on Aristotle in particular. This is the accusation that he is guilty of some form of complacency. The complacency charge sometimes adds historicist assumptions to claims about Aristotle’s historical personality. It is rarely scrutinized, however. I shall examine its various manifestations first, before turning to examination of Aristotle’s intellectual milieu and the kinds of questions that were conceptually available to ‘the ancients’.

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The Complacency Charge The accusation of complacency sometimes concerns Aristotle’s personal philosophical temperament. It is not uncommon to find readers asserting that Aristotle was in some way too self-satisfied to be reflective about his own values, and thus did not take seriously the possibility that his views might meet with disagreement. Sometimes this assessment is used to explain the apparent absence of metaethical reflection in Aristotle’s work. It is important to notice, nonetheless, that the ‘complacency’ charge against Aristotle comes in different varieties, and that these are only valid—or relevant—to different degrees. Some overlap with concerns about historical blinkers; others seem more focused on assumptions about Aristotle’s personal temperament. Alisdair MacIntyre’s A Short History of Ethics seems to have been the point at which the notion that Aristotle suffers from a culpable complacency entered the philosophical lexicon.¹ MacIntyre’s version of the charge is that Aristotle puts too much stock in the particular values of his own society and does not imagine the possibility that major substantive commitments—slavery, the subjugation of women—will come to seem unacceptable. MacIntyre also argues that Aristotle’s list of the virtues echoes the values of a certain class of Athenian society.² Although MacIntyre offered a more general indictment of Aristotle’s personality—he also calls him a ‘supercilious prig’³— the explicit focus of the complacency charge is on Aristotle’s blindness in defence of social hierarchies that benefit people like himself.⁴ It is not straightforwardly true that Aristotle endorses the social prejudices of those around him, however. Aristotle was critical of many features of the surrounding culture, and of Athenian democracy.⁵ A foreigner himself, he often challenges his contemporaries’ views in the Politics, and is aware that what might seem reasonable to well-meaning citizens can change over time. Aristotle considers the possibility of ethical progress, arguing that improvement is possible by pointing to a case where the customs of former times seem barbaric to us.⁶ This invites us to imaginatively enter the perspective of those with different views, a space that implicitly allows us to step back from our current commitments. While he does not explicitly draw the corollary—that our own customs may seem misguided to future generations—this seems to be the rhetorical implication of the passage.⁷ Reform is not ruled out but only slowed, lest law’s authority be undermined. These discussions show his ability to rescind from the values of his own day.

¹ MacIntyre (1966). ² MacIntyre (1966), p. 68. Curzer (2012) defends Aristotle’s views on particular points. ³ MacIntyre (1966), p. 66. ⁴ MacIntyre (1966), p. 60. ⁵ Schofield (2006). ⁶ Pol. 2.8, 1268b38–1269a4; Lear (1988), p. 192; Nussbaum (1988b). Mulgan (2000) critiques Nussbaum’s reading of Aristotle as a social democrat. ⁷ I thank Lindsay Judson for noting the possibility that society could encounter another cataclysm before future generations have time to see our current customs as barbaric.

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Although he is certainly less argumentative in the Nicomachean Ethics than in other treatises, this could be for a number of reasons, and there is no lack of evidence of him disagreeing with his contemporaries on particular issues. Troels EngbergPedersen argues that Aristotle views all reasonable men as agreeing on matters of justice, and thus saw no need to justify or ground his ethical realism.⁸ This reading does not hold water. In the discussion of justice in Nicomachean Ethics, for example, we see Aristotle pointing to an ambiguity that escapes notice and causes confusion;⁹ taking issue with those who consider reciprocity always to be just;¹⁰ and rejecting a common view that all justice is conventional.¹¹ While Aristotle is not seriously engaging here with radical scepticism or inverted spectrum worries, it would be wrong to describe his approach as presupposing agreement or assuming the correctness of his contemporaries’ views. He is arguing for a substantive position, and not one that his hearers already hold. We may not always like the positions Aristotle takes, but we cannot accuse him of being unaware of the need to justify them. A second, distinct version of the charge is that Aristotle endorses the stance of a virtuous person who seems to us too individually self-assured about his own moral worth, disavowing the need for epistemic modesty.¹² In describing virtuous individuals, Aristotle at several points praises what seems to modern readers an arrogant or self-assured pose. This may indicate that, on more theoretical questions, Aristotle himself is similarly blinkered, but that is merely an assumption. Modern readers are sometimes dismayed or offended by substantive descriptions of the virtues, or by the sketch of the megalopsuchos or ‘great-souled’ man, a character Aristotle clearly admires. To modern ears, this exemplar seems unduly arrogant about his own value or unselfconsciously insular in his views.¹³ We cannot infer from this, however, that Aristotle was himself philosophically unreflective about the virtues. Lest the difference seem merely one of taste, it is important to consider why it is reasonable to abhor this kind of self-satisfaction. Few would find fault with those who accurately estimate their own driving or golfing abilities: why the recoil from the idea of recognizing our own moral worth? This does not seem to be a mere matter of taste: the vehemence of the response to Aristotle’s ‘complacency’ is too strong for this, suggesting that contemporary readers see it as a character flaw that goes deeper than a failure of etiquette. The answer is surely that it is psychologically too easy to overestimate one’s own moral worth, and that a distaste for complacency is needed to avoid an inherent epistemic bias towards overconfidence. Given this bias, a cultural preference for epistemic modesty and self-criticism is justified, and would prevent serious errors of overconfidence in our own moral adequacy. However, it is not clear that this flaw is linked to theoretical blindness.

⁸ Engberg-Pedersen (1995). ⁹ NE 5.1, 1129a27–5.2 1130b8. ¹⁰ NE 5.5, 1132b22–30. ¹¹ NE 5.7, 1134b24–30. ¹² Cf. Crisp (2006), p. 172. ¹³ It would be inconceivable to Aristotle that such an exemplar not be male.

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         A third version of the complacency charge is that Aristotle depends too much upon the assent of his immediate listeners, excluding diverse opinions. McDowell notes that he is lecturing only to a select cadre of young gentlemen who share given values, ignoring the real dissenters who were the focus of much of Plato’s argument.¹⁴ Sarah Broadie wonders ‘what he would have said if forced to give a general response to the fact that there might be rival conceptions of flourishing, each supported by a good stock of reputable opinions’.¹⁵ The fact that Aristotle thought he should only lecture to those who have achieved a certain level of ethical competence does not entail that he thought his audience held correct views on ethical matters. A more charitable reading is that Aristotle supposed that there is a minimum level of competence acquired in any well-functioning society, a level that would be sufficient to enable participants to interact meaningfully, but would not guarantee the correctness of their moral views. Suppose Aristotle were approached by well-brought-up Spartans or Carthaginians who had reached maturity and acquired sufficient practical experience to function in a viable society. Would they be considered qualified to participate in a philosophical conversation on ethics? They could be expected to exhibit many of the habits of decent citizens and the skills required to participate in an ethical conversation, however much their political views would be considered faulty. The requirement that his audience be well-brought-up may highlight the competencies required for philosophical reasoning, rather than chauvinistically restricting membership to those who already share a given set of beliefs. Any functioning society would need to inculcate some minimal level of selfregulation in its members and some degree of compliance with norms of interaction. To participate in a philosophical conversation requires a degree of self-control, discipline, and maturity; a sense of fairness and impartiality; a dispassionate commitment to finding the truth. It does not necessarily require holding a given set of ethical views.¹⁶ To be sure, the distinction between possessing the necessary skills and holding the approved views is not hard and fast, and those from communities with radically different beliefs and practices would likely have somewhat different competencies. Moreover, there are substantive issues on which we can regret that Aristotle was not more imaginative and able to appreciate the costs of his society’s practices, especially its oppressive social hierarchies. Yet Aristotle has good reason for insisting on good habituation, reasons that do not require us to foist on him an implausible assumption of unanimity of belief. A fourth version of the charge—the most relevant to the current inquiry—is that Aristotle had metaphysical grounds for confidence in the reality of the views he espouses. Dominic Scott recently argued that Aristotle—unlike Plato—did not believe the politician needed to engage in the kind of metaphysical, epistemological,

¹⁴ McDowell (1998a).

¹⁵ Broadie (2007a), p. 347.

¹⁶ Cf. Cooper (2010), p. 219.

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or psychological study that would have provided much stronger justification for his ethical claims, because of a confidence that we are naturally equipped to arrive at the correct answers.¹⁷ I believe that this is accurate as an account of Aristotle’s confidence in our epistemological access to truth in theoretical matters. His confidence in our ability to correctly classify the world, and to reach the right concepts by induction, seems to depend on some such picture. However, to extend such a position into the practical arena would require Aristotle to have supposed that the truths sought by ethical deliberation are ‘out there’ to be discovered in the world, much like theoretical truths. I shall be arguing throughout this work that this is not the case. I will also suggest in the final chapter that Aristotle may have a different, and justifiable, reason for confidence in our ability to arrive at truth in ethics, which centres on the role of the phronimos in his ethics. It is our joint agreement in identifying particular individuals as practically wise—even where we disagree substantively about particular actions, qualities, or principles—that provides the ground for epistemic confidence in our ethical views. It does not justify confidence on particular claims so much as offer a background assurance that our overall picture cannot be wildly wrong. We may be able to do better at implementing our values, but it would not make sense to him to suppose that we have confused good with evil, or espoused a set of virtues that is radically mistaken. The various versions of the complacency charge can easily be confused. We disagree strongly with Aristotle’s approach on some matters, find his tone offensive, and too easily suppose that ‘smugness’ got in his philosophical way. There may be justice to the suspicion that Aristotle is too quick to defend the privileges of his own class; too quick to accept the serious degradation of some to the benefit of others. This lack of sociological imagination is not the same, however, as the lack of philosophical depth in questioning or not questioning the grounding of his overall ethical views. We can convict Aristotle of wilful blindness on some substantive issues, without supposing that he is methodologically inept. Related to the ‘complacency’ charge but going beyond the idiosyncrasies of Aristotle’s own temperament is a broader, historical question about what issues are alive in a given context. McDowell accuses Williams of ‘historical monstrosity’ in ascribing to Aristotle ‘a felt need for foundations’ in response to the threat posed by challengers to the authority of ethics.¹⁸ Williams took the character of Callicles, the iconoclastic sophist of Plato’s Gorgias, to represent a challenge to the foundations of ethics.¹⁹ In McDowell’s eyes, however, only the thoroughness of a modern disenchanted worldview could provoke the deeper crisis of confidence in ethics that plagues modern philosophy. He regards the Calliclean threat as less profound than that faced by modern ethicists: ‘Callicles exemplifies only the standing fragility of confidence. He does not invite us to realize that first nature cannot ground a

¹⁷ Scott (2015), pp. 212–15.

¹⁸ McDowell (1998a), p. 177.

¹⁹ Williams (1985).

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         conventional ethical outlook.’²⁰ In other words, when Callicles critiques conventional justice, he is not appealing to a biological conception of nature accessible from a value-neutral perspective. Callicles is not relying on a modern materialist perspective, denying that any morality can be justified in a disenchanted world. Rather, McDowell thinks, his is a more superficial challenge, baiting Socrates to show why this rather than that moral code is the one to follow. The intellectual resources of the modern ‘disenchanted’ perspective were simply unavailable in antiquity. Korsgaard and McDowell are not alone in holding this discontinuity thesis.²¹ We might agree that the term ‘foundation’ has become a technical notion, and may be better reserved for Descartes’s heirs. Nonetheless, the notion of a sharp historical break seems overstated.²² While none of Aristotle’s contemporaries live in the disenchanted world of modern science, there is evidence that, even in antiquity, deeper questions about the status of ethics were open to debate. Why suppose that the modern sciences were required to unsettle confidence in the authority of ethics? The threat could come from either metaphysics or epistemology: from philosophers who offer metaphysical pictures in which the grounding for ethical norms is open to question, or from those who challenge our ability to know the kinds of ethical truths said by others to be at play. Both these kinds of challenges would prompt metaethical reflection; both feature prominently in the thought of the philosophers prior to and contemporary with Aristotle. I shall review the evidence of ethical debate in Aristotle’s intellectual milieu, with a view to showing that a philosopher in Aristotle’s position could hardly avoid being reflective on questions of the status of ethics. The challenges he would have been aware of include not just the threat of Calliclean immoralism, but also the questions raised by Presocratics, sophists, Cyrenaics, and even Plato himself. While questions about the sources of value may have seemed more pressing against the background of twentieth-century positivism, the ancient Greek world was not as uniformly enchanted as it might appear to those viewing it from the vantage point of modernity. Questions about the foundations of ethics were very much under consideration.

Metaethics in the Fifth and Fourth Centuries BCE Intellectual movements of the fifth and fourth centuries BCE had problematized the status of ethical values in a number of ways. Presocratic philosophy also showed a growing awareness of the human tendency to assume the generality of what is in fact a limited perspective. Xenophanes offers the most striking example of this. He ²⁰ McDowell (1998a), p. 176. ²¹ cf. LeBar (2013a); Annas (1993), p. 135, may be implicitly endorsing some aspects of it, when she notes that no ancient ethical theory tries to ‘reduce’ ethics to another field. ²² For a philosophically sophisticated reading of the rationale for Aristotle’s internalist response to Callicles, see Lear (1988), pp. 192–6. The implication of Lear’s reading is clearly that he thinks Aristotle is aware of the demand for a foundationalist justification of ethics, but rejects it as a philosophical dead end.

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claimed that, if they could draw, horses would depict the gods as horses. His point was that human cultures show similarly absurd and ethnocentric projections in their depictions of the divine.²³ While the claim focuses on physical characteristics, it implicitly offers a broader challenge to anthropomorphic notions of the divine, and sets a powerful model for the practice of questioning widely held beliefs. Xenophanes indeed argued more directly that the Homeric portrayal of the Olympian gods was ethically unworthy of divine beings, and recognized the limitations of our knowledge in this sphere: Homer and Hesiod have attributed to the gods everything that is a shame and reproach among men, stealing and committing adultery and deceiving each other. No man knows, or ever will know, the truth about the gods and about everything I speak of; for even if one chanced to say the complete truth, yet oneself knows it not . . .²⁴

Presocratic natural philosophy has been characterized by its use of explanations that eschewed traditional mythological answers and questioned their rationale. This kind of self-conscious reflection—reflection that often unsettled traditional piety, even at personal peril—came to be seen as one of the marks of a philosopher. Heraclitus exemplified this iconoclastic tone.²⁵ The accusations of impiety levelled against Anaxagoras, Socrates, and Protagoras reflect this association.²⁶ A philosopher earned his stripes by asking what is truly highest, truly divine.²⁷ Challenges to traditional religion were not confined to philosophers, but extended to sophists, historians, and dramatists.²⁸ This opened various routes to question the authority of ethics. Most directly, the challenge to Homeric religion raised doubts about the authority of ethical values and prescriptions that were thought to come from the gods. Less directly, the atmosphere of irreverence allowed for a critical attitude in other spheres: even for intellectuals not investigating the nature of the cosmos, the new freedom from superstition opened up the path to critical inquiry.²⁹ In the wake of the sophistic movement, the use of reason to question accepted truths became a kind of badge of honour: the old authority of tradition was scrutinized by the new cult of aggressively iconoclastic reason.³⁰

²³ Fr. 168–9, Kirk, Raven, and Schofield. ²⁴ Frr. 166, 186, Kirk, Raven, and Schofield (1983), pp. 168, 179. Although Aristotle does not quote these specific passages, he refers to Xenophanes’ theology a number of times: Poetics 25, 1461a1; Rhet. 2.23, 1399b6; Metaph. 1.5, 986b21. ²⁵ Heraclitus Frr. 241–4, Kirk, Raven, and Schofield (1983), p. 209. ²⁶ cf. Kerferd (1981), p. 21; Sedley (2013) offers a thorough survey of evidence concerning ancient atheism and challenges to traditional religion. ²⁷ The masculine pronoun is used advisedly here: we have evidence of very few women philosophers in the ancient Greek schools. ²⁸ Sextus Empiricus AM IX 51–6; Kerferd (1981), pp. 163–72; Rankin (1983), pp. 134–7. ²⁹ Rankin (1983), p. 29, 132. ³⁰ Cf. Lloyd (1996), pp. 216 ff.; (2008).

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         Charles Kahn argued that Ionian natural philosophy was an important part of the background to the sophistic movement.³¹ Contact with other civilizations drew popular attention to the sheer variety of viable cultural forms and the multiplicity of morals and customs.³² In a passage reminiscent of Xenophanes’ jab about our images of the gods, Herodotus remarks that people think the best customs are those of the place where they live.³³ The litigious atmosphere of Athenian law and politics has often been credited with spurring intellectual ferment and critical reflection. In a city where it pays to be able to argue on any question, open debate and iconoclasm flourished. The subtleties of metaphilosophy may not have been the currency of the agora, but the preconditions for intellectual reflection could hardly have been better than in Socrates’ day.³⁴ The sophistic movement echoed the most widespread and influential of challenges to naivety about the universal claims of ethics. Not only did the teaching of the techniques of rhetoric implicitly weaken belief in the truth-revealing powers of reason, by demonstrating how the appearance of truth could be produced by deliberate manipulation, but sophistic philosophical teachings also more directly unsettled confidence in traditional ethical beliefs. It became a common trope within the sophistic movement to contrast nomos and phusis, opposing the variability and conventionalism of custom or law with the universality and invariability of nature. The subsequent intellectual ferment, as is well known, formed the background to Plato’s philosophy. Kahn notes two distinct phases in response to this awareness of the variability of custom: a ‘conservative relativism’ that validated the custom of the country as a functioning system; and a more radical scepticism about the reality of values that became prominent later.³⁵ The well-known prominence of the nomos–phusis distinction in sophistic thought might lead us to expect that challenges to the authority of ethics would question its status as natural. The texts suggest otherwise. When Plato has Adeimantus ask Socrates to address the ethical challenge as it arose in his day, it is the authority of the gods—and not that of nature—that is being undermined.³⁶ Parents had been using divine sanction to persuade the young, but now that sanction is under question: ‘What about the gods? Surely, we can’t hide from them or use violent force against them!’ Well, if the gods don’t exist or don’t concern themselves with human affairs, why should we worry at all about hiding from them?³⁷

The grip of traditional authority over rebellious youth was being unsettled by the new wisdom. The most interesting fifth-century development of this theme is in a satyr play that survives only in an extended quotation by Sextus Empiricus. Sextus ascribes

³¹ Kahn (1981). ³² Kahn (1998), pp. 37–8. ³³ Herodotus Histories 3.38; Kerferd (1981), p. 105. ³⁵ Kahn (1998), p. 38. ³⁶ Plato Rep. 1, 362E ff.

³⁴ Kerferd (1981), pp. 15, 20. ³⁷ Plato Rep. 1, 365D6–9.

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the play to Plato’s uncle Critias, although other sources attribute it to Euripides.³⁸ In the play, Sisyphus claims not only that human beings established laws in order to curb violence, but also that they created religion as a means of enforcement: Next, as the laws inhibited men from acts of open violence, but still such acts were done in secret—then, I would maintain, some clever fellow first, a man in counsel wise, discovered unto men the fear of gods, that sinners might be frightened should they sin e’en secretly in deed, or word, or thought. Hence it was he introduced the Deity, telling of a God who enjoys unfailing life . . .³⁹

The innovation is the idea of a monitoring God.⁴⁰ The passage occurs in a play called Sisyphus, a character from mythology notorious for being punished by Zeus: presumably the playwright was distancing himself from the impious implications of the speech. Yet popular belief in the authority of ethics could not be more soundly denied. Korsgaard suggested that Plato and Aristotle were unconcerned about the problem of normativity because they saw norms as built into the natural world, and it was only with the collapse of this possibility that modern metaethical responses were formulated. In the modern ‘disenchanted’ universe, she lists divine fiat as one such response to the ousting of normativity from the natural world.⁴¹ However, if we situate fourthcentury philosophy against its intellectual background, the order was rather the reverse. The appeal to a natural basis was one of the responses to the loss of faith in divine guidance. Socrates suggests to Euthyphro that some things are deemed pious not merely because they are divine favourites, but rather that divine favour attaches to things that are already worthy in the nature of things.⁴² Nature looks more like a philosopher’s invention, introduced to take the place of the will of Zeus. While there may have been few outright atheists in the fifth or fourth century BCE, this motif of the ‘benching’ of the gods from involvement in human affairs was a common theme.⁴³ Other thinkers—Prodicus, Palaephatus—indulged in naturalizing explanations of popular belief in the gods.⁴⁴ In Rankin’s study of the sophistic use of the contrast between nature and convention, he identifies several different understandings of the relationship between divine and natural. Those drawing such a

³⁸ ³⁹ ⁴⁰ ⁴¹ ⁴² ⁴³ ⁴⁴

Kahn (1981), p. 97; Kerferd (1981), pp. 52–3; Sedley (2013), pp. 335–6. Sextus Empiricus AM IX 54; trans. Dillon and Gergel (2003), pp. 251–2. exeurein; eisêgêsato. Korsgaard (1996a), pp. 18–19. Plato Eu. 10A–D; I thank Alex Mourelatos for noting the relevance of this passage. See Sedley (2013) for a recent survey of the evidence concerning atheism. Plato notes the popularity of such explanations at Phaedr. 229B–E.

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         contrast might align the gods on the side of nomos as early lawgivers,⁴⁵ view the divine as allied to nature,⁴⁶ or elevate nomos to a cosmic law that governs even the gods.⁴⁷ The options were wide open; innovation was key. McDowell is right that the sophists’ notion of ‘nature’ should not be understood as a scientifically grounded notion, nor as shorn of evaluative elements. Rather, it opposes that which is universal and invariable to the variability of cultural forms.⁴⁸ In the context of sophistic rhetoric, claiming that a practice is ‘natural’ may be little more than a denial that it is an arbitrary imposition. McDowell calls it a ‘rhetorical flourish’.⁴⁹ Taylor characterizes this use of ‘natural’ as referring to ‘how things are independent of human thought or belief ’.⁵⁰ Aristotle uses a very similar characterization himself in distinguishing ‘natural’ from conventional notions of justice.⁵¹ This is a useful philosophical notion, whether or not it was seen as established from a purely descriptive point of view. If we believe that there is a biological or first nature to human beings that can be distinguished from the aspects of ourselves that are shaped by human choice and rational reflection, we need to consider how such a nature might be accessed and thus made susceptible to descriptive analysis. It is important to recognize that it is because we hold an evolutionary theory that it seems reasonable to infer the truth about our pre-social nature by looking to the behaviour of animals. Aristotle, however, criticizes the use of the analogy to animals as an absurd method of reasoning to the truth about human beings.⁵² The Cynics, and most likely also Plato, were deliberately shocking their listeners by appealing to canine ways.⁵³ Aristotle’s own image of the pre-social state is the Cyclops of Homer’s Odyssey, a brutish and savage creature.⁵⁴ Callicles’ appeal to the lex talionis need not necessarily have been understood as a kind of social Darwinism, given Hesiod’s notion that the practice of eating one another is a positive law imposed on animals by Zeus.⁵⁵ There is little in early Greek literature to suggest that the appeal to nature would have evoked an Edenic vision of a pre-social epoch, where humankind lived in an untainted paradise. The idyllic Golden Age in Hesiod was never said to have belonged to humans, but to a creature different in kind. Thomas Cole indeed argues that, by the fifth century, notions of a golden age had effectively been replaced by a different narrative, which supposed that human society developed from a barren and solitary natural state.⁵⁶ A striking challenge to the authority of ethics comes from the belief that ethics, like other cultural practices, arrived on the human scene at a

⁴⁵ ⁴⁸ ⁵¹ ⁵² ⁵³ ⁵⁵ ⁵⁶

Rankin (1983), pp. 80, 73. ⁴⁶ Rankin (1983), p. 134. ⁴⁷ Rankin (1983), p. 131. See Chapter 5, below. ⁴⁹ McDowell (1980), p. 371. ⁵⁰ Taylor (2007), p. 1. NE 5.7, 1134b18–19. Pol. 2.5, 1264b4–6. Cf. Pellegrin (2015), p. 30, on the romanticization of the natural. Diogenes Laertius Lives 6.40, 61; Plato Rep. 2, 375A; 5, 451D. ⁵⁴ NE 10.9, 1180a27. Works and Days 276: Kahn (1981), p. 107. Cole (1967), pp. 1 ff. Cf. also Kerferd (1981), p. 125; Kullmann (1991).

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particular point in time.⁵⁷ Theories of origins of human institutions presented technologies and political institutions as developing simultaneously, and together creating the conditions that distinguish us from animals. This kind of genetic explanation, offered to explain our evolution from animal to fully human capability, allows us to imagine human life without our current norms, and raises the possibility that the norms imposed or chosen were the wrong ones. The sophists spurred inquiry into the nature of human being itself and the sources of all that was thought to distinguish us from animals.⁵⁸ The notion that human culture has a history challenges any temptation to suppose that nature supplies a kind of default prescription for living well.⁵⁹ Plato refers to a common belief that successive cataclysms or floods periodically wiped out traces of previous civilizations, leaving human cultures to ‘rediscover’ or reinvent more complex social forms.⁶⁰ Although Aristotle himself regarded the existence of human beings as eternal, he recognized that many aspects of culture, especially those associated with city life, were relatively recent developments, and ones that were shared unevenly by other societies. Aristotle in the Politics refers to two possible alternative beginnings: either human beings are autochthonous—sprung from the earth—or survivors of a catastrophe; he studies the development of culture from more primitive modes.⁶¹ Elsewhere, he notes the recurrence of ideas and discoveries, implicitly endorsing the cataclysm view.⁶² The historicity of culture was a common trope. Ancient Greek literature abounds with stories about the ‘first discoverer’, prôtos heuretês, perhaps modelled on the story of Prometheus’ theft of fire from the gods. Specific social forms were widely touted as inventions; cities and constitutions were often ascribed to a first lawgiver celebrated for wisdom.⁶³ Herodotus reports an investigation conducted by the Egyptian king Psammetichus to determine which human culture was the oldest.⁶⁴ The experimental design was simple: two small children were isolated, and the people caring for them were instructed not to speak to them. The test was designed to discover which language the children began to speak first. Herodotus reports that Psammetichus was disappointed to learn that the oldest language was thus found to be Phrygian, not Egyptian, as he had assumed. The theoretical model behind this ⁵⁷ Pellegrin (2015), pp. 28–9, revives Guthrie’s claim that the appeal to the necessity of developing human institutions effectively bridges the gap between conventional and natural in this period. Yet, as he concedes on p. 32, the variety of possible responses to a necessity undermines the case for treating such an account as ‘naturalistic’. ⁵⁸ On the notion that the rhetoric about nature is really a question about what is original, cf. Plato Laws 10 892C; Mayhew (2010), p. 205. ⁵⁹ On the three different historical narratives available—Decline, Progress or Eternal Recurrence—see Kerferd (1981), p. 125. ⁶⁰ Tim. 21E–25D. ⁶¹ Pol. 2.8, 1268b38–1269a4. ⁶² Pol. 7.10, 1329b25–30; Metaph. 12.8, 1074b10–12; Mete. 1.3, 339b28–9; DC, 1.3, 270b19–20; Kraut (2002), p. 241; Sedley (2007), p. 119; Pellegrin (2015), p. 30. ⁶³ Rankin (1983), p. 26. ⁶⁴ Herodotus Histories 2.2. Psammetichus became king about 660 BCE: Grene (1987), p. 131.

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         charming experiment seems to be that phylogeny recapitulates ontogeny: that the historical stages of human cultural development are somehow encoded in the presocial nature of small children. At the time of the sophistic movement, by contrast, language was treated as a human invention, and not as part of our pre-social nature.⁶⁵ Other aspects of culture were explained as introductions. The sophist Protagoras—in Plato’s dialogue by that name—offers a semi-mythic account of the origins of the human capacity for justice. Protagoras posits an innate human capacity for acquiring norms, but also suggests that they are bestowed by the gods.⁶⁶ Even if this ‘just-so story’ is not intended very seriously, it raises a question that would be faced by any account of the development of human institutions without divine authority. The notion that justice is a contract for mutual advantage was certainly aired by others at this time.⁶⁷ In the passage from Sisyphus mentioned above, it is not clear from the surviving text whether the author saw justice itself as mere convention or whether it is the enforcement of pre-existing standards that is ascribed to the lawmakers. Thrasymachus’ claim that justice is ‘nothing other than the advantage of the stronger’⁶⁸ certainly suggests that—to Plato at least—sophists were seen to be denying that there is any basis for justice outside of human institutions. While Aristotle may have been less directly involved than Plato in refuting the sophists, the intellectual challenges they offered would not have been forgotten. This trope of explaining the origins of justice highlights a question that would be faced for philosophers who try to explain the origins of everything without the gods. The atomists viewed the cosmos as arising out of the unplanned interactions of atomic particles, eschewing permanence or design. Although Epicurean atomism— for which we have much better remaining evidence—made some significant departures from the fourth-century version, it is likely that the theories of Epicurus and Lucretius echo Democritus’ thought on the development of culture.⁶⁹ It is possible to discern a line of ethical thought consistent both with what we know of Democritus’ physics and with the later atomist tradition.⁷⁰ Because the atomist universe was effective disenchanted, Democritus’ system— which Aristotle knew well—poses an implicit question about the sources of ethical norms. The atomists did not so much deny the existence of the gods as deny that they were involved in human affairs. For Democritus, gods are not the sources of cosmic order or of values: our very conception of the gods is given a naturalistic reading. ⁶⁵ Rankin (1983), p. 26. ⁶⁶ Taylor (2007). ⁶⁷ Kahn (1981), p. 92. ⁶⁸ Plato Rep. 1, 338C. ⁶⁹ The evidence for Democritus’ ethical views is unfortunately uneven: not only is there a possible confusion with the thought of a figure with a similar name, Democrates, but the reports even securely attributed to Democritus are largely gnomic sayings with little context or argument. On the relationship between Epicurus and Democritus, see Warren (2002); Taylor (1999); O’Keefe (2005); Sedley (2007), pp. 139–66. I shall ignore the little-known figure Leucippus, since our evidence ascribes most texts to Democritus. ⁷⁰ Taylor (1999), pp. 222–34, (2007); Annas (2002).

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Democritus apparently regarded divinities as literally films of atoms, perhaps physical traces of the clusters of atoms that correspond to particular human thoughts.⁷¹ Whatever their origins, they were not ascribed responsibility for ethics or the values governing choices in human life.⁷² The view that the only source of value lies in the experiences of sentient subjects is a common theme amongst reductionist materialists in the history of philosophy. Rather than a transcendent source of the human good, the atomists said that the good consists in a kind of experience. The physical conditions for producing such an experience are the focus of much of the advice that comes down under his name. Democritus advocated a life devoted to ‘cheerfulness’, brought about by moderation in pleasures, cultivation of a calm mind, and avoidance of extreme sensations.⁷³ Enlightened self-interest seems to have been the principle of social organization. We know from Lucretius that the later atomist school of Epicurus offered a detailed account of the development of culture and ethics, along naturalist lines.⁷⁴ The story is that, at first, early humans did not take thought for the common good, and did not know how to use custom and law to govern themselves.⁷⁵ The desire for self-protection led early humans to seek each other’s company, and gradually feelings of affection developed between them.⁷⁶ They began to communicate, to negotiate with one another, and to feel pity towards the weak. Agreements were entered into for mutual advantage, however imperfectly these were respected. With the taming of fire, language, and the development of cities, leaders came about, with the associated envy and strife and political struggles for control.⁷⁷ Law developed to manage strife, enforced by fear of punishment.⁷⁸ Such a reductivist account of the origins of norms evidences a need to account for their origins in the sparse ontology of atomism. Epicureans saw the need to explain not merely the origin of law but also the motivational basis of ethical ties. In a passage that echoes Socrates’ vision of the simple city,⁷⁹ the origins of some forms of evil as well as good are topics for explanation. It is not certain how much of this Epicurean history of culture, reported by Lucretius, can be ascribed back to Democritus. Cole studied the parallels between a number of texts from different authors, all of which offer accounts of the formation of human culture, and concluded that they share a common ancestor in Democritus.⁸⁰ Democritus may not have been the only philosopher engaging in what Cole insightfully labelled ‘anthropology’: it is unnecessary to be as minimalist in metaphysics as the atomists to take seriously a question about cultural origins.⁸¹ Authors not

⁷¹ Taylor (1999), pp. 211–16; cf. Obbink (2002). ⁷² Kahn (1981); Taylor (1999), pp. 228–9. Some reports suggest that Democritus did not eliminate divine sanction from his ethics as consistently as some of the sophists. ⁷³ Taylor (1999), p. 227; (2007); Annas (2002). ⁷⁴ DRN 5.925 ff.: see Sedley (2003). ⁷⁵ DRN 5.958–9. ⁷⁶ DRN 5.1011–27. ⁷⁷ DRN 5.1108–40. ⁷⁸ DRN 5.1143–60. ⁷⁹ Rep. 2, 372D–374E. ⁸⁰ Cole (1967); cf. Kahn (1981), p. 100; Kerferd (1981), p. 141; Sedley (2003). ⁸¹ Kahn (1981), p. 102, suggests that the oldest version may be Archelaus.

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         committed to atomism also compare the early state of human beings to that of wild animals:⁸² those who offered these narratives would have confronted a question about the sources and authority of values, as well as of practices and institutions. Challenges to the authority of ethics came not only from those whose metaphysics raised questions about its origins, but also from those whose epistemology precluded us from having confidence in our access to ethical truths. If we have no way of knowing about hypothesized sources of value—whether gods, forms, natures, eternal values—that might exist in some imagined metaphysical space, claims about their existence or role become moot. Theorists of the appearance–reality divide are sometimes also ‘negative dogmatists’,⁸³ i.e. denying the existence of such truths. Even an agnostic or sceptical stance would force a question about the rationale for ethical demands. The most famous claim from sophistic thought is Protagoras’ ‘man the measure’ doctrine.⁸⁴ Protagoras could be understood as denying that there are any standards of truth other than human beings as a species, offering a kind of conventionalism in opposition to traditional notions that the gods provide an external source of authority to ethical claims. Alternatively, he may have intended the view Plato ascribes to him, which is that the perceptions or beliefs of the individual human being are the only standard of truth: Now doesn’t it sometimes happen that when the same wind is blowing, one of us feels cold and the other not? . . . Well then, in that case are we going to say that the wind itself, by itself, is cold or not cold? Or shall we listen to Protagoras and say it is cold for the one who feels cold, and for the other, not cold?⁸⁵

The factual nature of claims about the external world are the focus here, based on doubts about the access of perceptual appearances to reality. The idea that opinions differ about ethics—and hence that there is no fact about the matter as to what is really just or unjust—would have been seen as a much softer target. Plato gives ample evidence of the belief within the sophistic movement that the realm of nomos or custom is less susceptible to questions of truth than that of nature or phusis.⁸⁶ We also see the application of epistemological reflection to ethics in the Cyrenaic school. These philosophers claimed that perception is our only access to the world. Rather than advocating scepticism about ethical truths, however, they claimed that the only good is present pleasure. Good and evil were identified with pleasure and pain, interpreted as physical sensations, i.e. smooth and rough movements.⁸⁷ We can infer that they also embraced the implicit corollary, which is that no other source of

⁸² Kahn (1981), pp. 96, 99; Kerferd (1981), p. 142. ⁸³ Hankinson (1995a). ⁸⁴ Kerferd (1981), pp. 86–91, connects this claim to an even broader point about the impossibility of contradiction. ⁸⁵ Theaet. 152B (trans. M.J. Levett, rev. Myles Burnyeat). ⁸⁶ Gorg. 482E–484A. ⁸⁷ Cf. Rankin (1983); Tsouna (1998); O’Keefe (2002); O’Keefe (2011); Zilioli (2012).

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ethical truth is available. The Cyrenaics denied that happiness is the goal:⁸⁸ any ethicists arguing that there is more to good than present pleasure would need to engage with the radical suggestion that the present appearance of good is all the good that there is. In his account of pleasure, Aristotle discusses the views of Eudoxus,⁸⁹ and not that of the Cyrenaics. Eudoxus began from what seems to be understood as an empirical claim: that all animals can be seen to aim at pleasure. The Cyrenaics offered a more radical argument that effectively eliminated any other candidate for a source of value than immediate experience, leaving them with only sensation as the criterion of value. This is not merely an alternative ethical view, but challenges a fundamental commitment of almost any other school of thought. If we were to look for an ancient Greek challenge to the truth-aptness of ethics that is comparable in scope to twentieth-century non-cognitivism, the Cyrenaic school would be a powerful contender. There is clearly a difference between this view and the hedonism of the pleasureseeker. The latter may ask, rhetorically, ‘why should I be moral?’, but need not be doubting the status of ethical norms tout court. Plato’s and Aristotle’s impassioned objections that the hedonistic life is only fit for animals express a conviction that hedonism gives up on what we find valuable about human beings, i.e. that which separates us from the animal world.⁹⁰ We are reminded of Aristotle’s objection to those who abandon the principle of non-contradiction: they are little better than a vegetable.⁹¹ An ethics worth having—the implication is—allows us to do more than simply pursue the present appearance of pleasure, in the manner of lesser beings. Socrates in Protagoras tried to nudge the hedonist into at least enlightened selfinterest.⁹² The Cyrenaics rejected even this. The Cyrenaics questioned how there could be any goal besides present experience that we could reasonably aim at. They denied, in effect, the distinction between appearance and reality when it comes to the practical good. This view would threaten confidence in any ethical view that sought to transcend the experiences of the moment. Rather than asking whether Aristotle was complacent about the threat posed by cultural relativism or ignorant of the challenge from the disenchanted worldview, we should ask whether he argued that the true good is different from the apparent good. I shall argue later that this is precisely what Aristotle’s ethics sets out to do. In the intellectual context in which he worked, the worldview of the Cyrenaics, and not that of empirical sciences, might present the greater challenge to confidence in ethical truths. We should not overlook the historical importance of the Cyrenaic school. While their ideas have not fared well in the process of transmission, recent scholarship has

⁸⁸ Annas (1993); O’Keefe (2002); Zilioli (2012). ⁸⁹ NE 1.12; 10.2. ⁹⁰ Cf. Nussbaum (1995). ⁹¹ Metaph. 4.4, 1006a15. ⁹² Prot. 356B: cf. Weiss (1990).

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         emphasized their philosophical consistency and acumen.⁹³ We cannot judge their influence in the fourth century from the absence of explicit mention in the texts of Plato and Aristotle, since ancient Greek philosophers are notoriously coy when it comes to mentioning contemporaries by name. The reputation of the school would surely have been different, and more of their ideas survived, had Plato done so. There is good reason to believe that they are in dialogue with Plato. Xenophon portrays Socrates debating with Aristippus.⁹⁴ Socrates’ argument in Protagoras for enlightened hedonism, and the argument for pleasure in Philebus, seem to be directed against the Cyrenaic insistence that only present pleasure counts;⁹⁵ the Theaetetus seems to be taking on their epistemology as a serious challenger.⁹⁶ The Cyrenaic preference for pleasure over happiness has been seen as directed against Aristotle’s eudaemonism.⁹⁷ It is quite plausible that Aristotle was responding directly to a school of thought that denied that anything but present appearance should be taken as the good. Amongst the debunkers of ethics in Aristotle’s milieu, it seems that the teachings of the rhetor Isocrates also served as a foil for Aristotle’s ethics.⁹⁸ Hutchinson and Johnson argue that the emphasis on the final rather than the instrumental value of philosophy was a reaction to Isocrates’ insistence that motivation was exhausted by a search for pleasure, honour, or useful ends.⁹⁹ The argument about the futility of pursuits that are purely instrumental can be traced to this source. The insistence on the final value of ethical ends can be seen as an attempt to justify the normativity of ethics on its own terms, against the attempt to reduce it to the pursuit of internal drives or self-interested motives. Although Isocrates may not have doubted the claims of ethics, he might have been seen as challenging the possibility of a certain conception of value, one which Aristotle felt a need to defend.

. . . And Plato, of Course The best evidence that Aristotle would have recognized a need to justify ethical demands and to account for the sources of normativity comes not from the challengers, however, but from a fellow defender: his teacher Plato. Throughout his revisions and reconsiderations of the nature and function of Forms, Plato seems to have held to a distinction in the nature of things, according to which only certain kinds of properties could belong to the material world. Against this background, it was assumed that the source of intelligibility, order, or normativity must come from

⁹³ ⁹⁴ ⁹⁶ ⁹⁸ ⁹⁹

Rankin (1983); Tsouna (1994) O’Keefe (2002); Zilioli (2012), p. 175. Mem. 2.1, 3.8. Tsouna (1994). ⁹⁵ Annas (1993); O’Keefe (2002), p. 397; Zilioli (2012). Zilioli (2012). ⁹⁷ O’Keefe (2002), pp. 404–9. Fritz and Kapp (1977); Broadie and Rowe (2002), pp. 53–4, 77; Hutchinson and Johnson (2014). Hutchinson and Johnson (2010), (2014).

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some non-material source. The canonical Forms were clearly one attempt to explain the origin of norms. Other attempts can be seen in Plato’s later work. We see an argument for a non-material source of norms elaborated in Timaeus and Book 10 of the Laws. As David Sedley noted, Plato is responding in Laws 10 to an atheistic view similar to that articulated in the Sisyphus fragment, a view that seems to have been advanced by more than one materialist.¹⁰⁰ The atheist is presented as posing a challenge to belief in the authority of morality and law, a challenge that Plato tries to answer. Laws 10 indicates that the challengers assume a dichotomy between natural and conventional sources of ideals, and argue that we should take guidance from nature rather than convention. The reference is evidently to challenges like that of Callicles: that nature shows the stronger should rule and not be restrained by conventional law.¹⁰¹ Cleary argues that the entire project of the Laws is to overturn the sophistic distinction between nomos and phusis, showing how law could have a metaphysical and cosmological foundation.¹⁰² McDowell may be right that Callicles does not recognize a deeper, metaphysical question about the sources of normativity, and is not questioning how the natural world could give rise to ethical norms. However, Plato evidently does. The Laws does not merely address the substantive ethical claims of the sophistic challengers, but also points out that their entire metaphysics is attempting to extract normativity from the wrong kind of material. Plato objects that the challengers picture an unintelligent, material nature, and try to explain the origins of everything from this.¹⁰³ By trying to explain the origins of the current world from ‘nature and chance’, they deny a role to intelligence in constructing the cosmos.¹⁰⁴ Law in particular is trivialized as a derivative and artificial introduction.¹⁰⁵ The Athenian Stranger, conversely, asserts the priority of the intelligible over the material realm.¹⁰⁶ The explicit rationale for rejecting materialism is focused on the need to explain the origin of motion: the Athenian Stranger attributes self-motion to soul, as a way to argue that motion could not have originated in an unensouled universe.¹⁰⁷ He then infers that all concepts associated with the immaterial realm—including intelligence and norms—must be metaphysically prior to the material cosmos.¹⁰⁸ At first glance, Plato’s focus is on a tangential issue, the origin of motion. The argument may seem to be directed merely at the need to establish the existence of the gods, and not at the need to account for normativity.¹⁰⁹ However, his point goes much deeper. I suggest that we should see the question about the origin of motion as a stand-in for a much larger set of properties that cannot be ascribed to inert matter.

¹⁰⁰ Sedley (2013). Laws 10, 895A8–9 seems to suggest Empedocles as a source. See Mayhew (2010) for analysis of the distinct positions under attack in Laws 10. ¹⁰¹ Laws 10, 889E4–890A10. ¹⁰² Cleary (2001), p. 125. ¹⁰³ Laws 10, 889A6–7. ¹⁰⁴ Laws 10, 889B2; 891C2–5. ¹⁰⁵ Laws 10, 889E1–2: Sedley (2013). ¹⁰⁶ Laws 10, 892A2–B10. ¹⁰⁷ Laws 10, 895A7–C7. ¹⁰⁸ Laws 10, 896D1–3; Mayhew (2010) stresses the role of the question about priority. ¹⁰⁹ I am grateful to Matt Evans for pressing me on this point.

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         The argument concerns the necessity for building soul and its powers into the nature of the cosmos.¹¹⁰ As Nathan Powers argues, Plato’s argument differs from later existence proofs in that it does not posit divine intelligence as necessary to produce the observed effects, but rather as necessary to perform them.¹¹¹ The world Plato is trying to explain is not one that merely exhibits the role of a designer in producing it, but shows the presence of active ordering principles that cannot be explained without positing non-material principles. Self-motion is only one of the properties that would be lacking if the universe were mere matter. We know from other texts—the ‘affinity’ argument of the Phaedo,¹¹² the ‘two realms’ division of Republic,¹¹³ the Battle of the Gods and Giants in Sophist¹¹⁴— that throughout his intellectual life, Plato regarded the material world as having restricted capacities, and tended to dichotomize property-kinds into two realms. The soul’s capacity for self-motion appears in Phaedrus as one of the arguments for its immortality, and hence its distinction from things in the material realm.¹¹⁵ Selfmotion is a central property of the entire realm of soul, of things with life, of things with inherent orderly change. It is against this background that we need to interpret the complaint voiced in Laws 10. Norms evidently belong to the realm of the soul and not that of the material world. The entire dialogue concerns the creation of good laws for a city; there is no suggestion that the material world has anything to contribute. The message of Book 10, on the need to believe in divine governance, depends on a denial that the properties of soul can be explained from an account that constructs the cosmos from inert matter alone. For Plato, the atheists’ attempt to justify their ethical view with an account of the origins of everything fails because of their inability to account for the complexities of the natural world from material resources. The argument is addressed to the need to believe in gods, but it also concerns the need to account for the origins of norms and indeed any organizing principle. It is difficult to imagine that Plato did not appreciate or intend the latter concern. Timaeus offers an account of the origins of the cosmos with a parallel message, since its cosmology is also based on this assumption about the poverty of material explanation. As Sedley argues, the notion that the world order exhibits intelligence was taken by Plato as a fundamental commitment: his Divine Craftsman theory functions as a device for showing how ideals could be built into the cosmic structure.¹¹⁶ The dêmiourgos builds soul into the structure of the cosmos, to produce intelligible order from disorderly matter.¹¹⁷ The fact that the cosmos exhibits beauty and goodness reflects the fact that it was made by intelligence according to an eternal pattern.¹¹⁸ The normative limitations of the merely material are assumed; an

¹¹⁰ ¹¹² ¹¹⁵ ¹¹⁸

cf. Phil. 29a–30d; Xenophon Mem. 9.92–100. ¹¹¹ Powers (2014), p. 56. Phaedo 78B–81A. ¹¹³ Rep. 6, 505E–517A. ¹¹⁴ Soph. 245E–246D. Phaedr. 245C–E. ¹¹⁶ Sedley (2007), pp. 108–10. ¹¹⁷ Tim. 34B8 ff. Tim. 29A1–10.

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ensouled intelligent designer is posited to account for the presence of order in the natural world. A kind of distinction between material and intelligible properties lies at the heart of the justification for this account. By the time he wrote Parmenides, Plato recognized a legitimate question about the relationship between the explanatory role of his transcendent Forms and their status as sources of value. The dialogue considers the possibility of Forms that are morally neutral or even embody negative ideas.¹¹⁹ Thus a question arises as to why we should identify the complete, perfect, unchanging entity as good, merely because it is needed to account for the normative role of linguistic concepts. The dêmiourgos of the Timaeus seems intended to supply the missing element, relying on the notion of an intentional agent to account for the sources of value in the cosmos. Aristotle developed a distinct account of the directionality of the natural world, one formulated in response to Plato’s work. I shall offer evidence later that Aristotle made a distinction Plato did not, between the sources of natural and ethical good. What should be clear from the evidence presented in these two sections is that questions about the origins of ethical norms were very much under consideration in the fifth and fourth centuries BCE. It is simply wrong to suppose that Aristotle would have naively treated value as part of the natural world. The terms of debate were somewhat different than those of the modern period: challenges to divine authority and epistemological questions were as important as the threat from a materialistic scientific worldview; ethical norms were not the only principles seen as missing from a materialist picture. But question about the nature of norms were being considered reflectively in the philosophy of Aristotle’s day. Naivety was not a philosophical option.

The Explanatory Hypothesis and the Natural Good I hope to have demonstrated that, in his intellectual context, Aristotle had reason to be reflective about the two questions Korsgaard identified as exclusively modern: whence comes ethical value, and why are its claims authoritative? Even without the stimulus of the modern sciences, there were ample reasons for an ancient Greek philosopher of the fourth century, Plato’s student, to have asked those questions. The supposed historical divide is no reason not to consider whether Aristotle was an Archimedean ethical naturalist, turning to human nature to provide such answers. Naturalism comes in many varieties. As Williams notes, there are other senses of the term quite distinct from the modern one he characterizes with the metaphor of the Archimedean Point. Some notions of naturalism exclude only the appeal to supernatural sources.¹²⁰ In contemporary ethics, the term is sometimes used to designate theories claiming that the properties designated by ethical terms are ¹¹⁹ Parm. 130C–D

¹²⁰ Williams (1985), p. 121.

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         identical to some natural properties, without any implication that ethical truths can be acquired by empirical investigation. Other normatively informed varieties of naturalism surely can be ascribed to Aristotle. Williams’s Archimedean brand of naturalism is at issue here because it would cast human nature as a subject matter for value-neutral inquiry: the supposed leverage of such a position comes from its ability to show why even those who do not accept an ethical system have good reason to do so. An Archimedean ethical naturalism would be one that both offers substantive ethical advice and a value-neutral justification for the demands of ethics. Following Williams and Foot, it is the kind of naturalism often ascribed to Aristotle by contemporary appropriators. For Archimedean naturalism to develop, there needs to be some conception available of value-neutral scientific investigation. When we are talking about human choice and judgement, however, the fact that human actions need to be interpreted in terms of our concepts and understandings vastly complicates the task of scientific investigation. The fact that Aristotle views reasoning as part of human nature should not mislead us here, since virtually any ethical system would count as naturalist on that score. Archimedean naturalism does not merely make the trivial claim that however we choose to be is our nature, because it issues from an act of choice: rather, the contents of our choices need to somehow be mandated by nature for an ethical view to count as Archimedean naturalism. Archimedean naturalism would not, of course, be one that takes human nature to be illuminated by comparison to the gods. Aristotle equates some aspects of human nature with the capacities of the divine, especially when he argues for the value of contemplation. As this is not a comparison that is grounded empirically, an Archimedean reading of Aristotle’s ethics would need to minimize or bracket the extent to which Aristotle draws on conceptions of the divine to understand ourselves, since these conceptions are clearly ideologically laden. There are well-known difficulties involved in investigating human nature, especially on matters that interact with our conceptions and self-presentations. Finding out what is good for human beings—what qualities, beliefs, and practices contribute to flourishing and the good life—is vastly more complicated than investigating animal ethology, because of the role played by human reason, language, and selfconception in our behaviour. Any modern social science confronts the fact that its subjects are also reflective and language-using agents, capable of modifying if not transcending biological mandates to some degree. Self-deception, cognitive biases, choice, ideology all interfere with our ability to describe our nature accurately. Various modern techniques have been developed for investigating those biological mandates, despite the filters that language use introduces. Against the background of evolutionary theory, there is reason to study our closest animal relatives in order to draw inferences from observation of the surviving pre-literate societies, and to document statistical regularities in the behaviour patterns of even the most selfreflective human subjects.

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Aristotle, however, did not accept an evolutionary account of a sort that would justify the supposition that it would be possible to recover valuable information about our pre-rational nature by studying pre-literate societies, or by engaging in comparative ethology of related animal species. His picture of the sciences does not lend much credence to the expectation of finding empirically validated information about our biochemistry or pre-social tendencies, of a kind that could be distinguished from evaluatively laden assessments of cultural forms of life. It would have been much harder, given the state of social science and anthropology in his day, to formulate a vision of how we might begin to access ethically neutral evidence about human nature. Nonetheless, he approached the study of human cultural forms in the spirit of a natural scientist, cataloguing and analysing the differences between various political regimes and studying how these institutional patterns contribute to human wellbeing. Did he regard ethical truths as subject to empirical investigation, or as derived from facts about our nature? Pierre Pellegrin suggested a programmatic reason why Aristotle could not have regarded ethics or politics as branches of natural science, which stems from his commitment to the independence of different branches of inquiry.¹²¹ However, as I shall argue in Chapter 4, Aristotle’s hierarchical arrangement of the sciences allows the findings of some sciences to transfer to others: we need to ask why practical fields are more insulated than others, if this is so. Other scholars are more broadly sceptical about attempts to assimilate Aristotle’s methods of investigation to that of the modern sciences, because of doubts about the degree to which Aristotle can be said to have held an empirical, external or value-neutral picture of the natural world. Even in biology, some hold, his approach can hardly be considered descriptive. If his view of the physical world is already deeply infused with normative commitments, that is, the fact that he describes certain practices as ‘natural’ may be little more than a rhetorical stance.¹²² It is essential to Archimedean naturalism that there be an appeal to a conception of the natural that is external to the ethical, i.e. a perspective accessible even to those who disagree about or reject the demands of ethics. Does Aristotle have such a conception even of biological nature? Aristotle’s appeal to teleology in nature is the major topic of interpretative controversy. If we regard the appeal to goals in nature as based on a priori or ideological grounds, there would be little prospect for such a conception of nature to serve as an external point to justify ethical demands, because it would be already too deeply ideological to play such a role. There is much debate about the interpretation of Aristotle’s natural teleology, particularly around the intended scope of teleological explanations and their relationship to material-efficient causal explanations. I do not attempt to offer a definitive account here. What I shall do instead is to sketch what is intended to be a plausible account of the justification Aristotle offers for introducing teleology in his

¹²¹ Pellegrin (2015), pp. 27, 39.

¹²² McDowell (1998b).

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         natural philosophy, such that we can reasonably see him as aiming at an explanatorily adequate account of the biological world. I shall call this reading of his natural philosophy the ‘Explanatory Hypothesis’.¹²³ If this is accepted as a plausible reading of the justification for introducing teleology, then—whatever further, metaphysical reasons Aristotle might have had for accepting a teleological world picture—we can reasonably view his natural philosophy as empirical in spirit, and thus as a possible Archimedean Point. Aristotle’s attempt to explain the world around us was formulated against the background of Plato’s views, especially the arguments for a designer discussed above. Aristotle shared with Plato the project of resisting reductionist materialism: he elaborates at length upon the inadequacies of these approaches, but also on the flaws in Plato’s solution. Aristotle clearly intended to improve on Plato’s account of natural norms: he rejected the idea that an intelligent designer is needed to explain how there could be norms in nature. Plato’s account of purposive design is presented as less sophisticated, and not as a version of the teleology Aristotle himself claims to have pioneered.¹²⁴ Sedley suggests that Aristotle’s view of the role of the divine begins from Plato’s view and makes it more consistent: Plato both supposes that pure reasoning is the most divine of activities, and yet assigns the job of cosmic governance to his dêmiourgos. Aristotle, by building teleology into the natural world and freeing the divinity from labour, leaves to the divine a more blessed existence, at least according to an evaluative schema that is articulated by other ancient sources.¹²⁵ Whether or not this motivation also existed, Aristotle presented his version of teleology as an advance over Plato’s in accounting for change in the natural world. Aristotle, in common with Plato, evidently sees his world picture as respecting the authority of the divine. Nonetheless, Aristotle’s ethics is not based on direct appeal to the wishes or intentions of an anthropomorphized divinity. The view that he sees ethical norms as embedded in human nature is compatible with the notion that those norms are part of the divine order, since his natural teleology includes the supremacy of the divine in the natural order. Nonetheless, there are few direct appeals to the divine to justify particular commitments: other than the ‘blessedness’ of the life of reason and—more specifically—of theoretical contemplation, the discussion of particular questions does not appeal to theological grounds. Aristotle’s notion of the divine was revisionist, rejecting anthropomorphized aspects of popular conceptions, including the notion that the gods had need of human virtues.¹²⁶ We have seen that, in Aristotle’s milieu, appeals to the authority of the divine had come under attack. It is thus conceivable that he might have tried to ground ethics in nature as a more palatable alternative, even if he regarded the natural world as ultimately linked to the

¹²³ Julia Annas offered a succinct argument: Annas (1988), pp. 155–6; (1993), pp. 139–40. As this controversy has not gone away, more detailed consideration is in order. ¹²⁴ PA 1.1, 642a25–31. ¹²⁵ Sedley (2007), pp. 169–70; Sedley (2010). ¹²⁶ NE 10.8, 1178b10–21.

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divine. Williams’s suggestion that human nature served as an Archimedean Point in Aristotle’s ethics can thus be considered, whether or not that conception of nature has a further metaphysical grounding. It is generally accepted that Aristotle frees the concept of natural teleology from an intentional basis: his notion of a natural goal does not depend on the intention or decision of any kind of agent. The view that Aristotle was an ‘enlightened empiricist’—trying to account for the phenomena of the natural world and not imposing a priori metaphysical commitments—gained currency in the mid-twentieth century.¹²⁷ Rather than justifying teleology on a priori grounds, because of some existing commitment to notions of the natural good, Aristotle is taken to be justifying his introduction of teleological explanation on the grounds that it is necessary to make sense of the world of experience.¹²⁸ Alisdair MacIntyre regarded Aristotle’s biology as too ‘metaphysical’ to be accepted today.¹²⁹ Julia Annas objected to the characterization of Aristotle’s biology, because she believes he introduces teleology as a kind of inference to the best explanation.¹³⁰ It is not necessary for Annas to deny that Aristotle may have additional, metaphysical justifications for believing in his teleological account, answering to his conception of the divine. These are not incompatible with the claim that in the natural philosophy he justifies the appeal to teleology on evidential grounds. To that extent, the Explanatory Hypothesis offers a notion of nature that could serve as an Archimedean Point, whether or not Aristotle has further, normatively laden reasons for regarding the world as teleologically arranged. He could quite reasonably have seen teleology as both empirically justified and supported by a larger metaphysical picture. According to the Explanatory Hypothesis, Aristotle takes the regularities in organic growth as explananda and argues for an account that, he believes, best explains the accepted facts. Noting the existence of regular and reliable patterns of change, and of final forms to which all regular patterns of change appear to lead, Aristotle posits the existence within certain kinds of entities of a nature—‘an internal principle of change and rest’¹³¹—and supposes that the endpoint of those internal trajectories can be understood as the goal or end of that entity. According to this account, then, the identification of certain ends as the goal of an organism stems from the need to make sense of the observed facts of the natural world, and not from prior normative commitments. The existence of a natural goal is an explanatory assumption, introduced to make best sense of observed regularities in the natural world.

¹²⁷ Mourelatos (1967); cf. Wieland (1975), p. 152. ¹²⁸ e.g. Nussbaum (1978), p. 60; Sorabji (1980a); Gotthelf (1987), p. 214; Charles (1988); Hankinson (1995b), pp. 128–9; Cooper (2004a), p. 107; Leunissen (2010), p. 9. Despite differences amongst these interpreters, all agree that it is an attempt to account for the phenomena. ¹²⁹ MacIntyre (1984), pp. 162–3, 196–7: cf. FitzPatrick (2000), p. 22. ¹³⁰ Annas (1988), p. 156 n.17; cf. Nussbaum (1988), p. 177; Salkever (1990), p. 36. ¹³¹ Phys. 2.1, 192b14–15.

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         The Explanatory Hypothesis makes most sense against the background of the materialist attempt to explain away all apparent regularities and functional conveniences found in the natural world. A key formulation of the challenge presented by materialism comes from Empedocles. His poem suggests that observed felicities in suitability of form to function could be accounted for without positing a guiding principle. Empedocles proposed, instead, that in the past, a myriad variety of possible combinations of parts were produced at random, but only a few of the most functional combinations survived.¹³² However, Empedocles’ ingenious suggestion founders on the need to show how the observed regularities of the natural world are transmitted between generations, a feature that cannot be explained if organisms are mere chance combinations produced by random processes alone.¹³³ To account for similarities between generations, Aristotle posits the existence of an explanatory form: a kind of inherent pattern that somehow directs the growth of organisms towards the capacities of a mature adult of the species in question.¹³⁴ By providing an inherent order and directionality to the world of change, species form accounts for the functionality of parts. Parts or organs of the body develop into the functionally optimal arrangement they display because of the internal form directing change and growth of the organism. It is no accident that the heart takes the form that it does: it exists in order to pump blood. In the case of organisms in particular, the suitability of parts to their function, and the regular trajectories of growth toward those functional forms, led Aristotle to deny that such regularities could be explained by chance. He takes the final form to be an ineliminable part of the account of any organism’s development. The notion of a goal of development is not identical with an unchanging state, nor is it the last stage:¹³⁵ ‘flourishing’ is defined by the development and realization of all of the characteristic faculties of the mature species member. It is neither merely survival nor reproductive fitness, although some aspects of both ideas would be encompassed within it.¹³⁶ The notion that the mature form of the organism is the natural goal of its development arises from the need to account for the perceived regularities of the natural world. Positing an inherent directionality to some patterns of change best explains the observation of regularities and functional arrangements in the biological world. Teleology applies only to regularly occurring patterns in species kinds, not necessarily to all details. Eye colour, Aristotle thinks, has no teleological account: whatever matter happened to be present was pressed into service, but no functional ability—he thinks—is conveyed by one colour rather than another.¹³⁷ Personal traits and

¹³² ¹³³ ¹³⁵ ¹³⁶ ¹³⁷

Phys. 2.8, 198b17–33; PA 1.1, 640a19–26. e.g. Gotthelf (1987); Sorabji (1980a); Sedley (2007). ¹³⁴ PA 1.1, 640a33–b4. Phys. 2.2, 194b32. Cf. esp. Fitzpatrick (2000), on the differences from contemporary biology. GA 5.1, 778a29–b2; Balme (1987), p. 294.

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idiosyncrasies seem to fall under this heading.¹³⁸ There is no cosmic pattern behind every detail: some merely result from the kind of matter that happened to be available. Teleology does not operate at the level of selecting for individual idiosyncrasies. Biological goals are delimited by the need to realize certain specific functions, but considerable variation is possible in achieving those. Teleological explanation applies to the patterns, not the accidents of detail. As we saw through the criticisms of Philippa Foot’s neo-Aristotelian naturalism, such a theory needs to make certain assumptions in order to distinguish properties that are functional from those that are not. David Charles notes the need for a teleological theory to identify which goals were essential: Without reference to goals, one would not be able to distinguish the significance of their growing towards the sun from that of other things all plants do (e.g. die). The efficient material story ‘is blind’ to this distinction, even if it is optimally complete.¹³⁹

It might be objected that observation cannot be used to identify certain ends as goods or goals, but that this identification must be made antecedently, on theory-laden grounds. The identification of certain processes as functional, others not, might seem to rest on pre-existing normative commitments, rather than an observational-driven conclusion. An Aristotelian might reply that his account of teleology needs to be assessed on its explanatory strengths. No one feature alone can be justified empirically; the claim is rather that a teleological account makes better sense of the observed phenomena overall than an account without it. It is the fact that a number of functions of the organism are mutually supporting that lends credence to the identification of certain patterns of change as not merely common, but as functional. As Michael Thompson rightly noted, the various animal functions are mutually supportive and definitionally co-entailed, to the point that it is only possible to ascribe functionality to a complex holistically, i.e. based on the simultaneous ascription of other functions to the same complex.¹⁴⁰ Nutrition is the process of feeding growth in a way that contributes to the realization of perceptual and locomotive functions; locomotion is the kind of movement that—in conjunction with perception and desire—enables the nutritive and reproductive functions of animals to be realized; reproduction is the creation, not of a material duplicate, but of an organism with the relevant functional capacities.¹⁴¹ No functional capacity can be ascribed in isolation. Aristotle embraces this interdependence of functions. In discussing growth, he considers the difference between the way that a mass like fire gets bigger, and the growth of an organism. Function is important to appreciating why it is that we do not

¹³⁸ Here I am ignoring a controversy whether the form we inherit is not species form, but rather that of our individual parent: David Balme (1987). ¹³⁹ Charles (1988), p. 38. ¹⁴⁰ Thompson (1995); Berryman (2007b). ¹⁴¹ Thompson (1995).

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         consider fire to be exercising a nutritive faculty when it increases in size.¹⁴² Growing things add material in a way that supports other functions: this is what qualifies them as taking nourishment and growing, rather than merely getting bigger.¹⁴³ Individual claims about functionality may not be justified by empirical observation; the legitimate question is rather whether the account as a whole makes the best sense of the observed facts of the natural world. The mutual interactions and support of the various functions for one another helps us identify the mature functioning of a complete adult as the goal, and conversely shows why the end of life is not the good of the organism, although death is both universal and final.

Does the Natural Good Extend beyond Species Development? Thus far I have been sketching an account that I believe is more-or-less mainstream, and that centres on Aristotle’s attempt to account for functionality within species. The focus of his teleology on this role is undisputed: what is less clear, however, is to what extent Aristotle saw teleology as playing in larger role in providing the sources of value in other ways, or in accounting for the organization and directionality of the cosmos more generally. If teleology is to be understood as providing the grounding for ethical claims in Aristotle’s work, we need to suppose that he understood it as doing more than merely accounting for animal functions. Here, interpreters differ. On the minimalist reading endorsed by Wieland, Nussbaum, and Sorabji, teleological explanations are needed merely for pragmatic or explanatory reasons: they are required to answer ‘why’ questions.¹⁴⁴ On this interpretation, the reasons for positing teleology do not depend on Aristotle supposing that there is some gap or missing step in material-causal accounts. Whether or not Aristotle believes that he possesses a complete material-efficient causal account, he need not be doubting that it would, in principle, be possible to produce one. On this minimalist reading—if it is plausible— there might be less reason to suppose that teleology was intended to serve as a basis for ethics. Few scholars find this minimalist reading sufficient, however, since they doubt that the reference to ‘form’ is merely the recognition of gaps that might be filled by a material-causal theory at some future date. A number of versions of this doubt have been staked out in recent scholarship: all indicate that Aristotle thought that Form represents some irreducible and ineliminable feature of the natural world that cannot be explained in material-efficient causal terms. The more extreme—what Allan Gotthelf called ‘strong irreducibility’—is that Aristotle thinks there could be no complete material-efficient causal account. On this view, form plays a real causal role—presumably Gotthelf means an efficient causal

¹⁴² DA 2.4, 416a10–12. ¹⁴³ Berryman (2007b). ¹⁴⁴ Wieland (1975); Nussbaum (1978); Sorabji (1980a).

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role—in the development of organisms.¹⁴⁵ Other commentators suppose that Aristotle is dubious about the prospects of a complete non-teleological material account on the grounds that he introduces explanatory elements that seem not to have a nonteleological analysis.¹⁴⁶ Still others focus, not on the evidence suggesting that Aristotle violated the search for non-teleological material accounts, but rather for finding reasons why he would take them to be inadequate, even if they were sufficient in material terms, distinguishing between the explanation of an individual event and the explanation of a pattern of regular occurrences.¹⁴⁷ Many accounts of Aristotle’s teleology—while they may be expressed in different terms, and have different views of what those patterns are—focus on this distinction. Cooper argued that Aristotle used teleology to account for the general arrangement of the cosmos and the turning of the seasons, traced back to the cosmic cycles. While individual instances of rainfall may be caused by material processes, the patterns cannot be explained in purely efficient-causal terms.¹⁴⁸ The question about the explanation of regular sequences overlaps with the question of the scope of teleological explanation. David Furley’s influential reading of the famous ‘rainfall’ passage did much to clarify that point.¹⁴⁹ The issue is that the material account of rainfall on a particular occasion does not answer the further question why rain falls often in winter and seldom in summer. In other words, there may be patterns that require further explanation, even once the individual material-causal explanation has been given. An individual thunderstorm can be explained by the cooling of air and the downward tendency of water, but this does not account for the regularity of the seasons. If all events could be explained teleologically, there would be more reason to regard his view as based on theology or some notion of divine order, and to view ethics as governed by the same purpose. It is widely conceded that Aristotle had no intention of embracing a global teleology of the kind discussed in Theophrastus’ Metaphysics and adopted by the Stoics, however.¹⁵⁰ He recognizes that genuine coincidences occur, and does not regard every detail as susceptible to teleological ¹⁴⁵ Gotthelf (1987), (2012): Charles (2012) p. 235 calls this option ‘goal-directed efficient causes’. Cooper (2004a) supposed that the references to hypothetical necessity imply that material accounts of organisms would always make reference to the final form of the organism, and could not be given in independent physical terms: this view is sometimes paired with Gotthelf ’s. Charles (1988) argued, conversely, that the category of hypothetical necessity was not intended to preclude the possibility of a sufficient material account. ¹⁴⁶ e.g. powers, Matthen (1989); Burnyeat (1992), p. 26; vital heat, Bradie and Miller (1984), p. 139; on pneuma, see esp. Nussbaum (1978), pp. 143–64; Sorabji (1980b), p. 169; Gotthelf (1987), p. 218; Berryman (2002). ¹⁴⁷ Cooper (2004a); Matthen (1989), p. 179; Meyer (1992); Johnson (2005); Judson (2005), p. 352; Berryman (2007a); Scharle (2008); Leunissen (2010); perhaps Charles (1988). For this distinction in contemporary physics, see Batterman (2001). ¹⁴⁸ While Cooper himself takes Aristotle to be committed to a strong version of irreducibility, someone more sanguine about the possibility of complete material accounts could still recognize the need for additional explanation of patterns. For a critique of Cooper’s reading, see Judson (2005). ¹⁴⁹ Furley (1985). ¹⁵⁰ see especially Lennox (1985); Van Raalte (1988); Charles (2012).

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         explanation. Nor, as Annas warned, should we assume that his teleology—even if it reaches beyond the arrangement of individual organisms to the idea of an ecosystem— is necessarily concerned with questions about human living.¹⁵¹ At one extreme, David Sedley has argued that teleological explanation not only extends between species, but that it is at heart anthropocentric.¹⁵² However, his reading has not gained widespread acceptance. This interpretation depends heavily on remarks in the Politics, which many commentators consider an early work. The discrepancy between Politics and the doctrine of teleology as it is presented in the biological works seems to speak against an anthropocentric reading of teleology in nature.¹⁵³ This discrepancy is part of an argument I shall offer in Chapter 5 that the notion of nature in the Politics is considerably less developed than in other texts. Even setting aside the possibility that teleology extends between species, there is a question whether the cosmic cycles are arranged to support the continuation of plant life and thus animal life as well. Aristotelian teleology, in the case of individual organisms, primarily concerns the functioning of parts within a whole.¹⁵⁴ However, as Cooper has argued, the rainfall passage of Physics 2.7 makes best sense on the assumption that there is some inherent value in the continuity of species forms, and that regular patterns of the seasons exist to support this.¹⁵⁵ Cooper proposes that Aristotle takes as one of the facts to be explained that there are ‘good, well-adapted plants and animals, and that the seasons follow upon each other in this given way, with those good effects’.¹⁵⁶ The occasional rain shower in summer should not be given a teleological account: it did not happen in order to thwart one’s barbecue plans. Nonetheless, the regularity of rain in winter needs to be understood, at least in part, by reference to its role as providing support for organic life. Passages such as the closing chapters of On Generation and Corruption make it likely that, as Furley and Cooper argue, Aristotle did intend to include the cycles of the seasons in the account of natural telos.¹⁵⁷ Once we recognize the degree to which organic life depends on the seasons, and these on the regular rotations of the heavens, the entire cosmos seems to be involved in the continuity of organic kinds.¹⁵⁸ Some readers think that Aristotle’s natural philosophy includes further normative commitments, even beyond the necessity to maintain life forms.¹⁵⁹ While his account of the divine is pared down and shorn of anthropomorphic elements, there is no

¹⁵¹ Annas (1988), p. 156. ¹⁵² Sedley (1991), (2007), (2010). ¹⁵³ Wardy (1993); cf. Kullman (1985), p. 173. Judson (2005) argues that the perspective of the Politics is that of the householder, and is not intended to endorse an anthropomorphic reading of natural teleology. ¹⁵⁴ In his biological studies, Aristotle occasionally seems to concede that inter-species relationships might have teleological accounts: see Balme (1987), p. 299. See Charles (2012) for a succinct examination of the evidence that teleology extends beyond the functioning of parts within organisms. ¹⁵⁵ Cooper (2004). See Scharle (2008), for a challenge to the centrality of biology in interpreting teleology. ¹⁵⁶ Cooper (2004), p. 205. ¹⁵⁷ GC 2.10–11. ¹⁵⁸ Furley (1985), p. 178. ¹⁵⁹ On the notion that a tension exists in Aristotle’s work, see Berryman (2007a).

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question that the divine is identified as the metaphysical ideal.¹⁶⁰ At the heart of his account of the natural world are some significant metaphysical notions, including a hierarchical classification of species kinds and biological functions, backed by a conception of the divine which exemplifies the superiority of reason, and of activity over passivity. Some metaphysical commitments support his account of teleology: the requirement for the Unmoved Mover to show why there must be something rather than nothing; and the notion that elemental transformation and the rotation of the heavens is a way of ‘becoming like God’ as far as possible.¹⁶¹ Does Aristotle think that the existence of species forms has metaphysical significance, that the cosmos is organized so as to sustain life, and that the rotations of the stars is goaldirected? These notions are not the kind to be justified by a purely empirical approach. Some may think that these normative commitments are so pervasive as to nullify the Explanatory Hypothesis. If we suppose that Aristotle’s justification for positing teleology in the natural world is already so ideologically informed that it could not be seen as an attempt at a value-neutral justification, then his normative and biological interests might seem too deeply intertwined to be viewed as an ‘external’ point of leverage. G. E. R. Lloyd seems to be proposing this when he argues that Aristotle’s notion of ‘natural’ is always that of an ideal.¹⁶² He points to the hierarchical distinctions Aristotle makes between male and female in the biology as well as Politics Book One, and to other passages in the biology where Aristotle’s notion of phusis is overtly normative as well as descriptive: the preference for male over female, right over left, up over down, and human over other animals.¹⁶³ On the other hand, Lloyd acknowledges that Aristotle maintains a distinction between natural norms and ethics.¹⁶⁴ Lloyd is not pointing to normative commitments in Aristotle’s biology in order to criticize him as unscientific. In fact, Lloyd insists that modern science too is normative, and that the fact–value distinction is a chimaera.¹⁶⁵ However, there are differences of degree in the extent to which views are justified by the appeal to evidence and strive to avoid introducing empirically unjustified value commitments. As Stephen White noted, even the notion that right is superior to left, up to down, might have seemed to be vindicated by the structure and rotation of the cosmos.¹⁶⁶ The superiority of male to female or human to animal might look evidentially based, to Aristotle, although—as Lloyd notes—he was excluding some data points that were well known even in his day. The question is not whether Aristotle had intellectual prejudices—that much is plain—but rather whether he might have viewed his identification of certain patterns in the natural world as responsive to observation. If so, this would commit him to allowing that normative commitments are subject to critique on the basis of evidence. ¹⁶⁰ e.g. Phys. 1.9, 192a17; Metaph. 12.7, 1072b11; NE 6.7, 1141a21; 10.7, 1177b26. ¹⁶¹ Sedley (1999). ¹⁶² Lloyd (2008), p. 186. ¹⁶³ Lloyd (2008), p. 190. ¹⁶⁴ Lloyd (2008), p. 202. ¹⁶⁵ Lloyd (2008), pp. 202–4. ¹⁶⁶ In conversation.

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         The fact that Aristotle did not entirely succeed in making this separation does not by itself undermine the Explanatory Hypothesis as an account of his justification for introducing teleology. In his day, there were no methods for limiting the impact of biases on observation, but Aristotle might nonetheless have viewed his introduction of teleology as responding to experiential evidence. I propose to accept, for the sake of argument, the supposition that Aristotle’s biology can be seen as an attempt to formulate a perspective that justifies its teleological commitments as a requirement of explanatory adequacy. Whether or not Aristotle has additional reasons for his reliance on teleology, the Explanatory Hypothesis allows us to ask whether Aristotle could intelligibly have thought that his account of natural norms acted as a fulcrum for his ethics. I shall argue, nonetheless, that he did not. My position implies that Aristotle is neither naive nor a naturalist: that he recognized the need to justify ethical claims, and could have seen them as grounded in his natural philosophy, but did not in fact espouse such a view. Archimedean naturalism may have been a conceivable position—allowing some latitude in understanding the notion of experiential evidence—but it is not Aristotle’s considered view. To recapitulate: some modern readings take Aristotle to advocate an Archimedean ethical naturalism. I have sketched a reading of his natural teleology—the Explanatory Hypothesis—according to which we can intelligibly consider the truth of this claim, and not simply dismiss this as wildly anachronistic. I am not here defending the idea that the Explanatory Hypothesis is an adequate account of Aristotle’s teleology, but rather formulating it for the sake of argument. Whatever his larger metaphysical views, Aristotle seems to offer a justification for natural teleology as the best account of the experienced facts. While Aristotle’s universe may not be entirely disenchanted, his account of natural norms could have been justified—on this account—as the best account of the evidence. It is a further question whether he indeed drew on these biological notions in formulating his ethical views. I shall now turn to consider the evidence that Aristotle was an Archimedean ethical naturalist, looking to human nature as the foundation for ethics.

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4 Is Aristotle an Archimedean Naturalist? I have argued thus far that it is perfectly plausible that ancient Greek philosophers considered the second-order questions about the sources of normativity that Korsgaard portrayed as exclusively modern. In Aristotle’s intellectual milieu, challenges to the authority of ethical claims were ample and deep. Notions of piety had come under scrutiny by philosophers critical of traditional appeals to the divine, provoking a very public expression of questions and doubts about the foundations of popular ethical views. At the same time, reductive materialist accounts of the formation of the natural world challenged unreflective assumptions that values were inherent in the natural world. Those who thought the good must consist in present experience problematized the notion that external goods or long term goals could provide reasons for action. Plato responded to critics who problematized the existence of non-material properties—including norms—in the natural world. Given the intellectual background against which he is working, that is, we can anticipate that any metaethical position Aristotle adopted was formulated reflectively, responding to specific challenges. We cannot suppose that Aristotle naively viewed ethical value as inherent in the natural world. There remains a question whether Aristotle might have espoused a kind of ethical naturalism. Did he regard his empirically justified account of nature as the source of ethical claims, or the justification for ethical demands? In arguing that the search for the sources of normativity was an exclusively modern project, Korsgaard distinguished two questions: ‘whence value?’ and ‘why is it authoritative?’¹ The answer to the two questions may come apart. For those who adopt an approach she calls ‘reflective endorsement’, for example, the fact that certain values and ethical constraints originate with our nature is not the reason for taking them to be justified in making demands on us.² Rather, it is the fact that we decide, rationally, to accept those constraints that supplies the justification. Because we can step back and reflect on and possibly modify the constraints that originate with human nature, they are no longer prima facie authoritative: it is reason’s endorsement that matters.³ In assessing ¹ Korsgaard (1996a), p. 9. ² Korsgaard (1996a), p. 19. ³ This distinction is nicely illustrated in Annas (2005), p. 25.

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         the apparent evidence that ethical claims are drawn from nature, we need to remember that the source and the justification may be different. Cases where Aristotle directly appeals to human nature to provide substantive ethical guidance would be strong evidence for reading him as an Archimedean naturalist, if the notion of human nature that he relies on were based on an empirically grounded theory of our biological make-up, of a kind that applies to someone who is not already committed to the ethical perspective. To qualify as Archimedean, the claim would need to be that living according to nature would be accessible from outside the ethical perspective, i.e. would provide reasons even the non-virtuous accept. Rosalind Hursthouse’s claim that living by nature is a ‘reliable bet’ for a desirable life is a version of this kind of justification.⁴ Conversely, as John McDowell argued, a radically revisionist notion of what is good for us would disqualify the account as externally validated, a feature that is essential to the Archimedean reading.⁵ If only the converted see the appeal of the justification offered, it provides no fulcrum to convince the recalcitrant. In Chapter 3 I granted, for the sake of argument, that Aristotle’s teleological account of the natural world could be understood as a best account of the evidence regarding the regular development of organisms. It is thus conceivable that nature could have functioned, for Aristotle, as an Archimedean Point on which to ground ethics. He evidently thought that positing species natures offered the best explanation of the phenomena of the natural world. Did he also view natural teleology as the source and grounding authority for ethical claims as well? In the next three chapters, I shall argue that he did not. After examining the philosophical work done by the appeal to nature in his ethical and political work, I conclude both that Aristotle’s ethics makes only minimal use of the appeal to human nature, and also there are some positive reasons for thinking that Aristotle would have rejected Archimedean naturalism. The anomalous case of Politics Book One does not, I argue, provide evidence of Archimedean naturalism. In the final two chapters I will sketch an alternative account of Aristotle’s metaethical position, according to which he recognizes the independence of human reason from natural goals.

An Embarrassment of Riches: The Ethical Treatises Before proceeding to examine specific questions about Aristotle’s ethical works, it is helpful to review current scholarly understanding of Aristotle’s corpus, and of the relationship between the different ethical treatises that come down to us under Aristotle’s name.⁶ While contemporary ethicists often treat the Nicomachean Ethics ⁴ Hursthouse (1999), p. 176. ⁵ McDowell (1998c), pp. 35–46. ⁶ See, e.g., Rowe (1971a), for a history of interpretation; Bobonich (2006) for a judicious recent survey of the literature. Those already familiar with the literature may prefer to skip this section.

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     ?

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as a unified treatise and the definitive statement of Aristotle’s views, it has long been acknowledged among scholars that this procedure is problematic. There are several treatises on ethics in the corpus, and these provide significantly different accounts on at least some important issues. The status of the Nicomachean Ethics as a finished work intended to be read as a single treatise is also uncertain. In this section, I review the literature on the status of the various normative works and their interrelationships. Although much of this material will already be familiar to experts, I offer here additional textual reason in support of the view that the Eudemian and Nicomachean Ethics present a more considered statement than the Politics and Magna Moralia. Clearly, we need to know how to adjudicate the claims of the various surviving texts. Besides two canonical treatises—Nicomachean Ethics and Eudemian Ethics—the corpus contains fragmentary reports from an early work, the Protrepticus; Magna Moralia; and a discussion of virtues in Rhetoric 1.9. Scholars have also read the Poetics for evidence of Aristotle’s ethical evaluations of particular characters and their actions and choices.⁷ The ethical thought of the Politics also needs to be considered: there are doctrinal connections and multiple cross-references to the ethical works, although— as these kind of cross-references may be interpolations added by later editors—they cannot be used to establish relative dates for the various works. A collection of aphorisms—On Virtues and Vices—is not generally considered authentic; the largely physiological reflections on the emotional states associated with ethical action in the Problemata are ascribed to the school rather than to Aristotle himself.⁸ D. S. Hutchinson and Monte Johnson have urged recently that we not neglect the evidence from the surviving fragments of Aristotle’s Protrepticus. This is an early work, written when Aristotle was still part of Plato’s circle, exhorting students to the study of philosophy. It is preserved only in excerpts quoted by the Neoplatonist philosopher Iamblichus, writing some centuries later. Hutchinson and Johnson undertook an extensive study of Iamblichus’ quotation practices, comparing his summaries of extant texts, and concluded that Iamblichus is a reliable and systematic excerpter.⁹ On this basis, they offer a reconstruction of the Protrepticus, accepting as genuine material that had previously been questioned.¹⁰ Even granting that the dialogue form makes it difficult to discern which views are being advanced as Aristotle’s own, the text shows some distinctively Aristotelian ideas, such as the superiority of actual to potential and of an active to a passive state.¹¹ Ongoing study of this document promises insight into Aristotle’s early thought. Most scholars believe that the ten-book Nicomachean treatise—or, perhaps, collection—is later and thus represents a more mature statement than the eight ⁷ Freeland (1993); Lear (1995). ⁸ Problemata Books 27–30: most concern the physiological effects associated with emotional states, although there are some specificaly normative remarks. ⁹ Hutchinson and Johnson (2005). ¹⁰ Hutchinson and Johnson (2010), (2014). ¹¹ Iamblichus Protrepticus 11, 56.15–57.23. I thank Monte and Doug for graciously sharing their work on this text.

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         books known as the Eudemian Ethics.¹² Anthony Kenny’s suggestion that the relative order of the two treatises might be different has attracted few adherents.¹³ The differences of style and the more systematic character of the Eudemian version has raised the possibility that the two major ethical works may be addressed to different audiences, and are thus not necessarily in conflict.¹⁴ The paean to contemplation or the passages connecting ethics to political theory, missing from the Eudemian Ethics, would be less relevant for an audience who were already philosophical insiders.¹⁵ Three books of the Nicomachean Ethics, Books 5–7, are identical in some manuscripts to Books 4–6 of the Eudemian Ethics; neither treatise would be complete without these common books. While the common books are sometimes omitted from Eudemian Ethics when the two works are published together, this was not necessarily true of medieval copies. The practice of omitting the common books from the Eudemian treatise, which traditionally came second, was apparently a convenience adopted when the two collections were included in the same codex. Thus it does not indicate that the common books were thought to originate with the Nicomachean treatise.¹⁶ Kenny argued, using both stylometric analysis and internal cross-referencing, that the common books have more affinities to the Eudemian Ethics than to the Nicomachean. While Kenny’s conclusions about the Eudemian provenance of the common books has been well received,¹⁷ few have endorsed Kenny’s more radical proposal that the Eudemian Ethics may be the later and superior work.¹⁸ Much discussion of the relationship between the Eudemian and Nicomachean treatises concerns the apparent change in the meaning of the term phronêsis: Jaeger’s original developmental thesis focused on this issue. While Jaeger’s specific claims have been discredited, the shifting meaning of phronêsis remains a point of distinction between the works. Christopher Rowe noted that, if we bracket the common books and consider only the undisputed books of the Eudemian Ethics, we find that a distinction between theoretical and practical reason is not maintained, as it is in Nicomachean Ethics.¹⁹ Since Plato treats phronêsis as theoretical wisdom, this apparent refinement

¹² The material of the eighth book is sometimes folded into Book 7; the three so-called ‘common books’ are not always included in manuscript copies. See Bobonich (2006); Inwood and Leigh (2006). ¹³ Kenny (1978); cf. Irwin (1980b). ¹⁴ Allan (1971); Rowe (1971a); Kenny (1978); Flashar (1977); Jost (2014). ¹⁵ Flashar (1977), pp. 13–14; Bodéüs (1993), pp. 89–91; cf. Scott (2015), for a more serious treatment of the notion that Nicomachean Ethics is aimed at legislators. ¹⁶ Inwood and Leigh (2006). ¹⁷ Inwood and Leigh (2006), xvii; Broadie and Rowe (2002), p. 4; but cf. Irwin (1980a), for a more critical stance. ¹⁸ Kenny (1992), p. 114, clarifies that his intention is merely to consider that possibility, rather than to offer a final assessment. ¹⁹ Rowe (1971a), (1971b). Rowe (1971a), p. 84, does concede that the Eudemian Ethics recognizes some differences between theoretical and practical reason.

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     ?



is reason to regard the Nicomachean Ethics—along with Book 6 of the common books at a minimum—as belonging to a later period of Aristotle’s thought.²⁰ Giles Pearson drew attention recently to another use of phronêsis in Eudemian Ethics 2.3, where it appears, not as a virtue of practical reason, but as the name for a specific character virtue.²¹ This discrepancy reinforces the case that important terminological distinctions are in flux between the two treatises. Yet if the common books were from an earlier stratum of thought, the completeness of the Nicomachean account is in question. Cynthia Freeland offered a further argument for regarding the Nicomachean Ethics as later than the Eudemian, based on analysis of material that seems to be derived from Aristotle’s study of tragedy in the Poetics. On two different issues, the nature of the voluntary and the importance of the goods of fortune for eudaimonia, a philosophically simpler view that was articulated in the Eudemian Ethics receives a more subtle and complex treatment in Nicomachean Ethics. The reasons offered in Nicomachean Ethics make explicit reference to material from tragedy. Freeland argues that we should see Aristotle as first formulating a conceptually cleaner view, which is driven by theoretical considerations. However, he later comes to a greater awareness of the vagaries of life and the complexities of human nature, an awareness that would be heightened by intensive study of Greek tragedy.²² Sensitivity to the misfortunes of fate—such as the tragic fall of Priam—leads Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics to accord more weight to goods of fortune.²³ Related to the problem of relative dating is the raging controversy over the internal unity of Nicomachean Ethics. Ackrill emphasized a disparity between the preeminence of practical wisdom throughout Books 1–9 and the clear statement of the greater value of theoretical reasoning in Book 10.²⁴ Controversy has centred on the interpretation of the appeal to the life of reason: whether we should think of this life in an ‘inclusive’ sense, so that contemplation is ranked as a good among others, or in a ‘dominant’ sense, whereby greater opportunities for contemplation would be thought to render a life more worthy, even at the cost of crowding out the exercise of character virtues. Practical activity seems to be described as chosen for its own sake in Book 2, not so in Book 10.²⁵ Since Book 10 returns to a topic—pleasure—that has ²⁰ cf. Bobonich (2006). On Isocrates’ advocacy of phronêsis, see Hutchinson and Johnson (2014), pp. 392–3. ²¹ Pearson (2007); cf. Broadie and Rowe (2002), p. 305. Phronêsis appears on the list of virtues that fall between corresponding vices—as it does not in Nicomachean Ethics—and is contrasted to the vices of cunning and simplicity. Pearson notes a serious incongruity between the placing of phronêsis on the list of character virtues, and the claim elsewhere that phronêsis is an intellectual virtue. He sees this as evidence that intellectual and character virtues are not so separate: Pearson (2007), p. 293. ²² NE 3.1, 1110b18–19; Freeland (1996), p. 336. Aristotle recognizes that cases which might—on his earlier theory—count as voluntary would not be subject to blame in most observer’s eyes, if the agent felt remorse. These exceptions reflect tragic convention. ²³ Freeland (1996), pp. 339–44. Freeland acknowledges a debt to Nussbaum’s work. ²⁴ Broadie (1991), p. 398, thinks Aristotle ‘protests too much’ on the virtues of theôria. ²⁵ The evidence for disparities is summarized neatly in Keyt (1995), pp. 168–9.

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         been considered in other books, and offers a different theory,²⁶ there may be reasons to question the overall unity of the Nicomachean collection. The possibility that Book 10 was not written at the same time as the other nine books has been bruited.²⁷ While Book 10 makes reference to prior discussion of topics that have indeed been discussed in other books—excellences and friendship²⁸— it may originally have belonged to a version in which the topic of pleasure had not yet come up. Richard Bodéüs argues that NE 10 is earlier in date of composition than the other books, since it shows more evidence of Platonic influence than other parts of the Nicomachean collection. It refers to issues raised in the Meno, and to some sophistic questions; it echoes Plato’s triad of alternative sources of virtue—nature, habit, and teaching—rather than the fourfold alternatives listed elsewhere in NE; the final chapter has echoes of Politics Books 7 and 8, and affinities to Plato’s Laws. A stylometric study also supports an early date.²⁹ Hutchinson and Johnson note the prevalence of protreptic themes, echoing the early Protrepticus.³⁰ These nondoctrinal reasons for dating may be more reliable than judgements such as Rowe’s assessment that the account of pleasure in Nicomachean Ethics Book 10 improves on earlier versions.³¹ If Book 10 is a survival of an earlier work, its authority to override the message of Books 1–9 would be called into question. There has been much criticism of Jaeger’s proposal of almost a century ago that Aristotle began as a Platonist and gradually developed a distinctive position grounded in a more detailed study of the natural world.³² It is unquestionably risky to venture any specific developmentalist thesis, particularly given the possibility of ongoing updating and later interpolations. Yet there are still many reasons to think that Aristotle’s corpus reflects evolving ideas and experiments, and that there are different strata of thought in the received texts, not always logically or sequentially well organized. The very notion that a later work is to be preferred reflects a commitment to the notion of intellectual maturation. The alternative to a developmentalist position is no longer the notion that all of Aristotle’s ideas were present from the beginning and that the corpus forms a unified body of thought, but rather that the jumbled assemblage of the books within the corpus and the continuous updating of his lecture notes make it impossible to order the surviving works into a definitive sequence. The extreme position—that we can only study individual works

²⁶ See Owen (1986a). ²⁷ Annas (1993), p. 216 n. 1; Bodéüs (1993); Lear (1995), p. 319. ²⁸ NE 10.6, 1176a30. ²⁹ Bodéüs (1993), pp. 49–69. See Hutchinson and Johnson (2014), p. 401, for the similarities of NE 10.7–8 to the Protrepticus. ³⁰ Hutchinson and Johnson (2014), esp. p. 404. ³¹ Rowe (1971a); Jost (2014). ³² Jaeger’s hypothesis has been decisively refuted on particular points; Owen (1986b) sketched an alternative possibility, according to which Aristotle first swerved away from Platonism more decisively, and gradually came to concede more to his teacher’s views. Both versions depend on interpretation of central doctrines of the Metaphysics, and are beyond the scope of this study. For more recent perspectives, see Wians (1996); Bobonich (2006); Jost (2014).

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

in isolation—seems excessive, and unduly privileges the internal unity of individual treatises in the received corpus. Magna Moralia will be used in this work as supporting evidence. In the past, it was regarded as a later compilation, by a student, of ideas found in the longer treatises: it contains some references to events from the last decade of Aristotle’s life.³³ John Cooper argued the Magna Moralia may nevertheless be a genuine record of Aristotle’s ideas. Cooper accepted that the number of stylistic divergences from Aristotle’s usual style were too many to ascribe it to Aristotle’s own hand, but supposed that it might be a student’s lecture notes. He showed that it contains ideas that are not merely copied from the Eudemian or Nicomachean treatises, and concluded that the references to later events were likely interpolations.³⁴ Cooper supports his conclusion that the Magna Moralia represents an early stratum of Aristotle’s ethical thought by reconstructing a narrative concerning the evolution of thought on the two major points of divergence from the more familiar works. These two points are the criticism of the idea that the supreme good might be an abstract universal common to all good things, and a discussion of the virtue of justice. Although he recognizes the plausibility of Cooper’s proposal, Christopher Rowe critiqued Cooper’s reading on these two substantive issues, doubting the evidence that Magna Moralia precedes the canonical Aristotelian ethical works.³⁵ Nonetheless, others embrace Cooper’s suggestion that the Magna Moralia was written by someone familiar with Aristotle’s thought, albeit evidencing some misunderstandings.³⁶ I find Cooper’s argument plausible, especially the notion that a theory of universals is being refuted alongside the Platonic Form of the Good.³⁷ Rowe doubts that Magna Moralia is really considering a theory of universals as an alternative to Platonic Forms, rereading the text in a way that undermines the suggestion that a doctrine of universals is being considered. However, he does so by accusing the author of a confusion.³⁸ This seems uncharitable, since it is eminently plausible that—in the wake of the criticism of Forms in the Academy—a theory of immanent universals would have been discussed. Other criticisms of Cooper’s reconstruction seem answerable.³⁹ ³³ See Allan (1957) for a survey of the older literature on its authenticity. ³⁴ Cooper (1973). ³⁵ Rowe (1975). ³⁶ e.g. Broadie and Rowe (2002), p. 4; Inwood and Leigh (2006), p. xv; Kenny (2011), p. xii; Inwood (2014). Cf. Bobonich (2006), pp. 15–16. ³⁷ I shall not consider the discussion of justice here. ³⁸ Rowe (1975), p. 165. ³⁹ Rowe (1975), p. 164, thinks it is odd for Aristotle to claim that ‘good’ is defined as ‘intrinsically choiceworthy’, or to deny that the political art should talk about the common good on the grounds that sciences do not prove that their goals are good. However, the fact that some goods are means to ends does not make the text unintelligible. At MM 1.1, 1182b22, Rowe reads λέγει δὲ ὁ ὅρος ὅτι τὸ τοιόνδ' ἀγαθὸν καθόλου as referring to ‘good in general’, which suggests that it applies to good means as well as ends,. However,there may be some latitude in applying a definition to things that take their goodness derivatively. The argument that the political art should not speak about the universal good because it is not appropriate for arts to demonstrate that their goal is good seems to be merely an Aristotelian point about the division of labour between sciences, and not a reason for rejecting Cooper’s reading.

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         A significant doctrinal improvement occurs between Magna Moralia and Politics, on the one hand, and the canonical ethical treatises on the other, concerning the contrast between the activity of virtue and the use or benefit it might produce. Aristotle’s central statement of the nature of eudaimonia is clarified and refined, supporting the view that the Eudemian and Nicomachean texts represent the more mature and considered position than Politics and Magna Moralia. The pivotal definition of eudaimonia, as it is stated in Politics and Magna Moralia, allows for a possible misreading.⁴⁰ In the definition of human happiness offered in the Politics and Magna Moralia, eudaimonia is said to concern both the energeia or activity, and the chrêsis or use, of virtue: happiness is the highest good, being an activity and complete use of virtue.⁴¹

However, in both the Nicomachean Ethics and the Eudemian, the account of happiness, i.e. the human good, is pared down, making no mention of chrêsis: the human good is activity of soul in accord with virtue⁴² happiness is the activity of a complete life in accordance with complete virtue.⁴³

Aristotle throughout stresses that dispositional excellences—virtues—need to be regarded as active and not merely dormant or passive states. This idea appears in his work as early as the Protrepticus.⁴⁴ It is a significant philosophical point, and one that Aristotle stresses several times as a distinctive feature of his ethics. The emphasis on activity is understood as a revision of Plato’s view, which focuses on the state of soul. Aristotle’s emphasis on activity and not state has philosophical significance: only once we recognize that the goal is virtuous activity would we admit the importance of the external goods that are needed to facilitate that activity.⁴⁵ In other words, this distinction is important to Aristotle’s criticism of the views of Socrates and Plato. It justifies the concession to the need for good fortune and a broader conception of the necessities for flourishing. The Socratic thesis of the sufficiency of virtue is rejected because of the emphasis on the need for activity and not merely for the attainment of an internal state. Eudemian Ethics 2.1 further clarifies this definition in an extended discussion, and staves off a possible misreading.⁴⁶ There, Aristotle distinguishes two senses that either chrêsis (use) or ergon (function) can take.⁴⁷ Both are terms used to discuss

⁴⁰ Kenny (1978), p. 7, notes the disparity between the formulations. ⁴¹ ἐπεὶ δ’ ἐστὶν εὐδαιμονία τὸ ἄριστον, αὕτη δὲ ἀρετῆς ἐνέργεια καὶ χρῆσίς τις τέλειος, Pol. 7.8, 1328a37–8, and ἐνέργειαν εἶναι καὶ χρῆσιν ἀρετῆς τελείαν, 7.13, 1332a9: cf. 1332a22; MM 1.4, 1184b31. ⁴² τὸ ἀνθρώπινον ἀγαθὸν ψυχῆς ἐνέργεια γίγεται κατ’ ἀρετήν, NE 1.7, 1098a16–17; 1.9, 1099b25; 1.13, 1102a17; EE 2.1, 1219a37–8. ⁴³ ἡ εὐδαιμονία ζωῆς τελείας ἐνέργεια κατ’ ἀρετὴν τελείαν, EE 2.1, 1219a38–9. ⁴⁴ Hutchinson and Johnson (2014), p. 406. ⁴⁵ Nussbaum (1986), p. 330; Kraut (1993), p. 373; Cooper (1995). ⁴⁶ EE 2.1, 1219a14–1219b3. ⁴⁷ EE 2.1, 1219a14–23.

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     ?



the deployment of virtues; both could refer either to process or product. Sometimes the product is of greater value, but in other cases, the process itself is the thing of greatest value. In productive arts like shoemaking, the product is clearly the end goal or raison d’être of the activity. In the practice of human living, he wants to show, there is no further product that is the goal of the activity. Flourishing is its own end.⁴⁸ Thus, when he then comes to define happiness in the Eudemian and Nicomachean texts, he ascribes it only to activity.⁴⁹ I suggest that this is best understood as a case where an earlier formulation was refined because chrêsis and ergon allowed for misunderstanding. The term chrêsis is more prone to suggest a further, external goal beyond the good of the activity itself. To prevent a reading that favours product over process, it is better not to refer to a chrêsis of virtue. The distinction of processes that are valuable for themselves from those that are engaged in for the sake of some resulting product is important to appreciating the centrality of ethical actions and the qualities that lead to them. Thus this refinement is doctrinally pivotal. It provides further reason for regarding Magna Moralia and the Politics as earlier than either of the two major ethical treatises. With regard to the Politics, some scholars reject the idea of relative dating altogether. Terence Irwin regards the Politics as doctrinally at one with the ethical work.⁵⁰ G. E. R. Lloyd declines to distinguish Aristotle’s political work chronologically from the natural philosophy, arguing that politics was a lifelong interest of Aristotle’s.⁵¹ Other prominent interpreters believe that Politics was written early in Aristotle’s philosophical career. Richard Kraut examined references to and use of ethical doctrines in the Politics, concluding that the phraseology used in these references is closer to that of the Eudemian than the Nicomachean ethical treatise.⁵² Fred Miller likewise positions the Politics between the two ethical treatises, noting the specific references in the Politics to ‘ethical treatises’ can be traced back to the common books shared by both Eudemian and Nicomachean Ethics, if not to exclusively Eudemian material.⁵³ Both are assuming an earlier date for the Eudemian treatise. A literature dating back to Werner Jaeger considers the possibility that Politics itself contains different strata.⁵⁴ It is certainly safer not to stake a position on issues of relative ordering of texts unless it is directly germane to the argument, since the evidence is inconclusive at present and scholarly consensus has yet to emerge. Ideas from the Magna Moralia will thus be used cautiously, and only as supplementary evidence. Nonetheless, the evidence of Politics Book One is sufficiently anomalous, and sufficiently troublesome, to merit considering issues of dating and development. I shall argue further in

⁴⁸ ⁵⁰ ⁵² ⁵⁴

EE 2.1, 1219a24–39. ⁴⁹ EE 2.1, 1219a39. Irwin (1980a); (1988); also Mulgan (1977), p. 3; Scott (2015). ⁵¹ Lloyd (2008). Kraut (2002), p. 18; cf. Fritz and Kapp (1977). ⁵³ Miller (1995), p. 23 n. 35. Kelsen (1977); Pellegrin (1993); Miller (1995), pp. 23–4; Kraut (2002), pp. 9–10, 183 ff.

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         Chapter 5 that Politics largely predates the biological researches and the notion of ‘nature’ that is developed in Aristotle’s natural philosophy. A final textual note: to anyone familiar with his corpus, it is striking that the major ethical treatises do not include—as we find in Physics or De Anima—an introductory book where Aristotle surveys contending rival positions. Should we suppose that such a survey was never written because Aristotle was less thorough and less critical on this subject? Magna Moralia does in fact begin with such a review, albeit in a very truncated form.⁵⁵ It is possible that such an introductory lecture once existed, but has not survived in either of the Ethics collections we have today. The ancient catalogues of Aristotle’s writings indicate that the canonical corpus assembled by Andronicus is incomplete; the absence of a surviving survey does not mean that none such was ever written.

The Place of Ethics within the Hierarchy of Sciences In the previous chapter, I suggested that a plausible reading of Aristotle’s motivation for introducing teleology in the biology—the ‘Explanatory Hypothesis’—would allow us to pose a meaningful question whether Aristotle qualified as an Archimedean ethical naturalist, looking to a value-neutral investigation of human nature as the ground for ethical values. I also called into question a ‘discontinuity thesis’ suggesting that Aristotle would not have asked the same questions as modern thinkers, working against the background of a scientific worldview that attempts to account for the origins of everything from more fundamental physical particles. I suggested in Chapter 3 that this is not correct. There are other reasons that would have led Aristotle to consider the ‘sources’ question, including both the ideas of his predecessors and contemporaries and his own hierarchy of the sciences. Aristotle approaches investigation of the world according to distinct branches of inquiry, which have their own internal organization and standards of correctness and precision, but which are nonetheless related to one another according to a systematic organizational structure. While Aristotle did not think that complex life forms evolved from more basic matter, his intellectual picture does require him to ask what additional principles need to be added to the explanatory structure, at each level of the hierarchical organization of reality, in order to account for the different phenomena explained by the sciences in question. Because each explanatory level has its own distinctive principles that are added to the conclusions reached by the previous science, he would have to concern himself with questions about the principles arising at different levels of explanation. Aristotle explicitly discusses this organization of the sciences at several points in the corpus. Here, ‘sciences’ is used in the ancient Greek sense that refers to any ⁵⁵ MM 1.1, 1182b12–32.

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     ?



systematically organized body of knowledge, and not merely those studies concerned with the natural world. We learn most about the relationship between different sciences by focusing on some specific cases where that relationship is better articulated. To take a particularly clear example from natural philosophy, optics is said to be subordinate to geometry, since it investigates mathematical lines qua physical rather than mathematical objects.⁵⁶ Demonstration of the mathematical properties of lines is the subject of geometry, and these demonstrations can be used in subordinate sciences.⁵⁷ Other ‘intermediate sciences’—mechanics, astronomy, and harmonics— also depended on mathematics, while themselves introducing additional principles that were not mathematical, but concerned the physical world. From Aristotle’s example of subordination of three different sciences—geometry, optics, and the theory of the rainbow⁵⁸—we can make some plausible inferences as to the kind of subordination relationships he has in mind. In the Euclidean optics, which seems to date from about a generation after Aristotle’s death, but plausibly reflects ideas that were already in circulation in the field in Aristotle’s day, we can see the subordination relationship exemplified.⁵⁹ The optical theory presupposes the mathematical proofs offered in Euclidean geometry, but adds some additional axioms which have physical significance. It posits the existence of linear ‘visual rays’ that exhibit geometrical relationships, but are nonetheless part of the physics of vision and have causal consequences as to which objects can be seen from which angles of perspective. With these additional axioms, plus the demonstrations of geometry, optics derives deductive conclusions as to appearances in the physical world. These new kinds of conclusions require additional principles to be introduced. Further assumptions about the nature of light and colour would need to be added to produce a theory of the rainbow. This model of the hierarchical relationship, wherein additional assumptions specific to a discipline are added, while the results obtained in the more abstract discipline carry down, is not limited to the ‘intermediate sciences’. The derivation of the law of the excluded middle in the Metaphysics is another clear example of the kind of proof that would not be adduced within a subordinate science, but would be assumed as part of the background in other fields.⁶⁰ We can see evidence of a kind of nested structure between other disciplines: Physics Book 2 considers the notion of things with natures, a broader class than living things, the subject matter of De Anima. In introducing the notion of the living, Aristotle refines the minimal criterion to count as living, which is the possession of the nutritive faculty, responsible for nutrition, growth, and reproduction.⁶¹ Animals add the interrelated faculties of perception, desire, and self-motion;⁶² human beings the specifically rational faculty. Animal self-motion is explored further in the treatise On the Motion of Animals, ⁵⁶ Physics 2.2, 194b9–10; Post. An. 1.7, 75b15–20. ⁵⁷ Post. An. 1.9, 76a22–25; 1.7, 75b15–20. ⁵⁸ Post. An. 1.13, 79a10–16. ⁵⁹ Cf. Barnes (1975), pp. 158–61; Berryman (2012). ⁶⁰ Metaph. 4.4. ⁶¹ De An. 2.4. ⁶² De An. 3.9–10.

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         which shows how perception and desire together produce self-motion in animals, a process taken over by thought and desire in human beings. Against this background, it becomes clear how the account of animal self-motion serves as background to the examination of ethics. The process of moving about in the world, pursuing and avoiding particular outcomes, is central to the notion that there are practical goods and evils, i.e. objects to be pursued and avoided. Ethics concerns the evaluation of good and bad choices for rational animals, i.e. those that are capable of deliberation and choice.⁶³ Animals act on natural impulses, but this process is nonetheless a complex one, involving the joint contributions of the perceptual and desiderative faculties. Aristotle’s attempts to understand the notion of action has as its background the analysis of animal self-motion. His forays into understanding intention and choice—with the attendant notions of the practical good—assume as background the results of other sciences. Goal-directed pursuit results from a combination of some information about the world, and some motivational state. Human action is a refinement of this process, when the capacity for rational choice is added in, allowing us not only to react to the appearance of desirable objects, but also to choose what goals we aim at. It is in reflecting on the differences between animal self-motion and human deliberative choice that Aristotle comes to the discipline of ethics. Thus it is no accident, I shall argue, that he begins from the fact that every action aims at some good. The fact of choice is what creates the need for ethics, i.e. for the study of good and bad choices and the preconditions that make these possible. A question about the source of the practical good is thus highlighted by the organizational structure of sciences. Against the backdrop of a hierarchical arrangement, I suggest, it is perfectly reasonable for Aristotle to have asked questions about the origins of the successive principles that enter into consideration with each new study. Just as he had reason to consider whence teleological organization arises, in a universe where species are eternal, so he had reason to question the source of ethical norms and the practical good. I shall return to this picture of the hierarchical organization of the sciences in sketching an account of Aristotle’s positive metaethical reasoning. The ethical treatises lay out the background theoretical framework for the practical science of ethics. While ethical deliberation, because of its practical aims, is quite different from theoretical reasoning, theoretical knowledge of human beings still forms the backdrop to ethical deliberation. Nonetheless, this gives us no reason to believe that ethical deliberation relies on principles that derive from the connection of ethics to other sciences. Much discussion in the literature about the question whether ethics might qualify as a science seeks to establish its credentials either by stressing the methodological nature of ⁶³ This connection, involving the relationship of the ethics to De Motu Animalium, is particularly well explained in Nussbaum (1986), pp. 264–89. See Scott (2015), for doubts about the classification of ethics as a subject matter.

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     ?

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inquiry via endoxa, the dialectical examination of reputable opinions, or by arguing that other demonstrative sciences share with ethics the feature that they are not universally true but hold only ‘for the most part’.⁶⁴ Neither of these issues are at stake in the current inquiry, however.⁶⁵ There is every reason to expect Aristotle to treat issues that form the background to ethical deliberation as one of the theoretical sciences: the ethical treatises are works of theory, fitted within the hierarchical arrangement of the disciplines. Both Nicomachean and Eudemian Ethics treat questions about the metaphysical status of the good, the aim of ethics, the relationship of ethics to other sciences, the nature of human relationships, the kinds of qualities that make for excellent human being. Eudemian Ethics acknowledges that there are aspects of the study of the good that are part of theôria, and that clarity on analytic questions can provide practical guidance.⁶⁶ Both works take a detour into a detailed examination of the flaws of the Platonic appeal to the Form of Good,⁶⁷ and consider some competing views, albeit less systematically than in other treatises. Ethical deliberation, however, is a practical field, and works quite differently from theoretical studies. Theoretical understanding of human nature, of the soul, of the metaphysical structure of the cosmos, may set some parameters within which practical reason works. But the content of practical deliberation are assigned to practical wisdom, and not to theory.⁶⁸ There are a variety of biological and metaphysical positions that are relevant to understanding a philosophical system within which a normative ethics is formulated. If, for instance, Aristotle had claimed—with Socratic intellectualists—that external goods were irrelevant to flourishing and a good man would be happy on the rack, he would have answered this question differently, and provided a different justification for acting ethically. Such a position would likely offer a different account of the sources of ethical norms, since it would need to offer some more revisionist account of happiness, and would likely depend—like Stoicism—on some picture about divine determinism. But few particular ethical choices are sufficiently determined by background metaphysical assumptions. Compare the positions taken by the two editors of a recent volume on the relationship between Aristotle’s science and his ethics. Devin Henry recognizes that the kinds of statements that are the candidates for inclusion in the body of scientific work are merely the kinds of empirical claims that have implications for ethical theory, not normative claims themselves. Henry’s examples of facts pertaining to conduct that are subject to demonstration include that virtues are acquired by habit; that it is up to us to be good; that brave men are fearless; that a just man is fair; that

⁶⁴ See Scott (2015), p. 125, for a survey of the literature; Henry and Nielsen (2015) for current work on this issue. ⁶⁵ Cf. Scott (2015), p. 125. ⁶⁶ EE 1.3, 1215a8–19; 1.4, 1215a20–5; 1.1, 1214a13–14. ⁶⁷ NE 1.6; EE 1.8. ⁶⁸ A similar point is argued by Scott (2015), p. 125.

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         the good man has friends.⁶⁹ He explicitly excludes action-guiding principles from the sphere of statements that could be subject to this kind of demonstration. I have no quarrel with the notion that, for Aristotle, there are facts about human beings and human life that are subject to the same kind of theoretical inquiry as other aspects of the world. Questions about whether our actions are up to us, or whether ethical conduct is conducive to happiness, might today be classed as metaethical, i.e. part of the psychological background against which normative ethical theories are formulated. By contrast, Karen Nielsen wants to extend scientific status to the process of ethical deliberation itself. Nielsen resists the particularist reading of ethical judgements on the grounds that Aristotle saw ethics as based on principles that apply ‘for the most part’.⁷⁰ There is a big difference, however—as Charlotte Witt argues—between universal truths that admit of exceptions and the variable and situation-specific objects that form the basis of normative ethical generalizations.⁷¹ The holistic nature of ethical judgement, and the perceptual language Aristotle uses to describe it, suggest that any generalizations that can be made about practically wise judgements are not meant to be seen as action-guiding. I shall return to this question in Chapter 6.

The Human Ergon Aristotle unquestionably appeals to the kind of being that we are at specific points in his ethics. However, virtually any ethical theory would take at least some account of the limitations imposed by human nature.⁷² The exception, as Julia Annas noted, would be a theory such as that of Socrates or the Stoics that regarded reason as capable of transforming our biological heritage altogether.⁷³ Only if Aristotle thinks we can decide substantive ethical questions, to a significant degree, by appeal to what is natural—according to a sense of ‘nature’ that could be accessed from outside of an evaluative perspective—would he have the kind of view that Williams ascribes to him. The most prominent appeal to human nature in Aristotle’s text is the argument that the best life for human beings involves activity of the reasoning part of the soul. This is, I take it, an important pillar in the case for reading him as an Archimedean naturalist.⁷⁴ The term ergon is often rendered in English as ‘function’, although ‘characteristic activity’ is commonly acknowledged to be a better translation, since

⁶⁹ Henry (2015), p. 170. ⁷⁰ Nielsen (2015). ⁷¹ Witt (2015). ⁷² Shields (2015), p. 239, recognizes that it is uncontroversial to take Aristotle’s ethics as relying in a general way on his psychological theory. ⁷³ Annas (2005). ⁷⁴ e.g. Irwin (1988); Whiting (1995); Inwood (2014); Lennox (2015); Shields (2015); Scott (2015), p. 117. Gill (1990) critiques this assumption.

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it does not imply that human beings have an external purpose or use.⁷⁵ The argument seems straightforwardly to identify ethical value with our natural functioning. Aristotle seems to settle a substantive and important ethical dispute by appeal to the kind of creature that we are: the ergon argument may seem to be evidence for Archimedean naturalism in Aristotle’s ethics. Nonetheless, there is reason to suspect this conclusion.⁷⁶ As Kraut noted, all three candidates for the best life are associated with some natural impulse: Aristotle is not relying on our natural urge to know as an argument for preferring the contemplative life.⁷⁷ The reason given in Nicomachean Ethics for thinking that we have a characteristic activity is merely that we ascribe functions to our parts—the eye, for example—or to particular occupations, like carpenter, so that it seems odd to deny it to human beings.⁷⁸ This conclusion, reached by rhetorical questions, has dissatisfied scholars, and rightly. The parallel Eudemian argument uses the fact that we ascribe excellences to different things as the argument for thinking they have a characteristic activity.⁷⁹ If we ascribe excellences, we must be doing so on the basis of some criteria. From this perspective, the grounding for the particular virtues, and for ascribing a human ergon, stand and fall together. However, nothing in the Eudemian version requires that our evaluative criteria come from human nature and not from some other source entirely. Although it is common to suppose that the Nicomachean appeal to an ergon is made from a value-neutral or classificatory perspective, the Eudemian argument seems to be offered in the spirit Nussbaum suggested, i.e. an internal appeal to what we find most valuable about ourselves.⁸⁰ The controversy about the interpretation of the Nicomachean argument surrounds the implications of identifying reason as our characteristic activity. Aristotle could be saying that the exercise of our natural faculties supplies the content to the activity of the good life, or alternatively that it is the method by which we determine what to do. Those who take the message of Nicomachean Ethics Book 10 to be that we should spend as much time contemplating as possible seem to be assuming the former, substantive reading. Alternatively, however, Aristotle’s claim might be that the best life needs to be one deliberated about and organized by the exercise of practical reason, without supposing that the contents of that life is necessarily one of study. If we take him to intend the latter, i.e. that reasoning is a formal and not a substantive feature of the best life, it is much less clear how much work the appeal to human nature is meant to do. This question whether the advocacy of a life of reason should be read as a formal or a substantive criterion intersects with the question whether Aristotle is privileging theoretical or practical reason as distinctly human.

⁷⁵ Annas (1988), pp. 154–5. ⁷⁶ A more radically revisionist reading than that proposed here—that Aristotle is arguing to and not from the notion that there is a human ergon—is proposed by Charles (2017). ⁷⁷ Kraut (2007). ⁷⁸ NE 1.7, 1097b25–32. ⁷⁹ EE 2.1, 1219a1–7; cf. Charles (2017). ⁸⁰ Nussbaum (1995); cf. Whiting (1995).

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         Aristotle’s presentation of the argument in Nicomachean Ethics 1.7 is surely to blame for much of this lack of clarity: comparison to parallel passages in other ethical treatises may help us avoid misreadings that come from the idiosyncratic presentation of a single text. Some of the confusion arises because Aristotle considers three alternatives for the best life, of which the life of pleasure is not treated as a serious contender. Perhaps because of the thoroughness of Plato’s critique of hedonism, Aristotle helps himself to a consensus of the cognescenti that the apparent appeal of a life of hedonistic pleasure is easily refuted by the philosophically inclined.⁸¹ The fact that some people still choose to pursue a life of pleasure is never in dispute: the point, rather, seems to be that any hedonist attempting to defend a life of pleasure—to offer reasons why such a life is the best—would inevitably lose the argument. In Book 10, Aristotle critiques the argument of Eudoxus that we learn empirically that pleasure is the unique good, on the grounds that it is only one of the things that people aim at. Plato’s argument that pleasure cannot be the greatest good is reiterated here: because some other good added to pleasure would make a life better, a life of even maximum pleasure cannot be the best life.⁸² The rational attempt to defend the life of pleasure fails.⁸³ It might seem argumentatively loaded to formulate a contrast between only three possible lives, one of which is quickly eliminated.⁸⁴ The delimitation of the three alternatives seems to be formulated in line with Plato’s conception of the three parts of the soul.⁸⁵ Stephen White points to a hoary cultural trope of a tripartite choice, dating back to the mythic Judgement of Paris;⁸⁶ Eudemian Ethics begins from three alternative lives that are compared in an inscription at Delos.⁸⁷ Debating the claims of three competing lives seems to have become a perennial topic in the philosophical schools; it may have flourished in the agora as well, since Anaxagoras was asked to weigh in on the question of the happiest man.⁸⁸ It continued in Aristotle’s school after his death: Dicaearchus and Theophrastus disputed the relative merits of the active versus the contemplative life.⁸⁹

⁸¹ Politics 7.1, 1323a23, suggests that the discussion of the best life need only be summarized since ‘enough has been said’ in public discussions. ⁸² NE 10.2, 1172b9–34. While Aristotle sometimes characterizes the contemplative life as most pleasant (Metaph. 12.7, 1072b24), he makes clear that the kind of pleasure in question is not that imagined by the hedonist: the kind of pleasure in question is one that is not aimed at directly—in the way that hedonistic pleasures are—but accrues to the activities of the mature person (NE 10.4, 1174b20–33). ⁸³ Korsgaard (2008a), pp. 147–8, notes that the desires of appetite do not even seem to the weak-willed person to be the right course of action. ⁸⁴ For references to other possible lives in Aristotle, see Keyt (1995). ⁸⁵ Jacquette (1998), p. 301, reads Nicomachean Ethics as a response to the Republic. ⁸⁶ White (1992), p. 16; cf. Broadie and Rowe (2002), p. 76. ⁸⁷ EE 1.1, 1214a1–9. I thank an anonymous reviewer for noting that Xenophon Mem. 2.1.21–34 reports a story of Heracles’ choice between only two lives. ⁸⁸ EE 1.4, 1215b6. ⁸⁹ Cicero Att. 11.16.3; cited by Schofield (1999), p. 741. See Hutchinson and Johnson (2010), for a ‘three lives motif ’ in Heraclides of Pontus.

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     ?

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Such a crude lens easily lends itself to a lopsided presentation of the contenders. That this is a false trilemma is indeed acknowledged in Politics 7, where Aristotle questions the view that the political life is one of dominating others. He notes that this framing of the alternatives is misleading, not only in its caricature of political activity, but also because it implies that the contemplative life is one of withdrawal and inactivity.⁹⁰ In the Eudemian Ethics, Aristotle also draws the landscape rather differently. There, he presents a distinction between the reasons why most people pursue politics—glory or gain—and its true nature as pursuit of the noble for its own sake.⁹¹ The latter, properly conceived, would be an honourable life, and clearly one he values. This reconceptualization Aristotle proposes would go some way towards a reconciliation between the two serious competitors for the best life. The fact that Aristotle seems to pit the political and the philosophical lives against one another in NE Book 10 has wreaked considerable interpretative havoc. Much scholarly ink has been expended on the question whether this leaves Aristotle espousing an overly intellectualist position. To some, this reading makes his view unappealing, since it suggests that—in Nagel’s words—‘time is, so to speak, too valuable to waste on anything as insignificant as human life’.⁹² Ackrill influentially defended an ‘inclusive’ or ‘comprehensive’ reading, according to which Aristotle is not privileging contemplation at the exclusion of other goods.⁹³ He drew attention to the claim of NE 1.7 that if there is a final end, it cannot be such as to be ‘reckoned as one among many’, since goods of this sort could always be improved by adding other things. This argument had been used by Plato in Philebus against the advocates of a single good, whether knowledge or pleasure: we might reasonably find a life with knowledge and pleasure more choiceworthy than one of knowledge alone. Structurally, then—Ackrill argued—the best life needs to be inclusive if it is not merely to count as one among many.⁹⁴ This topic continues to preoccupy contemporary exegesis.⁹⁵ Interpretative options range between those who favour an ‘inclusive’ reading, arguing that Aristotle never intended contemplation to squeeze ethical activity out of the best life for human beings,⁹⁶ and those who take Nicomachean Ethics to validate an ‘exclusive’ or ‘dominant’ reading of the role of theôria in Aristotle’s account of the good life. The latter group subdivide according to their own assessments of what they take to be Aristotle’s view: those who defend the intellectualist vision;⁹⁷ those who reject it as

⁹⁰ Politics 7.3, 1325a18–33. ⁹¹ EE 1.5, 1216a20–7. ⁹² Nagel (1980), p. 12. ⁹³ The term is generally credited to Hardie: Kenny (1992), pp. 6–7; Richardson Lear (2004), pp. 1–7; Bobonich (2006); cf. White (1995) for the pre-history of this idea. ⁹⁴ Ackrill (1980); cf. Everson (1998), pp. 82–3. ⁹⁵ There are dissenters, like Annas (1993), who consider the controversy overplayed. Colaner (2012) finds the two lives compatible, but directed towards different groups. ⁹⁶ E.g. Ackrill (1980); Irwin (1980), p. 49; S. White (1992); Everson (1998). ⁹⁷ E.g. Heinaman (1988a); Kraut (1989); Richardson Lear (2004).

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         unappealing;⁹⁸ and those who mitigate it.⁹⁹ Both schools of thought can point to supporting passages within the text. The controversy is important for present purposes only because the ‘dominant’ reading is often thought to offer a quite specific recommendation as to how we spend our time and organize our choices. The inclusive reading—that Aristotle tells us to lead an active life of all the virtues—is quite general in form, so that it would be difficult to read such a recommendation as a sufficient account of the good life. Only if we are being told to privilege contemplation in our lives would the appeal to human nature seem to offer much substantive guidance. But it is not by any means clear that this is Aristotle’s position. Only practical reason is distinctively human, since contemplation is shared by the gods.¹⁰⁰ The practical activity of our noetic part is said to be our distinctive ergon.¹⁰¹ The life of philosophy apparently recommended in Book 10 is sometimes taken to be one in which contemplation stands in potential competition with citizenly duties or other ethical acts. This tension would only arise if the question is about the contents, i.e. how we spend our time. Such a picture allows the question whether a philosopher is also an ethically good person: should we give up ethical actions to spend more time contemplating? Contemplating is approximating the divine. But asking whether a contemplator God is ethically good would be an error: the gods have no need or use for ethical virtues.¹⁰² They do not fall short, of course; rather, their existence is such that the necessity for ethical qualities doesn’t arise. The absurdity of this question is reason to doubt either that the message of the ergon argument is about how we ought to spend our time, or that contemplation is being recommended as the exemplary ethical activity. We need to remember that the gods are simply not part of the ethical sphere: they do not have human virtues, and—as Sarah Broadie remarks—are not properly described as flourishing either: ‘what flourishes is what grows and dies and depends on an environment and can come to grief ’.¹⁰³ As the very subject matter of ethics is inapplicable to divine being, we cannot look there for assistance in determining how we are to live. The divine is higher in the scala naturae: divine life ranks first according to natural criteria, but is not involved in the particularly human ethical sphere. Natural goodness is a metaphysical scale of values, and may not be the scale for evaluating human character. Those asking whether Aristotle thinks we should give up ethical activity to do more philosophy may simply be asking the wrong kind of question. ⁹⁸ e.g. Nagel (1980); Korsgaard (1996b). ⁹⁹ e.g. Broadie (1991); Lawrence (1993); Keyt (1995); N. White (1995). ¹⁰⁰ Everson (1998), p. 94. ¹⁰¹ praktikê tis tou logon echontos, NE 1.7, 1098a3; Irwin (1980), p. 53 n. 21. On the meaning of praktikê, Everson (1998), p. 94; Broadie and Rowe (2002), p. 276. ¹⁰² NE 10.8; cf. 1.12, 1101b19–20; Everson (1998), p. 95; Crisp (2006), pp. 163–4. ¹⁰³ Broadie (2006), p. 343.

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     ?

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Sedley showed how the trope of ‘becoming like God’ is used throughout Aristotle’s work as an organizing principle explaining the natural hierarchy and the directionality of striving in the natural world. I believe that this is correct as an account of the relationship of human to divine in the nature of things. However, this hierarchical structure may not be intended to illuminate the practical sphere. A distinction I shall examine below, between natural value and ethical value, suggests that the account of divine activity is not intended to answer detailed questions about the human ethical life. Divine activity is unquestionably higher than human, but that ranking accords with natural notions of value, and not the sphere of ethics. A Judeo-Christian metaphysics derives both natural and ethical value from divine will, but there is no reason to think that Aristotle shares this picture. Ancient Greek philosophers ridiculed attempts to think of the divine as sharing human ethical values, or as concerned with human affairs. Gavin Lawrence’s reading of the argument preferring the life of contemplation helps to dissolve the apparent tension scholars have identified even within the Nicomachean Ethics. He recognizes that the question Aristotle poses is a hypothetical one: if we were to be in a situation where the necessity for ethical and political action were to disappear, what activity would be worth pursuing for its own sake? Ethical virtues are required because of some shortfall in the world. Yet we can ask ourselves this: if exercising character virtues were the final end of life, it might seem that human aspiration is futile. Are we forever condemned to refill the leaky jar of necessity, with no prospect of an activity that would be worth pursuing for itself? Contemplation provides that vision. Nonetheless, none of us ever escape the human realm, and so we need to focus on how to live that ‘second best’ life well. And as Jennifer Whiting points out, becoming godlike would be no more good for us than becoming beast or vegetable.¹⁰⁴ Pace Nagel, to recognize that a divine life might—metaphysically speaking—be better is not to denigrate the value of ordinary human ethical concerns, but simply to recognize the metaphysical superiority of the divine in the natural hierarchy. The theoretical contemplation of a divine being is moreover little help to us in thinking about how to exercise the virtues of character. The ergon argument provides us with an argument against the life of pleasure, but is surely not a reason to desist from ethical activity. Since practical reason is capable of reflecting on itself, Aristotle’s point is merely that we need to consider our choices to count as fully human. The centrality of reason is not an argument about how we should spend our time, but about how we are to engage in decision-making about what to do: it is our very reflexivity about ethical decision-making that qualifies us as practical reasoners.¹⁰⁵ The reason for rejecting the life of pleasure isn’t that hedonistic pursuits squeeze out time for reasoning, but rather that such a life wouldn’t be endorsed by practical reasoning as a valuable life for us.¹⁰⁶ It is the application of

¹⁰⁴ Whiting (1995), p. 42.

¹⁰⁵ LeBar (2008), p. 196.

¹⁰⁶ Nussbaum (1995).

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         reason to our lives, not time served in an ivory tower, that is mandated by the centrality of the life of reason. Because—on this formal interpretation—the ergon argument focuses on the way we go about making choices, there is no foregone conclusion as to what specific activities practical reason would tell us to pursue in a particular context. Reasoning is the decision procedure, not the contents of the answer as to how to spend our time. Merely to approach the question reflectively might rule out some lives—those that are driven by our animal drives—but would not tell us yet sufficiently narrow down what life reason would choose. Reason, not nature, becomes the arbiter of our lives.¹⁰⁷ To be sure, to reason is part of our nature, but we cannot examine nature to determine what reason will decide. For an Archimedean naturalist reading, this conclusion offers too little substantive guidance. The appeal to nature underdetermines the contents of the life we should live.¹⁰⁸ In his paean to the philosophical life, Aristotle may be overstating his case, urging the delights of scientific investigation on the young Athenian aristocrats, who come to the Lyceum deeply indoctrinated with the glory of being the next Pericles.¹⁰⁹ The fact that this was an ongoing debate within the Peripatos indicates that this was not a settled doctrine central to the programme. Pressure from the school of Isocrates may have heightened the felt need to trumpet the intellectual life.¹¹⁰ This is a culture that has yet to embrace the value of systematic investigation of the world, and Aristotle is recruiting participants to what he sees as a promising and significant project of understanding everything. However, he is not suggesting that an academic life is to be pursued at the cost of one’s civic duty. If we examine the contents of Aristotle’s Will, reported by Diogenes Laertius, the glimpse of the scholarly life we find there helps us appreciate how much intellectual life—as Aristotle practised it—is bound up with ethical concerns. Concern for the daily management of the school as an institution, and the mutual care of members of a community for one another, is evident in the attention to detail.¹¹¹ We should not forget the poetic descriptions of intellectual friendship in the ethical treatises.¹¹² Aristotle’s commitment to scholarship embraces the task of building community, however much he saw theôria as ultimately transcending the necessities of mortal life.

¹⁰⁷ Another less direct reason for rejecting Nagel’s reading of the ergon argument is offered by Sarah Broadie, in her careful examination of the notion of a ‘highest good’ in ancient Greek ethics: Broadie (2007a), (2007b). ¹⁰⁸ Whiting (1995) acknowledges this underdetermination and turns to the account of friendship to argue that Aristotle thinks the human essence places constraints on the kinds of choices we can make: this is not an Archimedean account, however. ¹⁰⁹ On the idea that philosophers promoting theôria were claiming ‘cultural capital’, see Nightingale (2004), p. 15. Pangle (2013), pp. 104, 131, notes that political careers for young aristocrats would be fewer in a democracy. ¹¹⁰ Fritz and Kapp (1977); Hutchinson and Johnson (2014). ¹¹¹ Diogenes Laertius Lives 5, 11–16. ¹¹² e.g. NE 8.3, 1156b7–32; 8.5, 1157b25–1158a2; 9.9; EE 7.1, 7.12.

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     ?

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The significance of the appeal to nature in the ergon argument has received much attention in recent debates.¹¹³ Yet it is merely one of four arguments offered in Nicomachean Ethics for favouring a life of reason: such a life is also said to be more complete, more self-sufficient, and closer to the divine.¹¹⁴ The preference for contemplation in fact comes as a corollary of the self-sufficiency argument, rather than a conclusion of the ergon argument.¹¹⁵ It is because theoretical contemplation is not goal-directed or need-driven that it counts as the higher act. For the argument that Aristotle was an Archimedean naturalist, the function argument is a key piece of evidence. Yet considered as such, it does not show that Aristotle endorsed Archimedean naturalism. On the surface, Aristotle both appeals to human nature to prefer the life of reason, and yet at the same time claims that this life is the one that enables us to transcend human nature and approximate the divine. This is far from being an appeal to an externally validated, scientifically grounded notion of human nature. Aristotle should not be understood here to be using biological grounds to decide which is the best human life. Human nature is certainly used to delimit a range of acceptable answers, but the refinement of that answer has a long way to go.

The Developmental Story While the strongest apparent evidence for a naturalist reading of the ethics is the ergon argument, Williams, in his account of the Archimedean naturalist reading of Aristotle, includes the idea that we have an ‘inner nisus’ towards developing virtue.¹¹⁶ He gives little detail or textual evidence for this claim: it may refer to a passage in Politics Book One that I shall discuss in the following chapter. But the notion of a nisus may also gain support from the view that we are naturally inclined towards the development of our characteristic activities.¹¹⁷ In his definition of eudaimonia, Aristotle refers to activity—energeia—rather than to action, i.e. praxis. Activity is a technical term, connected in his natural philosophy to ‘second potential’, i.e. a higher stage in realizing our natural functions.¹¹⁸ To the extent that Aristotle accords a special place to the notion of activity, we can certainly view the ethics as built upon the conclusions of the natural philosophy, especially the account of soul. Activities are not goal-directed, inasmuch as they consist in the exercise of capacities that are already perfected, and thus can be continued indefinitely because their structure does not depend on a goal to be achieved. They are actualized immediately, insofar as they do not imply a lack or a state that has yet to be ¹¹³ Annas (1993), pp. 142 n. 3, 144. ¹¹⁴ NE 1.7, 1097a28; 1097b7; 1.9, 1099b17. ¹¹⁵ NE 10.7, 1177a27–b1: this is recognized by Everson (1998), p. 95. Cf. Korsgaard (2008b), for the contrary view that the ergon argument is introduced to set up the conclusion of Book 10. ¹¹⁶ Williams (1985), p. 44. ¹¹⁷ Chappell (2005), p. 252; I thank Jan Szaif for urging me to give this more weight. ¹¹⁸ DA 2.5, 417a22–34.

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         realized. Unlike ‘walking to Athens’, an action that is incomplete until its goal is reached, the activity of ‘walking about’ can be realized immediately; because it is not limited or defined by a specific goal, it can be continued indefinitely.¹¹⁹ The employment of our virtuous dispositions is thus fitted into this metaphysical structure, since activities involve the activation of existing dispositions, and not the change to new states. Dispositions need to be cultivated, and are partly dependent on our environment and conditioning by others. Moreover—returning to the argument noted earlier—the stress on activity and not on the achievement of a passive state brings up the question of external goods, making success partly a function of good luck. The idea that there is a direction to our natural development, and that this directionality is indicative of our proper function, seems to some readers to be used in Book 10 of Nicomachean Ethics to lend support to a particular reading of the human ergon. Changes in the things that please us indicate that we have reached a higher stage of development;¹²⁰ Aristotle’s natural philosophy may seem to provide evidence of an innate tendency towards ethical development. Norman Dahl, for example, thinks that he saw having a unifying aim as the culmination of our natural development.¹²¹ If Aristotle thinks there are built-in impulses that lead us in a certain direction, there would be reason to suppose that human nature is being understood as a good guide to the ethical life. The fact that the role of pleasure in our moral psychology seems to change, and with it the kinds of pleasure we experience as we mature, supports the notion that certain activities are natural to us. This offers some reason to believe that living in accord with our nature will be beneficial in ways that are already accessible to us from outside the ethical perspective.¹²² The accounts of friendship appeal at a couple of points to the ‘natural’ goodness of activity.¹²³ In both the Eudemian and Nicomachean accounts of friendship, the notion of what is natural to us is used more freely than in other parts of the Ethics, perhaps because they offer a more descriptive survey of human behaviour.¹²⁴ Korsgaard, who reads Aristotle as a naive naturalist, compares the idea that there is a natural basis for ethics to our capacity for language acquisition.¹²⁵ The fact that languages must be learned, or that languages are systems of conventions, does not undermine the view that we share an instinct for learning language, whatever the language of our culture happens to be. By parallel reasoning, the fact that ethical practices differ between cultures is compatible with the notion that we have a natural drive towards acquiring the norms of our culture, whatever those happen to be. However, the modern justification for positing a ‘language instinct’, despite the conventionality of particular languages, comes from an argument about the

¹¹⁹ Urmson (1995) notes the two distinct Greek verbs; cf. Ackrill (1965); Penner (1971); Mourelatos (1981). ¹²⁰ NE 10.4. ¹²¹ Dahl (1984), p. 107. ¹²² Cf. McDowell (1980). ¹²³ NE 9.9, 1170a25–b7; 9.7, 1167b16–1168a9. ¹²⁴ EE 7.2, 1237a17; NE 9.9, 1170a13. ¹²⁵ Korsgaard (1996a), p. 3.

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     ?

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impossibility of language acquisition unless the human brain was already programmed to process inputs in given ways. Aristotle does not seem to be aware of modern doubts about the sufficiency of empirical stimuli to ground inductive leaps: in considering our ability to ascertain general scientific truths, Aristotle seems untroubled by the problem of induction or the insufficiency of empirical evidence for concept acquisition.¹²⁶ There is no reason why he need posit a parallel instinct towards acquiring linguistic or ethical practices, unless he thought the contents acquired were not merely convention but were themselves natural. Aristotle does not make the comparison to language learning. It is, moreover, a false analogy, confusing the capacity for learning some language with the capacity to speak a particular language. For the Archimedean naturalist, the appeal to human nature is meant to provide an external point of leverage to the ethical sceptic. The sceptical question ‘why be moral?’ is not addressed by responding that it is part of our nature to adopt some moral code or other. If that were the answer, the sceptic could point out that a Thrasymachean pursuit of power answers this demand. The appeal to nature is meant to show why we should abide by the preferred moral code. Pointing to our capability for norm-acquisition would not be enough, if this meant the specific rules were mere conventions. We do not regard the prohibition on murder in the way that we regard the choice of niege or Schnee as mere conventions for naming snow. The distinction between first and second potential, elaborated in On the Soul, does not suggest that Aristotle sees us as having any such nisus towards developing inborn potentials.¹²⁷ Acquiring language is one of the examples of skills that are open to us by virtue of our species kind, but require teaching.¹²⁸ Children have the cognitive sensitivities and perceptual capacities, just as they have the right vocal chords. However, actualizing first potential requires effort and outside intervention.¹²⁹ There is no suggestion of an active predisposition to acquire cultural forms. Aristotle is quite specific on the meaning of potential, distinguishing a ‘first’ and ‘second’ sense. The sense in which we have the capacity for ethical behaviour is merely that of having the requisite dispositions that would allow us to learn it, and explicitly not that of already having appropriate internal propensities ready for use. While it is undoubtedly true that human beings, unlike animals, have the potential for ethical behaviour, Aristotle stresses that they equally have a potential for unethical behaviour.¹³⁰ Aristotle distinguishes the kinds of change that follow from the nature of the substance from those that require training to produce. He explicitly denies that we acquire moral excellence by nature.¹³¹ He indeed remarks on the emptiness of calling ¹²⁶ Post. An. 1.34, 89b10–16. ¹²⁷ The Politics also suggests that the potentials we have by nature are merely those belonging to us as members of a given kind, whereas habituation and rational persuasion are required to lead us in more specific directions: Pol. 7.13, 1332a39–41. ¹²⁸ DA 2.5, 417a25. ¹²⁹ DA 2.5, 417a30–3; cf. NE 10.7. ¹³⁰ Pol. 1.2, 1253a31–3. ¹³¹ NE 2.1, 1103a20.

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         certain behaviours ‘natural’: cultivated traits could be described as either according to nature or contrary to nature, depending upon whether we are referring to first or second potential.¹³²

Natural Virtues, Natural Justice Beyond the function argument and the developmental account, two other topics that might seem to support an Archimedean naturalistic reading of the ethics are Aristotle’s acknowledgement of the existence of natural virtues, and his discussion of natural justice. However, that Aristotle believes that there are natural virtues—far from supporting the naturalist reading—is in fact evidence against it. The discussion of natural justice is too slight and indeterminate to constitute evidence either way. Aristotle distinguishes ‘natural’ virtues from the true variety. The former are temperamental tendencies with which even children and animals may be born, while the latter are both acquired and require good judgement.¹³³ This is an important recognition of a difference between temperament and character: i.e. between an irrational tendency in our make-up, and a habit that is connected to our rational faculties and settled cognitive dispositions. Temperamental tendencies make it initially easier to act in appropriate ways, but they are no guarantor of developed virtue. Mere tendencies that do not interact with our faculties of judgement can lead us astray. A ‘pleasing disposition’ is not true virtue, since it does not result from good judgement as to the appropriate ways and means of exercising that particular quality. Boldness without judgement can be simple rashness, and may interfere with the exercise of other appropriate qualities, such as justice or mildness. Aristotle explicitly rejects the notion that dispositional tendencies are true virtues.¹³⁴ The reference to ‘natural virtues’ may sound like an endorsement of the tendencies of nature to lead us in the right direction, but this would be misleading. Natural virtues are not nature’s shortcut to the true variety, nor evidence of an inborn preference for certain qualities. Rather, they are contrasted to the real thing. While they may be convenient and likeable traits as far as they go—and certainly the best we can expect from animals and small children—for rational beings, the role of judgement and the simultaneous development of all the virtues is required for true judgement, not the isolated cultivation of individual non-rational tendencies. Aristotle explicitly denies that we have the excellences by nature: we are merely able to receive them—or their opposites—but require habituation to achieve excellence.¹³⁵ Even James Lennox, who tries to argue for the idea that the character virtues ‘emerge from’ natural virtues by examining the role of natural virtues in animal ethology,

¹³² EE 2.8, 1224b32–6. ¹³³ NE 6.13, 1144b3; cf. 10.9, 1179b20–3. ¹³⁴ NE 3.8, 1116a30–1117a9; cf. EE 7.15/8.3, 1248b36–1249a3; Pol 8.4, 1338b9–38. ¹³⁵ NE 2.1, 1103b14–25; cf. Politics 1.2, 1253a31–3.

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     ?

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acknowledges that the true virtues are ‘quite different’.¹³⁶ It is the integration of practical intelligence into dispositions to act and respond in appropriate ways that makes for a crucial difference, although in practice Aristotle tends to ignore this theoretical distinction in describing animal traits in similar terms.¹³⁷ The recognition by Aristotle of the category of natural justice is quite a different matter. It is not, like natural virtue, a non-rational ersatz or poor substitute for the real thing. Rather, Aristotle seems to be acknowledging the popular distinction between innate and conventional sources of conceptions of justice, granting that some of our notions are universal and thus derived from nature. If this suggestion had been intended seriously and developed as an account of the notion of justice, it would militate against the reading I am proposing of Aristotle’s ethics. Aristotle introduces the distinction in the course of an extended discussion of conceptions of justice, which includes a good deal of conceptual clarification.¹³⁸ Most prominently, he distinguishes two different notions of justice, the general and the particular. The first meaning is equivalent to virtue tout court, while the latter is concerned only with questions of distribution and fair apportionment of goods. The point is to disambiguate popular discussions, so as to avoid arguments where participants are simply talking about different things. Against this background, we can expect that some of the discussion is carried out in the interests of disambiguation, and does not necessarily represent his endorsement of the categories discussed. This is evidently the case with the consideration of the nomos–phusis distinction. Aristotle notes that some claim all political justice is mere convention,¹³⁹ and contrasts this to a view which distinguishes conventional and natural elements within the field of justice. The criterion used to distinguish the two focuses less on their source than on their ubiquity, although he implies that natural justice has its origin in something other than ‘people’s thinking this or that’.¹⁴⁰ Aristotle seems to be accepting a common distinction between those ideas that vary with culture and those that are everywhere the same, although he qualifies the latter group by suggesting that some features of justice may straddle the distinction, if they have a universal element that takes distinctive expressions in different environments. His example of this is that the right hand might be stronger by nature, but people could be trained to be ambidextrous.¹⁴¹ The extent of Aristotle’s own endorsement of the distinction is unclear, however. He notes that amongst the gods the notion of conventional justice would be inapplicable, whereas amongst human beings there does seem to be both a natural element to justice as well as conventional adaptation to particular environments.¹⁴² The reference to the gods seems to invoke the notion of perfect beings who are everywhere the

¹³⁶ ¹³⁸ ¹⁴⁰ ¹⁴²

Lennox (2015), p. 203. ‘Emergence’ could be misleading here. ¹³⁷ Lennox (2015), pp. 210–12. NE 5.7, 1134b18–1135a15. ¹³⁹ NE 5.7, 1134b24. NE 5.7, 1134b18–19; trans. Ross/Urmson. ¹⁴¹ NE 5.7, 1134b34. NE 5.7, 1134b24–30.

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         same, in contrast to human beings, who adapt to various environments. He compares the conventional element to units of measurement, and allows that constitutions might be conventional in source and in details without this undermining the notion that one is naturally better.¹⁴³ The implication seems to be that human life—and human virtue—includes a degree of improvisation on questions where there is no pre-established answer on points of detail, although there are clearly normative directions that allow for assessment of different innovations. The reference to the conventionality of constitutions suggests that the ‘natural’ element Aristotle intends to endorse does not concern the sources but rather the reality of the value-norms used in making comparative assessments. He is unlikely to be claiming that lawgivers are in fact channelling some innate, natural vision of the just and giving it local form: nothing in the text suggests that picture. Rather, the simplest reading is that he is asserting the rightness of one constitution over another, affirming that the preference is not merely subjective. Such judgements apply universally and are being accorded a kind of objectivity.¹⁴⁴ I will suggest in the Chapter 5 that the nomos–phusis distinction, as it is used in these debates, is roughly equivalent to the modern subjective–objective distinction. It need not suggest that the features being affirmed have an innate source. The use Aristotle makes of the notion of natural justice is slight: he gives it only a paragraph, and one that seems directed towards the need to fit his discussion into the terms used by others, not to make theoretical claims about the origins of our conceptions. Even within the relevant passages, the need for human invention within the ethical sphere is acknowledged. Thus the references to natural justice provide scant evidence of a commitment to Archimedean naturalism. Other ancient Greek philosophers who appeal to nature for ethical guidance— against convention, or against reason—look to the unadulterated behaviour of animals or newborn children. The so-called ‘cradle argument’ had some play in the early Hellenistic period;¹⁴⁵ in Plato’s time, Diogenes the Cynic thought he could counter the influence of social conditioning by looking to the behaviour of animals or children.¹⁴⁶ This is not Aristotle’s position. A passage in Nicomachean Ethics explicitly rejects the use of an appeal to what is natural to delimit the sphere of responsible action. As Annas argued, Aristotle focuses responsibility on what is due to our developed character, denying that we are to be blamed—or, presumably, praised— for what is natural.¹⁴⁷ Rather than their natural basis, Aristotle seems to emphasize those aspects of ethics that are acquired and subject to rational intervention.

¹⁴³ NE 5.7, 1135a1–6. ¹⁴⁴ For a more positive assessment, cf. Aubenque (1995), pp. 44–7. On Aubenque’s claim that the notion that judges should rule without favour is based on a notion of equal rights grounded in human nature, see Engberg-Pedersen (1995), pp. 55–9. ¹⁴⁵ Brunschwig (1986). ¹⁴⁶ Diogenes Laertius Lives 6.33, 37. ¹⁴⁷ NE 3.5; Annas (1993), p. 143.

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     ?

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I have been surveying the positive evidence from the ethical treatises that Aristotle embraces an Archimedean naturalism, and found it to be slight. I agree with those such as Terence Irwin who argue that the background metaphysical and psychological theory are intended to play a role in the account of ethics, providing the background against which Aristotle’s ethical treatises are formulated.¹⁴⁸ However, the question is whether the account of human nature is intended to be precise enough to yield determinate ethical advice. I argue that, as a practical and not a theoretical discipline, there is no reason to expect this, nor does Aristotle suggest as much. This is especially evident if we interpret the function argument—as Irwin does¹⁴⁹—as showing only that ethical life requires the exercise of practical reason. Irwin’s reading does not suggest that human nature is an external, Archimedean point subject to empirical investigation, nor that it provides substantive guidance from outside the ethical point of view. Rather, recognizing that the entire system is deeply normative, the notion of human nature is already evaluative. The appeal to nature could thus not serve as a fulcrum; different elements of the system could at best be mutually supportive, providing confirmation only by their coherence. Little is gained by arguing over terminology here. Some may like to consider Aristotle’s view ‘naturalistic’ in some non-Archimedean sense, because he recognizes that we are social beings and that we have natural capacities that allow us to acquire virtues by teaching. It is important to recognize, however, that this ‘second nature’ does not have a default form, a usual pattern that it takes, even ‘for the most part’. It requires the intervention of human reason, culture, and education. While the capacity for reasoning is natural, there is no grounds for thinking that Aristotle took its contents to be given by the natural world. Human nature does not provide an Archimedean Point, accessible from outside the ethical perspective. Although the account of human nature places some constraints on the kind of life that we can reasonably defend as ethical, Aristotle does not make much use of appeals to human nature, e.g. to argue that certain virtues are to be cultivated over others, or that one kind of friendship is superior to others, certain choices better fitting us for happiness. Very little determinate content ensues, as McDowell argued, from the ethical works, other than the claim that ethical life involves activity and that it is carried out in communities.¹⁵⁰ Only in Politics Book One do we see substantive appeal to human nature to decide specific normative issues, such as whether the subordination of women and slaves is acceptable, or whether a civic community is superior to a clan-village organization. In the next chapter, I shall examine the apparent evidence of the Politics.

¹⁴⁸ Irwin (1980a), (1988); for a critique of his claims, see Roche (1995). ¹⁵⁰ McDowell (1998a).

¹⁴⁹ Irwin (1980a).

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5 Naturalism in Aristotle’s Politics We should think of the animal as organized like a well-governed city. Aristotle, Motion of Animals 10

In the previous chapter, I considered the evidence that Aristotle embraced an Archimedean naturalism: evidence drawn from the appeal to human nature and the apparent directionality of human development, from the affirmation of natural virtues and from the account of natural justice. I concluded that the positive evidence for this kind of ethical naturalism is very thin. While Aristotle undeniably appeals to the kind of creature that we are to ascertain that, whatever life we live, it should be one of reason, this limitation is not sufficiently specific to constitute substantive ethical advice. How we are to apply practical reason in the task of living well is a topic on which theoretical knowledge of human nature seems to supply only some very general criteria. This is consistent with the possibility that Aristotle thought of practical reason as a distinct field, whose determinations are not made by appeal to human nature. This position may seem to run aground on the rocky shoals of Aristotle’s Politics. Those who think Aristotle makes substantive use of the appeal to human nature could draw confidence from this work: it appeals to nature in its justification both for the authority of the city state and for the subordination of women and slaves. These are indeed substantive proposals, and would have real consequences for the lives of all. The Politics undeniably shows Aristotle appealing to nature to tell us how to live. I shall argue, nonetheless, that the evidence for Archimedean naturalism in his political theory is not as robust as might appear. This is because the notion of nature used in the Politics is not that of the biological work, and would not constitute the right kind of value-neutral fulcrum to qualify as Archimedean.

The Politics and Aristotelian Natural Philosophy As I noted in Chapter 3, for Aristotle to qualify as an Archimedean ethical naturalist he would need to have held a more-or-less empirically justified account of the natural world. To suppose that Aristotle held the kind of position Bernard Williams considers, i.e. that nature forms an ‘Archimedean Point’ external to the normative, we need to suppose that Aristotle had indeed formulated the notion of a value-neutral

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  ’ 

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stance toward investigation of the biological. Modern ethical naturalism treats the appeal to nature as an external point of leverage because of the supposed valueneutral or descriptive stance of the modern sciences. Yet Aristotle is the first to have given much systematic consideration to the methodology for investigating the natural world. Only if we can assume that there is something approximating an ‘objective’ or externalist stance towards the investigation of the natural—that substantive claims about the natural can be made from a position of detached investigation outside of an ethical framework—does the question whether Aristotle was an Archimedean ethical naturalist have teeth. The kind of view I sketched in Chapter 3—that Aristotle justified the postulation of teleology in nature as a kind of Explanatory Hypothesis—would approximate the kind of view of the natural world, and how we should go about investigating it, that would lend itself to an Archimedean ethical naturalism. According to the Explanatory Hypothesis, Aristotle can be read as presenting teleology as a kind of inference to the best explanation, not as a metaphysical commitment justified on a priori grounds. This stance of the detached investigator viewing human nature from a neutral standpoint—whether or not Aristotle has additional metaphysical justifications for his teleological picture—would provide the right kind of approach for an Archimedean naturalist. Yet if the Politics is an early work, it may predate his systematic engagement with biology.¹ There is evidence that his practical biological investigations were conducted during his absence from Athens during 347–335 BCE: many of the names of animals mentioned are those found on the island of Lesbos. There, after leaving the Academy, he made contact with Theophrastus, his most important student and collaborator, who himself published detailed studies on plants.² A question of relative dating thus needs to be considered.³ There are historical allusions in the Politics. In Book 3, Aristotle addresses a question whether the Greeks might appropriately be governed by one individual: if this is to make sense, he responds, that individual must be so much superior to other men as to seem comparable to a god.⁴ Some have read this as a very guarded criticism of the Macedonian threat to the Greek city states.⁵ Philip II of Macedon defeated the Athenians in 338 BCE at the battle of Chaeronea, effectively ending the independence of the Greek city states. Aristotle returned to Athens in 335 and established the Lyceum, at about the same time that Alexander became king and embarked on

¹ But cf. Balme (1987). ² Lee (1987). ³ By ‘biological works’ I refer principally to Generation of Animals, Parts of Animals, Motion of Animals, De Ingressu Animalium, Historia Animalium, De Anima, De Sensu, and the Parva Naturalia. In the broader term ‘natural philosophical works’ I include the former along with Physics, On Generation and Corruption, De Caelo, and Meteorology. ⁴ Pol. 3.13, 1284a3–b34; cf. Pol. 7.7, 1327b29–33, discussed in Kraut (2002), p. 8. ⁵ Mulgan (1977), p. 87.

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         his campaigns of conquest. Still, this slight allusion is hardly definitive in establishing a late date for the Politics. Was an articulated view of a value-neutral investigation of the natural world developed by Aristotle at the time of writing the Politics? G. E. R. Lloyd rejects any attempt to distinguish political and zoological inquiries chronologically, on the grounds of Aristotle’s lifelong interests in both topics;⁶ Miller and Keyt argue that ‘Aristotle’s interest in biology, of which the naturalism of the Politics is an offshoot, was probably acquired from his father’.⁷ Nonetheless, an interest in the natural world is not the same as a theoretically informed methodology for studying it. For present purposes, we would need evidence of a conception of the detached investigation of nature, such that it could serve as an Archimedean Point to ground and justify ethical demands. Did he have such a view of nature in mind while writing the Politics? References to biology are not the only sources canvassed for the relative dating of the Politics: doctrinal issues are also invoked. Terence Irwin, who reads the Ethics and Politics as together elaborating a notion of human nature that is throughand-through normative, regards the Politics as part of the same project as Aristotle’s late work, including De Anima and Metaphysics.⁸ The defining feature of ‘late’ work, for Irwin, is the attempt at systematicity, in contrast to the Organon and the natural philosophy.⁹ He regards the Ethics and Politics as presenting a unified picture within which a single, dialectically grounded notion of human nature prevails.¹⁰ Dominic Scott, conversely, suggests that there is a serious doctrinal impediment to reading the Politics and Nicomachean Ethics as a unified whole: the former asserts that a scant account of ethics is all that the politician needs to know, in stark contrast to the position of Nicomachean Ethics.¹¹ These recent positions remind us that no consensus about the ordering of Aristotle’s thought has yet emerged. The evidence I shall consider here centres on whether the notion of nature used in the Politics reflects Aristotle’s biological work, or whether it is better explained some other way. I shall argue that it more closely reflects the nomos–phusis distinction found in sophistic controversies than it does the conception formulated in his biological works. This does not, by itself, show that Aristotle wrote the Politics before his biological research. It would be curious, however, if he reverted to an outdated and less precise notion after composing the biological works. If the use of phusis in Politics is neither congruent with nor reflective of the technical notion of nature articulated in the natural philosophy, the most reasonable explanation is that such a view had not been formulated at the time of writing of the Politics. Either way, the ⁶ Lloyd (2008), p. 186. ⁷ Keyt and Miller (1991), p. 3. ⁸ Irwin (1988), pp. 8–22; 474–8. ⁹ Irwin (1988), pp. 16–22, 89–116, presents Physics as prior to the Metaphysics, and presumably therefore written prior to Politics. ¹⁰ It is not entirely clear whether Irwin intends ‘Ethics’ to include both the Eudemian and Nicomachean texts here. ¹¹ Scott (2015), pp. 184–5.

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absence from the Politics of an empirically grounded notion of nature undermines the grounds for reading the Politics as evidence of Archimedean naturalism. Textual differences in the treatment on some key issues seem to indicate that the Politics is out of step with Aristotle’s natural philosophy. As David Sedley noted, Politics presents an anthropocentric picture of teleology.¹² Most scholars regard this anthropocentric picture as incongruous with what Aristotle says about teleology elsewhere.¹³ There are very few passages in the biological works suggesting that teleological relationships exist between species, let alone that one species is the intended beneficiary of the organization of the cosmos. Sedley’s suggestion presents us with a choice: either to treat Politics 1.8 as representative of Aristotle’s thought on natural teleology and revise our reading of Aristotle’s teleology throughout, or else to regard the account of teleology in the Politics as anomalous in this regard. Judson explains the differences as one of perspective.¹⁴ The hypothesis that at least some of the Politics was written before Aristotle developed his more detailed biological theories is another way to account for the discrepancy. Close analysis of the notion of nature or phusis used in the Politics supports the case for relative dating. There, phusis often has a loose, non-technical sense of ‘character’ or ‘quality’, with no indications that it references the technical sense of species nature.¹⁵ Aristotle describes a city state as having a ‘slavish nature’,¹⁶ although a polis is not the kind of entity that would qualify for Aristotle’s technical notion of phusis in Physics 2 which is explicitly restricted to the elements, animals, plants, and their organs.¹⁷ Aristotle compares constitutions to animals in a taxonomical passage of the Politics, but the contents of these comparisons does not inspire confidence that he is drawing on developed biological notions of taxonomy. Most strikingly, he supposes in Book 5 that an animal may change to an animal of a different kind if it alters sufficiently in quality and quantity.¹⁸ This claim is fundamentally at odds with his views on biological kinds: from the biological perspective, this would be an outrageous blunder. Claims about the status of the polis as the culmination of a natural development stand in some tension with the fact that it manifests in different kinds. Unlike the family, which has a default form, he argues in Book 3 that there are three kinds of government, each of which has a perverted as well as a ‘correct’ form.¹⁹ Book 2 denies

¹² Pol. 1.8, 1256b10–22: Sedley (1991), (2007), (2010). ¹³ Cf. esp. Kullman (1985); Wardy (1993); Judson (2005). ¹⁴ Judson (2005), p. 356 ff. treats Politics as voicing the perspective of the household manager or statesman, not of the biologist. ¹⁵ Jowett’s widely used translation adds to the muddle, since it uses the term ‘nature’ to translate several expressions that do not mention phusis, e.g. Pol. 5.1, 1301a20; 5.3, 1302b36; 7.1, 1323b35; 7.16, 1335b18–19. ¹⁶ tên phusei doulên, Pol. 4.4, 1291a9. ¹⁷ As Wardy (1993), p. 2, argues, if the city truly had a phusis, this would deny the ontological autonomy of individual human beings as substances. ¹⁸ εἰς ἄλλο ζῴου, Pol. 5.3, 1302b35–9. ¹⁹ orthê, Pol. 3.7, 1279a23–b10: cf. Mulgan (1977).

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         that the polis has a single nature.²⁰ The sense of ‘kind’²¹ at work here has more in common, I suggest, with the classificatory approach at work in Plato’s method of collection and division than it is with the taxonomy of organic kinds found in Aristotle’s mature biological works.²² When Plato’s Eleatic Stranger proposes to ‘carve nature along the joints’,²³ he is asserting the realism of some classificatory divisions, not an underlying theory of the normative growth and development of certain kinds of entities. The style of classification Aristotle develops in his biological works depends on distinctions in the way that various animals realize their definitive functions: nutrition, perception, locomotion, reproduction, etc. It eschews functional kinds, i.e. categories dependent on human desires or preconceptions, and aims at a classification that maps the teleological organization of the biological world. Certainly, ideas characteristic of the biological work can be found in the Politics. An application of the so-called ‘homonymy principle’—the notion that a part detached from a whole is no longer really the same as it is within the functional whole²⁴—echoes a theme that is important to Aristotle’s biology, as does the claim that nature does nothing in vain.²⁵ But the difference in sense of so fundamental a concept as phusis is enough to indicate that the biological conception of nature is not the basis for Aristotle’s usage in the Politics. Differences in the use of even technical terms might be explained by the needs of different subject matters, different purposes, different audiences.²⁶ Nonetheless, there is no reason to think that Aristotle’s substantive appeals to human nature in the Politics are to be viewed as external, empirical claims of the sort suggested by the Explanatory Hypothesis. The notion that the city has parts contributing towards the whole has been canvassed as evidence of naturalist commitments.²⁷ Nonetheless, the discussion of professional roles or ergasia played by different sectors of a city diverges from the biological notion of ergon or function, as it mixes instrumental goods like wealth with goods that are directly functional.²⁸ Moreover, of the functions identified, some are necessary for the survival of the city, others for the survival of its citizens. Aristotle seems to ground his list on conventional expectations about the different social strata required for a city, and not on a sophisticated comparison of the city to a functioning organism. It certainly has little in common with the careful analysis of life-functions offered in De Anima and echoed throughout other biological works. Lloyd defends the continuity of thought between the Politics and the zoological work, on the grounds that Aristotle’s notion of nature is everywhere that of an ideal

²⁰ Pol. 2.2, 1261b7. ²¹ eidê: Pol. 3.6, 1278b16. This term can be translated as ‘species’. ²² Lee (1987) points to the classificatory discussions in Plato as evidence that Aristotle’s biology need not represent a later phase of his development, distinct from the preoccupations of the Academy. I reject this reading of the method of collection and division, which does not distinguish between natural or functional classifications. ²³ Phaedr. 265E. ²⁴ Pol. 1.2, 1253b19–22. ²⁵ Pol. 1.2, 1253b9. ²⁶ Judson (2005). ²⁷ Roberts (1989a), p. 195. ²⁸ Pol. 7.8, 1328b19–23.

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and never a statistical regularity.²⁹ There are, however, important differences in the way we might justify positing an ideal or norm. Supposing that there are norms in nature may seem like the best way to account for the observed regularities in organic development. It is not a statistical regularity that acorns have an internal tendency to become oak trees, since most do not.³⁰ However, those which do reach their presumed telos exhibit marked regularities in their development, while the failures happen in myriad different ways. Positing a norm for explanatory reasons is different from the imposition of ideological commitments. Unless we abandon the notion that any attempts at systematic observation are responsive to the world—and Lloyd does not³¹—we can draw a distinction between commitments that are experientially justified and more-or-less responsive to the available data. Lloyd himself notes a number of anomalies in the use of apparently biological concepts in the Politics, including the idea that there are ‘species’ of constitution.³² Kullmann notes a number of contexts where Aristotle uses nature in a metaphorical sense in evidently non-biological contexts, such as the discussion of tragedies in the Poetics.³³ Other scholars have noted that the Politics’ claim that the polis is natural seems to be responding to the sophistic claim that it is merely conventional.³⁴ In the context of sophistic debates, phusis and nomos were understood to form an exhaustive, binary classification. Against such a background, the claim that the polis is natural may mean little more than that it is to be regarded as a legitimate institution based on human needs. Invoking phusis counters the charge that justice and law are unjustifiable impositions by self-interested strong men. One rhetorical implication sometimes ascribed to this use of the appeal to nature is that there is reason to believe that the interests of all can be reconciled within the polis.³⁵ If this is the true significance of the political appeal to nature, there is no reason to think that the debate turns on a theory gleaned from scientific study of nature. The sophistic debate long preceded Aristotle’s biological research. It appealed to nature as a way of claiming legitimacy in the face of a debunking attack.³⁶ Aristotle’s political thought moreover shows a tendency, found in the ethical work also, to move beyond a functional justification of given practices and toward assessment of their fineness or nobility. This kind of argument plays only a small part in the biology. Aristotle insists that the true polis is not established merely for necessity: it exists for the sake of noble activity, and the most virtuous are the greatest participants.³⁷ This is not the kind of information—whether in type or specificity—that we

²⁹ Lloyd (2008). ³⁰ I owe this point to Jim Hankinson: see Hankinson (1995b). ³¹ Lloyd (2008), p. 204. ³² Lloyd (2008), pp. 195–9. ³³ Kullmann (1991), p. 98. ³⁴ e.g. Fritz and Kapp (1977); Mulgan (1977), p. 18; (2000), p. 92; Ambler (1985); Roberts (1989a), p. 192 n. 12, (2000), p. 345; Salkever (1991), p. 40; Kullmann (1991), p. 107; Gottlieb (2009), p. 193. ³⁵ For a critique of this assumption, see Yack (1993). ³⁶ Lear (1988), p. 200, suggests that the notion of a ‘political animal’ is a kind of contradiction in terms. ³⁷ Pol. 3.9, 1280b33–1281a10.

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         would expect to get from an empirical investigation. While appeal to nature tells us what the characteristic activities of each kind are, it hardly defines the category of to kalon, the fine or noble. Even Fred Miller, who puts much stock in the appeal to nature, grants that the Politics fails to analyse the notion of nature at play.³⁸ Annas thinks that Aristotle slides unawares between the notion that the natural is usual, and that it is an ideal;³⁹ she sees the uses of ‘nature’ in the two bodies of work—the biological and the ethical-political—as competing ideas whose relationship Aristotle did not clarify:⁴⁰ in the latter body of work, the term refers to ‘the basic material of human beings, which, so far from having its own reliable built-in goals, can be developed in quite opposite directions by habit and reason’.⁴¹ This sense of ‘mere nature’—Aristotle’s ‘first potential’—is quite different from the Physics doctrine that a phusis is an internal principle of change and rest directing the development of organisms. Richard Kraut also tries to systematize the uses of nature in the ethical and political work, and finds three competing senses: our biological heritage, the result of a process of habituation, and a perfected potential.⁴² It should be clear that only the first notion could serve as an Archimedean Point; the sheer multiplicity of uses suggests that the term does not have a technical sense. There are occasional suggestions in the ethical works—such as the claim of Eudemian Ethics that science has a ‘natural’ end—that seem to fit the sense of legitimacy better than the sense of what is biologically mandated.⁴³ Although Annas and Kraut see the problem as common to the ethical and political works, I believe that Politics Book One is the main anomaly. This is the text that makes substantive use of the appeal to nature even while the Politics contains ideas that are actively in conflict with the biological work. From his study of the uses of nature in the Politics, Richard Kraut concludes that Aristotle is using the term to highlight the inadequacy of our natural heritage to achieve our ends: Our job is not to develop further what nature gives us, but to foster our reasoning powers so that they can sit in judgment of a human nature that often places major obstacles in the way of acting morally.⁴⁴

This suggests that the role of human nature in ethical deliberations is not that of a reliable guide to flourishing, but rather that of one of the factors that reason needs to consider. This is, I think, an accurate assessment of the relationship between reason and nature in Aristotle’s normative work, in line with the position I shall develop in the final chapters. Although Kraut does not argue this, he implicitly recognizes how far Aristotle’s position stands from Archimedean naturalism.

³⁸ Miller (2000), p. 321; cf. Kullmann (1991), p. 110; Annas (1996a), p. 773. ³⁹ Annas (1996a). ⁴⁰ Annas (1996a), pp. 733–4. ⁴¹ Annas (1996a), p. 734. ⁴² Kraut (2007), p. 213. ⁴³ EE 2.10, 1227a21–8. ⁴⁴ Kraut (2007), p. 219.

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We see, in practice, very little use of the appeal to nature in the Politics beyond Book One. In Book 2, Aristotle describes a number of constitutions, real and imaginary, treating both as in effect positive proposals on how communities ought to be arranged. Some of his discussion is primarily concerned with classification, marking proposals as aristocratic or democratic, say, or listing the features characteristic or unique about them. Overall, his discussion is a sustained piece of political reasoning concerning some of the most general questions of political philosophy, drawing on the experience of the most influential exemplars in his philosophical milieu.⁴⁵ It provides an extraordinarily sustained and systematic catalogue of argumentation on particular political practices and proposals. Questions of suitable institutions for reducing factions and promoting stability are important, as well as the best property relationships to cultivate citizenly virtues and promote other civic goals.⁴⁶ In gauging the substantive role of the appeal to nature in Aristotle’s normative practice, Book 2 offers an important corrective to the impression created by Book One. Book 2 contains over sixty distinct arguments where Aristotle offers an evaluative claim directed towards a particular political practice.⁴⁷ Quite a few dismissals are based on weaknesses in the proposal of a kind that would be recognized by theoretical reason: that it is self-defeating, vague, based on a false analogy, ineffective in reaching its goal. The largest group—over a third—claim a proposal has negative side effects; another cluster claim that other methods are more effective; a quarter argue that the proposal aims at the wrong end. These considerations seem best described as considerations of practical rationality. There is, however, virtually no appeal to human nature to adjudicate specific proposals. Two cases where he explicitly mentions phusis are so general in context that ‘nature’ seems to be little more than a stand-in for ‘essence’: he talks of the ‘nature’ of desire, and notes that cities are naturally diverse in kind.⁴⁸ No technical theory of nature is applied. Only in the critique of the guardian educational system proposed by Plato’s Republic does Aristotle make assumptions about intractable human habits and tendencies.⁴⁹ He claims that self-centred impulses are natural and need to be overcome by any education system. The terminology here echoes a frequent trope in the biological works, that certain features of our constitution have a purpose.⁵⁰ This one appeal to human nature—that human beings have self-centred impulses—is used only as a negative argument, and not to support a substantive ⁴⁵ Lockwood (2015); Nussbaum (1988), p. 159; Mulgan (2000). ⁴⁶ Kraut (2002); Lockwood (2015), p. 71. ⁴⁷ Some of his more descriptive remarks could be taken to have evaluative import: it is difficult to give an accurate characterization of complex and multifaceted arguments into simple categories, or to individuate arguments. Classifying the style of objection also involves judgement whether the emphasis is on the side effects, say, or on the preferability of other methods. ⁴⁸ Pol. 2.7, 1267b3, τῆς ἐπιθυμίας φύσις, 2.2, 1261b7, οὔτε πέφυκε μίαν οὕτως εἶναι τὴν πόλιν. ⁴⁹ Pol. 2.3–4. ⁵⁰ μὴ γὰρ οὐ μάτην τὴν πρὸς αὑτὸν αὐτὸς ἔχει φιλίαν ἕκαστος, ἀλλ’ ἔστι τοῦτο φυσικόν, Pol. 2.5, 1263a41–b1.

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         ethical demand. In critiquing Plato, the assumption is never that some social arrangements are sanctified by nature, but rather that some social forms are more adept than others at cultivating virtues. Platonic communalism does not provide occasion for practising temperance or liberality, since it removes the occasions for these.⁵¹ Private property and scarcity are conditions under which we develop certain traits; practice is needed. The claim is emphatically not that human beings have inherent tendencies towards the virtues. Aristotle’s point is about social conditioning, not about the stubbornness of our biological heritage.⁵² Implicit in this method is a picture of good practical reasoning. ‘Nature’ sets the parameters, but cannot positively guide us in determining how best to realize these needs. Only reason and experience can accomplish this task, and that imperfectly. The debate about the danger of political innovation illustrates how far his argument stands from reliance on appeal to nature. Aristotle recognizes that customs have changed and accepts that innovative practices may be improvements, yet cautions against unnecessary or rapid change on the grounds that this could undermine confidence in the authority of law.⁵³ No reference is made to a notion that established institutions evolved naturally, i.e. that traditional arrangements are preferable to the impositions of reason because they better match our biological tendencies. Nor, conversely, does he imply that the fit of institutions to our nature is an appropriate standard to judge them. Innovation is not limited by the constraints of nature.⁵⁴ Rather, his point is based on a sensitivity to patterns of human judgement and the role that habituation plays in our confidence in the correctness of positive law.⁵⁵ Again, it is difficult to imagine an ethical naturalist offering such an argument. Aristotle is endorsing social experimentation—albeit one that is slow in pace— rather than expecting nature to show the way. Subsequent books continue this pattern of appeal to features other than nature to settle substantive issues. As Annas notes, the argument about the preferability of his ideal realm, the so-called ‘polity’, to democracy depends on the belief that democracy enables the majority to dominate, not the belief that democracy is an unnatural form. Two references to what ‘seems natural’ could well be mere pleasantries: the claim that Crete seems ‘naturally’ intended to be dominant,⁵⁶ and the idea that some individuals are so god-like in character that they seem ‘naturally’ fitted to rule.⁵⁷ Neither remark is theoretically grounded: nothing in his philosophy suggests a cosmic master plan that is designed to favour certain individuals or locations over others. His point is simply that certain features convey advantages. Aristotelian doctrine does not support a hierarchy among particular states or individuals; the notion of a natural ruler

⁵¹ ⁵³ ⁵⁴ ⁵⁵ ⁵⁶

Pol. 2.5, 1262b7–14. ⁵² Pol. 2.6. Nussbaum (1988b); Kraut (2002); Lockwood (2015), pp. 74–5. Lockwood (2015), p. 83. Lockwood (2015) emphasizes the self-conscious political theorizing of Book 2. πεφυκέναι, Pol. 2.10, 1271b32. ⁵⁷ ὅπερ ἔοικε πεφυκέναι, Pol. 3.13, 1284b32.

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belies his doctrine that kingship is an early stage of government in the development of the city. These loose uses of ‘nature’ undermine rather than support the notion that he is appealing to biological determination of political forms. Scholars have interpreted this remark as a historical reference to Macedonian rule, not as a theoretically motivated claim. Some commentators include the discussion of natural and unnatural uses of wealth when they assess the evidence for Aristotle’s commitment to naturalism in the Politics.⁵⁸ The question here, however, is whether Aristotle might be appealing to his biological work as an Archimedean point to justify ethical claims. Discussions of money are, if anything, evidence that Aristotle’s use of ‘nature’ is not biological, since money is an archetypally social product.⁵⁹ The arguments about economics are overtly normative, and do not need to be considered for current purposes. It remains to examine more closely the appeal to nature in the justifications Aristotle offers for the subordination of women and slaves, and his claims about the naturalness of the city.

Evidence for a Naturalist Reading: Hierarchies A naturalism with any teeth, minimally, draws substantive ethical conclusions from human nature. Aristotle certainly does this in Book One of Politics, most obviously when he claims that some people are ‘by nature’ slaves,⁶⁰ and that the male is fitter ‘by nature’ for ruling than the female.⁶¹ The latter claim in particular seems to echo Aristotle’s biological views on gender differences. However, these claims are inadequate grounds for treating Aristotle as an ethical naturalist, for two reasons. One is that both claims seem to be tu quoque arguments. If other thinkers claimed that slavery or the suppression of women were against nature—that they were mere convention, established by the power of the stronger—then for Aristotle to counter that these practices are in fact natural need not indicate a substantive commitment on his part: he is simply responding in the terms others have set.⁶² The other reason is that the notion of ‘nature’ used seems to be evaluative and not merely classificatory.⁶³ While the defence of the subordinate status of women is perhaps the clearest evidence of Aristotle basing evaluative claims on his understanding of the nature of things, his reading of the evidence presented seems already to be normatively laden. This opens a question whether Aristotle was indeed attempting to employ an Archimedean naturalism and failing to maintain neutrality, or whether he is simply using the notion of the ‘natural’ as a rhetorical weapon.

⁵⁸ ⁵⁹ ⁶⁰ ⁶²

Ambler (1985); Annas (1993). On Aristotle’s view of economics, see White (1992), pp. 191–218; DesRoches (2014). Pol. 1.4, 1254b15; 1.5. ⁶¹ Pol. 1.13, 1259b2. Garnsey (1997), p. 12. ⁶³ Nussbaum (1995); Williams (1995).

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         Various sophists had attacked conventional morality on the grounds that it was used to support regimes that merely enforced the interests of the stronger. Although the sophistic movement had died out, their terms of debate still lingered. In defending political authority, Aristotle responded to a critique that any form of social order claiming to further the common good goes ‘against nature’, inasmuch as it restrains the pursuit of self-interested goals. Here, ‘natural’ seems to carry the sense of legitimate, beneficial or non-arbitrary, rather than reflecting a conception of the biological. The dichotomy of ‘nature–convention’ may have served roughly the same role as the distinction between ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ in popular modern usage. Particular institutions were under attack, especially those which were seen as cloaking the use of power in ideological garb. The fact that Aristotle’s appeal to nature is a response to his opponents is explicit in the discussion of slavery.⁶⁴ His defence of the subordinate status of women was also apparently a response to various fifth-century challenges to tradition.⁶⁵ Plato appealed to innate abilities and differences when he suggested that women as well as men may be suitable guardians.⁶⁶ For Aristotle to claim the naturalness of these hierarchical relationships merely turns the challengers’ own argument against them. Slavery is a uniquely human practice: Aristotle justified it as a response to a failure in development of the exclusively human function, i.e. reason. In other words, claims about its naturalness could not be established by comparison to other species, but depend on normative assumptions about what is appropriate for human beings. As Bartolomé de las Casas argued in the sixteenth century, Aristotle’s defence of the idea that some people develop incompletely and thus require care and supervision cannot—according to Aristotle’s own species teleology—be applied to entire populations.⁶⁷ Natural slaves are, by Aristotle’s own account, necessarily the exception and not the rule.⁶⁸ As has often been pointed out, Aristotle is hardly consistent in applying his notion of natural slaves. In later books, he takes for granted the actual practice of slavery as it occurred in the Greek city states of the time, although his ‘official’ defence would have rejected this. Aristotle does not object to the enslavement of those captured in war, where there is no suggestion that those enslaved have developmental disabilities.⁶⁹ The fact that he is not even consistent with his official defence suggests that he is simply justifying an established institution that had come under principled attack, but without which he does not believe society can function.⁷⁰ Notions that there could be a sense of reciprocity or even friendship between master and slave belie the

⁶⁴ On critics of slavery, see Guthrie (1969), pp. 155–60; Kerferd (1981), p. 156; Garlan (1988); Kraut (2002), p. 278; Pellegrin (2015), p. 31. ⁶⁵ Kerferd (1981), pp. 139, 161. ⁶⁶ Rep. 5, 453E–456A. ⁶⁷ de Las Casas (1992). ⁶⁸ Lear (1988), p. 199. ⁶⁹ Annas (1996a); Smith (1991); Pellegrin (2013); Curzer (2012). ⁷⁰ Pol. 1.4, 1254a1.

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denial of ethical competence to the latter. Aristotle fails to critique slavery in other contexts where it is based on conquest, not natural inferiority.⁷¹ While the argument for the natural inferiority of slaves finds little support in his biological work, the claims about the natural inferiority of women is congruent with his account of the relationship between male and female in generation. There has been much debate as to whether Aristotle’s account of the inferiority of women blindly imports the prejudices of his time into his scientific investigations, or whether this conclusion is on some level legitimated by considerations internal to his metaphysics.⁷² The idea that the form–matter distinction and the active–passive distinction seem to map onto the roles of the male and female parent in reproduction might provide grounds for supposing that the male is the biologically superior of the two. It is undoubtedly true that Aristotle’s reading of the observational data was informed by pre-existing normatively loaded judgements about gender hierarchies, but it may also have some theoretical justification. Biological accounts of reproduction in Aristotle’s day were hampered by the absence of evidence that females produced ‘seed’, i.e. genetic material analogous to the male sperma and specialized to carry genetic information.⁷³ Aristotle thought the menstrual blood was the closest female analogue to sperma, but was impressed by its material contribution during pregnancy. Imposing his form–matter dichotomy on reproduction, he inferred that the maternal blood was a material complement to the purely formal role played by sperma. The discovery in Hellenistic medicine, more than a generation later, of the ovaries, or ‘female testicles’ as they were called, would have addressed this apparent asymmetry. The anatomical parallels suggested that the ovaries also produce a kind of ‘seed’ and thus that the maternal contribution to sexual generation was in fact similar rather than complementary.⁷⁴ The discovery of the ovaries thus supported a two-seed theory of generation, with both parents supplying genetic information. The evidence that Aristotle’s successor, Strato of Lampsacus, adopted a two-seed theory of generation in response to this new empirical discovery supports the notion that Aristotle’s account of the different roles of the sexes in generation was at least partly driven by the apparent evidence that only males produced seed.⁷⁵ Aristotle had some theoretical justification for seeing the female role in sexual generation as material and passive; the implications he drew beyond the question of transmitting genetic information are less justifiable. The assumption that there is only one human form, admitting male and female versions, hardly validates the inference that females are thereby defective males. This conflicts with his larger ⁷¹ Some have suggested that these inconsistencies lead us to ironic interpretations: Pangle (2013). Wayne Ambler (1985) argues that inconsistencies in the treatment of slavery undermines the claim that any city could be natural. I do not find these ironic readings persuasive. ⁷² e.g. Preus (1970), (1977); Morsink (1979); Coles (1988); Tress (1992); Witt (1998); Connell (2016). ⁷³ Berryman (2007a). ⁷⁴ Von Staden (1989); (1997); Berryman (2007). ⁷⁵ Berryman (forthcoming).

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         biological framework, which suggests that defects and shortfalls are accidental, occasional, and not productive of biologically necessary results like gender differentiation. His own theory is a poor fit with such an account of gender. Here, he too readily imposed prejudicial normative assumptions onto the available evidence. There are few indications in the Politics, however, that his claims about the nature of women are based on biological investigation. Rather, they reflect socially accepted ‘facts’ about women, perceptions reinforced by the trammelled lives available to Athenian women. Complaints about the licentious nature of Spartan women indicate that Aristotle was aware of the more active role and the leadership women might display under a different social system.⁷⁶ We see evidence of the degree to which these discriminatory hierarchies pervade Aristotle’s thinking about the city: when he enumerates the necessary occupational classes that are required to compose a city, the work done by slaves or women is simply not mentioned.⁷⁷ The wealthy, who do not work, are certainly mentioned and treated as contributing financially to the city; but the work of many that is essential to producing that wealth was simply invisible to him. This omission shows how thoroughly prejudice and not reasoned inference shaped his viewpoint. Without the background of a value-neutral biology, appeals to ‘common-sense’ notions of what is natural are unabashedly normative. The designation of certain practices as natural or not would thus be a kind of rhetorical move, based on an overtly normative view. In comparing certain people to slaves, Nussbaum argues, Aristotle is using ‘nature’ in a non-biological way: in determining that they do not meet a sufficient standard of functioning to live unsupervised, he is drawing on social norms, and in designating enslavement as the appropriate treatment he is, of course, bringing in morally loaded assumptions. It can only be from an evaluative and not a biological perspective, she claims, that we can make the judgement that some people are too different from us to merit the same ethical treatment we accord others.⁷⁸ On the status of women and slaves, Aristotle seems from a modern perspective to compare unfavourably with other contemporary philosophers—Socrates, some of the sophists, the Cynics—who were more willing to question social prejudice and challenge the legitimacy of systems that subjugating entire groups of human beings to others. Whatever his ideological blinkers, it seems that Aristotle had some doubts about the value of using the appeal to nature to settle normative questions. In Book 2.5, in his critique of Plato’s utopian political theory, Aristotle objects that the would-be reformers put too much stock in the appeal to nature and the analogy to animals.⁷⁹ No Archimedean ethical naturalist would have mounted such an objection against

⁷⁶ White (1992), p. 228. ⁷⁷ Pol. 7.8, 1328b6–22. ⁷⁸ Nussbaum (1995). For a critique of Nussbaum’s claim that Aristotle regarded social exclusions as regrettable, cf. Mulgan (2000). ⁷⁹ Pol. 2.5, 1264b4–6; Pellegrin (2015), p. 30.

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other theorists. Despite his tu quoque appeals to the ‘natural’, Aristotle seems in propria persona to be leery of a strategy that treats the givenness of the biological as a vantage point from which to critique the social.

Evidence for a Naturalist Reading: The Polis One frequently cited claim in discussions of Aristotle’s naturalism is that the polis exists by nature. It is important to recognize that two different ancient Greek expressions are distinguished in the natural philosophical works. The claim that something exists ‘by nature’—phusei—is weaker than the claim that it has a phusis or nature.⁸⁰ Few readers have thought that Aristotle intended the latter.⁸¹ Aristotle makes very clear in his natural philosophy that only specific entities—animals, plants, the elements—have a nature, i.e. an internal tendency to develop according to a given blueprint, barring impediment.⁸² There are moreover positive indications throughout the later books of the Politics against the supposition that Aristotle intended any such assimilation. There is no regular ‘life cycle’ for the individual kinds of political regimes; the explanations of Books 4 and 5 especially are fraught with a sense of the vulnerability of states to disintegration. The analysis of individual cities emphasizes the historicity of particular experiments, and focuses on path-dependent outcomes rather than the operation of universal generalizations. There is some disparity between the claims of Book One, which trumpets the naturalness of the polis, and the later books that lay out a complex taxonomy of kinds of regimes, many of them described as deviant.⁸³ Nicolas White notes that the good of the individual is not entirely in harmony with that of the polis.⁸⁴ Even Keyt, who attempts to explain the notion of deviant regimes by comparison to biological accidents, notes the disanalogy, since biological accidents are meant to be anomalies and not the norm.⁸⁵ In Book One, Aristotle’s claim that the polis exists ‘by nature’ depends on the notion that it is the highest form of social organization and the culmination of the progression from family to clan-village. Aristotle takes the family to be established by nature to supply wants, and sees village organization as an extension of the family.⁸⁶ He describes kingly rule as familial, since the eldest rules in a family: early social forms were based on kinship.⁸⁷ The implication seems to be that the organization of

⁸⁰ Keyt (1991), p. 122, suggests a possible further distinction between things that ‘are’ by nature, and those that come about by nature. ⁸¹ Cf. Reeve (2009); Yack (1993), pp. 90–2. ⁸² This possibility is explicitly dismissed by Kullmann (1991); Wardy (1993); Pellegrin (2015), p. 45. Wardy (1993) notes that substances cannot be composed of substances, as the polis is formed of individuals. ⁸³ Mulgan (1977). ⁸⁴ White (1995), p. 267. ⁸⁵ Keyt (1985), pp. 31–2; cf. Yack (1993), pp. 91–2. ⁸⁶ Pol. 1.2, 1252b13. ⁸⁷ This is in tension with the later books, which portray kingship as one of the regimes of the polis.

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         the household, family, and even village is one that arises automatically, without need for deliberation or rational invention, and takes a single, default form.⁸⁸ This is not the case with the polis, which is a product of human invention, since it requires the imposition of a constitution of some kind.⁸⁹ A biological notion of nature would have supported the clan-village structure, not the polis. Nonetheless, Aristotle wants to claim that the polis is natural. He offers several reasons for this: that the polis is the goal of previous social forms, i.e. family and clanvillage;⁹⁰ that human beings have natural abilities fitting us for political life;⁹¹ and that isolated human beings are not self-sufficient.⁹² A fourth claim, that we have a hormê or impulse toward social life,⁹³ is also taken by some readers as a reason for regarding the polis as natural. An illustrative analogy is also drawn between a city and an organism.⁹⁴ The only argument of the four that need be taken to justify the naturalness of the polis specifically—and not merely legitimate some form of social living— is the first, that the polis is a culmination of previous forms. However this is to be understood, it needs to take into account the fact that the previous forms can persist in historical time without reaching that culmination.⁹⁵ Jean Roberts argues that this is not meant as a historical claim, but rather a recognition that ‘the polis does completely what the other two do only in lesser degrees, provide for the community as a whole a self-sufficient life’.⁹⁶ The sense of ‘end’ here cannot be taken to imply an automatic progression, nor one that has a default form. There are moreover many kinds of regime, and Aristotle recognizes that local and historical circumstances affect the fit between societies and constitutions. The clan-village organization does not seem to be lack necessities. The idea that the polis supplies economic needs more efficiently might have offered some basis for this claim, yet he says only rather vaguely that the polis is the ‘completed’ form. The argument that the polis best fulfils a need could equally be taken to show that art continues a process that fulfils natural goals, and does so more effectively than the ‘default’ process of the clan-village social organization. Physics 2 acknowledges that art can play the role of perfecting a goal-directed process, picking up where nature left off.⁹⁷ The claim that we have certain capacities that fit us for communal life is open to different readings. Literally, the text does not say that we have an impulse towards the ⁸⁸ But cf. Pellegrin (2015), p. 44, on variations in the human family among barbarians. ⁸⁹ Politics 1.2, 1252b16–30. Keyt (1991) sees this as a contradiction; for a defence, see Roberts (1989a); Kraut (2002), p. 245. ⁹⁰ Politics 1.2, 1252b30–2. Cf. Roberts (1989a), p. 195 n. 16, for the idea that this is one argument. ⁹¹ Politics 1.2, 1253a7–18. ⁹² Politics 1.2, 1253a25–7. ⁹³ Politics 1.2, 1253a29–30. ⁹⁴ Pol. 1.2, 1253a20–5. Keyt (1991), pp. 136 ff., questions whether this is a genuine argument. ⁹⁵ On doubts that Aristotle is offering a historical thesis, see Kullmann (1991), pp. 97–100. ⁹⁶ Roberts (1989a), p. 195. ⁹⁷ Phys. 2.8, 199a15–16; cf. Keyt (1991), p. 120, for other instances: Keyt concludes that ‘the polis must be just as much an artifact as a poem’.

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polis, but towards a certain kind of community.⁹⁸ Some read this as an implied reference to the polis specifically.⁹⁹ Aristotle explicitly pairs this claim with the recognition that cities are founded by individuals.¹⁰⁰ The power of speech associated with ethical reasoning is certainly a central human capability, ripe for teleological explanation, but it is required for any form of social living, and does not justify the priority of the polis.¹⁰¹ Not only is human invention needed to found cities, but Aristotle notes that all existing constitutions are faulty.¹⁰² The correct constitution, then, does not occur ‘always or for the most part’. Whatever he intends by the claim that community is natural and serves natural needs, he cannot mean that there is a proper kind of organization built into our nature, and from which we deviate at our peril. Richard Kraut insightfully proposed that the innate drive towards civic organization was introduced because Aristotle was aware of the difficulties of creating institutions of justice merely on the basis of rational mutual self-interest.¹⁰³ Kraut cites evidence of awareness of the difficulties of securing cooperative societies if people are motivated by self-interest alone. Some philosophers had considered the possibility of establishing societies as a kind of contract for mutual self-interest: Glaucon’s challenge to Socrates in the Republic acknowledged the limitations of this approach.¹⁰⁴ This claim is that Aristotle might have seen the need to posit an instinctual drive to overcome this problem. However, if Aristotle were trying to solve social coordination problems inherent in contractualist theories of justice, the hormê in question might simply be towards community and not towards a polis. It is not clear what need would justify introducing a drive towards the creation of cities. Jean Roberts offers a convincing reading of the claim that we are political animals, one that emphasizes the difference between human and other animal forms and makes sense of the ethical implications of human sociability.¹⁰⁵ We do not merely need other human beings: we also need the kind of differentiation of function that can only be achieved in an organized community. Reason and deliberation enable us to adapt our activities to those of others, so that we play complementary roles. The degree of interdependence is greater among human beings than among other social animals. While this argument does not necessarily argue for a city per se, it does support the need for an organizational structure more complex and differentiated than a clan-village system would suggest. The claim that a human being is by nature a politikon zôon reiterates some of the same considerations raised to argue that the city is natural. However, the claim admits of two possible translations: ‘political animal’ or ‘social animal’. A passage in Historia ⁹⁸ ⁹⁹ ¹⁰⁰ ¹⁰² ¹⁰⁴ ¹⁰⁵

φύσει μὲν οὖν ἡ ὁρμὴ ἐν πᾶσιν ἐπὶ τὴν τοιαύτην κοινωνίαν Pol. 1.2, 1253a29–30. Salkever (1991), p. 24; cf. Keyt (1996). Pol. 1.2, 1253a31. ¹⁰¹ I thank Nicolas Smith for discussion on this point. Politics 2.1, 1260b35. ¹⁰³ Kraut (2007), p. 203; cf. Denyer (1983). Denyer (1983) offers the classic account of this trope in ancient Greek philosophy. Roberts (1989a).

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         Animalium lists human beings along with bee, wasp, ant, and crane as politika:¹⁰⁶ the term can evidently be used in a broad sense to mean merely that people are naturally social, i.e. that they naturally live in communities.¹⁰⁷ This broad sense would thus not be enough to justify the imposition of forms of government, which do not exist amongst other social animals. Of four arguments for calling human beings politika, only the last supports the translation ‘political’ rather than merely ‘social’. This is the claim that human beings are better when they are ruled by law and justice, whereas justice is more perfect when it is embodied in the polis as its principle of order.¹⁰⁸ Aristotle’s argument for this fourth claim is that, because human beings have phronêsis and prowess and can use these either for good or ill, it is essential that they be governed by law and justice.¹⁰⁹ Political community is governed by judgement, which implies choice between alternatives. If human beings weren’t armed by intelligence, they wouldn’t be as dangerous: it is their very malleability and ingenuity which makes them so capable of atrocity. They are, in effect, more dangerous than animals because human nature is not as constrained or determinate in its expression as that of other animals. The requirement for regulatory constraint, however, is one that must be met by the clan-village structure as well as by the polis. The idea that the polis embodies justice better than family-based organization because it is based on a rational ordering principle implies that justice is based on some kind of proportionality. Perhaps Aristotle conceives of the impersonal institutions of justice found in a city as better equipped to educate and restrain human caprice than the potentially arbitrary—because more personal—institutions of justice in a clan-village society. The implication seems to be that an artificial orderly unit like the polis is better at taming our unruly tendencies than haphazard, natural social arrangements. In Book 7 of the Politics, Aristotle makes reference to the idea of a natural limit.¹¹⁰ While he includes plants and animals in this discussion, his main illustration is a ship: the limit he has in mind is perhaps better described as functional rather than natural, since his argument is that a ship that is either too large or too small would be unable to perform its proper job. His point here isn’t just about limiting the size of a city: he is addressing the possibility of a different kind of political organization altogether, the ethnos or nation state.¹¹¹ While the issue is expressed in terms of a debate about natures, Aristotle’s real concern to defend the city may be a response to the changing political climate in his day. Commentators have remarked on the historical irony that Aristotle valorizes the city state as the acme of political organization at exactly the time when his countryman and sometime pupil, Alexander of Macedon, was making that very institution a ¹⁰⁶ Πολιτικὰ δ’ ἐστὶν ὧν ἕν τι καὶ κοινὸν γίνεται πάντων τὸ ἔργον, ὅπερ οὐ πάντα ποιεῖ τὰ ἀγελαῖα. ἔστι δὲ τοιοῦτον ἄνθρωπος, μέλιττα, σφήξ, μύρμηξ, γέρανος. HA 1.1, 488a8–10: Kraut (2002), p. 248; cf. Kullmann (1991), pp. 100–1. ¹⁰⁷ cf. Annas (1996), p. 737; Kraut (2007). ¹⁰⁸ Pol. 1.2, 1253b31–9. ¹⁰⁹ Pol. 1.2, 1253a31–3. ¹¹⁰ Pol. 7.4, 1326a35–9. Cf. Lloyd (2008), pp. 187–8. ¹¹¹ Pol. 7.4, 1326b2–5.

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thing of the past.¹¹² Aristotle’s explicit criticism of the nation state in Politics 7.4 is very brief: he asks only who will be general over its armies, or have a loud enough voice to serve as herald.¹¹³ If this seems like a logistical problem that could be resolved, it may be a stand-in for other, deeper critiques of large-scale political organization, in favour of independent city states. Civic authority, which allowed for face-to-face communication and decision-making, may have seemed to Aristotle to represent a human scale of interaction. While the explicit emphasis is on the city’s self-sufficiency, autarcheia, the true focus may not be on the shortcomings of the clan-village structure in fulfilling material necessities, but rather on the autonomy of the city states that were being swallowed up by Macedonian conquests. In a context where overt criticism of the Macedonian rulers might be ill-advised, the notion that the city represents a natural culmination might be viewed as a covert argument against increasing the size of the unit.¹¹⁴ In other words, it is not the early stages that are the true focus, but the notion of a terminal point. Had Aristotle critiqued the alternative form of social organization more explicitly, he might have been able to argue that the one form meets social needs better than the other. In a context where such explicit comparisons had to be avoided, the appeal to the naturalness of the polis may surely have been a socially acceptable way to argue his case. We see how little biology informs his appeal to nature in the critique of Lycophron, who is mentioned in Book 3 as an advocate of the view that the state is only an alliance for mutual security and not for ethical development.¹¹⁵ Aristotle’s rebuttal is that law and justice can be beneficial institutions, and are not merely necessary conveniences or illegitimate restraints placed on the individualist pursuit of ‘natural’, self-interested goals.¹¹⁶ On this account, Aristotle’s emphasis on the need for a more intricate civil society to constitute a political community is a reasoned rejection of conventionalism, but not necessarily a whole-hearted endorsement of an organicist model of the city.¹¹⁷ Robert Mulgan thinks Aristotle mistakely conflates two senses of the polis: the overtly political institutions, which it is the proper business of the state to perfect, and the complex structures of civil society that are not best managed from a top-down approach.¹¹⁸ The conventionalist theory of political organization is based on a very different picture of the relationship between the individual and that whole. It sees all institutions as rationally justified restrictions agreed to—at least implicitly—from necessity and for the satisfaction of self-interested desires. The

¹¹² Kelsen (1977); Bodéüs (1993); Lord (1984), pp. 6, 21. ¹¹³ Pol. 7.4, 1326b5–7. ¹¹⁴ While oblique references might be a reasonable interpretation on some subjects, I am not endorsing the position of Pangle (2013), who interprets the entire work in terms of hidden messages and secret doctrines. ¹¹⁵ Pol. 3.9, 1280a35–1281a2. ¹¹⁶ Mulgan (1977), pp. 18 ff. ¹¹⁷ Mulgan (1977), p. 18. ¹¹⁸ Mulgan (1977), p. 26.

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         educative or perfective role of institutions and practices would have no place, in this picture. Mulgan is probably correct to identify conventionalism as Aristotle’s primary target in insisting on the naturalness of the city. While some social structures might be justified in terms of their role in furthering the ends mandated by our ‘first’ or biological nature, we cannot simply look to nature to determine what form the city must take. Our best understanding of the virtues, ethical practice, beneficial social arrangements, are all subjects of rational reflection, innovation, and amelioration. Nothing in Aristotle’s text suggests that our political life has a default form, of a kind to which it could be subject to investigation as an Archimedean point. A rhetorical reading of the appeal to nature makes most sense of Aristotle’s claims. If Aristotle intended to apply a normative naturalism to the analysis of politics, we would expect his assessment of particular constitutions to appeal to what is natural, or to import substantive criteria of assessment from the biological realm. In fact, he makes very little use of the notion of nature after Book One.¹¹⁹ When Aristotle comes to develop his account of the best city in Politics Book 7, he claims that the best city is one in which people act as well as possible.¹²⁰ Were Aristotle relying on human nature to establish the goals of the city, we would expect some reference to nature here.¹²¹ However, Aristotle eschews reference to activities and focuses on action, the sphere of human choice and not of natural functions. It is only because we can choose that we participate in cities at all;¹²² and choice is exactly the capacity that allows us to transcend our biological mandate. Good cities seem, then, to be those that foster our ethical capabilities, rather than our biological natures; they engage with our rational selves, and not with our organic nature.

Aristotle as a Social Scientist Before concluding this discussion of the Politics, I need to consider an objection. I have been arguing that Aristotle is not an ethical naturalist because he does not appeal to a biological or externally validated notion of human nature to answer substantive ethical questions. I have been dismissing the apparent counter-evidence of Politics Book One, on the grounds that the Politics shows little evidence of the notion of nature found in the biological work. This is the kind of notion that might—according to the reading of Aristotle’s teleology offered by the Explanatory ¹¹⁹ Ambler (1985) documents this more thoroughly: see esp. n. 23. Book 7 is the only other book where nature plays a significant role, and not to the extent of Book One. ¹²⁰ Pol. 7.1, 1323a17. ¹²¹ Nussbaum (1988), p. 148, interprets this as ‘functioning’ well: her project is to try to show how maximizing human capabilities informs Aristotle’s politics. While I am independently sympathetic to both, I suspect that her two projects are somewhat in tension: the reliance on capabilities as an argument for social justice is stronger the more objectively grounded the capabilities, while her reading of Aristotle’s notion of human nature as deeply internalist jettisons the aspiration to an Archimedean Point. ¹²² Pol. 3.9, 1280a32–4.

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Hypothesis—be seen as an approximation to an Archimedean Point. Only if we have an account of nature justified empirically—something approximating a valueneutral perspective—could we have an ethical naturalism of the Archimedean sense Williams identified. This might seem to be privileging biology over the social sciences as a benchmark of naturalism.¹²³ If, as readers have noted, the notion of nature found in the Politics is simply different, might we not still have a kind of naturalism based on a different notion of nature, i.e. one appropriate to political theory? There are descriptive and classificatory aspects of the Politics; it is an epistêmê of sorts, as much as is biology. Aristotle has been described as a social scientist by some readers.¹²⁴ Particularly given my suggestion that the natural good and the ethical good are distinct, why not anticipate that there might be a kind of naturalism internal to the normative work, or to the Politics alone? The idea that Politics may be understood as a systematic investigation with empirical elements is a plausible one. Whether it offers evidence of Aristotle drawing substantive normative conclusions from his descriptive work is another matter. Such a project would need to engage with cultural forms, which are inevitably products of the human capacity for reason and reflection. Social sciences today, even with the benefit of centuries-old models of descriptive sciences, either struggle with or abandon entirely the project of producing a value-neutral, descriptive account of the products of human rationality. Is there reason to think that Aristotle is attempting any such separation? Should we suppose that these works could be regarded as developing a kind of naturalism of their own, one which is based on a kind of empirical method appropriate to the social sciences? The methodological stance of different parts of the Politics may demand different answers. Books 2, 3, 7, and 8 are sometimes grouped together, as they consist of books surveying existing constitutions and theoretical proposals with an overtly normative aim, i.e. to determine the best practices. Books 2 and 3 inquire into existing constitutions as well as theoretical proposals, with an eye to discovering good practices and classifying forms of constitutions; Books 7 and 8 consider more detailed questions concerning the necessities of the state and the appropriate system of education. In assessing the success of constitutions, some of the criteria used may seem to be defensible on broadly acceptable grounds of internal coherence, such as longevity or their consistency with their own explicit mandate.¹²⁵ Other criteria, such as whether there is a successful system of slavery to free citizens from work, are more overtly value-laden.¹²⁶ Common assent is cited as sufficient justification for practices that are by no means universal, such as communal meals.¹²⁷ The investigation of the Politics ¹²³ I owe this suggestion to Jean Roberts and Brad Inwood. ¹²⁴ e.g. Salkever (1991); Lord and O’Connor (1991). ¹²⁵ Pol. 2.7, 1266a38; 2.9, 1269a32–4. ¹²⁶ Pol. 2.9, 1269a34–6. ¹²⁷ Pol. 7.10, 1330a3.

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cannot be regarded as beginning from a descriptive basis, inasmuch as judgement of the success of constitutions depends on the conclusions of the ethics as to what constitutes a good life for its citizens, and whether citizens are virtuous.¹²⁸ The text makes little attempt to distinguish factual and evaluative criteria. Criticisms that proposals are not practically feasible are cited alongside dismissals of other proposals as unseemly, indecorous, childish, or improper. Some recommendations are based on etiquette, or overtly aesthetic criteria.¹²⁹ When he turns to reflect on the nature of the inquiry itself, Aristotle seems not to be interested in the distinction between a descriptive and a normative inquiry. At one point he pauses to ask whether politics as a technê—an art or craft—should be said to alter with time.¹³⁰ The rationale he offers for the idea that it should is that human political arrangements may change and improve, as in fact his own society rejected former practices as barbaric. On the other hand, he goes on as if it is not the art itself that is changing, but rather that it is offering an ideal that societies may approximate more or less closely.¹³¹ The first seems to suppose that the inquiry is descriptive, the later passage that it is normative. It could be that he sees the art as normative, but accepts that the contents change as societies alter historically. On the other hand, he may simply not be distinguishing the two very clearly. There is little explicit reflection on methodology. A sympathetic and full-bodied analysis of Aristotle’s claims as a social scientist is that proposed by Stephen Salkever. It is helpful to consider, since it shows how such an attempt to engage with Aristotle’s methodology leaves behind any notions that he aspires to an empirical approach. Salkever argues that the Politics is better classified as a work of social than political science, since it does not restrict itself to analysis of political interactions—those directed by nomoi, i.e. laws and decision-procedures, and directed towards a conception of the good—but also concerns itself with other interactions—such as those with family, friends, military, markets—that impact directly political interactions.¹³² Salkever contrasts Aristotle’s conception of social science with two modern conceptions—the empiricist and the interpretive tradition of social thought—inasmuch as Aristotle takes the job of the social scientist to include critique of existing social institutions. He argues that Aristotle’s conception of his procedure matches neither of two common readings: he is neither undertaking a project driven by autonomous ethical goals alone, nor does he regard human behaviour as driven by biology.¹³³ Rather, biological needs set parameters to the human good and provide problems that reason must solve. Human beings, Salkever thinks, are characterized by Aristotle as having a relatively weak hormê or impulse towards the kind of community that is needed for their

¹²⁸ ¹²⁹ ¹³⁰ ¹³²

Pol. 3.9, 1280b4–12; Pol. 3.4. Pol. 2.4, 1262a37; 2.9, 1270a12; 1271b10–11; 7.11, 1330b21, 1331a14. Pol. 2.8, 1268b26–8. ¹³¹ Pol. 2.8, 1268b38–1269a28. Salkever (1991), p. 13. ¹³³ Salkever (1991), p. 26.

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  ’ 

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flourishing.¹³⁴ While cultures develop haphazardly and are often ill-suited to their purpose, the social scientist does not have the option of redesigning them on rational utopian principles—as Plato tried—but can only offer critique and correction of existing practices. Because of the diversity of human beings and the multiplicity of incommensurable goods that the city must provide, the adjudication of these goods must be made by the phronimos. In Aristotle’s view, this means that good rule cannot be subject to a decision procedure or scientific principle. For example, the city aims to produce both virtuous citizens and stability, but regimes composed of farmers— while they may be the most stable—do not allow the leisure to cultivate excellences.¹³⁵ No one formula will cover all contingencies; good judgement is needed. This reading of Aristotle’s credentials as a social scientist suggests a conception of a discipline that is responsive to biological constraints but not driven by it. In this regard, it is congruent with the position I have been arguing, according to which Aristotle can not be understood as an Archimedean ethical naturalist. It illustrates a formulation of Aristotle’s conception of social science as a distinct enterprise which does not aspire to be empirically grounded, however important its descriptive aspects. Salkever’s proposal offers us a reading of the notion of a ‘science’ that does not presuppose that biological criteria are used to justify or ground the demands of the polis on its citizens. By parallel argument, the appeal to biological nature would not be taken as mandating a particular social form, or to be sufficient to justify any given practices. Nature sets certain constraints within which social forms develop; the discussion as to which is best is this a question for practical reason, not for scientific theory. My project does not directly concern the Politics, and does not aspire to a definitive interpretation: only insofar as it seemed to offer evidence of Aristotle’s naturalism is it under consideration. I take it that the articulation of a conception of social science such as that Salkever sketches shows how politics might be conceived as a science without supposing that its notion of nature offers an Archimedean point. Rather, Aristotle could consider politics to be a science—a structured form of inquiry with its own distinctive goals and methods—in a way that does not aspire to be empirically grounded. Aristotle’s use of ‘natural’ in the Politics may well be—as I have been arguing—a rhetorical stance claiming the legitimacy of the political sphere. There is no reason to suppose he is relying on an empirically grounded notion of nature, and many reasons to reject the identification with the notion of phusis elaborated in the biological work.

¹³⁴ Salkever (1991), p. 31.

¹³⁵ Salkever (1991).

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6 The Case against a Naturalist Reading In the previous two chapters I considered the evidence, in the ethical treatises and the Politics, for supposing that Aristotle is an Archimedean ethical naturalist. I argued that, in the Ethics, the evidence is scant, with the appeal to nature setting only very general parameters, and not ones that provide much substantive guidance on living the best life. The Politics, by contrast, makes substantive claims based on appeals to human nature, particularly throughout Book One. The sense of ‘nature’ used in this work, however, bears little relationship to the notion employed in the biological work, and could thus not serve as an Archimedean Point. Here, I develop the case against reading Aristotle as an Archimedean ethical naturalist. Following John McDowell, there are several programmatic commitments in the Ethics that militate against such an interpretation.¹ These are the noninstrumental or final value accorded to the virtues;² the absence of a detailed blueprint for living well, a blueprint which would have no place in Aristotle’s picture of the world; and the account of practical reason. Because Aristotle grants to practical reason an autonomy that goes far beyond the instrumental realization of ends, the importance of reason as the culmination of human development is no argument for a naturalist reading of the ethics. If the appeal to human nature provided substantive ethical prescriptions, we would expect practical reason to be characterized very differently. Practical reason is neither deductive not rule-governed, inasmuch as it involves responding appropriately to complex particular situations, using both discursive reasoning and situational interpretation. Discursive reason may assist in deciding what to do in a particular situation; however, as David Wiggins and John McDowell have argued, categorizing a situation according to the appropriate concepts is needed to determine what kind of virtue is appropriate. This latter, holistic capacity resides in the agent with developed virtues of character, which is why it cannot be reduced to rules.

¹ McDowell (1998a). ² I thank an anonymous reviewer for pointing to Korsgaard’s insistence that it is wrong to use ‘intrinsic’ as a synonym for non-instrumental value.

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I suggest further that we can endorse this rightly popular interpretation of Aristotle without necessarily assimilating his thought to contemporary particularism.

The Non-Instrumental Value of the Virtues One puzzle about the kind of work that the appeal to nature is meant to play in Aristotle’s ethics can be formulated as a query about the derivation of the virtues, i.e. excellences of character. If human nature is meant to tell us what kind of life is best for us, we should expect the account of the qualities of a good human being to be formulated with reference to human nature. It is widely acknowledged, however, that the rationale behind Aristotle’s list of the virtues or excellences is difficult to discern.³ A further puzzle is that, if the ethical sense of good is derived from our species nature, the qualities that make for a good human being would seem to be ones that further the goals of our biological flourishing. This not only suggests that the list of virtues should be systematically derived from an account of our biological end, but also implies that the virtues should be characterized as qualities serving that natural end. In other words, in a naturalistic framework, the qualities we admire as ethical would be instrumentally valuable, honoured only insofar as they help in realizing our biological goals.⁴ Yet Aristotle insists repeatedly that the virtues and the activities to which they give rise be valued for their own sake. Whatever their origin, his account even allows that the most prized qualities are not those best suited to further natural goals. Commentators have puzzled over the rationale for the list of the virtues and questioned whether Aristotle thought there was some principle of derivation behind the lists he offers. Aristotle’s lists of virtues is more expansive than the canonical four, i.e. wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice.⁵ In both the Nicomachean and the Eudemian Ethics, Aristotle offers a more varied list, partly by subdividing some qualities like temperance into specific varieties. He also includes socially valued qualities such as liberality and magnificence in spending. The list in Rhetoric 1.9 is more compressed, enumerating nine virtues.⁶ In the Eudemian Ethics, Aristotle distinguishes the virtues from the broader category of goods—honour, wealth, physical excellence, luck, and power—that could be used for good or ill. His explicit criterion for identifying the virtues is that these qualities are praised.⁷ This notion of what is praised suggests a public or social procedure for identifying the virtues. ³ Kraut (2002), p. 70; Broadie and Rowe (2002), p. 23. MacIntyre (1966) regards the list as reflecting the values of the day. For an argument that Aristotle did not intend to offer a standard beyond the judgement of the phronimos, see Chappell (2005), p. 249. ⁴ McDowell (1998a). ⁵ The list in Plato’s Protagoras, which includes piety along with them: Prot. 349B. Cf. Hutchinson and Johnson (2014), pp. 395–6, who conclude, from examining the Protrepticus, that the four traditional virtues are ‘central but not cardinal’. ⁶ Rhet. 1.9, 1366b1–2. ⁷ EE 7.15/8.3, 1248b8–35.

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       

Although this does not eliminate the possibility that the virtues have some common feature, the mere fact of public acclaim would not lead us to expect a unifying criterion. Aristotle may simply be reporting the fact that some qualities are valued, and not supposing that ethics could determine a priori what qualities we ought to care about. Scholars have nonetheless proposed different strategies that might have been used to generate Aristotle’s list of virtues, or that would serve as a criterion for inclusion. Korsgaard tries to link Aristotle’s notion of virtue to that of the human function or ergon. She understands function as a way of proceeding rather than a kind of process—‘how it does what it does’—and interprets this as a question about the particular way of living appropriate to the organism.⁸ She takes Aristotle to be arguing that the functions definitive of living are realized, for each kind of creature, in ways that accord with its highest function: just as the faculties of perception, locomotion, and desire transform the realization of the nutritive faculty in animals, so reason informs the realization of all functions of life for human beings. It is against this background that Korsgaard takes Aristotle to be claiming that virtues are instrumental to rational activity.⁹ It is not clear, however, how reasoning would require exactly the list of virtues Aristotle offers.¹⁰ It was a common Platonic theme that unchecked appetite impedes rational thought; a degree of temperance and moderation of bodily desire are needed to permit rationality to manifest itself in our actions. Some virtues such as courage may help provide necessary conditions for successful implementation of our choices. Nonetheless, it seems harder to make this case for other traits Aristotle lists, such as magnificence. Rationality seems to be more a precondition of justice, or for wit, than vice versa. Like Korsgaard, Gabriel Richardson Lear takes the leisured activity of theoretical reason—contemplation—to be unequivocally Aristotle’s view of the human telos, and takes the list of virtues to be derived from the commitment to this goal. She thus argues that the fineness of virtuous actions consists in their expression of ‘the agent’s devotion to most excellent truthfulness’.¹¹ On her account, virtues are traits resulting in actions that display a commitment to truthfulness.¹² This notion of ‘displaying a commitment’ is intended to avoid casting virtues as crudely instrumental, in the sense of requisites to produce the commitment. Yet even if it avoids making them instrumental, the need to justify virtues by reference to the goal of contemplation still seems to be according these qualities a secondary and derivative status, and strains the ordinary meaning of valuing these qualities for themselves. The soldier of a nonphilosophical city, who chooses courage simply because it is the right thing to do, would thereby be deemed to have an inferior form of the virtue to the soldier who is

⁸ Korsgaard (2008a). ⁹ Korsgaard (2008b), pp. 167–8. ¹⁰ As Korsgaard (2008b), p. 168, indeed recognizes. ¹¹ Richardson Lear (2004), p. 125. ¹² She recognizes, however, that it is a stretch to describe the great-souled person as engaged in contemplation: Richardson Lear (2004), pp. 169–71.

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defending a city because it allows some other people time to philosophize. This seems wrong. In a different context, Richardson Lear tries to reconcile the idea that appreciating fineness is to accord final value with the notion that the beautiful has specific content and brings pleasure: these additional virtues make it easier for the virtuous agent to understand the final worth of fine actions.¹³ However, the final value of fine actions would still need to be apparent to the virtuous, even if for some reason they failed to derive pleasure from aesthetic properties. The case for an intellectualist justification for the virtues was rejected by John Cooper in 1975: he identified a number of ways in which Aristotle’s account militates against this idea that the virtues are instrumentally directed towards a single goal. In particular, he noted that the structured identification of the vices includes the insistence that we can have too little desire for pleasure as well as too much. This notion of a vice would be very hard to reconcile with the notion that virtues are directed towards furthering contemplation.¹⁴ It is easy to see how too much pleasure can interfere with contemplation, but liking pleasure too little is hardly an impediment. Virtues like seeking the right amount of social honours also resist this kind of interpretation. The doctrine of the mean is another way that some interpreters have tried to unify the list of virtues. While the popular reception of the idea of the mean understands it as an appeal for moderation,¹⁵ interpreters agree that it is not intended as advocacy of some kind of middle path.¹⁶ As Irwin notes, the doctrine is not empty for being imprecise: it would preclude, at a minimum, the view that virtue requires eliminating certain desires altogether.¹⁷ Aristotle offers some positive evidence in the Eudemian Ethics for the notion that the mean holds a structurally different position than a mere midpoint on a continuum. He points out that we find individuals exhibiting both extremes at once, e.g. vacillating between rashness and cowardice.¹⁸ The mean is more opposed to the extremes than the extremes are to each other. This seems to imply that the person who has achieved the mean does so by means of a certain skill, which makes their choices and actions distinctive in a way that is visibly different from that of the beginner. The mean is thus not merely a statistically intermediary position that most people can be expected to happen upon some of the time, but an self-evidently virtuous position that exhibits a stability in contrast to the vacillating reactions of the non-virtuous. Christopher Rowe suggests that the mean was a more substantive doctrine in the Eudemian Ethics than in the later Nicomachean Ethics.¹⁹ In the Eudemian Ethics and Magna Moralia, there is evidence of a more physical conception of the mean,

¹³ Richardson Lear (2006). ¹⁴ Cooper (1975), p. 109. ¹⁵ Hursthouse (1980); Papin (2008) surveys the modern reception of this doctrine. ¹⁶ NE 6.1, 1138b25; Rowe (1971a), p. 45; Urmson (1980), p. 162; Annas (1993), p. 59; Irwin (2000). Cf. Broadie (1991), pp. 188–90; Chappell (2006), pp. 146–7. ¹⁷ Irwin (2000), p. 116. ¹⁸ EE 3.7, 1234b2–6. ¹⁹ Rowe (1971a), p. 45.

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       

analogous to the idea of good tempering or tone of a practised muscle or a well-tuned string. The suggestion that the mean is a kind of good conditioning is congruent with the idea that good character represents a stable position and not merely a statistical mean. Such a stable point might be thought to have beneficial qualities that would help us avoid the temptations of the extremes. Paula Gottlieb indeed takes Aristotle to view the virtues as representing a kind of equilibrium point.²⁰ However, an equilibrium is a self-correcting system with built-in mechanisms to restore a particular standard when some deviation is introduced: nothing in Aristotle’s text suggests this. Gottlieb tries to justify the notion of equilibrium by pointing to a balance, and to a harmony between several elements.²¹ She uses the analogy to the balanced state of a pair of scales to illustrate the idea of reacting correctly. Still, the notion of balance suggests a state to be restored rather than a capacity for reacting appropriately to varied circumstances. Balance or harmony might describe a precondition for virtuous behaviour, but is hardly an account of virtue itself. While modern readers may equate balance with efficient functioning, there is little to suggest this was Aristotle’s intent. Philippa Foot suggested that concern for virtues and vices arose to handle situations where there is a need for a corrective against human tendencies on matters that admit of degree.²² There may theoretically be excesses or deficits in the amount that we breathe, say, or drink water, but—given that the temptation to err is minor and of minimal social consequence—there is little need to introduce a regulative ideal. The implication of this ‘corrective’ notion may be that attaining a particular state is needed for optimal functioning, because it better enables us to achieve some other goal. However, there are limitations to this picture: again, few are tempted to experience too little pleasure. Most of the virtues are directed towards the needs of the social unit rather than the individual. It seems hard to explain justice or the virtues of sociability except as other-directed. If the primary reason for stressing certain qualities is that they enable us to live together, this would lend specific content to Foot’s notion of a corrective. Given that there are potential conflicts between the natural impulses that serve an individual’s interests and our collective needs, social excellences need to be cultivated. Courage is not said to be necessary for the individual’s self-preservation, but rather for securing important collective ends that require personal sacrifice.²³ Aristotle explicitly contrasts true courage with a wild beast’s tendency to defend itself.²⁴ The Rhetoric comes close to suggesting a unifying theme for identifying the virtues, proposing that the qualities that benefit others are the finest.²⁵ We see the social ²⁰ Gottlieb (2009), p. 23. ²¹ Gottlieb (2009), pp. 23–5. ²² Foot (1978); see also Kraut (2002), p. 71. ²³ NE 3.8, 1116a16–b23. ²⁴ NE 3.8, 1116a30–1117a9. ²⁵ Roberts (1989), p. 189, finds this explicit in NE also. The emphasis on the other-directed justification for the virtues speaks against too stark a contrast between Aristotelian and modern notions of the ethical: cf. Annas (1993).

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nature of the virtues most sharply in qualities connected with the handling of resources, especially money. Modern readers may place less value on some of the norms Aristotle identifies concerning the niceties of social interaction, seeing these as closer to etiquette than to properly moral rules. In Aristotle’s social world, these kinds of distinctions may have seemed weightier. Aristotle does acknowledge that small failures in taste are not harmful to others, and so are not as ethically charged.²⁶ Norms about giving would likely be more important in a society with few other ways of funding public goods. In ancient Athens, philanthropy was used for everything from sponsoring embassies to funding triremes:²⁷ the voluntary aspiration of the wealthy for honours was crucial for the funding of public goods. Liberality was seen as a mark not only of good taste but even of nobility, to be repaid by public recognition and honour.²⁸ Some at least of what seems to us to be mere etiquette would likely have had more significance in the fourth-century social context. It is, however, a mistake to regard Aristotle’s virtues as simply those that serve some goal such as the good of the community.²⁹ The ethical treatises include as virtues notions like the proper enjoyment of pleasure that cannot be explained as other-directed. The reference to the importance of the noble for the courageous person suggests that virtues are not instrumental qualities helping us reach our end, whether as individuals or as members of a collective.³⁰ While many of the virtues Aristotle names play an important role in social life, this does not override his insistence that they must be valued for themselves to count as true virtue.³¹ Courage, for example, can be considered fine all by itself, without reference to any further goal it promotes.³² Aristotle makes this point when he rejects the Spartan system of military training on the grounds that such training can at best produce rashness and not courage.³³ Even the politikê andreia or civic courage ascribed to Hector is not true courage, since it is inspired by shame and not wisdom.³⁴ Animals likewise may be bold but do not exhibit the nobility of courage. Qualities exercised without the use of judgement are explicitly said not to be virtues. It was widely acknowledged that the Spartan system was very effective in producing warriors: such a coterie of rash young heroes may be very socially useful without being, in Aristotle’s view, the most admirable.³⁵ They would be mere pawns of the state, not truly autonomous citizens. Aristotle contrasts such instrumentally useful traits to the truly choice-worthy. He criticizes the Spartan training on the grounds that it does not produce true virtue. What the Spartans do not do is cultivate the

²⁶ ²⁸ ²⁹ ³⁰ ³¹ ³² ³³ ³⁵

NE 4.2, 1122a32–3. ²⁷ NE 4.2, 1122a23–5. On this, cf. Russell (2012). NE 4.2, 1122b20–6. Cf. Cooper (1975), p. 110. For a critique of Irwin’s defence of this idea, cf. Richardson Lear (2006). NE 3.8, 1116a3. MacIntyre (1984); the logic is well illustrated by McDowell (1998a), pp. 191–2. See Crisp (2014), for an argument about the independent value of to kalon. EE 7.15/8.3, 1248b36–1249a3; Pol. 8.4, 1338b9–38. ³⁴ EE 3.1, 1230a16–33. White (1992), p. 235.

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       

associated judgement that consists in choosing the courageous action as a courageous person would, i.e. because it is noble or fine. A distinction is drawn between merely instrumental and non-instrumental ways of valuing. The fineness of a genuine virtue would be apparent even in conditions where it is not useful;³⁶ merely useful traits do not necessarily come to be appreciated as fine.³⁷ The notion of to kalon—which may be translated as fine, noble, or beautiful—has been read as setting up an independent, aesthetic standard of beauty.³⁸ However, given that he sometimes contrasts it with a sense of to agathon or ‘the good’ that slides into the sense of utility,³⁹ to kalon may simply be a way of referring to the instrinsic appeal of the virtues.⁴⁰ We value them merely for their fineness, and not for some further good that they bring. The visual language of immediacy contrasts with the calculative, utilitarian spirit that would weigh the consequences. The Politics likewise insists that the goal of the city is to produce fine actions, not to further the utilitarian needs of the community.⁴¹ The naturalist reading of Aristotle has difficulty explaining why character virtues should be valued for themselves, and not for their contribution to some naturally given end. In claiming that the city came into being to serve the necessities of life but exists for the sake of the good life,⁴² Aristotle recognizes that an institution with instrumental origins can yet come to have final value. I suggest that this is also the case with the virtues. While the needs of human nature may have been the initial reason why certain qualities came to be admired, our appreciation for particular virtues does not depend upon, nor coincide with, their instrumental contribution towards natural goals. Rather, we value them for themselves, sometimes even in situations where their exercise is not conducive to natural goals. This ‘reflective endorsement’ of certain qualities by human choice is at odds with an Archimedean naturalistic justification for the virtues. They exemplify our notions of what is fine and good, not of what is natural.

The Missing Blueprint and the Non-Deductive Nature of Practical Reason Besides the final value of the virtues, there are two further indications that Aristotle does not turn to human nature for substantive guidance in ethics. One is simply that we do not find any such detailed blueprint for living well in the ethical works, nor any reason to suppose that Aristotle thought there was one. Human nature could only ³⁶ Broadie (1991), p. 45. ³⁷ On Aristotle’s attitude to the Spartans, see White (1992), pp. 219–46; Mulgan (2000), p. 95; Kraut (2002), p. 10. ³⁸ Price (2005); Chappell (2013). This reading of to kalon is rejected by Crisp (2014), p. 244. ³⁹ EE 7.15/8.3, 1249a10–14. ⁴⁰ McDowell (1998a), p. 169. This sense is especially apparent at EE 7.15/8.3, 1248b34–6. ⁴¹ Pol. 3.9, 1281a3. ⁴² Pol. 1.2, 1252b27–30.

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serve as an Archimedean Point if it were clear what human nature would require of us on at least some significant issues. The justification of slavery and the subordinate status of women are examples of the kind of specificity that would be expected: had Aristotle grounded claims of this sort on the kind of biological research that characterizes his mature natural philosophy, his credentials as an Archimedean naturalist would need to be taken seriously. By contrast, the mere stipulation that we must choose a life of reason precludes us from pursuing a life of pleasure, but does not decide more detailed issues. Notoriously, as I argued in Chapter 4, it does not even settle the debate between the bios praktikos and the bios theôretikos. The level of specificity provided by the appeal to human nature is not sufficient to decide ethical questions. It is commonly acknowledged that Aristotle offers us little detail on the ethical life. Aristotle warns his readers not to expect more precision in ethics than the subject matter allows.⁴³ One reason not to expect it is that there is no place for such a blueprint in his metaphysics. There is no Platonic Form of the Good; no legislator god enjoins certain behaviours or issues codes of conduct. The biological account of human nature offers only broad constraints, i.e. that we need to develop certain very general capacities—nutrition, locomotion, reason—and to do so in communities. For animals the options are quite limited, but human reason opens vast possibilities for different ways to realize the basic functions, and to pursue goals that are not driven by necessity at all. It is precisely because of this malleability that we need ethics for guidance. Given the lack of specificity to the account of the good life that is drawn from the appeal to human nature, there is no reason to suppose that Aristotle thought human nature does more than delimit some basic characteristics of the ethical life.⁴⁴ A related question is whether wise agents individually possess a detailed picture of the good life that they employ in ethical deliberations. This issue is not the same as the question whether such a specification of the good life derives from some source other than the mind of the individual, such as the will of God, some Platonic ideal, or our species form. Whatever its source, Sarah Broadie has cast doubt on the idea that, for Aristotle, practical reason necessarily proceeds from an overarching, organizing conception of our lives. Broadie offers a principled argument as to why Aristotle could not have thought that we organize our lives around a ‘Grand End’, i.e. a detailed picture of the human good. She suggests that it would be circular to suppose that practical wisdom works from such a picture, since any picture of the human good would need to include the account of practical wisdom, yet the account that Aristotle is developing in the Ethics makes ineliminable reference to the human good.⁴⁵ As the two notions are mutually entailing, there cannot be a detailed picture ⁴³ NE 1.3, 1094b12–14. ⁴⁴ This notion that nature merely sets boundaries is considered by Annas (2005), pp. 17–18. ⁴⁵ Broadie (1991), p. 200.

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of the human good available antecedently: rather, they unfold together. Richard Kraut, who defends the ‘Grand End’ hypothesis against Broadie’s objections, sees this mutual entailment as unproblematic rather than as viciously circular: our current picture of the shape of our lives necessarily contains a concern for maintaining the future practical reason that we will need to use in making decisions.⁴⁶ Kraut casts reasonable doubt on the claim that the mutual involvement of practical reason and our conception of the good with one another is such as to be prohibitive. Another problem Broadie sees with the ‘Grand End’ hypothesis is that we can understand ordinary practical judgements without already having a philosophical theory. Indeed, Aristotle needs to presuppose that we know what is involved in making some judgements before we can begin philosophizing. We can identify others as judging wisely, whether or not we—or they—have a philosophically unified concept of the human good.⁴⁷ This seems to suggest that assessments of the rightness of individual actions in particular situations can be made antecedently to the recognition of the correctness of an overall life plan. Broadie points to our pretheoretical ability to recognize the goodness of isolated actions. It was a recognition Socrates assumed, when he asked his interlocutors to begin reasoning from their understanding of a virtuous action. This is something they could reasonably be expected to identify, without always knowing the life plan of the person executing it. Unless we could do this, we would face the difficulty that there would be no way into a closed circle, where the notions of good judgement and virtuous character both presuppose and are required for the conception of a good life as a whole. I am not sure this feature supports Broadie’s position, nonetheless. We can accept that the ability to recognize the phronimos belongs to ordinary agents of no more than moderate virtue, without denying that more than this is needed to be practically wise. Broadie’s positive suggestion is that we merely deliberate towards particular ends, with a general end of ‘doing well’ only implicitly in mind.⁴⁸ This may be correct as a description of ordinary moral reasoning of a non-philosophical moral agent. However, Aristotle can recognize that non-experts reason adequately without a reflectively organized picture, while still urging the philosophically adept to organize their priorities more clearly. Broadie is reluctant to ascribe to Aristotle a view according to which ordinary, non-philosophical citizens are barred from qualifying as practically wise. Kraut has no such reluctance: he thinks Aristotle embraces a kind of intellectualism about practical wisdom as much as about theoretical acumen.⁴⁹ That is, philosophical reflection helps consolidate and reinforce good decision-making, even if the skills involved are initially acquired without it. Kraut cites as the strongest evidence in favour of a ‘Grand End’ conception the positive recommendation of Eudemian Ethics that it is foolish not to organize our priorities and formulate a life ⁴⁶ Kraut (1993), p. 369. ⁴⁷ Broadie (1991), pp. 200–1. ⁴⁸ Broadie (1991), esp. pp. 198–202; 234–8; Price (2005); Russell (2009). ⁴⁹ Kraut (1993), p. 370.

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plan.⁵⁰ To do so, however, requires practical wisdom and not theoretical study: there may be some crossover between the two abilities, but Aristotle need not believe that they are the same: people of practical commonsense need not be not experts in theory. Some of this debate may simply turn on how detailed and specific interpreters take a ‘Grand End’ to be. Inglis suggests that the claim that our end is ‘the active life of complete virtue’ is what is meant by a blueprint,⁵¹ and the question is then whether all our particular decisions are justified by reference to this eventual goal. I take it that the notion that we have a ‘blueprint’ for our lives would need to be much more detailed and articulated than this, if it is to guide deliberation. If all that we know is that we should be actively virtuous, this might rule out choices that were blatantly self-destructive, for example, but would give little guidance on what virtues to develop or how to exercise them. On the other hand, because practical choices are inevitably responsive to changing circumstances, a reasonable life plan cannot be too precisely articulated or deductively applied. Practical wisdom is by its nature improvisational and interpretative: it would be equally silly to expect our lives to conform to a preconceived prescription. Aristotle evidently believes that reflection helps us organize our priorities at the advanced stages of ethical development. What matters most for present purposes is whence we derive our detailed picture of the good life, if we have one. In urging us to organize our priorities in Eudemian Ethics, Aristotle seems not to be telling us to look to an external source—human nature, Zeus, the Forms—for direction. The ‘folly’ or lack of thought that Aristotle criticizes is the refusal to think through the consequences of our commitments and their mutual compatibility. If a ‘Grand End’ were simply our conception of who we are and what we want to get out of life, there would be no reason to think that a generic conception of human nature would play much part in formulating it. It is rather an individualized life plan that falls somewhere within the range of options available to human beings, and has accorded priority to some goals over others. If our particular situations and propensities are allowed to weigh in our choices—as they surely must be—then the appeal to human nature would provide only minimal guidance here. The concept of human nature Aristotle formulates in the biological works supplies only very general, species-wide norms: we need to live in a way that actualizes our basic functional capacities, and uses our reason. But our individual life plans must take account of our individual capacities, strengths, aspirations, and commitments. To be sure, we should recognize our human needs and limitations: failing to sleep or exercise would be as foolish as trying to fly. Most of our thought, however, concerns much more individualized choices. McDowell has mounted a thoroughgoing attack on the notion that practical reason consists in making deductive inferences from a detailed blueprint, because

⁵⁰ Kraut (1993), p. 365.

⁵¹ Inglis (2014), p. 266.

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of the picture of practical reason that it entails.⁵² He argues that Broadie’s position evidences an intellectualist prejudice, ignoring Aristotle’s broader challenge to the idea that deductive reasoning is involved in deliberating. McDowell views practical reason in Aristotle as a faculty for making holistic judgements, and thus regards it as reflecting the character of the agent. McDowell thinks Broadie concludes that reasoning must be directed to the fulfilment of particular ends, merely because she cannot conceive of a role for reasoning other than that of finding means to satisfy an end. He says that Broadie’s reading ‘reflects a deductivist prejudice about the very idea of applying a universal’,⁵³ leaving nothing essentially practical about practical wisdom.⁵⁴ He plausibly suggests that the proper role of practical reason includes the specification of ends that are not clearly conceived. Broadie focused on the fact that we deliberate about particular actions with only medium-term or intermediate-level ends in view. McDowell’s point is that assessments of particular actions and grasp of medium-term ends cannot be made in isolation, since it is the developed character of the phronimos that makes possible the correct judgement, rather than a discursive conception of reasoning. His point is that the ability to judge situations correctly simply is what it means to have a concept of doing well. It is an ability rather than a conceptualization.⁵⁵ Wiggins and McDowell have stressed the notion of situational appreciation as a form of ethical decision-making, developing a picture that reflects Aristotle’s insistence on the importance of the virtuous agent, and which shows how there may be other tasks for practical reason than discursive or calculative thought. Faced with a conflict between two claims, the phronimos does not reason from first principles, so much as perceive the situation rightly. Imperfect agents make mistakes because they wrongly weight the importance of the various factors. It is through having cultivated all the virtues—and not just some of them—that the phronimos is in a position to weigh their respective claims. This is not understood as a rule-governed or discursive process: Aristotle describes it as like a kind of perception. It is the internalization of the virtues that allows the phronimos to judge correctly, by seeing rightly what kind of situation it is, i.e. one that calls for kindness and courageous intervention, and not for reliability and obedience. McDowell influentially suggests that, for the virtuous agent, competing considerations are silenced.⁵⁶ This position is meant to capture the authority of the moral over other reasons. ‘Silencing’ may seem plausible in cases of conflicts between virtue and desire, such as that of a temperate person faced with a dessert tray. However, the potential costs of virtuous actions are not limited to the sacrifice of one’s own desires. In conflicts of virtues, it is not obvious that other claims are silenced rather than

⁵² ⁵⁴ ⁵⁵ ⁵⁶

McDowell (1996). ⁵³ McDowell (1996), p. 24. McDowell (1996), p. 29. Russell (2009) provides a nice overview of the debate. McDowell (1996), p. 26. McDowell (1980), pp. 370–1; (1998b), pp. 55–6; (1998d), pp. 90–3.

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outweighed. For present purposes, it is enough to note that it is no threat to the integrity of a phronimos for there to be occasion for regret or reluctance at some of the unfortunate consequences of decisions that need to be made. Tragic conflicts are surely possible, for even the most virtuous agent.⁵⁷ Moreover, as the Aristotelian picture draws the sphere of virtuous choice much larger than that of altruistic actions, there is much greater potential for conflict between the claims of different virtues. I shall return to this issue in considering the relationship of Aristotle’s ethics to contemporary particularism. I have been suggesting that the notion of situational appreciation, articulated by Wiggins and McDowell,⁵⁸ is important to understanding the role of the character of the agent in ‘getting it right’. However, I do not think that this undermines the place of discursive thought, nor of commitment to intermediary goals, in Aristotelian practical reasoning. I believe that we need to leave space for a non-expert’s ability to appreciate the rightness of individual actions of the phronimos. Because the nonexpert cannot be said to possess the correct judgement, this suggests that recognition of correct judgements—as opposed to the skill involved in reliably making them— can be separable from the character of the ideal agent. Some such entry point is necessary for moral learning, as well as to avert a sceptical challenge. A concern that sometimes motivates the rejection of a discursive model of practical reasoning hinges on the question whether a complex world can adequately be captured by general rules. McDowell’s reading of Aristotle is motivated by a Wittgensteinian view about the world as imperfectly subsumable to generalizations.⁵⁹ Aristotle’s natural philosophy allows for genuine coincidences, and for explanatory generalizations that hold ‘for the most part’ and not necessarily always.⁶⁰ If we assume that parallel concerns about law-governedness hold between the descriptive and the normative realm, he would have equal reason to doubt that moral generalizations can predict ethical behaviour in all circumstances. In Politics 2.8, Aristotle recognizes that any codified law is an imperfect attempt to generalize over particulars;⁶¹ practical philosophy is said to be less precise by the nature of its subject matter than theoretical. The essential task of the ethical agent is to see what features are significant in any given situation. No rules could fully determine which set of rules apply, for reasons of regress. On this picture, rules and principles can be articulated after the fact and are often useful guides or rules of thumb, particularly for beginners. However, only the virtuous agent can judge the applicability of competing analyses of a situation and determine under which description a particular situation is best judged.

⁵⁷ ⁵⁸ ⁵⁹ ⁶¹

Nussbaum (1986); Hursthouse (1999). Wiggins (1980); McDowell (1998c), pp. 27–30, esp. n.13; (1998b), pp. 53–7, etc. cf. esp. McDowell (1998b), pp. 58–60. ⁶⁰ e.g. Phys. 2.5, 196b11; 2.8, 198b35. Pol. 2.8, 1269a9–13; cf. Nussbaum (1988b).

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I have not attempted here to offer a complete picture of practical reason, merely to sketch a picture according to which it should not be conceived as deducing particular conclusions from general rules, or from a detailed ‘blueprint’. I have suggested that we can endorse such a picture without forfeiting the role of deliberation in practical thought, or treating it as entirely holistic and quasi-perceptual. For the debate with the Archimedean naturalist, the relevant issue is that we do not seem to reason practically from a pre-existing blueprint for the good life that is obtained from an external source. Nothing in Aristotle’s work suggests that such a prescription for living well can be drawn from human nature.

‘No Deliberation About Ends’ Aristotle’s account of practical reason has seemed to some to suggest that we deliberate merely about means and not about ends. Several texts echo the claim at Nicomachean Ethics 3.3 that we deliberate ‘not about ends but about what is pros ta telê,⁶² i.e. what ‘contributes to ends’, or is ‘towards the end’. This was once commonly read as restricting deliberation to means and not ends.⁶³ The connection between this controversy and the question of naturalism is somewhat indirect, but nonetheless a real one. Those who read Aristotle as an Archimedean naturalist would implicitly be committed to supposing that practical reasoning is instrumental, since the goal is supplied by our biological nature.⁶⁴ From examination of our biology we derive a picture of human flourishing, which consists of actualizing our natural capacities: nutrition, growth, and reproduction; locomotion, perception, desire; and reasoning. If human nature serves as an external point, source, and justification for the demands of ethics, it would also be the central, guiding focus of our deliberations. If ideal agents obtain their goals from human nature, then it would not be the job of practical reason to concern itself with determining our ends, but merely that of finding the means toward them. Ethical naturalism implies that the proper end of human life is provided by nature, and that human practical reason plays no active role in establishing what that end is like. Conversely, the reading I shall develop—that practical reason is essential in setting goals—requires that practical reason not be regarded as purely instrumental, i.e. concerned with means–end reasoning alone.⁶⁵ The claim that it is part of human nature to reason may suggest that the role of practical reason in making ethical judgements is compatible with the view of Aristotle’s ethics as naturalistic. If we regard practical reason as an instrument or ⁶² NE 3.3, 1112b12; cf. 3.2, 1111b26, 3.3, 1112b34; 3.4, 1113a14; 3.5, 1113b3. ⁶³ cf. Ross’s unrevised translation. ⁶⁴ For textual evidence that this is simply not Aristotle’s view, see Irwin (1978), p. 255. ⁶⁵ Dahl (1984), p. 18, also argues that the role of practical reason in determining our ends is important for confidence in the objectivity of ethics.

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tool of our biological nature, limited in its powers to implementing the constraints or requirements of our natural inheritance, the resulting ethical vision might still plausibly be said to be somehow ‘packed into’ our biological nature. Whatever selective capacity animals have towards their objects of pursuit is, on Aristotle’s view, merely a means for achieving the various biological functions, which can be studied from an external perspective. The question is whether this is also true of practical reason, as Aristotle conceives it. If practical reason acquires a certain autonomy and is able to set its own goals, then the view would no longer qualify as Archimedean naturalism. Close examination of the textual evidence convinced many that there is no reason to see Aristotle to be restricting reason to purely instrumental functions.⁶⁶ The work of a number of scholars in the 1970s, particularly J. L. Ackrill, David Wiggins, and Richard Sorabji, challenged an earlier tendency to assimilate the category of the pros ta telê to that of means toward ends.⁶⁷ Wiggins noted that Aristotle tends not to distinguish between things that bring about a further goal and those which help constitute a less-than-fully specified end. We do, often, take our ends as given. In the case of a very general and inclusive specification of the goal of human life— eudaimonia—debate is about what life best meets that description, and not whether it is desirable. But this still leaves plenty of room for deliberation as to whether any substantive conception of our end—contemplation, honour, pleasure—truly constitutes happiness. The reading of the text proposed by Wiggins and others will be important to the non-naturalist interpretation I shall develop. Recently, Jessica Moss argued for a much more limited conception of the scope of practical reason, based on examination of the causal origins of our practical conceptions in Aristotle’s theory of reasoning. It is important to examine this challenge to Wiggins’s reading, since it would threaten the autonomy of practical reason. Moss argues that practical conceptions—like theoretical ones—are derived empirically, by induction from our experience. She details a reading of Aristotle according to which he thought that ‘practical thought is far less sovereign and self-standing’ than other thinkers such as Plato had suggested.⁶⁸ Her ‘practical empiricist’ reading focuses on Aristotle’s account of moral education, in order to suggest that we learn of the goodness of particular actions by experiencing the pleasure that they bring. Even aesthetic pleasure in the fineness of ethical actions is, on Moss’s account, literally a perceptual experience that is connected to motivation by pleasure. Moss takes her reading of ⁶⁶ For a defence of the notion of deliberation about ends in modern philosophy, see Richardson (1994); Schmidtz (1995). ⁶⁷ Ackrill (1980); Wiggins (1980); Sorabji (1980a). Wiggins’s pivotal article, first published in 1975–6, had been circulating for over a decade previously: on p. 237 n. 1, he acknowledges the contributions of a number of other scholars towards the argument. For the early history of this debate, see Dahl (1984), pp. 4–5. ⁶⁸ Moss (2012), p. 235.

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Aristotle’s account of the origins of our practical concepts to justify a restricted view about the scope and capacity of practical reasoning in the Ethics. Such a restriction of the ability of practical reason to impact our ends would support a naturalist reading of the ethical treatises, at least by undermining the supposition that practical reason could play an active role in constituting the human good. The strength of Moss’s carefully argued account of our acquisition of practical dispositions is that it suggests how there could come to be a very close causal link, in animal physiology, between the appearance of something as good—i.e. as pleasant— and the tendency to pursue it: the ‘function of perceptual pleasure is to track the good . . . in order to motivate pursuit’.⁶⁹ The question, however, is whether this strictly causal account continues to be true as human beings develop cognitive capacities. In contrast to the influential reading by Burnyeat, according to which the role of pleasure in moral learning is to teach us about what is enjoyable,⁷⁰ Moss stresses the causal role of pleasure in motivating action non-rationally and not its cognitive contribution, even as we mature.⁷¹ She reads Aristotle as arguing that we are naturally constructed, like animals, to respond to beneficial and harmful objects. For both non-rational desire and rational wish, the accompanying pleasure or pain play a critical role in guiding us.⁷² As an account of the very early stages of concept acquisition and its role in action, this seems right. However, a consequence of Moss’s reading of Aristotle is that she takes this account of the empirical origins of our acquisition of practical reasoning to limit the scope and freedom of practical cognition, even in mature practical reasoners.⁷³ She focuses on the claim that ‘virtue makes the goal right, phronêsis the things towards the goal’.⁷⁴ Moss reads this statement as limiting the role of phronêsis. She rejects the now widely accepted view developed by Wiggins, McDowell, Irwin, and others, according to which these statements of Aristotle’s are not meant to preclude the possibility of practical reasoning about our ends.⁷⁵ For Moss, habituated experience—embodied in virtuous character—‘supplies the content of the goal, and intellect merely conceptualizes it’.⁷⁶ Our grasp of the virtuous end comes from experience: the intervention of intellect allows us to understand the reasons why, but does not affect our grasp of the aim.⁷⁷ To the extent that phronêsis plays any

⁶⁹ Moss (2012), p. 35. ⁷⁰ Burnyeat (1980), p. 76. ⁷¹ The account is causal, rather than about motivation: Moss (2012), p. 66. Moss denies that Aristotle is a hedonist, since action does not aim at pleasure; rather, she thinks he takes our desire to be causally based on a pleasurable cognition. ⁷² For doubts about her reading of the relationship between non-rational and rational forms of motivation, see esp. Morison (2013); Modrak (2014). ⁷³ Morison (2013); Modrak (2014). ⁷⁴ NE 6.12, 1144a7–9; cf. also NE 7.8, 1151a15–19; EE 2.11, 1227b22–5; NE 10.8, 1178a16–19; 6.13, 1145a4–6; Moss (2012), p. 157. ⁷⁵ Moss (2012), pp. 157 ff.; cf. Chappell (2006), p. 149, which would lend support to Moss’s reading of the ambiguous reference at NE 6.9, 1142b33. ⁷⁶ Moss (2012), p. 231. ⁷⁷ Moss (2011), (2012), p. 228.

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role in conceiving the content of the virtuous goal, it is only by abstracting and conceptualizing the contents that are supplied by phantasia.⁷⁸ This reading risks eliminating from Aristotle’s account any causal role of phronêsis in shaping the actions of the virtuous. It seems to undo the advances of scholarship from the 1970s and 1980s, which forged a plausible—if not indisputable—new consensus around the notion that Aristotle was not limiting practical reason to means–end reasoning. Martha Nussbaum’s work on the importance of De Motu Animalium as a prelude to the account of rational action further showed how Aristotle links the causal account of motion to the intentional explanation of action.⁷⁹ Our conceptual capacities are functionally comparable to the materialcausal processes in animals, inasmuch as they are equally explanatory of our actions. And yet, because intentionality is not only object-directed but also interpretative—it depends not merely about a causal interaction with the world, but is shaped by the categories by which we classify and understand the world—the account of human action is irreducibly different. Intentionality, concept, and interpretation break the causal links that constrain animal self-motion. The processes Moss described from the early stages of habituation change with the development of greater conceptual capacities: there is no reason to suppose that an empiricist account of the development of reason limits the ability of practical reason to reflect on itself and thereby to acquire the kind of architectonic role Moss rejects. Theoretical cognition, after all, is equally empiricist in origin, and yet Aristotle never restricts the scope or freedom of theoretical reasoning to become self-reflective. Analogy would suggest that—if Moss is right—the kind of self-reflective project of the Analytics could not be undertaken. Aristotle is quite specific about what it is that character supplies: the virtuous person aims at the true good, the non-virtuous only at the apparent good.⁸⁰ This distinction is one reason for supposing that the use of practical reason is essential to being virtuous, and not that habituated responses could suffice. Since we are none of us omniscient, all are working with how things seem to us.⁸¹ Moss’s view is that the virtuous person comes to have the right conception by good training alone.⁸² However, Aristotle’s point seems to be that the virtuous person is willing to think about the way things are, and not simply be content with the way things appear, wherever those appearances come from. While training begins the process, it is important that the mature phronimos is concerned with deliberating about the true good and is not content with relying on appearance, even if that appearance happens to be correct. It is this feature of taking responsibility for our own conception of the good that Moss’s strictly causal account seems to preclude. ⁷⁸ Moss (2012), p. 232. ⁷⁹ Nussbaum (1986), pp. 273–6. Nussbaum shows how the notion of orexis that Aristotle seems to be introducing in his account of desire allows him to draw a parallel between the material-causal account of animal self-motion, and the final-intentional account of rational choice ⁸⁰ NE 3.4, 1113a15–16. ⁸¹ οὐ γὰρ οὖσα ἀγαθὸν φαίνεται, NE 3.4, 1113b34. ⁸² Moss (2012), p. 163.

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Character certainly changes the appearances we are presented with. At the early stages, to be sure, that is not under conscious control, and simply represents better conditioning.⁸³ Both the small child and the growing learner are responding to the way things appear to them, although the eight year old’s appearances will— with good education—be closer to virtue than that of the small child. However, if training were the only difference, and the virtuous person were simply one who happened to be presented with the true good in appearance, their virtue would seem merely adventitious. In claiming that the phronimos chooses for the sake of virtue,⁸⁴ Aristotle must mean that the virtuous person acts better, not only by choosing the right ends in fact but also by intending to do so. Practical reason allows us to put some critical distance between appearances and our reactions, actively reflecting in an effort to ensure that we aim at the truly good. Any less would reduce virtue to a mere result of better conditioning. The reflective process—by which the virtuous person aims at the truly good de dicto and not merely de re—is needed to allow virtues to take an active role in impacting their own progress, and not merely to be subject to habituation.⁸⁵ Moss characterizes the ‘Intellectualist’ strand of Aristotle interpretation, by contrast to her own, as one which takes phronêsis as ‘the excellence by which we identify the highest human good’.⁸⁶ She takes passages where Aristotle distinguishes the roles of virtue and phronêsis to show that Aristotle denies phronêsis any significant role in our specification of the contents of our goals. Nonetheless, Moss’s own positive account concedes a considerable role to deliberation in giving content to the goal: Deliberation cannot teach us that eudaimonia consists of the life of virtuous activity—only character can do that—but it can work out the whole substance of that general goal, showing at every point what counts as an achievement of it.⁸⁷

This proposal seems to come very close, in the end, to the position of the intellectualists. Wiggins argued that ‘things that are towards ends’ does not refer to ‘means– end’ reasoning, but can include specification of something that ‘counts in itself as the partial or total realization of the end.⁸⁸ He recognizes the point that Moss’s reading requires, i.e. that character establishes that the aim is towards virtuous activity: ‘the form of the eudaimonia he can achieve is already conditioned by something no longer needing . . . to be deliberated’.⁸⁹ Moss’s argument for rejecting the prevailing interpretation is thus seriously undermined. Other scholars have recognized the inductive basis of concept formation, without supposing that Aristotle intends this account to limit the capacities of practical reasoning.⁹⁰ Parts of Animals explicitly addresses the question whether all the ⁸³ The definitive account of the difference made by the process of learning to our moral psychology is Burnyeat (1980). ⁸⁴ NE 2.4, 1105a31; Sorabji (1980a), p. 217. ⁸⁵ Burnyeat (1980), pp. 73, 81–8. ⁸⁶ Moss (2012), p. 183. ⁸⁷ Moss (2012), pp. 197–8. ⁸⁸ Wiggins (1980), p. 224. ⁸⁹ Wiggins (1980), p. 226. ⁹⁰ cf. e.g. Sorabji (1980a), p. 208.

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products of the thinking soul must be regarded as objects of the science of nature.⁹¹ Aristotle recognizes a distinction between parts of the cognitive apparatus that are primarily passive, and thus plausibly treated as part of the natural world, and those which seem to transcend natural processes.⁹² While interpretation of this distinction is too controversial to be the basis of any firm conclusions, Aristotle is clearly aware of a distinction between mental processes that involve receiving causal input and responding to how things are in the world, such as concept formation, and those that direct and organize those inputs according to the norms of intelligibility. Practical reason is concerned with what is to be done, and is thus inherently goodseeking. The pleasure that accompanies good action may be important to the motivational schemata of animals and small children, but the accompanying pleasure is not explanatory of the commitment of virtuous agents to pursuing the good. The distinction between those seeking the apparent good and the true good is important to distinguish virtuous from non-virtuous agents. Virtuous agents not only have more accurate appearances as to what they should do; they are also involved in questioning and reflecting on appearances. Despite the empiricist account of its beginnings, practical reasoning is neither pleasure-driven nor limited to calculation of means. Despite Moss’s challenge, I argue that the interpretation of Aristotelian practical reason as autonomous—i.e. able to reflect on and set its own goals—stands its ground. This view of practical reasoning, however, is inimical to Archimedean naturalism, since it implies that the goals of action are chosen by reason itself, and are not necessarily answerable to natural goals.

Aristotle and Contemporary Particularism The influential interpretation of Aristotle advanced by John McDowell has suggested to some that Aristotle should be interpreted as an ethical particularist.⁹³ Particularism has become a hotly debated position in contemporary ethics. One of its attractive aspects, to some readers, is that it denies that ethics proceeds by formulating and applying correct universal generalizations.⁹⁴ A leading motivation for the particularist reading of Aristotle is the notion that—for Aristotle—ethical thinking does not consist in reasoning as to how we should apply ethical generalizations to a particular situation, but rather consists in a holistic grasp of the ethical truth of a situation, a grasp that Aristotle sometimes compares to perception. But contemporary particularism goes beyond the rejection of a rule-governed model of reasoning when it endorses Dancy’s notion that considerations factoring into an ethical decision can ⁹¹ PA 1.1, 645a33–b14. ⁹² DA 3.5. ⁹³ Esp. McDowell (1980); (1995); (1996); (1998b); (1998c). For a critique of this interpretation, see Irwin (2000); Chappell (2006). ⁹⁴ The leading advocate of this position in contemporary ethics is Dancy (1993); (2004). For discussion, see the essays in Hooker and Little (2000); Lance and Little (2008).

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change their valency from case to case. I suggest that an Aristotelian holism about ethical judgement need not include such a radical conclusion, depending upon the kinds of considerations under discussion. McDowell interpreted Aristotle as claiming that—for the phronimos making an ethical judgement—countervailing considerations are silenced.⁹⁵ The courageous person does not overrule concerns about personal safety, but rather finds them irrelevant in the situation. This holism suggests that the ethical agent is not merely summing up various natural features of a situation in making an ethical decision, as is sometimes thought, since there is no stable pro tanto value attached to the sundry considerations that persists and contributes to the overall rightness or wrongness of an action. Dancy extended this notion that natural features might be silenced to the notion that they can even switch valency. A natural feature—that the action causes someone pleasure—may not always count in favour of doing something. Confronted with sadism, the fact that an action causes pleasure may seem—given the situation as a whole—to count against the action, not for it. The case of sadistic pleasure is a compelling one, and it has received much play in discussions of particularism in contemporary ethics. It is not clear, however, that this is the kind of consideration that is in play in generating the holistic perspective that characterizes Aristotle’s view of ethics. Dancy’s particularism depends on the notion that different natural features of a situation interact in ways that cannot be predicted from their apparent contributions to the value of other situations, because of this holism of value. The situation McDowell highlighted in Aristotle, however, is not about situational holism, but about changes in the weighting of various considerations as the agent matures. Aristotle distinguishes the ethical agent from the person who is merely selfcontrolled, on the grounds that the former does not feel a conflict: their desires have been educated to seeing the world rather differently.⁹⁶ McDowell generalizes this notion into the view that we should: stop assuming that the virtuous person–s judgement is a result of balancing reasons for and against. The view of a situation that he arrives at by exercising his sensitivity is one in which some aspect of the situation is seen as constituting a reason for acting in some way; this reason is apprehended, not as outweighing or overriding any reasons for acting in other ways, which would otherwise be constituted by other aspects of the situation (the present danger, say), but as silencing them.⁹⁷

The virtuous agent here is not making a decision by adjudicating the competing claims of virtue against the agent’s natural aversion from pain. They are not in conflict for Aristotle because the agent’s desires have been properly educated as part of the process of acquiring the dispositions. The ‘silencing’ however isn’t a ⁹⁵ McDowell (1980), p. 370; (1998b), p. 56; (1998d), pp. 90–3. ⁹⁷ McDowell (1998b), pp. 55–6.

⁹⁶ Dancy (1993), p. 55;

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situationally specific result, however—a feature of a holistic judgement—but arises from a stable and acquired disposition that enables the brave person to focus on the need to defend the city, not on the threat to life and limb. Besides virtue–desire conflicts, we may also encounter conflicts between virtues. It is by no means clear that in cases where competing claims are adjudicated Aristotle would regard the considerations that do not prevail as being silenced, rather than overridden. The phronimos needs to have all of the virtues simultaneously in order to judge correctly the kind of situation that entails. In the passage quoted above, McDowell describes the nature of ethical judgement in the language of reasons for acting. This very broad language may suggest that virtue–desire conflicts and virtue– virtue conflicts function in the same way. I believe this would be a false inference. The Aristotelian notion of the education of desire gives us good reason to believe that desires fall in line with judgement. There is no reason, however, to suppose that assessments of the competing claims of different virtues work like this. Dancy’s examples of reasons focus on non-normative facts about a situation, and are framed in terms of modern concerns about the supervenience of moral judgements on non-normative considerations. Dancy argues convincingly that various kinds of reasons for action interact, suggesting that some kinds of reasons, by their very nature, are compounded with others.⁹⁸ But he advances the more radical claim that considerations not only interact, but change valency in combination. That an action causes someone pleasure would usually count in favour of a decision, but we might think the fact that an action gives a sadist pleasure should count against it. He acknowledges that there may be some considerations that always speak against an action, such as causing gratuitous pain.⁹⁹ However, his focus is on the variability of valency. Aristotle, too, notes that non-moral factors—pleasure, health, wealth—can be used for good or ill. However, we can retain the insight that for Aristotle ethical judgement is not reducible to rule-like generalizations, without endorsing Dancy-style particularism. Where the reasons that conflict are derived from virtuous dispositions and ‘thick’ ethical concepts, it is much less plausible to think that one contender is silenced, and even less that it could change valency. Aristotle would hardly have thought that the cruelty of an action ever ceased to count against it, or that courage would acquire negative force when it is misapplied. Nothing in Aristotle’s account requires us to accept this, and the consequences of ‘silencing’ might make good judgement more difficult in situations that undergo incremental shift. Consider the famous Milgram Obedience Experiments which, by gradually altering the relevant factors, made it difficult for subjects to identify the ethical course of action.¹⁰⁰ Milgram engineered a situation where all experimental subjects had agreed to participate in an experiment that involved administering a ⁹⁸ Dancy (2004), pp. 19–20. ⁹⁹ Dancy (2004), p. 77. ¹⁰⁰ Milgram (1974). The philosophical analysis of these experiments has been extensively discussed: see, esp. Kamtekar (2004); Sabini and Silver (2005); Burger, Girgis, and Manning (2011).

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mild ‘punishment’ to a learner, supposedly to study the learning process. The experimental design was in fact meant to test how subjects responded as the quantity of electrical shock apparently administered to the ‘learner’ increased and the apparent harm reached a level that—to most observers—outweighed any prior agreement to participate in the experiment. The incremental increase made it more difficult for experimental subjects, even those who recognized a conflict, to reconsider their earlier decision to participate. Milgram attributed this inability to an excessive tendency to obedience. Other hypotheses have been considered, such as Hilary Bok’s suggestion that the subjects, having made an initial decision, failed to change course because they failed to make a further choice once the situation had changed.¹⁰¹ In the Aristotelian terms discussed above, we might see this as a failure of situational re-appreciation: the gradually shifting sands made it harder for subjects to recognize when their former evaluation was no longer the appropriate one, and the initial— presumably valid—decision to comply with the experimenter had been outweighed by the increasing cruelty of the experiment. If countervailing considerations are silenced by the initial decision to participate, it would become much harder for subjects—faced with this kind of incremental change—to change their assessment. If, all along, subjects cherished some uneasiness about the fact that the experiment involved administering even small shocks to the ‘learner’, they might reasonably track their rising uneasiness as the level of pain apparently increased. It is only if subjects completely disregarded the fact that the experiment involved some degree of harm that they would have difficulty recognizing that the incrementally increasing shock levels had become unacceptable. In other words, ‘silencing’ might make us more prone to ethical mistakes in situations of this kind. Aristotle does not discuss this kind of case, of course; but nothing in his account forces us to the view that countervailing considerations are silenced. Dancy believes that the possibility of changing valency is necessary for particularism to constitute a stronger claim than what has come to be called ‘Rossian generalism’. This is the view that the various pro tanto ethical considerations relevant in a given situation may not be subject to any weighting or priority rules that enable a correct decision to be arrived at in a rule-like manner.¹⁰² This weaker position resists reduction to rules, but does not require individual considerations to change valency. The whole is simply too complex for a holistic assessment to be arrived at in rule-like ways from summing the values of the component considerations. It seems that we can allow for moral judgements to be made holistically without embracing the notion that considerations change valency in given situations.¹⁰³ ¹⁰¹ Bok (1996). ¹⁰² Dancy (1993), pp. 55–9; see especially Hooker (2000), pp. 2–3, for a list of adherents to this view and for detailed discussion. ¹⁰³ The terminology is fraught here, since Dancy (2004), p. 7, uses holism to refer to the notion that features can change valency. I am using it here in the broader sense, to mean only that an assessment is made holistically.

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As Jay Garfield notes, contemporary discussions about the viability of particularism have, in large part, focused on the metaphysical issues rather than the question of moral epistemology.¹⁰⁴ The issues to be addressed are—to Dancy—similar to those that hold in discussions of reasons in other domains, including reasons for belief. Debates in this vein concern whether supervenience or resultance relationships hold between the set of non-moral considerations that constitute the situation and the subsequent moral evaluation;¹⁰⁵ whether the non-moral facts can be characterized other than by an exhaustive list, or are ‘shapeless’; and whether considerations can really switch valency or are merely defeated by others in a way that might potentially be subsumed to rules. Some theorists draw a comparison to debates in the philosophy of science about attempts to specify necessary conditions for causal relationships or dispositional properties: when we say that a match is flammable because it would light if struck, we are assuming that a huge variety of defeating conditions do not apply.¹⁰⁶ Addressed at this general level, the issue is cast as a problem about the conditions for property ascriptions, where meta-level properties are ascribed on the basis of properties in some other domain: in this case, moral assessments based on sets of non-moral properties. Few deny that, between any two cases accorded different moral value, a difference in non-moral properties must exist.¹⁰⁷ The question, then, is whether any given non-moral consideration—causing pain, violating an agreement—retains its pro tanto valence in combination with other features of the situation and is merely defeated or outweighed, or whether valency can be suspended or even reversed. Dancy suggests that the particularism of overall situational assessments can only be preserved by allowing that the valency of individual considerations can change in different contexts. The assumption may be that if the contribution of parts to a whole could be assessed in isolation, then the summation of the properties of the whole must be rule-governed and the holistic nature of the assessment would be undermined. That Aristotle would not have thought this should be clear from his account of the contributions of components to a physical mixture.¹⁰⁸ Even if we dismiss his views on mixture as the product of a less sophisticated chemistry, it is not clear that evaluative considerations are summative in a way that would undermine the holistic nature of judgement. Others suggest that the relevant issue for understanding Aristotle’s ethics concerns not the metaphysics but the epistemology of decision-making. In a practical context,

¹⁰⁴ This distinction is clarified illuminatingly in Garfield (2000). Examples of those focusing on the metaphysical issues include Dancy (1993); Bakhurst (2000); Crisp (2000); Hooker (2000); Jackson, Pettit, and Smith (2000); Lance and Little (2008); McNaughton and Rawling (2000). ¹⁰⁵ See Dancy (1993), p. 74, for Dancy’s argument for preferring resultance to the supervenience relation. ¹⁰⁶ Crisp (2000); Jackson, Pettit, and Smith (2000); Lance and Little (2008). ¹⁰⁷ Jackson, Pettit, and Smith (2000), p. 85; Bakhurst (2000), p. 167; Garfield (2000), p. 185. ¹⁰⁸ GC 1.10; Cooper (2004b); Berryman (2005).

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it may be irrelevant whether the criteria for assessing an action as right or wrong come with a list of defeating conditions that is in principle finite or denumerable. The issue isn’t about the metaphysics for the applicability of predicates, or whether moral facts supervene on non-moral facts, but rather about our capacity to make ethical judgements. We might look for a holistic approach to the interaction of moral reasons in Aristotle if we supposed that he regarded moral considerations as combining in a way too complex for the resulting properties to be predicted or to be rule-governed. Aristotle’s concern is not about the supervenience of the moral on the non-moral, or whether the non-moral supervenience base of the moral is ‘shapeless’. The difficulty of discovering all relevant considerations about a particular situation is surely sufficient to create an ineliminable role for the virtuous agent in moral discernment. McDowell’s point about the role of the agent in practical contexts can be retained, without supposing the problem is generated by the metaphysics of combination.¹⁰⁹ This is especially evident if we focus on the epistemological issues—including the need to make moral judgements, with imperfect information and in finite time—rather than the metaphysical questions about the existence of rule-like principles of combination. All Aristotle needs to establish is the ineliminable role of the agent, and of the perception-like judgements of the situation.¹¹⁰ To avoid confusion, this less radical position might be called ‘Aristotelian holism’ rather than ‘particularism’, and would be compatible with some varieties of Rossian generalism. For Aristotle, the problem of reconciling incommensurable values would have seemed sufficient for holism about moral judgement. Agents do not rely on rules to balance out the competing claims of justice and courage, for example, and determine which claims are paramount in a given situation. It would be practically impossible to offer a formula for finding the correct decision merely by summing up the values of all the relevant considerations. For the Aristotelian holist, the lack of detailed prescriptions in Aristotle’s ethical treatises is thus to be expected, and is not a puzzling absence. Other scholars who question a particularist reading of Aristotle have done so in defence of the notion that he believed ethical deliberation uses principles. Terence Irwin countered the particularist reading of Aristotle by arguing against the priority of ‘situational appreciation’ or ethical perception to general rules.¹¹¹ As Irwin summarizes the particularist commitment, it ‘treats all non-trivial generalizations as reminders that we are morally permitted to disregard if our perception of particular situations prompts us to act differently’.¹¹² However, Irwin’s argument for

¹⁰⁹ Dancy (1993), pp. 54 ff., argues that McDowell’s motivation for the silencing claim has to do with his attempt to defend moral cognitivism. ¹¹⁰ Garfield (2000), p. 191, argues for the importance of paradigm cases and similarity relationships, rather than rules, in ethical learning. ¹¹¹ Irwin (2000), p. 123; cf. also Chappell (2005). ¹¹² Irwin (2000), p. 124.

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anticipating generalizations in ethics depends on the expectation that Aristotle thinks ethical truths reflect natural norms,¹¹³ a position I have been challenging. Irwin is right to resist the notion that we can capriciously ignore moral rules, which still play a role in moral education. However, as every child learns, there are always exceptions, and good judgement is required to know when exceptional situations occur.¹¹⁴ The picture suggested by Irwin is somewhat misleading: according to the critic of ethical generalism, the phronimos does not so much ignore a moral generalization but rather perceives the situation as one where a different set of moral considerations apply. Moderately good people are sometimes rightly unsure about their own grasp of a situation, enough so that looking to respected others for guidance in an unfamiliar situation can be a wise and appropriate response.¹¹⁵ A phronimos—like Socrates refusing to convict the generals unjustly¹¹⁶—would be more skilled at determining that the usual expectation of compliance with orders was not the right way to think about the case in hand. Irwin is concerned that the kind of particularism formulated by Dancy threatens the ability to explain the correctness of judgements, even when explanations are offered after the fact.¹¹⁷ This is an important feature of the Aristotelian picture, and one that is out of step with legalistic moral thinking, of the kind associated with Judeo-Christian ethics. Holism and particularism both share the feature that correct judgements cannot be generated according to any rule-governed procedure, but require the formed character of a virtuous agent who contains within their own person the various skills and is able to adjudicate their competing claims. It is indeed not easy for Socrates to explain to his friends, after having made the judgement, that staying in prison and drinking the hemlock is the right course for him to take. He is denying that other pro tanto goods—reputation, the ordinary sense of obligation to his family and friends, life itself—have the weight they might otherwise carry, were they not in conflict with the demands of virtue. Bringing others to ‘see’ the rightness of the holistic judgement—one that changes the scale of values—resists formulaic reasoning, and requires other resources. Socrates turns to analogy, narrative, and other pictorial devices to bring his friends to appreciate the rightness of his decision; his account is not one that offers new rules or principles for deciding when a relevantly similar situation ensues. Aristotelian moral explanation is indeed—as Irwin noticed—much more complex than theoretical, rule-guided reasoning. Along with the notion that ethical judgement is not based on the application of general rules comes a thesis about the priority and centrality of the phronimos to Aristotle’s ethical thought.¹¹⁸ Generalist theories take the status of ethical truths to be prior to the judgement about particular situations: the truth of a specific judgement or the rightness of an action depends on the correct application of the universal rules. ¹¹³ Irwin (2000), p. 111. ¹¹⁴ NE 1.3, 1095a2–5. ¹¹⁵ NE 3.3, 1112b10–11. ¹¹⁶ Apol. 32B–C. ¹¹⁷ Irwin (2000), p. 121. ¹¹⁸ I am grateful to Alan Thomas, who helped me appreciate the significance of this centrality.

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On this account, Socrates would be right not to lie to Phaedo because he correctly applies the rule that it is wrong to lie. But for an Aristotelian, the holistic judgement of the virtuous agent is fundamental. Socrates might explain to Phaedo why he told the truth in a given situation by noting that lying is generally the wrong course. Such rules are useful heuristics, and play an important role in moral education. But such rules are not exceptionless, and cannot be used as reliable guides to generate correct judgements. The understanding of the virtuous agent is primary: only that judgement can determine what kind of situation it is, which virtue is appropriate, and hence which heuristic best describes the right thing to do. The phronimos is not juggling the weighting of various rules but rather is perceiving the situation correctly, a capacity only available to those with the relevant character traits. The perception metaphor helps us focus on the holistic nature of the assessment, but should not be taken to imply that a phronimos judges instantly, or eschews deliberation. An agent might virtuously reflect on their initial responses to a situation, seeing what reactions are evoked by different construals of a situation or seeking input from others on angles they might have missed. The agent may scrutinize their own motives; consider which precedents are really applicable; find out more about the relevant facts; or give their strongest responses time to adjust to new information. Nonetheless, the role of character in producing the correct judgement of the phronimos means that we cannot, as Irwin prefers, reduce their superior perception to the ‘acceptance of the right generalizations’.¹¹⁹ Karen Nielsen has recently tried to address more systemic arguments that Aristotle left no room in his account for the notion that ethical deliberation could be based on principles. She rightly distinguishes theoretical from practical deliberation, noting that ethical treatises such as the Nicomachean Ethics may provide scientific background for understanding the rightness of ethical deliberations, without being a handbook.¹²⁰ However, she seems to erase this distinction in going on to suggest that ethics falls under a ‘more permissive notion of science’,¹²¹ and that such theoretical work is meant to steer deliberation ‘in the right direction’.¹²² No account of the contribution of theory to correct deliberation can leave out the role of habituation and cultivated dispositions, which imply that—whatever role theoretical understanding plays—it is not the primary mode of steering deliberation. Nielsen’s account focuses on overcoming the barriers posed by the stochastic and defeasible nature of ethical principles, but still defends the idea that principles—if not universal ones—are the primary mode of deliberation, rather than an aid to teaching and understanding. This seems wrong. In arguing that Aristotle is not an ethical naturalist, I want to emphasize the ways in which he treats the practical realm as sui generis and governed by different norms than theoretical reasoning. The work of some readers—especially Wiggins and ¹¹⁹ Irwin (2000), p. 123. ¹²² Nielsen (2015), p. 33.

¹²⁰ Nielsen (2015), p. 33.

¹²¹ Nielsen (2015), p. 35.

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McDowell—have made a compelling case for the viability of an ethics in which the judgement of the virtuous agent is accorded normative priority over codified rules. Whether or not we accept the more radical, metaphysical variety of particularism Dancy articulates, the holistic nature of the judgements made by the phronimos will be important to the account of Aristotle’s metaethics that I develop in the closing chapters.

The Story So Far In the last three chapters, I have been arguing that we should not read Aristotle’s ethics as naturalistic. Reading Aristotle as appealing to human nature as the justification for ethics would render the virtues instrumental and undermine the special character of practical reason. Moreover, there is no evidence that human nature is thought to provide an adequate blueprint for good living. To be sure, human nature sets certain constraints. But Aristotle’s theory and practice both suggest that detailed inquiry into the best life is one carried out by practical reason, a faculty that is not merely concerned with means–end reasoning or the application of general rules, and does not rely on investigation of our biological nature for substantive advice. Criteria such as the appeal to the fineness of an action are sui generis, and not derived from an Archimedean naturalist account. Ethical evaluation occurs because the fact of choice means that individuals can be better and worse at choosing. Thus the study of good practical reasoning becomes necessary, and certain traits are taken to characterize those who act well in specific kinds of choice situations. These traits—the excellences—are in turn valued for themselves, as expressions of human excellence, not mere means to realize our biological nature. Their function in situational appreciation is not portrayed as rule-governed, although it may be amenable to explanation after the fact. It may seem reasonable to classify Aristotle as an ethical naturalist, inasmuch as he stipulates that an ethical life requires reasoning, and reason is part of human nature. However, such a notion of nature is not Archimedean. Aristotle does not suggest that the contents of reasoning are given by nature, or that substantive recommendations could be reached from a detached perspective. He does not assume that our biology determines what conclusions practical reason will reach. Indeed, inasmuch as theoretical reason and the active intellect is what we share with the divine, reason is emphatically not biological. As Jonathan Lear expresses it, ‘[i]t seems part of man’s nature to transcend nature’.¹²³ It remains, then, to offer an account of Aristotle’s metaethical position.

¹²³ Lear (1988), p. 165.

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7 Aristotle’s Metaethics The most sublime speculation of the contemplative philosopher can scarce compensate the neglect of the smallest active duty. Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments

I have been arguing that, although there is a coherent sense in which Aristotle’s natural teleology could have been used as an ‘Archimedean Point’ to justify ethical claims, this is not in fact Aristotle’s approach. I examined the putative evidence from the Ethics, and vindicated McDowell’s claim that only very minimal appeal to human nature can be found in the ethical treatises. The case of the Politics is different, since this work makes a number of significant and substantive appeals to human nature throughout Book One. Nonetheless, there are many reasons for regarding Politics as an early work, reflecting the sophistic dichotomy of natural and conventional and not a biologically grounded notion of nature. I traced some positive reasons why we should not expect to find Aristotle making use of such an appeal as a grounding for ethical claims. Besides his claims about the non-instrumental value of the virtues, the absence of a blueprint for good living in his metaphysical schema militates against an Archimedean naturalistic reading of the ethics, whether or not practically wise agents formulate a ‘Grand End’ conception of the good life for themselves. The non-deductive nature of practical reasoning and the ability of agents to deliberate about ends are indirect evidence against an Archimedean naturalism, supporting the notion that practical reason is autonomous and not merely an instrumental capacity serving natural goals. I defended the scope of practical reasoning from a proposed narrow reading, and agreed that a nondeductive reading of practical reasoning supports at least a holist if not necessarily a particularist reading of Aristotle’s view of ethical judgement. Any ethical theory must take some account of our physical constitution, limitations, and requirements. Aristotle certainly does. Nevertheless, there remains little reason to suppose that Aristotle looked to human nature to provide substantive ethical guidance, rather than merely setting some parameters within which a viable ethics must remain. Since I earlier concluded that there is reason for supposing that Aristotle was sensitive to questions about the sources of ethical normativity, and that he sought to address the ample challenges to the authority of ethics that can be found

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in his intellectual milieu, it remains to offer a positive account of Aristotle’s views on the source and justification for ethical demands. In turning to the textual evidence, I shall begin from some overtly metaethical passages, where Aristotle summarizes his reasons for rejecting Plato’s Forms. Although these passages are an obvious location to canvass, they are overall somewhat disappointing in this regard. The criticisms of Plato’s Forms in the Nicomachean Ethics focuses on metaphysical considerations and yield only a few positive indications of Aristotle’s own position. These indications are more marked in the corresponding passages in Eudemian Ethics and Magna Moralia. While Aristotle is not as thorough in his engagement with the views of predecessors in the Ethics as on some other issues, there is no reason to suppose that he neglected to consider alternative metaphysical ways of justifying the demands of ethics. After examining the implications of the critique of Platonism and the appeal to metaphysical abstractions, I shall consider other passages that shed more light on Aristotle’s position on the sources of normative claims.

The Rejection of Metaphysical Abstractions In Nicomachean Ethics 1.6, Aristotle begins by offering criticisms of Plato’s Forms, arguments that are—as he acknowledges—proper to metaphysics rather than to ethics.¹ Alongside an ad hominem objection targeting contemporary Platonists,² he begins with a programmatic argument drawing on the doctrine of the Categories. Presupposing the truth of Aristotle’s own view, NE 1.6 suggests that there could not be a single Form for all good things, since the term ‘good’ means something different in the different categories of being: quality, relation, substance, etc.³ Other criticisms of the theory of Forms are also mentioned: that there is no one science that studies all kinds of good, as one would expect for things falling under a single Form;⁴ and that the reference to Form seems vacuous if the definition of Form also applies directly to the things that fall under that Form.⁵ He adds that the eternal nature of Forms does not make the qualities they exemplify any more what they are.⁶ We might be tempted to try to extract a positive doctrine from these criticisms. The reference to the doctrine of the Categories may seem implicitly to focus attention on the centrality of substance over attribute: those inclined to read Aristotle as an ethical naturalist might think that the implicit point is to direct our attention to the relation between substance and quality, and especially to the notion that the ‘good’ of ¹ NE 1.6, 1096b30–1. The metaethical motivations for Plato’s view were discussed in chapter three, above. ² The precise reason is not stated. Cf. Flashar (1977), Broadie and Rowe (2002), p. 269, for attempts to divine the original Platonist argument. ³ NE 1.6, 1096a23–9. For attempts to reconstruct a non-question-begging argument here, see Ackrill (1977); Jacquette (1998), p. 305. ⁴ NE 1.6, 1096a29–34. ⁵ NE 1.6, 1096a35–b4. ⁶ NE 1.6, 1096b3–4.

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something depends on the kind of thing that is at stake. What makes for a good raven is different from the qualities needed to be a good eagle, much less a good porpoise. This Geachean understanding of the notion of ‘good’—that we need to begin from an understanding of the nature of the substance in question in order to understand what qualities or relations are good for it—is central to Philippa Foot’s neo-Aristotelian ethics,⁷ and to MacIntyre’s influential reading of Aristotle.⁸ It is striking, however, that Aristotle does not draw any such corollary from his criticism of the Platonic Forms. Rather, he indicates that he is offering a generic critique of the doctrine, one that is grounded in metaphysical considerations and not in issues specific to ethics or to the natures of species kinds.⁹ There is no attempt made to draw out a positive doctrine along Geachean lines. The claim is only that the application of terms in the different categories each requires its own specific account, and not that substance determines the correctness of predications in the other categories. Although arguments from silence are not decisive, it should trouble anyone tempted to read Aristotle’s ethics in Footean terms that he does not exploit the Geachean argument, at exactly the point where we would expect him to do so. Aristotle’s point is about the metaphysical differences between categories, and not about the primacy of substantial kinds to the meaning of ‘good’. No distinction is made here between attributive and predicative adjectives, nor about the meaning of ‘good’ in particular. After detailing some overtly metaphysical arguments, Aristotle makes a fresh start, implicitly acknowledging that his previous criticisms of the doctrine of Forms were merely programmatic and not specific to the field of ethics.¹⁰ He only then turns to a question specific to the meaning of ‘good’. The most general objection in the latter section is that whatever we seek in ethics is meant to be something attainable by human action. The procedure of the sciences falsifies Plato’s suggestion that we become skilled at other crafts by first grasping the Form.¹¹ In Andrea Nightingale’s words, Aristotle ‘severs the connection that Plato forged between theôria and praxis’, denying that abstract study is the route to practical success.¹² The substantive ethical conclusion he draws in this chapter is that ethics is about action and so the practical good must be something human beings can attain. This denial of a role to theoretical reasoning in identifying the good was also an implication of the criticisms of Plato’s view. The point of making such a fresh start midway through the chapter seems to be to consider whether a theory of Forms could be applied more sympathetically to an account of the practical good: inquiry into the goodness of ends can usefully distinguish proximate and ultimate goals. Perhaps the point of the Platonist insight would best be captured by excluding goods that get their value derivatively. Could there be one Form that covers all things that are good in themselves, when considered ⁷ Foot (2001), pp. 2–4. ¹⁰ NE 1.6, 1096b26.

⁸ MacIntyre (1966), p. 58. ¹¹ NE 1.6, 1096b32–1097a12.

⁹ NE 1.6, 1096b7–26. ¹² Nightingale (2004), p. 198.

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as possible ends of action?¹³ We find that the sheer variety in finally valuable goods precludes this. If the Form alone were good in itself, it would be empty, representing nothing in the world. Yet if the ends we pursue fall under a single Form, we should expect there to be some common definition of the goodness in them. However, the sundry things we value are good in different ways, and have quite different definitions.¹⁴ Aristotle points to the multiplicity of objects of human choice, that is, to rule out the idea that a single, monolithic end could account for the good in the practical sphere. The most overtly metaethical chapter in Nicomachean Ethics, then, eschews an obvious opportunity to mount a Geachean appeal to naturalism, focusing attention instead on the nature of action. Aristotle gestures in this chapter towards the idea that problems encountered by the theory of Forms would also speak against a theory positing an abstract universal object that is present in all goods and intended to account for the similarity found in various instances of properties.¹⁵ This alternative is brought out more clearly in the corresponding passages of Eudemian Ethics and Magna Moralia, where it is made more evident that Aristotle is not merely critiquing Plato’s theory of the good, but comparing the merits of alternative metaethical approaches.¹⁶ As well as rejecting classic Platonism—the theory that the Good is a separate Form—Aristotle also rejects the idea that the good might be a universal, i.e. the common quality composed of all the instances found in things that are good. The theory that the good is a universal receives the most discussion in Magna Moralia. There Aristotle notes that, because universals apply even to minor uses of ‘good’, they are not appropriate candidates for ultimate ends.¹⁷ Nor is a universal appropriate for practical application.¹⁸ As noted in Chapter 4, John Cooper proposed that Magna Moralia focuses so much attention on the theory of universals because this was once Aristotle’s own view.¹⁹ If Cooper’s conjecture is true, this realization would help establish Magna Moralia’s credentials as reflecting an early stratum of Aristotle’s thought.²⁰ Whether or not Aristotle endorsed universals himself, it seems reasonable that such a theory would have been considered in the Academy. Plato’s own later work acknowledged the weaknesses dogging the canonical ‘middle period’ notion of separate Forms: this awareness would surely have spurred Platonist attempts to reform the doctrine rather than abandon it. A theory of immanent universals would be an obvious avenue for reformers to pursue. Regardless of whether he ever took the theory of universals seriously, it is clear from Aristotle’s critique of the appeal to metaphysical abstractions in ethics that he

¹³ ¹⁶ ¹⁸ ¹⁹ ²⁰

NE 1.6, 1096b14–18. ¹⁴ NE 1.6, 1096b20–5. ¹⁵ NE 1.6, 1096b33–5. EE 1.8; cf. Verbeke (1971); Flashar (1977). ¹⁷ EE 1.8, 1218a39–b6. EE 1.8, 1218a39–b6. Cooper (1973), pp. 339–40: Metaph. 3.6, 1003a6–13; SR 22, 179a5–10. Cooper’s view is criticized by Rowe (1975): I responded to this in Chapter 4.

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thinks appeals of this kind are simply the wrong way to explain goodness in the practical sphere. Even if a theory of universals could offer a solution to the linguistic or metaphysical problem of the one and the many, it would not help us with the issue at hand, which is to guide action. When Aristotle objects that the Form of Good was not attainable, his point is not that Plato’s ethics was too idealized or other-worldly:²¹ this criticism would be answered by a theory of immanent universals. Aristotle is pointing out, rather, that an account of the ethical good has to begin from something pertinent to action and pursuit. Ethics involves the pursuit of practical and attainable ends, and not theoretical contemplation of abstract metaphysical entities. A point Aristotle makes elsewhere about deliberation holds equally for choice. Just as there are things we cannot deliberate about, there are many things we cannot aim at: impossibilities, past events, and in this case also abstract universals.²² The practical good, he seems to suggest, needs to be different in kind from the idealizations that account for the stable truths of thought and language. Eudemian Ethics 1.8 explicitly concludes that ‘good’ is ambiguous between the kind of good found in unchanging things and the good that we aim at: What is good has many senses (and part of it is fine); and some good is achievable by action, some not; the kind of good that is achievable by action, in the sense of that for the sake of which, is not the one found amongst unchanging things.²³

Magna Moralia makes a similar point, and is more forthcoming that a metaethical error is being ascribed to Plato: But after this he [sc. Plato] went astray. For he mixed up excellence with the treatment of the good, which cannot be right, not being appropriate. For in speaking about the truth of existing things he ought not to have discoursed upon excellence, for there is nothing common to the two.²⁴

Plato’s mistake is that of looking to the account of the good found in things, in order to learn about the goodness of action. While Plato’s version of this error is to look to abstract Forms, this is not the only version of the mistake, i.e. of looking for the practical good, or for an account of virtue, in the nature of existing things. Metaphysics is not the right place to locate the practical good. Although Aristotle does not draw this corollary, he might equally have said that another version of this mistake would be to suppose that our species nature can tell us about good choice and action. ²¹ As it is read by, e.g. Jacquette (1998), p. 316. Broadie (1991), p. 22, thinks that the criticism turns on the lack of descriptive content to the Form of Good. ²² NE 3.1, 1112a18–1112b10. ²³ ἀλλὰ πολλαχῶς τὸ ἀγαθόν, καὶ ἔστι τι αὐτοῦ καλόν, καὶ τὸ μὲν πρακτὸν τὸ δ’ οὐ πρακτόν. πρακτὸν δὲ τὸ τοιοῦτον ἀγαθόν, τὸ οὗ ἕνεκα, οὐκ ἔστι δὲ τὸ ἐν τοῖς ἀκινήτοις. EE 1.8, 1218b4–6, trans. J. Solomon, slightly modified. ²⁴ μετὰ μέντοι τοῦτο οὐκέτι ὀρθῶς. τὴν γὰρ ἀρετὴν κατέμιξεν εἰς τὴν πραγματείαν τὴν ὑπὲρ τἀγαθοῦ, οὐ δὴ ὀρθῶς· οὐ γὰρ οἰκεῖον· ὑπὲρ γὰρ τῶν ὄντων καὶ ἀληθείας λέγοντα οὐκ ἔδει ὑπὲρ ἀρετῆς φράζειν· οὐδὲν γὰρ τούτῳ κἀκείνῳ κοινόν. MM 1.1, 1182a26–30, trans. St. G. Stock.

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If metaphysical and practical good are simply different, a static form of human nature—immanent or not—is no more able than an abstract universal to be actionguiding. The good for ethics must be something that we aim at in action. We find this notion echoed, in strictly causal terms, in On the Motion of Animals. There we learn that not any fine thing can serve as the goal of action: Therefore the object of desire or of intellect first initiates movement—not every object of intellect, but only the end in the domain of action. Accordingly it is goods of this sort that initiate movement, not everything fine.²⁵

The point in this passage is about a goal, considered from a motivational perspective and not in terms of its justificatory role. But Aristotle’s point in Nicomachean Ethics 1.6, discussed above, seems to be that only things which satisfy the former could qualify as the latter: the practical good needs to be the kind of thing we could antecedently take to be a plausible object of pursuit. He locates the search squarely within the class of things we aim at, before narrowing it further to those which are in fact truly good. As Eudemian Ethics emphasized, praxis—conduct or action—only takes certain kinds of goods as its goal.²⁶ Action may not even be seeking the highest goods; it can only seek such things as would be appropriate goals of human action. Common objects of pursuit are those he lists elsewhere: the pleasant, the fine, the useful.²⁷ Nicomachean Ethics likewise restricts the inquiry made by the political art to goods that are achievable by action.²⁸ In seeking the good for practical fields, then, it is critical not merely to determine what is good in abstract—the object of theoretical inquiry, perhaps—but to begin and remain within the realm of human action and of the kinds of things that can be objects of pursuit. Nicomachean Ethics Book 10 returns to this notion, rejecting outright the views of those who deny that we can look to what people aim at to discover the practical good: Those who object that that at which all things aim is not necessarily good are talking nonsense. For . . . the man who attacks this belief will hardly have anything more credible to maintain instead. If it is senseless creatures that desire the things in question, there might be something in what they say; but if intelligent creatures do so as well, what sense can there be in this view?²⁹

Aristotle reaffirms his defence of common opinion here: if we abandon the connection between the goods people actually pursue and our notions of the practical good, we stop making sense. This is a profound remark, in keeping with the critique of Platonic Forms: unless we accept that a necessary connection exists between objects ²⁵ ὥστε κινεῖ πρῶτον τὸ ὀρεκτὸν καὶ διανοητόν. οὐ πᾶν δὲ τὸ διανοητόν, ἀλλα τὸ τῶν πρακτῶν τέλος. διὸ τὸ τοιοῦτόν ἐστι τῶν ἀγαθῶν τὸ κινοῦν, ἀλλ᾽ οὐ πᾶν τὸ καλόν. MA 6, 700b23–6, trans. Farquharson, slightly modified. ²⁶ EE 1.7, 1217a30–40. ²⁷ EE 1.1, 1214a7; cf. ΝΕ 1.6, 1096b18–25. ²⁸ NE 1.4, 1095a15–16; cf. Prichard (2002), p. 111. ²⁹ NE 10.2, 1172b35–73a4.

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of pursuit and the practical good, we lose track of what it means to say an object is what we ought to aim at. Inquiry into the practical good needs to begin from the nature of action.

Human Agency as the Source of Normativity: Eudemian Ethics 2.6 Thus far, the practical good has been said to be different from the unchanging good found in the nature of things. This distinction raises an obvious question: whence does the former derive? We find additional information on the practical good in a passage in Eudemian Ethics that discusses responsibility, and goes beyond the parallel passage in the Nicomachean collection.³⁰ Eudemian Ethics 2.6 takes a striking position about the source of the practical good. It makes, I suggest, the radical claim that the human capacities for reason and choice are ineliminable from the account of the practical good. Although we are given little detail here, this position challenges the assumption that Aristotle takes ethical values to be derived from an immutable source in the nature of things, whether that be human nature or the cosmic value embodied in his notion of the divine. The passage does not, however, wear its significance on its sleeve: Let us then take a new starting point for the ensuing inquiry. All substances are by nature archai of a certain sort, so that each is able to produce many things of its kind, as a human being begets other humans, an animal other animals, and a plant other plants. In addition to this a human being, alone among animals, is an archê of actions, for we would not ascribe action to any of the other animals. Among such archai, those that are the first archê of motions are said to be controlling archai, and most strictly those whose effects cannot be other than they are; no doubt God’s government is of this kind. But where the archai are unchanging, like the archai of mathematical truth, there is no such thing as control, though the term is used of them by analogy. For there, too, if the archê were to change, everything proved from it would change also, while when one consequence is replaced by another, no change takes place, unless by refuting the hypothesis and using its refutation as a proof. A human being, on the other hand, is an archê of a certain kind of change, for action is change . . . Since virtue and vice and the works that are their expression are praised and blamed as the case may be (for blame and praise are not given on account of things that come about by necessity or chance or nature, but on account of things that we ourselves are responsible for, since if someone else is responsible for something, it is he who gets the blame and praise), it is clear that virtue and vice have to do with matters where one is oneself the cause and archê of one’s actions.³¹

³⁰ A version of the argument can be found in MM 1.10–11. ³¹ λάβωμεν οὖν ἄλλην ἀρχὴν τῆς ἐπιούσης σκέψεως. εἰσὶ δὴ πᾶσαι μὲν αἱ οὐσίαι κατὰ φύσιν τινὲς ἀρχαί, διὸ καὶ ἑκάστη πολλὰ δύναται τοιαῦτα γεννᾶν, οἷον ἄνθρωπος ἀνθρώπους καὶ ζῷον ὂν ὅλως ζῷα καὶ φυτὸν φυτά.

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Aristotle here indicates that there are two distinct kinds of archai—starting points or principles—at work in the world of change and growth.³² These are substances, i.e. the species kinds that are archai of generation, and human beings, who are archai with respect to actions. This classification raises two questions: in what sense does Aristotle hold substances and human beings parallel by virtue of being archai, and what does Aristotle mean in identifying the latter as starting points or principles? The answers to these two questions are, I am assuming, closely related. Two specific points of exegesis should be noted. First, I take it to be clear from the passage that the way in which human beings are archai of their actions is distinguished from the way that we are the source of our species kind in reproduction. We, as human beings, are archai of a variety that is being contrasted to the way that reproduction stems from our natural substance, or the natural order from God’s rule. The structure of the passage suggests that action originates from us in some significant way, and not from either God or our species nature. Second, it is crucial to appreciate the scope of the term kuriai in the second paragraph. Aristotle is interested here in the kind of archai that are kuriai. This term is most strictly applicable to God, but Aristotle allows that there are other kuriai archai. Inwood and Woolf offer the translation ‘authoritative’,³³ which is less apt for non-intentional contexts: authority works by rational acquiescence and is not typically applied to merely causal power. The more common translation ‘controlling’ is a better fit.³⁴ In the changing world, archai are those things which control others: properties of the latter depend on the properties of the former but not vice versa.³⁵ ‘Controlling’ refers, minimally, then, to the direction of dependence. In stressing that ‘controlling’ can only be applied in an extended sense to unchanging entities like mathematicals, Aristotle acknowledges an apparent exception: there

πρὸς δὲ τούτοις ὅ γ’ ἄνθρωπος καὶ πράξεών τινών ἐστιν ἀρχὴ μόνον τῶν ζῴων· τῶν γὰρ ἄλλων οὐθὲν εἴποιμεν ἂν πράττειν. τῶν δ’ ἀρχῶν ὅσαι τοιαῦται, ὅθεν πρῶτον αἱ κινήσεις, κύριαι λέγονται, μάλιστα δὲ δικαίως ἀφ’ ὧν μὴ ἐνδέχεται ἄλλως, ἣν ἴσως ὁ θεὸς ἄρχει. ἐν δὲ ταῖς ἀκινήτοις ἀρχαῖς, οἷον ἐν ταῖς μαθηματικαῖς, οὐκ ἔστι τὸ κύριον, καίτοι λέγεταί γε καθ’ ὁμοιότητα· καὶ γὰρ ἐνταῦθα κινουμένης τῆς ἀρχῆς πάντα μάλιστ’ ἂν τὰ δεικνύμενα μεταβάλλοι, αὐτὰ δ’ αὑτὰ οὐ μεταβάλλει ἀναιρουμένου θατέρου ὑπὸ θατέρου, ἂν μὴ τῷ τὴν ὑπόθεσιν ἀνελεῖν καὶ δι’ ἐκείνης δεῖξαι. ὁ δ’ ἄνθρωπος ἀρχὴ κινήσεως τινός· ἡ γὰρ πρᾶξις κίνησις . . . ἐπεὶ δ’ ἥ τε ἀρετὴ καὶ ἡ κακία καὶ τὰ ἀπ’ αὐτῶν ἔργα τὰ μὲν ἐπαινετὰ τὰ δὲ ψεκτά (ψέγεται γὰρ καὶ ἐπαινεῖται οὐ διὰ τὰ ἐξ ἀνάγκης ἢ τύχης ἢ φύσεως ὑπάρχοντα, ἀλλ’ ὅσων αὐτοὶ αἴτιοι ἐσμέν· ὅσων γὰρ ἄλλος αἴτιος, ἐκεῖνος καὶ τὸν ψόγον καὶ τὸν ἔπαινον ἔχει), δῆλον ὅτι καὶ ἡ ἀρετὴ καὶ ἡ κακία περὶ ταῦτ’ ἐστιν ὧν αὐτὸς αἴτιος καὶ ἀρχὴ πράξεων. EE 2.6, 1222b15–31; 1223a7–16 (Walzer/Mingay); trans. Kenny (2011), modified. I thank two anonymous reviewers for helpful suggestions on translation. ³² archai is the plural term for archê, a word that is systematically ambiguous between the idea of origins and the notion of ruling. ³³ Inwood and Woolf (2013), p. 25. ³⁴ Broadie (1991), p. 152; Meyer (1993), p. 38; Kenny (2011), p. 23. ³⁵ Proof by negation only seems to challenge this, inasmuch as the discovery of a contradiction in the conclusion causes us to reject the starting point. However, in this case the starting point was already faulty, and was merely exposed as such by pursuing the inference through. The direction of dependence goes one way.

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may seem to be changes occurring when we are ‘refuting the hypothesis and using its refutation as a proof ’. When we introduce a hypothetical argument, we might loosely think of the initial assumption as causing the refutation, but in truth the relationship is static and the hypothetical postulation only serves to reveal what is actually an atemporal relationship. The exception shows that merely logical dependence is not what he has in mind. The passage goes on to clarify that he is seeking an archê that is genuinely causal, but Aristotle is not including every kind of cause here. The context shows that, in considering the archai of human actions, Aristotle is interested in the ways that actions are subject to praise and blame, i.e. cases where we are held ethically responsible. In highlighting the fact that adult human beings are both the cause and the source or principle of their actions, aitios kai archê,³⁶ Aristotle draws attention to the special metaphysical place of human agency. Like God, like species form, agents acquire a special responsibility over certain kinds of change. This much is clear. Beyond that, however, the passage has generated different interpretations. In comparing this passage to the position articulated in Nicomachean Ethics 3.1 and 3.5, Cooper argued that the two treatises share a common interest in the assignment of causal responsibility only, a kind of responsibility human beings share with animals and small children. Eudemian Ethics 2.6 makes ‘crystal clear’, he writes, that it is proposing ‘a theory of causal responsibility—that is, causal responsibility specifically of agents, specifically for actions; it is also made clear that this responsibility must rest in the agent’s desires, decisions, and thoughts’.³⁷ I agree. However, I disagree with Cooper’s reading of the kind of causal responsibility that could be assigned specifically to adult human actions. Cooper is interested in stressing the parallels between Eudemian Ethics 2.6 and the more truncated remarks of Nicomachean Ethics 3.1 and 3.5. In the latter texts, Aristotle defines the voluntary in such a way as to include the doings of animals and small children.³⁸ Aristotle says, at NE 3.5, that human beings are the archê of actions, and compares this to the role of the begetter of children;³⁹ Cooper thinks this cryptic remark can be clarified by comparison to the more expansive passage in EE 2.6. By emphasizing the role of desire, thought, and decision, Cooper suggests, EE 2.6 is providing us with an argument for locating responsibility within the agent. Cooper insists, however, that this responsibility is merely causal responsibility and not—as other readers have thought—some form of specifically moral responsibility.⁴⁰ By ‘causal responsibility’ Cooper evidently means efficient cause, a responsibility that is also exercised by animals and children. It would not, on his reading, be specific to action, but would extend to animal self-motion. ³⁶ I owe to an anonymous commentator the suggestion that the reference to αἴτιος καὶ ἀρχὴ at EE 2.6, 1223a15–16 should not be read as hendiadys, with Kenny. ³⁷ Cooper (2013), p. 275. ³⁸ For a defence of the translation of hekousios as voluntary—against a proposed revision of common practice by David Charles—see Heinaman (1986), (1988b); Charles (2006). ³⁹ NE 3.5, 1113b18–19. ⁴⁰ Cooper (2013).

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Cooper begins from an illuminating analysis of the distinction Aristotle makes between voluntary and involuntary doings. He seeks to illustrate why Aristotle thinks that, for action to count as voluntary, the source of the action must be in the agent. He concludes that Aristotle’s point is that animals—including humans—locomote on the basis of desires, perceptions, or thoughts internal to the organism. While desires may have causal antecedents, animals are different from other living beings in possessing faculties for self-motion, perception, and desire.⁴¹ Only certain kinds of beings contain desires and perceptions, which constitute a particular type of causal feature and thereby accord self-movers a special and ineliminable status in the causal nexus. Because Nicomachean Ethics claims that the doings of animals and small children may also be voluntary, Cooper argues that the sense in which we are said to be archai of actions applies to animals and small children as well as adults. However, that is not what the text says: Eudemian Ethics 2.6 refers only to human beings. Cooper thus ignores a distinction Aristotle draws and fails to explain why, in EE 2.6, Aristotle makes a point of stressing that adult human beings are classified not only as archai of action but also as kuriai archai, i.e. controlling sources or principles. I suggest that the distinction is significant, and that Aristotle nowhere applies this stronger designation to animals. Evidently, the passage in Eudemian Ethics is claiming something more than Nicomachean Ethics. Why would Aristotle want to single out adult human beings as controlling their actions? Cooper acknowledges a difference in the agency of adult human beings on the one hand and animals and small children on the other. Adult human beings are more autonomous, inasmuch as they can ‘reflect critically upon and set their own goals for action’.⁴² Cooper is trying to distinguish the job of assigning responsibility from that of determining the degree of agency involved. However, in doing so, he misses the distinctive point made at Eudemian Ethics 2.6. The claim that adult human beings are controlling sources cannot be assimilated to the merely causal responsibility ascribed even to small children or animals. If we were to ask for a further reason for distinguishing human action from animal self-motion—a reason that would qualify adult human beings as controlling their actions—it is surely this ability of mature human beings to set their own goals. The parallel between the two treatises does not, then, support as deflationary a reading of EE 2.6 as Cooper seeks. If the reason for singling out human beings in particular as controlling their actions is that they can set their own goals, the responsibility identified here must be more than mere efficient cause.⁴³ Both Anthony Kenny and Susan Sauvé Meyer discuss the passage in EE 2.6, and try to understand its particular claim.⁴⁴ Kenny, noting that not every cause qualifies

⁴¹ DA 3.9–10. ⁴² Cooper (2013), p. 295. ⁴³ The account here does not do justice to Cooper’s complex argument: to do so would stray too far away from the argument of this work. ⁴⁴ Kenny (1979); Meyer (1993). See Irwin (1980b).

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       

as an archê—he translates this as ‘principle’—suggests that Aristotle’s classification comes about because human beings, like God, are ‘uncaused causes’ of certain actions.⁴⁵ Kenny suggests that ‘only a cause whose causation has no further cause is a principle’,⁴⁶ and offers as support the paragraph in which Aristotle explains how some mathematical objects are responsible for one another’s properties. This doesn’t show why human beings can be uncaused causes, however, especially as Aristotle acknowledges that our decisions stem from our character, which is formed by past experiences. Meyer also assumes that human beings are likened to the divine in being ‘unmoved movers’.⁴⁷ Like Cooper, she supposes that human beings are being designated as archai of their actions in the same sense as animals are. Meyer explicitly refers to Aristotle’s discussion of self-motion in Physics 8, where all animals— including humans—are described as self-movers.⁴⁸ This assumption that kuriai archai refers to unmoved movers is, I think, a red herring. In 1978, David Furley drew attention to a supposed puzzle about the account of self-motion in Physics 8.⁴⁹ His paper spurred a small literature seeking to understand Aristotle’s reason for calling animals ‘self-movers’, despite the fact that every animal motion is caused by changes in the environment.⁵⁰ In fact, the puzzle is due to a simple ambiguity in the term kinêsis, which can refer either to locomotion specifically or to change as a whole.⁵¹ Animals are self-movers in the local sense—that they initiate local motion in response to other kinds of change—but not uncaused causes of change tout court. Animals start to walk, swim, fly, when they are not directly pushed or pulled, even while local motions are caused by qualitative changes involved in the various processes of perception, imagination, desire. Animal self-motion is classified as a distinct category, and not identified with that of uncaused cause.⁵² Cooper is surely right that the location of desires, thoughts, and decisions internal to the organism is the relevant sense in which both humans and animals are archai, and not the idea that self-motions are uncaused. This idea that Aristotle uses kurios to signal that our actions are uncaused is surprisingly pervasive. David Charles asserts that human beings are classified as ‘absolute controller of what occurs’ and are compared to God because the agent ‘is the sole controller of what happens (1223a5ff.)’.⁵³ However, Aristotle does not say here that the agent is the sole controller, merely that what happens is up to the agent.⁵⁴ Nothing in his account precludes that there could be other causal influences at work. Moreover, Aristotle—as Charles acknowledges—allows that we can be held

⁴⁵ Kenny (1979), pp. 4–6. The chart on p. 6 clearly classifies human beings as uncaused causes of motion. ⁴⁶ Kenny (1979), p. 4. ⁴⁷ Meyer (1993), p. 151; cf. Kenny (1979), p. 6. ⁴⁸ Phys. 8.2, 252b21–8; 8.6, 259b6–17. ⁴⁹ Reprinted as Furley (1994). ⁵⁰ See esp. Gill and Lennox (1994). ⁵¹ Berryman (2002). ⁵² I argue in more detail in Berryman (2002) that the puzzle addressed by Furley, and by most of the authors in Gill and Lennox (1994), can be traced to this ambiguity. ⁵³ Charles (2006), p. 15. ⁵⁴ EE 2.6, 1223a5–9.

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responsible in a sense for failing to exercise sufficient control.⁵⁵ We need a better account of why we are properly held responsible for our actions, which does not preclude the possibility that other causes may be acting on us, or even that—on occasion—we fail to exercise the kind of control that we ought. So if actions are not uncaused, what makes adult human beings kuriai archai? Meyer took the Eudemian passage to be singling out human beings as efficient causes of action via the causal agency of character. She argued that external things or events are only accidentally such as to trigger an action of a morally relevant kind; character, on the other hand, is such as to reliably produce just or unjust, virtuous or unvirtuous actions.⁵⁶ Aristotle takes us to be unmoved movers of our actions, she suggests, in the sense that we are non-accidentally causes of those actions under a morally evaluable description. To be just or unjust, for example, an action needs to be chosen according to a conception of the good, as only adult human beings can do.⁵⁷ Meyer is right, I believe, to stress the role of our conception of the good in defining the sphere of evaluable action, but wrong to try to assimilate this to a kind of efficient causation. There are several points on which Meyer’s account of Aristotle’s view requires modification. First, the reference to self-movers does not help us understand Aristotle’s point in EE 2.6. Meyer’s attempt to explain philosophically the idea that animals are self-movers by distinguishing accidental and non-accidental causes cannot be right, inasmuch as it does not differentiate animals from the elements, which are also non-accidental causes of their natural motions.⁵⁸ Meyer’s notion that character is an unmoved mover is also unAristotelian.⁵⁹ To show why character— a disposition toward a certain kind of action—is indeed the efficient cause and not some external event that triggers it, she describes the role of character as rather like Neoplatonic emanating causes, constantly active.⁶⁰ She suggests that character constantly emanates a kind of causal possibility. However, the causal role of a settled disposition or hexis is closer to Aristotle’s notion of second actuality, which is not causally active until an impediment is removed.⁶¹ Aristotle would agree with Meyer that the external trigger activating such a second potential is merely a cause accidentally,⁶² but he does not regard the disposition or hexis to respond in certain kinds of ways as sufficient to qualify as an unmoved mover. Rather, the external object of desire would be his designate for that role.⁶³ Moreover, if character is considered simply as a disposition to cause determinate kinds of responses, it is not clear that this would distinguish human beings from animals. Something analogous to character—a settled, background disposition that varies between individual organisms—is also ascribed to children and animals.⁶⁴

⁵⁵ ⁵⁷ ⁵⁹ ⁶¹ ⁶³

Charles (2006), p. 16; EE 2.9, 1225b11–13. ⁵⁶ Meyer (1993), p. 165. Meyer (1993), pp. 25–6. ⁵⁸ Meyer (1994); Berryman (2002), pp. 87–8. Meyer (1993), p. 155. ⁶⁰ Meyer (1993), p. 155. DA 2.5, 417a22-b9; cf. NE 10.4, 1174b31–1175a5. ⁶² Phys. 8.4, 255b25–30. Metaph. 12.7, 1072a26–8. ⁶⁴ Meyer (1993), pp. 23–4.

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       

What is relevant about character is not that it is a stable disposition efficiently causing certain kinds of behaviours. Rather, as Jean Roberts notes, we evaluate character—the relevant kind of disposition here—because it is connected to our having a conception of the good.⁶⁵ I propose that Aristotle takes adult human beings to be kuriai archai of actions inasmuch as they supply the final cause of action: this is another way of saying that we are responsible for the conception of the good that governs our actions. This proposal resolves an oddity Kenny noted in his reading of this passage—that Aristotle does not take us to be the archê of actions done in ignorance, despite the fact that we have control over these events happening or not. If efficient cause were all that were at issue, this distinction could not be made plausible. Kenny suggests that Aristotle must have changed his meaning to refer only to things for which we are responsible.⁶⁶ This is unsatisfactory, since it not only saddles Aristotle with a change of meaning but also presupposes that he has an independent account of the grounds for assigning responsibility.⁶⁷ If we suppose that—like the unmoved mover and like the parent in substantial generation—human beings are kuriai archai in the sense of providing the final cause of their action, the puzzle disappears. Actions done in ignorance do not reflect our conception of the good.⁶⁸ To be a final cause of an action is not simply to play an efficient causal role in bringing it about, but to assume a certain responsibility for its being good. This final causal responsibility works somewhat differently from efficient causation. We praise and blame someone, not because we know that they deliberated about a particular action according to their conception of the good, but because we believe they could have done, and that the action thus reflects their ethical vision. An agent can be blamed for an action done in ignorance if the lack of regret indicates that better information would not have altered their course; a habituated response can be praiseworthy if it stems from a long-term decision reflective of an admirable commitment. Hence, final causal responsibility need not require an efficient causal intervention. Cases of genuine ignorance of factual matters can constitute an excusing circumstance, when our actions do not properly reflect our conception of the good. Reflecting on how final-causal responsibility works shows why Cooper and Meyer are mistaken to suppose that our ability to choose our goals can be assimilated to a kind of efficient-causal step in the production of a result. Final-causal control functions as a kind of meta-level control, where the fact that we could have intervened, or what we would have done in different circumstances, sometimes

⁶⁵ Roberts (1989b), p. 24; (1995), p. 577. ⁶⁶ Kenny (1979), pp. 11–12. ⁶⁷ Irwin (1980), p. 346. ⁶⁸ An anonymous reader correctly notes that there is a distinction here between being a final cause and providing the final cause: I take it that Aristotle is speaking loosely here, and that we are said to be final causes of actions by virtue of providing the goal.

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becomes germane.⁶⁹ Final causal responsibility does not entail that any active engagement occurred during the process. Rather, a kind of oversight pertains and renders us responsible through our capacity to intervene, even if there is no intervention in any particular case. In considering our responsibility for actions done in ignorance, Aristotle allows the regret an agent experiences to be relevant in the assessment of voluntariness.⁷⁰ Regret was not causally involved in our action; rather, it indicates whether we intended the action, and thus indirectly whether we have the right conception of the good. This affects the degree of responsibility we are accorded for an error. Because he recognizes that responsibility involves not only what actions we efficiently caused but some of the things that we would have done in different circumstances, his account concerns not only direct causal control but also some cases of what I am calling meta-control. Contrary to Cooper’s claim, Aristotle is not limiting his account to the straightforward issue of efficient causal responsibility. Final-causal responsibility is, I suggest, the mark of action, and functions in ways that come apart from efficient causation in some important situations. There is some debate whether Aristotle has a different account of the voluntary in Nicomachean Ethics and Eudemian Ethics. I take it that, even when Aristotle allows animal behaviour to count as voluntary,⁷¹ this is perfectly compatible with the claim that animals nonetheless do not count as agents nor as engaging in action, i.e. praxis.⁷² Irwin suggests that, as the latter belongs to the common books, there is still room to suppose that the Nicomachean Ethics considers animals or small children to be ‘voluntary agents’.⁷³ There is no reason to infer from the fact that animal movement is voluntary, however, that it be viewed as praxis.⁷⁴ Aristotle denies this unequivocally both in Eudemian Ethics Book 2 and in Nicomachean Ethics Book 6;⁷⁵ Physics also denies that animals engage in praxis.⁷⁶ Differences between the two treatises do not undermine the point being made in the passage under consideration.

⁶⁹ A comparable notion of ‘virtual control’ is articulated in Brennan and Pettit (2004), p. 42 and Pettit (2012). If a result is normally brought about by other means, but a desire would become operative only if those normal means were not operating, the desire in question is said to exercise virtual control. ⁷⁰ NE 3.1, 1110b19–24. ⁷¹ NE 3.1, 1111a26–7; b8–9. ⁷² The account in Cooper (2013) is at fault, I believe, for not recognizing the importance of the technical sense of action that is limited to adult human beings. ⁷³ Irwin (1980), p. 35; cf. Broadie (1991), p. 125. ⁷⁴ It is true that Aristotle uses a form of the verb prattein at NE 3.1, 1111a26, in a context that applies to small children and animals. However, the noun ‘action’ in the Ross/Urmson translation at NE 3.2, 111b8–9 is supplied by the translator. I believe the best sense of the text can be made by assuming that Aristotle comes to treat the noun praxis as a technical term, more restricted than voluntary movement, and associated with deliberation and choice: cf. Broadie and Rowe (2002), p. 261. He is less consistent in his use of the cognate verb. ⁷⁵ EE 2.6, 1222b18–20; 2.8, 1224a26–30; NE 6.2, 1139a18–20. ⁷⁶ Phys. 2.6, 197b1–8; cf. Irwin (1980b), p. 127.

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       

Returning to the passage from Eudemian Ethics 2.6, we can look for the common feature in the different kinds of controlling archai which Aristotle lists, focusing on the reasons for the different classifications: 0.

Unchanging sphere: called ‘controlling’ by analogy only (mathematicals)

‘where the archai are unchanging, like the archai of mathematical truth, there is no such thing as control, though the term is used of them by analogy’⁷⁷ 1.

Necessary outcomes, strictest sense of controlling (Unmoved Mover)

‘those that are the first archê of motions are said to be controlling sources, and most strictly those whose effects cannot be other than they are; no doubt God’s government is of this kind’⁷⁸ 2.

Contingent outcomes, controlling archai (substances)

‘All substances are by nature archai of a certain sort, so that each is able to produce many things of its kind, as a human being begets other humans . . .’⁷⁹ 3.

Contingent outcomes, controlling archai (human action)

‘In addition to this a human being, alone among animals, is an archê of actions, for we would not ascribe action to any of the other animals’⁸⁰ So what unites the three classes of controlling archai and distinguishes them from other causes? Meyer supposes that the analogy to the male parent in generation is introduced to point to the role of agents as efficient causes of action. However, Aristotle views the male parent as supplying formal and final as well as efficient cause in generation.⁸¹ His description of the role of substance in generation at EE 2.6 hardly makes sense if efficient causal origin were all that he had in mind: he points to the fact that a single substance produces many others of the same kind. Surely what he is pointing to here is the normative role of species form and not merely its efficient causality. Species kinds generate not merely some other entity but one with a developmental goal, i.e. a final cause that comes from the parent. What is distinctive about generation is not that many things have the same causal origin but that many things have the same final cause, i.e. the same species nature that determines their kind and natural goal. The Unmoved Mover also plays a considerably greater causal role in the natural world than merely that of efficient cause of change: the divine is what all things imitate, whether in reproducing, in engaging in eternal motion, or in aspiring to be rational as far as possible.⁸² Final cause is the uniting feature here. The analogy between action and generation can only be understood, I conclude, by recognizing that we are the source as final as well as efficient causes of our actions.⁸³ In action, the final cause is the intended goal. ⁷⁷ EE 2.6, 1222b22–5. ⁷⁸ EE 2.6, 1222b20–3. ⁷⁹ EE 2.6, 1222b15–18. ⁸⁰ EE 2.6, 1222b18–20. ⁸¹ e.g. Phys. 2.7, 198a25–7; PA 1.1, 641a26. ⁸² On this, see esp. Sedley (1999). ⁸³ Interestingly, Gabbe (2012) reaches the same conclusion about the meaning of the remark in EE 8.2 that God is the archê of motion in the soul.

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What does it mean to be the final cause of an action? Efficient causal accounts refer to physical processes that are not necessarily under our control. Such natural processes also supply the goal or final cause in animals: the perception of greenery as pleasant is the reason why the deer tries to jump the garden fence. Human beings are able to impact their own goals by reasoning: Simmias may be moved to respond by the sight of the pastry cart, but he can dismiss it as a distraction and continue his study of harmonics instead. The sense in which human beings are controlling sources of action—what distinguishes adult human responsibility for action from the behaviour of animals and small children—is that we could control what goods we aim at, whether or not that is what happens on a given occasion. Simmias cannot reasonably argue that the pie made him do it: his ability to control his choices is the basis for holding him responsible. Eudemian Ethics 2.6 offers important evidence, then, as to Aristotle’s notion of the practical good and its relationship to the natural good. The point of this passage has not properly been appreciated. The sense in which human beings are sources of action— what distinguishes adult human responsibility from the behaviour of animals and small children—is that we choose the good that we aim at. It is human beings as agents, in contrast to their role as natural substances, that is at issue. This claim undercuts the notion that he thinks we should draw ethical guidance from the study of human nature. Instead, it asserts the autonomy of human choice as sources of our own practical goals.

The Primacy of Action There are a number of indications throughout the ethical treatises—some have been discussed already—of the importance Aristotle places on the consideration of action as a distinct ontological category. The reason for this emphasis emerged earlier in this chapter: the fact that ethics is the domain of disposition and choice with respect to action means that the applicable notion of good must be one that is appropriate to action. Aristotle’s examples of apparent goods—the pleasant, the useful, the fine—are all goods of a kind that are suitable as objects of pursuit. His account of the final end of action, i.e. of a choiceworthy life considered as a whole, likewise needs to be one that is accepted as unquestionably choiceworthy by his listeners. Approaching ethical theory with the notion of action firmly in view gives shape to the account, in a way that excludes theories such as Plato’s. Action is marked out from other ontological categories by several characteristics: it involves change; it is goal-directed; and—unlike animal movement—it results from the choices of practical reasoners. While Aristotle’s ethics is often characterized as virtue ethics, and includes an extensive examination of virtuous dispositions, Aristotle emphasizes that it is not in the possession but the use of these qualities that the good lies. He stresses that activity of functional capacities is primary;⁸⁴ he ⁸⁴ NE 1.7, 1098a5–7.

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       

emphasizes, by analogy to Olympic competition, that we place value not on possession but on use of virtues.⁸⁵ Our end may be virtuous activity, but the way we achieve this is by action, i.e. by specific choices with particular goals in view. We should not think of two stages here, Aristotle tells us, on the process–product model, as though we were getting our chores out of the way in order to have time to be virtuous. Rather, making good choices and enacting them is what it means to engage in virtuous activity of the soul. We can’t aim directly at being virtuous: we need to aim at specific goal-directed actions.⁸⁶ To study ethics, then, we study actions and the dispositions and choices directed towards them. This may seem self-evident, but natural development focuses not on action but activity. Unlike activity or energeia, action or praxis necessarily involves us in pursuit or avoidance, i.e. in designating a certain end as positively or negatively valenced and reacting appropriately. Activity expresses our nature; action is rather directed outwards, towards some good in the world beyond ourselves that is accorded positive value. In contrast to animal self-motion, it reflects our choices or failure to choose—our conception of the good—and thus is subject to assessment by practical reason. To act is implicitly to express a vision about what is practically valuable. We may decline to act—by behaving as wantons, perhaps, driven by the impulse of the moment—but that non-decision is also our responsibility, since we could have done otherwise. Action is peculiarly human: it is shared neither by animals nor by the gods.⁸⁷ Animal self-motion is brought about by biological drives and is not mediated by conceptions that are subject to reflection and reconceptualization, as human action is. Aristotle denies that the gods have need of action,⁸⁸ and when he describes the doings of the divine he uses the language of energeia or activity, not of praxis.⁸⁹ Divine activity is the expression of a completely actualized capacity and not a goal-directed pursuit of some good. The ability to choose the practical good is our peculiar sphere, and the subject matter of ethics. Opportunities for action are important to developing our capacity for ethics. Aristotle notes that slaves, because their lives do not include any opportunities for choice or for pursuing happiness, cannot form a political community.⁹⁰ On humane grounds, this only makes his endorsement of slavery the more regrettable. Theoretically speaking, it clarifies the importance of the exercise of choice and practical reason in attaining the capacities for participating in political community. His

⁸⁵ NE 1.8, 1098b32–1099a5; cf. 1.10, 1100a15; 1100b13–30; NE 9.7, 1168a5–20. ⁸⁶ For a related point about aiming, see Schmidtz (1995), p. 90. ⁸⁷ I am ignoring here the suggestion of DC 2.12, 292a14–b9 that stars—and even animals and plants to some degree—should be said to act. The best explanation for this anomalous remark is that Aristotle is here using praxis to refer to change, and not—as he does later—using it as a technical term for human action. ⁸⁸ NE 10.8, 1178b10–21. On this trope in the Protrepticus, see Hutchinson and Johnson (2014), p. 406. ⁸⁹ NE 10.8, 1178b21–3; Metaph 12.7, 1072b24–31. ⁹⁰ Pol. 3.9, 1280a32–4.

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argument for denying citizenship to artisans similarly turns on awareness of the need for a sphere of autonomous choice to develop character.⁹¹ I suggest it is no accident that the ethical works begin from a claim about the nature of action. The most famous is the opening line of Nicomachean Ethics. Although it is one of the most familiar statements in the history of ethics, its meaning is curiously disputed. Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and choice, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has been well said to be that at which all aim.⁹²

Two points are worth noting. First, the panta in the final clause refers, not to every possible object: rather, the context restricts discussion to human pursuits of the kind enumerated in the first half of the sentence. These are goal-directed endeavours of some kind, and indeed ones that are engaged in only by rational animals. Even the gods have no need of art, inquiry, or choice: we are in the realm of distinctively human pursuits. Hence I have supplied the noun ‘pursuits’ in place of Ross/Urmson’s more generic translation ‘things’. The first statement is emphatically not a general statement of teleology, but a specific claim about human endeavour. The second point is that the adverb kalôs, ‘well’, used to endorse the inference from some good to the good, suggests that Aristotle is commending such an inference rather than regarding it as logically required.⁹³ I take the choice of adverb to emphasize that Aristotle regards such a conclusion as part of the best theory, and not as one that follows by logic alone. As others have argued, the arguments that follow indicate that Aristotle does not regard the existence of a single, unitary good of all action as yet established as a necessary conclusion.⁹⁴ If Aristotle is approving the move to a conclusion, rather than regarding it as logically mandated, this fits with the notion that he has a further argument for the conclusion, rather than regarding it as a necessary implication. Yet we need to seek an account of the choice of dio, ‘for this reason’: why would he think that the fact that all actions aim at some good means that actions rightly seek the good? Scholars have rightly been puzzled by the idea that there is a connection between the two parts of the sentence, as it is traditionally read. It is generally assumed, following Anscombe, that ‘the good’ refers to a single goal that is the ultimate aim of any particular action.⁹⁵ Anscombe suggests that Aristotle did not notice the ambiguity in ‘all actions aim at some goal’, inasmuch as the universal quantifier could be read with wide or narrow scope: ⁹¹ Pol. 3.5, 1278a20. ⁹² Πᾶσα τέχνη καὶ πᾶσα μέθοδος, ὁμοίως δὲ πρᾶξίς τε καὶ προαίρεσις, ἀγαθοῦ τινὸς ἐφίεσθαι δοκεῖ· διὸ καλῶς ἀπεφήναντο τἀγαθόν, οὗ πάντ’ ἐφίεται, NE 1.1, 1094a1–3; trans. Ross/Urmson, slightly modified. ⁹³ Broadie and Rowe (2002), p. 262. Some scholars think that Aristotle is merely presenting endoxa, such as Eudoxus’ view: Richardson (1992). ⁹⁴ cf. Chapter 1, note 3. ⁹⁵ Anscombe (1957), p. 34; MacIntyre (1966), pp. 58–9, ascribes this reading to medieval scholarship.

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Either: For all actions, there is some good at which each action aims Or: There is some one good at which all actions aim Many scholars accept Anscombe’s reading of the point that Aristotle is making, but deny that he reaches it by fallacy.⁹⁶ Rather, the fact that he offers arguments towards the idea of a unique, final goal in succeeding passages is taken as evidence that Aristotle in the opening sentence is merely summarizing the conclusion he will argue for, not taking it as demonstrated. Stephen Everson takes a different tack: he challenged Anscombe’s reading of the second clause of the opening statement, proposing instead that ‘the good’ is merely a stand-in for any good. The point would thus be that ‘whatever is a good is something which is (such as) to be aimed at in action’.⁹⁷ Everson does not expand on the significance of the opening, as he reads it: his focus, like Anscombe’s, is on the argument Aristotle makes for a unitary conception of happiness. This reading seems to take the initial point that all actions are goal-directed as limiting the scope of the practical good to objects of pursuit. This is a starkly deflationary claim, in effect rejecting attempts to understand the good—to agathon—by looking to metaphysics, rather than by examining the nature of human motivation. Not only is Aristotle not making a fallacious inference, on Everson’s reading; his emphasis is not on the singleness of the practical good at all. I believe that this is on the right track, but that it is not quite right to gloss to agathon as ‘any good’. Rather, Aristotle is talking about the practical good as a concept, in contrast to particular goods. The scope of to agathon here is the notion that forms the topic of inquiry for the entire work. It carries with it a veridical implication of the true or genuine goal of action, i.e. that which it is the object of ethics to understand. Thus, the use of the definite article in the opening sentence has an implication that it is not about the contrast between a single rather than a plural conception of the good. It is rather captured by the contrast between apparent goods and true good.⁹⁸ In Aristotle’s circle, the definite article—especially as applied to qualitative terms— would be understood as referring to the genuine good, as opposed to some mere instance.⁹⁹ The phrase ‘the X itself ’ is the canonical way to refer to a Platonic Form, but where the context is clear, a Form can simply be referred to as ‘the X’.¹⁰⁰ Anscombe understood the contrast between the indefinite and definite article in the opening statement to mark the distinction between ‘one good among others’ and ⁹⁶ Ackrill (1980); Engberg-Pedersen (1983), pp. 30–1; Dahl (1984), p. 102 ff.; Urmson (1988), pp. 10–11; Kraut (1989), pp. 217–20; Broadie (1991), pp. 8–15; Richardson (1992), pp. 346–7; Broadie and Rowe (2002), p. 264. ⁹⁷ Everson (1998), p. 80. ⁹⁸ Richard Kraut (2002), p. 51, takes this to be the significance of dokei: he interprets the claim that action ‘seems to aim at some good’ as meaning that we aim at ‘what seems good to us’. I read dokei to mean that the claim is commonly accepted. ⁹⁹ A point made by Broadie and Rowe (2002), p. 262. ¹⁰⁰ e.g. Rep. 6, 508B12–13; Metaph. 1.9, 992a7–9; NE 1.6, 1096b6.

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‘a unique good’. Rather, the articles mark the distinction between the apparent goods aimed at in specific pursuits, and the true good, i.e. the abstract object of inquiry for philosophical ethics. The two distinctions overlap: apparent goods are generally good in some way, e.g. by providing pleasure; the true good is also a singular conception. I propose that the opening sentence is not attempting to assert the uniqueness of the practical goal, but rather making a different point about the practical good that is the subject matter of ethics. The inference, as I read it, is this. Because we see that all human pursuits are goaldirected, we come to understand that inquiry into the true practical good must focus on what it is that we truly aim at. This is the inference Aristotle is commending. It is because all pursuits aim at some good that we should inquire into the highest good that can be achieved by action. That is the aim of the inquiry. The unity of our conception of the good is a further claim. The initial point itself is important, nonetheless, and is iterated more explicitly at the beginning of chapter four: Let us resume our inquiry and state, in view of the fact that all knowledge and choice aims at some good, what it is that we say political science aims at and what is the highest of all goods achievable by action.¹⁰¹

It is because all action is goal-directed that we are driven to inquire into the genuine good. Implicit here is a statement about the nature of practical reasoning: it takes us from merely pursuing some goal to inquiring what goal we should rightly be pursuing. It is important to remember that ethics—the study of human action—is to be contrasted with animal self-motion, which is motivated by an appearance of good. The term phainomenon, like the English notion of appearance, holds two different senses: that of a sensory presentation, and that of a potentially misleading presentation.¹⁰² Aristotle distinguishes the ethical person who aims for the true good from the non-virtuous person who is misled by the merely apparent good.¹⁰³ It is the particular job of practical reasoning to take us from the one to the other. Ethics is the study of good or bad choices in beings that not merely move themselves about in pursuit of natural goals, but are capable of reflecting on the goodness of their goals. A liberal rephrasing of the point of the first sentence, as I read it, would be as follows: Since actions invariably aim at what seems good, it has been rightly declared that ethics investigates the true good, since the pursuit of the latter is implicit in the nature of action.

Why think that Aristotle would be concerned to highlight an appearance–reality distinction here? I argued in Chapter 3 that Aristotle’s project needs to be understood against the background of the Cyrenaic denial that there is any subject of inquiry beyond immediate experience. In his intellectual context, Aristotle needs to reaffirm

¹⁰¹ NE 1.4, 1095a13–15, trans. Ross/Urmson. ¹⁰² Moss (2012), p. 4, calls the latter sense ‘false’, rather than merely suspect. ¹⁰³ NE 3.4, 1113a15–1113b1.

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the importance of pursuing the true good, and to try to show why we are committed to that pursuit. By showing that the pursuit of the apparent good also implicitly commits us—if we are practical reasoners—to considering what is the true good, he offers a response to the Cyrenaic denial that there is any such notion. The pursuit of the true good is implicit in the nature of action. We do not need to look to an external, Platonic ideal to reason about the true good. The mere fact that we can step back from the immediate presentations of our animal nature and ask if the goals presented to us by desire are genuinely good means that we are practical reasoners. It is merely because actions are—by their nature—goal-directed that we are committed to seeking the genuine good. The reading of Aristotle that I shall develop depends on an understanding of the nature of practical reason as a capacity that is committed to reflecting on its own goals. As I argued in Chapter 6, there is no reason to think that Aristotle’s conception of practical reason is of a purely instrumental capacity, i.e. one limited in its scope to determining the means to our ends. If so, Aristotle would not claim that it is ‘absurd’ to suppose that a practically wise person would act dishonourably.¹⁰⁴ He evidently sees practical wisdom as more than a merely procedural notion. It includes some assumption that the goals chosen are the correct ones. Such a beginning to an inquiry into ethics makes a significant point about the shape of the inquiry to come. Since ethics is distinguished from animal self-motion— the inquiry that logically precedes the ethics in the Aristotelian hierarchy of sciences—by the presence of action, i.e. the capacity for rational choice, it is not surprising that Aristotle should begin from analysis of the notion of action. It is the distinctive feature of human beings that requires the development of the discipline of ethics. We in fact see the same commitment echoed at the beginning of other normative treatises. The opening sentence of the Politics, interestingly, also justifies the claim that a community is established for a goal by pointing to the goaldirectedness of every human action: Every state is a community of some kind, and every community is established with a view to some good; for everyone always acts in order to obtain that which they think good.¹⁰⁵

The parallels to the starting point of the Nicomachean Ethics is striking: he begins both treatises with an affirmation of the structure of human endeavour. The particular point about the polis draws on a general claim that human actions are aimed at the good. Moreover, this version stresses that action is not merely at what appears good: the verb dokein points to the role of opinion and judgement in action, as opposed to the merely perceptual appearances that motivate animals. The

¹⁰⁴ NE 7.2, 1146a5–7. ¹⁰⁵ Ἐπειδὴ πᾶσαν πόλιν ὁρῶμεν κοινωνίαν τινὰ οὖσαν καὶ πᾶσαν κοινωνίαν ἀγαθοῦ τινος ἕνεκεν συνεστηκυῖαν (τοῦ γὰρ εἶναι δοκοῦντος ἀγαθοῦ χάριν πάντα πράττουσι πάντες), Pol. 1.1, 1252a1–3; trans. Jowett, slightly modified.

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establishment of the state is presented as an instance of human practical endeavour. Aristotle reiterates the point about arts and sciences later in the Politics.¹⁰⁶ In Magna Moralia, the crucial claim about the nature of action appears after some initial stage-setting and a survey of competing views.¹⁰⁷ This opening indicates that the ethical lectures in the Lyceum might have included—as other Aristotelian works do—a preliminary summary of competing views. If we consider Magna Moralia as representing an early stratum of Aristotle’s ethical thinking, it may be that a survey of competitors was indeed part of the lecture course on ethics. After this survey, Magna Moralia begins its positive inquiry—as do Nicomachean Ethics and Politics—with a claim about the nature of the practical arena: First of all, then, we must see that every science and capacity has an end, and that too a good one; for no science or capacity exists for the sake of evil. Since then in every capacity the end is good, it is plain that the end of the best will be the best good . . . . For we have not to do with the good of the Gods. To speak about that is a different matter, and the inquiry is foreign to our present purpose.¹⁰⁸

This text mentions epistêmai and dunameis, i.e. sciences and capacities, rather than action: as Nicomachean Ethics also pairs sciences and arts, using dunameis as an alternative name for technai, it is fair to assume that dunameis here refers to arts, and not to natural capacities.¹⁰⁹ We can see this passage as echoing the point made at the opening of Nicomachean Ethics and Politics about goal-directed endeavours. Here also, inquiry is restricted to the human sphere, and the practical good explicitly distinguished from the good of the divine. It may seem a little odd that Aristotle considers the structure of arts and sciences, if his point is really to examine the nature of action. The opening discussions of Nicomachean Ethics show clearly that the study of ethical good for the individual is considered to be a part of the political art, which aims to improve the entire city.¹¹⁰ This grates on modern ears, since we do not think of skill in governing or producing good behaviour in others as continuous with the attainment of individual character. We might regard governing as a skill that could be exercised by people of indifferent personal ethics, or conversely believe that the finest individuals could be poor politicians. For Aristotle, practical wisdom—required for personal probity as well as excellent leadership—is the necessary link between the two. The subject matter of political science is fine and just actions:¹¹¹ an understanding of these could be applied equally to one’s own conduct or to the design of civic institutions. Aristotle would not assume that ethical excellence is to be understood on the craft model, but he does look to other goal-directed human pursuits for understanding of the structure of action and its relationship to its goals.

¹⁰⁶ Pol. 3.12, 1282b14. ¹⁰⁷ MM 1.1, 1181a24–1182a33. ¹⁰⁸ MM 1.1, 1182a34–1182b5, trans. St. G. Stock. ¹⁰⁹ NE 1.1, 1094a10; 1.2, 1094a26. ¹¹⁰ NE 1.2, 1094b9–10. ¹¹¹ NE 1.3, 1094b15.

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Eudemian Ethics does not begin in this way with the structure of action. After some preliminaries, however, Aristotle remarks in the second chapter that it is foolish not to organize one’s life towards some overarching end.¹¹² This may seem to imply that the search for an overall goal is an optional if preferable life strategy, perhaps one that leads to greater goal satisfaction, but is not a necessity.¹¹³ The argument is briefer than that of Nicomachean Ethics, which supposes that whatever final end we adopt, it needs to have certain formal properties. In the Eudemian version, the argument that our final end needs to be complete is presented as the only way to avoid a life of unendingly vain pursuit.¹¹⁴ Are we to suppose that Aristotle changed his position between the two texts? Did he consider the search for our true goal to be a beneficial but optional quest at one time, and change his mind to view it as non-optional? I suggest that this is unlikely: the echoes in Politics and Magna Moralia indicate that Aristotle regarded an organizing end as a commitment implicit in the nature of goal-directed pursuits. The passage in Eudemian Ethics may be making a somewhat stronger claim than is implied by translating aphrosunê as ‘foolish’. This could be merely a charge of imprudence. On the other hand, it is a privative term for phronêsis, the term Aristotle uses in this text for reason generally.¹¹⁵ In other words, the claim could be that living by impulses of the moment without a long-term plan is to fail to apply practical reason to one’s doings. This would be tantamount to a failure to act at all. There is precedent for treating aphrosunê as a state of thoughtlessness, rather than simply a poor choice of goals. Plato in the Protagoras debates the correct opposite of aphrosunê, in a passage where Socrates forces Protagoras to oppose it first to wisdom and then to temperance.¹¹⁶ The latter opposition implies a failure of the reasoning faculty to exercise control, and not merely poor judgement. Aristotle elsewhere refers to a related sophistic discussion of the vice of aphrosunê.¹¹⁷ Thus we can read Eudemian Ethics as accusing those who do not reflect on their goals not merely of bad judgement but of failure to exercise practical reason at all. The claim of Eudemian Ethics about the thoughtlessness or irrationality of failing to organize our ends might be seen as equivalent to the Nicomachean threat that our pursuits turn out to be fruitless and vain if we lack a comprehensive and truly final goal. Consider the difference between animal self-motion and human action. Both can be responsive to desire; the difference is that human beings can step back and consider their long term goals. To fail to do so—to act on the impulse of the moment—is certainly available to us. But Aristotle echoes the position Plato had argued for at great length: that the life of pursuing the immediate apparent pleasure is not a human life at all. Some attempt to coordinate our aims is needed for our lives to

¹¹² ¹¹⁴ ¹¹⁵ ¹¹⁶

EE 1.2, 1214b10–11. ¹¹³ cf. Dahl (1984), p. 105. Ackrill (1980); Broadie (1991), pp. 13–15; White (1992), pp. 19–21; Annas (1993), pp. 30–3. EE 1.2, 1214b10–11. See Schofield (2012) on the reading of anoia as mindlessness. Prot. 332A–E; cf. NE 7.2, 1146a26–30. ¹¹⁷ NE 7.2, 1146a26–30.

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count as fully human. Aristotle remarks that pursuing courses of action without a coherent notion of a satisfying end-state renders pursuit inherently futile. If we have several competing ends with no conception of how they could be reconciled into a whole, the issue of whether we have achieved the best end will necessarily remain unsettled, because we will have no coherent conception of what that achievement would be like. Examining the nature of action and recognizing the multiple possible goals drives us to conclude that we need a unified vision of a good life. The idea that we need to think about our choice of lives—and that this very act of reflection brings with it certain substantive commitments—is a central Aristotelian position and key to understanding his argument. Just as Socrates urged that the unexamined life is not worth living, Aristotle—responding to the Cyrenaics as well as hedonists—presents examination of the aims of our actions as constitutive of our humanity. His claim that action centrally involves the ability to reflect on the good is a protreptic argument, intended to spur his listeners to reflection. It also provides reassurance that the ethical life can be justified from within by any who begin to reflect. Those who stop with the life of appearances are excused from consideration: there is nothing that can be said to persuade them. The key feature of practical reasoning is that it aims at the good. Theoretical reasoning aims at truth, but practical reasoning aims at the practical good. All action, like animal self-motion, is goal-directed: it pursues some good or avoids some evil. For animals, the ‘good’ or ‘evil’ is merely a matter of the way some perceived object appears to them: it promises pleasure or the avoidance of pain. When we turn to reasoning about how to act, however, we begin asking what is really good for us to do, here and now. Practical reason, in its essence, seeks the practical good. As soon as reason is applied to our goals, it mandates some minimal organization and coordination, lest our pursuits be vain. Just as Plato urged the self-defeatingness of a life devoted to the pursuit of the pleasures of the fleeting moment, Aristotle argues for the necessity of reflecting on and organizing our goals, lest they elude us. It is the coordination of our ends into a cohesive vision that is the mark of practical reason. Any life that lacks this will fail to reach its own goals. This protreptic reading of the requirement that we employ practical reason draws on several distinct considerations that have been highlighted in earlier discussions. The first is that the insistence on a life of reason is a formal or procedural and not a substantive requirement: we are being asked to reason about our lives, and not necessarily to choose a life of study. A second is that the mere appeal to reason underdetermines the contents of that life: giving substance to the shape of our lives is a task that practical reason needs to accomplish for itself. A third is that the life according to mere appearances—the animalistic life of pleasure—is ruled out as not fulfilling the criterion, since any attempt to reflect on our lives commits us to pursue the true and not merely the apparent good. This does not mean that we cannot pursue pleasure, of course, but simply that we cannot be fully human if we pursue pleasure alone, reacting only to the immediate appearance without considering what

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is really good for us to pursue. A fourth consideration is that the process of reflection turns us towards certain kinds of lives, as well as providing justification for those choices. The application of practical reason to our lives is needed to produce an organizing vision, which we can use to organize our priorities. This may be evolving and open to revision, and would require ongoing reflection as to how to realize our goals in particular circumstances. It is unlikely to be a kind of detailed blueprint from which we could reason deductively to specific decisions, as earlier examination of the exchange between Broadie and McDowell revealed. It needs to be more specific than the notion that the goal is to become the active phronimos, the person of practical wisdom engaged in living an ethical life. To act is to aim at specific goals, a process that—if followed well—constitutes virtuous activity. It is, importantly, a vision that we formulate for ourselves, using practical reason, and not by looking to some outside authority or metaphysical source, whether divine will, abstract Forms, or our species nature.

The ‘Guise of the Good’ I have been offering some positive textual evidence suggesting that Aristotle did not identify the natural sense of good with the practical good, and that he saw the source of the latter in human agency. The crucial move Aristotle makes should be viewed, I propose, as a kind of bootstrapping. I shall argue in what follows that Aristotle begins from a formal fact about the nature of action, and concludes that the normativity of ethics is bootstrapped from this, because action carries with it an implicit commitment to the norms of practical reasoning. Reconstruction begins with the opening sentence of NE 1.1. While the literature has focused on the nature of the inference between the two parts of the sentence, the first half of the sentence alone is ambiguous, since it could be read as making either a substantive or a formal, tautological claim. Read as making a substantive claim, Aristotle would be saying that, as an empirical fact, people always aim at something they antecedently think to be good.¹¹⁸ Interpreted thus as a psychological claim about human beings, the statement has attracted criticism. Anscombe questioned Aristotle’s idea that actions aim at some good, doubting that actions need to exhibit intentionality. She asks why someone can’t simply ‘just do what he does, a great deal of the time?’¹¹⁹ On Aristotle’s view, occurrent thought or decision-making are not necessary for actions to count as having aims, or as under rational control.¹²⁰ We can act, that is, on habits and patterns we have cultivated and habituated and still count as responsible, provided only that we maintain a degree of monitoring over our own practices. By the same reasoning, we can be said to aim at ¹¹⁸ Prichard (2002).

¹¹⁹ Anscombe (1957), p. 34.

¹²⁰ Cooper (1975), p. 9.

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some goal even when the individual behaviours that contribute to some larger end are performed ‘on auto-pilot’, so to speak. As Hilary Bok noted, we frequently set a larger goal—to clean up a room—and perform individual steps towards that goal without ongoing deliberation or conscious choice.¹²¹ Nevertheless, it makes perfect sense to describe the smaller actions as contributing towards our larger goal. I suggested above that Aristotle’s discussion of extenuating circumstances and cases where we hold people responsible implies some such notion, which I call ‘meta-control’. The idea here is to suggest a kind of responsibility that does not depend on actual efficient causal intervention, but merely the possibility of doing so. Aristotle treats actions as our responsibility even when there is little occurrent thought process: we are responsible for what we do when drunk because we chose to enter a state which we ought to know could cause us to lose control. In cases where there is no time for deliberation, we can still be said to act for the sake of a goal.¹²² Similarly, we are responsible for our character because we ought to know that character is formed by the habits we acquire. Both of these kinds of cases show that Aristotle thought of rationality as a kind of metacontrol, and not necessarily as involving efficient causation. In ethical evaluation, we recognize this distinction and praise or blame people for their larger agenda-setting decisions, whether or not individual actions are consciously chosen. That is, someone whose habits are ethically at fault is blameworthy for not having modified them; the person who is sufficiently self-aware and confident in their own responses can trust to habituated reactions much of the time. We are— we need to be—sufficiently aware to remain responsible for our actions, in a manner that does not reduce to simple efficient-causal involvement in bringing them about. The role of choice as final cause is thus better characterized as meta-control, and is not identical to efficient causation. Failure to exercise meta-control—taking unfamiliar medications in a high-risk situation, abusing our authority in a moment of anger or driving when we are overly tired—is a serious breach of responsibility. Standards of adult behaviour expect us to have mastered this art. Anscombe is resisting the generality of a claim Velleman calls the ‘Guise of the Good’, i.e. Aristotle’s claim that whatever we aim at is necessarily framed positively in the mind of the agent. Her point that we often act without occurrent or conscious thought processes, however, does not undercut Aristotle’s point. We certainly stumble or wander aimlessly some of the time, but it is not clear that these non-rational behaviours need to be included in the scope of the notion of action.¹²³ Nonetheless, the claim that we always aim at some good is ambiguous.¹²⁴ Anscombe takes Aristotle to be making a substantive, empirical claim that people

¹²¹ Bok (1996). ¹²² NE 3.8, 1117a17–22; Sorabji (1980a), pp. 204–5. ¹²³ I am not placing such stringent constraints on action as Engberg-Pedersen (1983), p. 34, who counts as action only movements that follow from an agent’s settled character. ¹²⁴ Irwin (1980), p. 47 supposes that Aristotle is vacillating between making a descriptive and a normative claim here, without noticing the difference.

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must be endorsing the end they are trying to achieve. However, there is no reason to think that Aristotle understood his claim in this substantive sense. An alternative is to read the claim as a formal analysis of action. As such, it would assert that it is a minimal criterion of action—just as it is of animal self-motion—that it seek either to pursue some good or to avoid some evil. Critics of the ‘Guise of the Good’ typically take it as a substantive claim and not as a formal analysis. Actions, Velleman counters, need not aim at some good: they can be ‘disaffected, refractory, silly, satanic, or punk’.¹²⁵ He suggests that we can, in moods of despair, choose courses of action to which we attach no possible value. Velleman disputes Anscombe’s interpretation of a scene in Milton’s Paradise Lost where Satan proclaims ‘Evil, be thou my good’.¹²⁶ Anscombe suggested that Milton’s Satan was seeking liberty and glory—in other words, aiming at substantive goods— by his act of defiance. Velleman counters that this reading of Milton makes Satan into a ‘well-intentioned fool’.¹²⁷ He denies that Satan need be aiming at a substantive goal he antecedently takes to be good. Velleman’s reading of Anscombe makes Satan look theologically confused, losing sight of the evil of what he is about to do.¹²⁸ However, Milton makes clear that Satan isn’t questioning the divine value system: in the poem, Satan even expresses regret at his own past course of action.¹²⁹ Velleman reaches this unlikely interpretation because of his substantive reading of the ‘Guise of the Good’ thesis. But the poem makes clear that Satan is using ‘good’ not in the substantive sense but in the sense of a goal: he aims to pursue certain actions in order to acquire power over humanity.¹³⁰ Satan’s entire stance only makes sense if the category of the ‘evil’ has already been robustly designated. Satan is aiming at the opposite of what God wants; his ultimate goal—as Anscombe saw—is defiance of God’s will. The confusion arises because ‘good’ can refer either to a value system or to the goal of an action. Only in the former sense would Satan’s proposal seem foolish. In the latter sense it is perfectly intelligible.¹³¹ The point of acting in a manner that is disaffected or refractory is to defy someone else’s value system; even the silly seems to be parasitic, inasmuch as it depends upon sending up some social norm. The act designated ‘evil’ is pursued as a means to the pleasure, self-expression, humour, or sense of autonomy that comes with acting out. There is some further good in view, not a switch in valency. In treating the Guise of the Good as a substantive claim, Velleman recognizes that this is not the only sense the phrase can be given: the Guise of the Good could also be

¹²⁵ Velleman (1992), p. 19. He reaches his position via some technical issues in contemporary philosophy of action, which is not relevant for present purposes. ¹²⁶ Paradise Lost Bk. 4, 110. ¹²⁷ Velleman (1992), p. 18. ¹²⁸ Velleman (1992), p. 18. ¹²⁹ Paradise Lost Bk 4, 86–92. ¹³⁰ Paradise Lost Bk 4, 111; Dancy (1993), p. 6. ¹³¹ Strictly, in the context, it would be hard to defend an act of defiance of Milton’s Creator as ‘rational’, since it is ultimately doomed. Milton portrays Satan as having backed himself into a corner: giving up on hope, he makes a desperate act of defiance.

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read as stating the tautology that actions aim at some goal. On this reading, the term ‘good’ has a thin sense, meaning only an object accorded positive valence. Velleman dismisses this sense as merely trivial, but I believe it is not. To pursue is, by definition, to take a goal as positive in value, while avoidance accords negative valence to the objects shunned. This recognition is an important analysis of the constituting features of choice. The notion of valency straddles Aristotle’s distinction between rational wish and non-rational desire, since it need not involve a conceptualization of a goal.¹³² To claim that we always aim at some good is to make a significant point about the nature of action. It is a claim that places action within the scope of animal self-movement, as a category of event that involves the pursuit of some goal or the avoidance of some threatened harm. For Aristotle, the possibility of self-motion— locomotion informed by perception and desire—distinguishes animals from plants. The ability to do so deliberately and reflectively is a central human characteristic, and one that gives rise to the need for the discipline of ethics. The formal reading of the opening of the Nicomachean Ethics has much to recommend it. For one, it avoids saddling Aristotle with two conflicting claims. Read substantively, after all, the claim that every action aims at what we take to be the true good conflicts with Aristotle’s account of akrasia.¹³³ At NE 3.4, Aristotle explicitly rejects the claim that the true good is—extensionally—what everyone wishes for, on the grounds that many people choose badly.¹³⁴ Both Plato and Aristotle were clearly alive to this issue. Socrates had famously claimed that no one does evil willingly: his paradox still occupied philosophy. Socrates may have understood his view as a substantive claim about actual human beings. The character portrayed by Plato seeks to believe that his interlocutors do aim at the good, and that those who disavow conventional morality are suffering from conflicts within their existing belief sets. Socrates stumps those who claim to reject conventional ethics by showing that they cherish an underlying striving towards nobility.¹³⁵ In treating the Guise of the Good as a formal claim, then, Aristotle would be appropriating and reinterpreting Socrates’ own view. In the scholarship on the Socratic paradox, we also find the assumption that the ‘Guise of the Good’ would be trivial if understood as a formal statement about the nature of action. Rachana Kamtekar and Heda Segvic try to understand Socrates’ position by reading Plato as distinguishing a special, teleologically directed sense of wanting, marked by the use of boulêsis rather than the more usual epithumia.¹³⁶ Barney, who rejects this, proposes instead that Plato is attempting to read the paradox as an argument for the objectivity of good. Barney’s interpretation of Plato

¹³² Moss’s notion that both desire and wish involve ‘evaluative cognition’ has been criticized for ignoring the distinction between rational and non-rational ways of aiming: Morison (2013). ¹³³ Moss (2010). ¹³⁴ NE 3.4, 1113a15–19. ¹³⁵ e.g. Gorg. 488B–505C; Rep. 338C–350D; Roberts (1989b). ¹³⁶ Segvic (2000); Barney (2010), p. 37; cf. Weiss (2006); Schofield (2012).

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assumes that Plato must be trying to provide a substantive interpretation of the Guise of the Good, in order to avoid reducing the thesis to an analytic or trivial claim that we desire what we desire. Jessica Moss also assumes that the Guise of the Good would be an empty claim if understood as a formal analysis of the notion of acting.¹³⁷ According to Moss, Aristotle’s statement of the Guise of the Good is typically treated either as trivial or as ‘insane’, a dilemma that is only resolved by a substantive reading she proposes. She shares with Barney the mistaken assumption that the formal reading of the Guise of the Good renders it trivial. Moss compares the classic statements of the Guise of the Good in Nicomachean Ethics with claims about orexis and epithumia—desire broadly and non-rational appetite specifically—from other texts, including De Anima, Motu Animalium, Eudemian Ethics, and Metaphysics.¹³⁸ Moss argues that the claim about the apparent good of non-rational desire is grounded in a teleological account of the role of pleasure in motivating animal pursuit.¹³⁹ Whatever the teleological role of pleasure in non-rational desire, however, we can question whether rational desire—boulêsis and prohairesis, i.e. wish and decision—are to be understood by looking at the efficient-causal account of the non-rational desires we share with children and animals.¹⁴⁰ There is no reason to suppose, with Moss, that ‘appearing pleasant’ is the only way that objects seem good to rational adults.¹⁴¹ Human life, for Aristotle, consists in juggling the claims of several different things that appear good—the useful, the fine, the pleasant—and trying to divine which, in any given circumstance, is the truly good. To suppose that the rich tapestry of decision-making outlined in the Ethics can be reduced to the naturally mandated pursuit of pleasure as a means to our natural good is to reduce Aristotle’s ethical thought to a naturalism of a crude variety. Moss’s rationale for this revisionist reading of Aristotle is the supposed triviality of the Guise of the Good: without the dilemma she poses between the ‘insane’ and the ‘trivial’ reading, her argument for a revisionist reading becomes unpersuasive. Nicomachean Ethics opens with a list of human endeavours that are goal-directed. Moss selects out the claim that boulêsis aims at some good as the relevant claim, and assimilates the claims about boulêsis to those about orexis and epithumia, via an analysis of the teleological function of pleasure. This ignores the fact that the opening of the Nicomachean Ethics refers to a variety of pursuits: technê and inquiry are included in its sweep, endeavours that much more obviously resist subsumption to an account of the causal processes in animal self-motion. This is, I suggest, an unlikely reading of boulêsis, and one that has little hope of accounting for the role of good in human action, art, and inquiry.

¹³⁷ ¹³⁹ ¹⁴⁰ ¹⁴¹

Moss (2010). ¹³⁸ Moss (2010), p. 65. Moss (2010), esp. pp. 69–71; Moss (2012). For a critique of the account in Moss (2012), cf. Morison (2013); Modrak (2014). Prichard also argued that Aristotle is a psychological hedonist: Prichard (2002).

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Velleman, Barney, and Moss all assume that a formal reading of the Guise of the Good statement is trivial: that the claim that every action necessarily aims at some goal that is accorded positive value is an empty, analytic claim. An analysis, however, may be tautological and yet make a significant claim. The idea that the Guise of the Good is trivial misses the metaphysical significance of the formal analysis. I propose to take seriously this formal reading of the notion that every action aims at some good.

The Formal Reading Socrates’ claim that no one does evil willingly was referred to in antiquity as a paradox, a statement beggaring belief. Both Plato and Aristotle developed accounts to show how it is possible to act against what we think is right: Plato suggested that other parts of the self might overpower the knowing part,¹⁴² while Aristotle distinguished between active and passive senses in which we know something in order to allow for the phenomenon of akrasia or weakness of will.¹⁴³ Given that Aristotle explicitly disavowed the idea that we always aim at what we think is best in his account of akrasia, it would indeed saddle him with conflicting views—as Moss noted—to suppose that he is asserting that our actions always aim at what we take to be best. There are nonetheless good reasons why Aristotle might have opened a work of ethics with a formal claim that every action aims at some good.¹⁴⁴ Read formally, Aristotle would be seeking to understand the nature of the practical good—as opposed to the natural good—and so begins from the insight that the very notion of action requires us to establish a practical goal. He critiques Plato’s Forms as not offering practical goals, rejecting views of the practical good that are detached from the kinds of objects human beings actually pursue. He is not beginning from a substantive claim that to aim at something amounts to reflective endorsement of the value of the goal in question: the argument that we are committed to some such reflection is a later step. Rather, he is claiming that whatever we aim at, by virtue of being an object of pursuit, is at least an apparent good. We aim at goals. In other words, to aim is to accord positive practical valency to some object. Aristotle’s claim that we do not deliberate about having a goal acknowledges the tautological nature of the notion that we aim at some good. To give content to that goal is another matter. Read formally, the claim that every action aims at some good is a tautology, and thus a necessary truth. To be trivially true, however, does not mean that the claim is trivial.¹⁴⁵ It makes a substantive point about the nature of action, which is ¹⁴² Rep. 4, 435B–445A. ¹⁴³ NE 7.3, 1146b31–5. ¹⁴⁴ Broadie (1991), p. 8, begins by noting that it is a ‘virtual tautology’; however, she denies on p. 10 that Aristotle might begin from such a purely conceptual point. ¹⁴⁵ I thank Margaret Scharle for clarifying the distinction here.

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that goal-directedness is inherent in action, and that the notion of aiming at a practical good is definitive of human action. Unlike automatic behaviours or the self-motions of animals and small children, only human agents are capable of aiming intentionally, and thus of acting according to a conception of the good. This raises a significant question about the sources of the kind of good that only comes into existence with such goal-directed pursuit. Aristotle’s insight, as I understand it, is the metaethical recognition that the practical notion of value enters the world by means of human action. It is not equivalent to the sense of ‘good’ of the natural world, since natural goods may or may not be what we choose to pursue. The ascription of positive or negative valency to ends is essential to characterize the distinction between pursuit, avoidance and indifference. What we aim at is merely some good, of course. Whether this is the true good for us, here and now, is a further question. Velleman’s account of despairing or perverse desires suggested that goals could be chosen precisely because they are not good. As he describes perverse desires, the discovery that they serve some good—that smashing plates would be cathartic, say— might result in their rejection by the truly perverse agent. Such states of mind may be possible, but they are avowedly parasitic on the notion of agency. They are explicitly formulated as an attempt to avoid anything that would ordinarily count as a reason for action. The perverse, refractory, or satanic stance Velleman sketches is better described as ‘anti-agency’. Such attitudes are marginal at best: hard to maintain with any consistency, and formulated parasitically as the intention to reject agency. It is telling that Velleman turns to a fictional Satan as his anchoring example.¹⁴⁶ An Aristotelian need not deny that these inversions of agency are theoretically possible. They are perhaps better understood as an unfortunate symptom of failure, whether neural, social, or theological. Behaviour failing to display a minimal degree of coherence and rational governance would stand at the margins of action, and thus does not invalidate the categorical claim that action seeks some good. The capacity for reasoning makes a crucial difference. An animal has only the present perception of what seems good: it cannot reason whether the object of pursuit really is choiceworthy. A human being, having reason, assumes that responsibility. Hence the need for ethics: we praise and blame human choices, since it matters to a human community that its members choose well. For Aristotle, the fact that actions aim at some good means that—inasmuch as action is governed by rational choice—we are also already committed to reasoning about the rightness of the choices we make. Not every action is subject to occurrent decision-making: the issue here is meta-control. But any action can be subject to rational scrutiny, and as such we are committed to suppose that the goals we aim for are indeed the good, for us, here and now. To fail to do so would be to be practically irrational. Having goals and having practical reason commits us to pursuing goals in

¹⁴⁶ Cf. Dancy (1993), p. 6.

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a way that is not futile or self-defeating; that makes practical sense of our lives; that is rationally defensible. Once we reflect on the nature of action, we recognize that we are rationally committed to practical reasoning about our lives as a whole, and not simply to acting on appearances. This is where normativity enters in. Of course we do things that are not actions, aim at goals we would not reflectively endorse. But insofar as we are engaged in action, we are rationally committed to consider the correctness of the goals we choose to pursue. Nothing so far delimits the criteria for making such judgements. The Archimedean naturalist reading of Aristotle assumes that human nature sets the criteria reason should use. The mere claim that reasoning is part of human nature is not enough to qualify a view as naturalistic in the Archimedean sense, unless the criteria for judgement are given by our nature. For animals, the goal is provided by their species nature, i.e. by the natural good. In a teleologically ordered world, what appears good to them is typically something that will fulfil their species nature. Human beings still have organic needs and drives: tasty substances look appealing, potential mates attractive. But in contrast to animals, being burdened by practical reason means that we cannot avoid the question whether what appears good at any given moment is in fact what we should pursue. Many of the goals that practical reason endorses will, in fact, be those that nature would suggest for animals. We still reasonably pursue nutrition, reproduction, self-maintenance, the care of our communities. Nonetheless, it is the endorsement of reason that justifies the choice, not the ‘naturalness’ of those goals. In common with the position Korsgaard labelled ‘reflective endorsement’,¹⁴⁷ the origin of given ends is not the source of their justification. The Aristotelian insight, as I have been developing it, is that a thin notion of good—an apparent or subjective good—is the origin of the normativity of action. If we ask whence the authority of ethics derives, on this reading, it is already implicit in the fact that action aims at some good. On this view, the question of the origins of ethical norms comes apart from the question of their justification. Once practical reasoning is able to reflect on and critically examine its own goals, the appeal to nature no longer acts as a sufficient justification for any given ethical claim. The needs of human nature may still play a role in our deliberation, but it is ultimately the endorsement of practical reason that counts. In order to maintain that what we pursue really is valuable—i.e. to turn a formal thesis about the nature of action into a substantive claim—we go on to engage in deliberation about what really is good. Aristotle does not assume that, by aiming at something and thereby taking it as a practical good, we are also endorsing it as our true good. What is interesting about practical reason, nonetheless, is that it allows us to move beyond merely aiming at some apparent good. Practical reason is the ability to deliberate about meaningful and rationally justified courses of action. We can, of

¹⁴⁷ Korsgaard (1996a), p. 19.

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course, refuse to enter the conversation as to whether our current goals are truly good. But that is to refuse to be practically rational. If we are engaged in the practice of justification, we have thereby already implicitly accepted the rationality of being bound by that which is justified. The very logic of practical rationality is thus encapsulated in the first sentence of Nicomachean Ethics. It begins from recognizing that, structurally, all action aims at some good, and reaches what practical reason drives us to: the search for the true good. Practical normativity is thus bootstrapped from the structure of agency. I call this move ‘Socratic bootstrapping’, not because Aristotle attributes this move to Socrates but because—on the reading I propose—he extracts this bootstrapping move by creatively reinterpreting the Socratic paradox so as to make it both true and philosophically productive. It is not unlike an argument advanced by Paul Grice, who—while Grice does not ascribe it to Aristotle—draws heavily on Aristotle in formulating his argument. In the final chapter, I will outline Grice’s position, examine what is meant by describing an argument form as ‘bootstrapping’, and consider what is entailed by ascribing such an argument to Aristotle.

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8 The Practical Good ‘and in the Eighth Square we shall be Queens together’ Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass

Two Kinds of Value In the previous chapter, I drew out the implications of a passage in Eudemian Ethics, where Aristotle highlights the role of human beings as archai or controlling sources of their actions. I argued that his classification schema only makes sense if he is pointing to the role human beings play as final causes of their actions. I take this to mean that our conception of the practical good is credited to human beings as agents, in contrast to the role our biological nature plays as source of the natural good. I argued further that this claim reflects our status as responsible for our actions, in a way that animals and small children are not. The requirement that we exercise metacontrol is shown by the fact that we are held responsible even for actions that our decisions would have produced in cases where they were not causally implicated. This indicates that the role of agents as final cause of their actions is not reducible to a kind of efficient causation. The claim that human beings are sources of the practical good is, I suggest, a significant claim. It is, as I read it, a summary statement of Aristotle’s attempt to bootstrap normativity from the nature of action. All animals aim; human beings also deliberate and choose. Even animals can be said to aim at some good—something that seems good—but only human beings can step back and reflect on what is truly choiceworthy. Only we are subject to ethical evaluation concerning our objects of choice. Because we can bring practical reason to bear on our aiming, we would be practically irrational if we fail to do so. Reasoning about action requires us to ask whether the end of a given action under consideration is really the good, i.e. the practical good, the appropriate aim for us to pursue. The definite article serves to distinguish true from merely apparent good. We can ask that question narrowly, of an immediate action conceived as a means to a given end. But we can equally ask of any concrete specification of our end whether that is in fact the right end to be pursuing.

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Even those who do not question their goals are subject to ethical evaluation regarding their choices: because they could have chosen well, they are praised and blamed accordingly. To fail to exercise an ability we could have used, and which would have shown us that a different action would have been better by some standard we ourselves accept, is a difficult position to justify rationally. Most of us, at times, refuse to comply with our own best judgement, but those moments are understood as akrasia or lack of control. They are failures, not justified choices. Not everyone chooses to live well, but Aristotle believes that their choices do not have a rational defence, and thus do not threaten the claims of ethics to be the better course. This puts human beings in a different position than other animals, on account of their control over what objects to pursue. A hungry wolf responds automatically to the sight of food; a hungry philosophy student can decide not to. Natural goals still apply to her—she needs to eat—but she can pursue alternative ways of procuring food, and engage in more complex calculations than those inspired by immediate perception. She can prioritize other goals and choose accordingly: share her lunch with a friend, or make do with a double macchiato at the computer. Choice—our ability to distinguish between what we brutely desire and what is desirable—allows us to redirect the very systems used in animal nutrition and reproduction, turning them to other goals. Rather than pursuing immediate animal desires—food, drink, and sex, i.e. the goals of the nutritive faculty—we can instead elect to pursue ends given us by the rational faculty: education, say, or the maintenance of the social communities which enable us to realize and transmit these rational pursuits. This possibility of reconsideration means that the goals we pursue are no longer mandated by our phusis, the ‘internal principle of change and rest’ built into us. To be sure, it is part of our nature to reason, but the contents of our decisions do not have a default form established by the nature of things. The endorsement of practical reason—even if the things we choose to pursue turn out to be the same—has become the critical justificatory point. Thus normativity is bootstrapped from the notion that actions aim at some good: because action is characterized by the meta-control of practical reason, it is committed to taking justificatory responsibility for seeking the genuine good. My examination of Eudemian Ethics 2.6 indicates that Aristotle recognizes two kinds of good, and that for him the practical good of human action is not the same as the natural good operating in the natural world. This raises an immediate question whence human beings derive their notions of the practical good: in effect, Korsgaard’s question about the sources of normativity. I have been canvassing evidence that Aristotle’s answer to that question was not a simple reference to the natural good. The evidence includes both the paucity of substantive appeal to nature in the ethical treatises, and also positive evidence that Aristotle distinguishes the practical good from the natural. Only certain kinds of goods can serve as the aims of action: pleasure, the fine, the useful. Becoming a fully functional human being is not the kind of thing we can directly pursue, and thinking about what that goal would entail does

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not help us much with our practical choices. Human beings are said to be sources of their own action, inasmuch as we control our actions by our conception of the good. We do not deliberate by asking what our nature requires of us. The capacity for practical reason may be part of our biological heritage, but in using reason, we look elsewhere. The label ‘ethical naturalism’ is used of many different positions, including some that take Aristotle’s notion of nature to be deeply normative. I am arguing only that Aristotle should not be read as an Archimedean naturalist, i.e. the kind that views human nature as an external point from which we can derive substantive ethical advice from outside the ethical realm, and to which we can appeal to convince the ethical sceptic. The notion that practical value is distinguished from the natural good is crucial to this distinction. If Aristotle contrasts natural good and practical good, as in the passage of Eudemian Ethics 2.6, then it cannot be true for him that—in Foot’s terms—the evaluation of ethical behaviour and character is essentially continuous with the evaluation of organisms as conforming to species norms. I propose that Aristotle is sketching a view comparable to Paul Grice’s idea that practical value enters the world alongside human rationality.¹ While Grice did not present this as Aristotle’s view, it is telling that he developed his account against the background of Aristotelian thought. Grice develops a thought experiment about a creator introducing additional metaphysical resources successively into the natural world. New sources of value arise with the introduction of fundamentally new metaphysical categories that affect the evaluative structure of the universe. He calls this process ‘metaphysical transubstantiation’, drawing a parallel between the introduction of teleology with the essential nature of species kinds, and the introduction of ethics together with rationality. Both are moments where distinct sources of value come to enter the world. Grice formulates his view against a background narrative where the world is gradually being created and new metaphysical categories introduced, which make a difference in the kinds of value that are available within that world. This narrative is a fictional conceit, designed to highlight the different logic of the various kinds of entities he is trying to elucidate; nothing depends on there being literal, temporal stages. Aristotle rejects the very notion that the world is created or has a beginning, so could clearly not have embraced this conceit of successive temporal stages. Because he attempts to understand the universe by a hierarchical series of studies that introduce gradually more complex entities into discussion, nonetheless, Aristotle is perfectly able to consider the kinds of questions Grice raises. The relationship between the material world and the world of specifically living things is highlighted by the Aristotelian organization of the natural sciences, as is the contrast between living things, self-moving animals, and rational beings. Although

¹ Grice (1991); I thank Alan Thomas for alerting me to Grice’s work.

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Aristotle is not alone among ancient Greek philosophers in accepting that reason brings with it new goals, Grice’s notion of metaphysical transubstantiation is particularly applicable to the Aristotelian picture of the sciences and to the idea that different kinds of studies introduce different principles in a hierarchical and cumulative manner. The introduction of natural goals and teleology along with living things sets the precedent for recognizing the introduction of the practical good along with rational agency. Grice’s account highlights the metaphysical changes that comes about with the introduction of the category of life, and then with that of rationality. He aims to show how the differences these categories bring with them correspond to different kinds of value. Unlike non-living substances, living things cannot be understood without also grasping the notion of final cause.² As Aristotelian biology insists, it is essential to living things that they are generated, develop in patterned ways to acquire various functional capacities, and are able to transmit a form that serves as a guiding ‘principle of change and rest’ in their development. Functions and functional organs are essentially teleological notions that are central to understanding what constitutes living beings.³ Grice’s reason for supposing that a radical change has taken place is that a material-efficient causal account of how it came about that organisms have certain features is not sufficient to understand organisms: we need teleological explanations. In other words, understanding living beings as a metaphysical kind requires accepting that they have certain features that are there in order to reach their species goals.⁴ Grice sees the creation of a new metaphysical kind—living beings—as a kind of metaphysical transformation, comparable to the change that comes about when rationality is introduced in human beings. Grice argues that the introduction of rationality inevitably entails not only the capability for means–end reasoning, but also the power of its possessor to ask whether their beliefs and attitudes are defensible. Any being capable of reasoning can not only achieve its existing goals more effectively, but also ask whether those goals are justified.⁵ Although reason may initially be no more than a tool to enable creatures to calculate how best to pursue their biologically given ends, it allows any creature possessing it to evaluate its biologically given goals.⁶ This point is not further explained by Grice. The reasoning seems to be similar to that employed by McDowell when he imagines a wolf capable of means–end reasoning. Such a creature, he argues, is also thereby capable of questioning the goals given to it by its biological nature.⁷ Because reasoning would allow it to stand back from its goals as well as from particular means selected to realize them, the question about what to do can always be posed—and thus needs to be answered—from a framework that does not take biological goals as determinative. Grice suggests that the capacity ² Grice (1991), pp. 72ff. ³ Grice (1991), p. 73. ⁴ Grice (1991), pp. 74–6. ⁵ Grice (1991), p. 82. ⁶ Grice (1991), p. 89. ⁷ McDowell (1998a); cf. Hursthouse (1999), on the difference that rationality makes.

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to ask such self-reflective questions is essential to the notion of personhood. Introducing that capacity simultaneously transforms the possessors into entities representing a new metaphysical category—that of person—who bear rationality essentially.⁸ For Aristotle, only human beings possess reason. There may be an inherent tension in Aristotle’s denial of any reasoning abilities to animals, as Richard Sorabji noted. Sorabji documents the extent to which Aristotle was forced to modify his sharp dividing line between human and animal capacity for conceptualization, in order to fully account for the ability animals display for self-motion in response to perceptual information.⁹ Aristotle allows a certain calculative prudence to certain animals: however, as Pellegrin suggests, more than very basic capacities for calculating are needed to give us the capacity for choice.¹⁰ It seems to be the capacity to conceptualize—to receive information about the world under specific descriptions— that opens space for reconceptualization, and thus for differential responses. In an Aristotelian picture, possessing the capacity for reasoning is what allows us to reconsider our ends, and only human beings possess this. Grice’s pivotal insight is that certain kinds of value are introduced along with specific metaphysical kinds. Teleology is introduced along with natural growth and the normativity appropriate to species natures. Another kind of norm appears along with the capacity for choice and for practical rationality. Practical value would have no role in a static universe: it takes its meaning in a context of selectivity, where there are beings making choices about what goals to pursue or avoid. Practical norms are needed to differentiate better and worse options. Although Grice does not present this as Aristotle’s view, it is essentially what I take to be Aristotle’s own position on the sources of ethical value: that the practical good is ‘bootstrapped’ alongside practical rationality. In one context, Grice uses the term ‘bootstrapping’ to describe the work achieved by metaphysical transubstantiation.¹¹ I shall adopt this as a more familiar and less imposing notion. In contemporary philosophy, however, there is some dispute as to the validity of bootstrapping. I now turn to examine the precise meaning of the term, to show that it can represent a legitimate argumentative move.

Bootstrapping as an Argument Form The notion of ‘bootstrapping’ is used today in a number of different philosophical contexts. In recent literature, the term features in a debate in epistemology, where ‘bootstrapping’ characterizes an illegitimate move: the term is used as a virtual reductio ad absurdum.¹² Stewart Cohen characterizes bootstrapping as one response to a general problem of escaping from a justificatory circle: in order to have confidence in the justification provided by our perceptual beliefs, we need to already ⁸ Grice (1991), pp. 84–7. ¹¹ Grice (1991), p. 103.

⁹ Sorabji (1993). ¹² Huemer (2011).

¹⁰ Pellegrin (2015), p. 42.

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believe in the reliability of our perceptual processes.¹³ Cohen acknowledges that any non-sceptical theory of knowledge faces the charge of ‘pulling the rabbit out of the hat’ when it attempts to provide a justification for knowledge claims.¹⁴ All theories must overcome the traditional problem of circularity, that is, of using induction to justify reliance on the perceptual process, since the reliability of perception can only be inferred from within an existing practice of knowledge-making that is inevitably using perceptual knowledge as a starting point.¹⁵ The term is also used in democratic theory to describe an escape from a regress regarding the legitimation of democratic institutions. Proceduralist accounts of legitimacy face the problem of justifying the authority of institutions, since the procedure used to determine who to include in the deliberative bodies establishing them must already have been legitimated. If a social contract is to be based on individual consent, there needs to be some prior agreement in place to determine the appropriate boundaries of consent, including decisions about who is eligible and under what conditions consent is deemed to have been offered.¹⁶ Thus comes a justificatory circle which some theories escape by bootstrapping the original conditions of agreement, i.e. pretending they are already legitimated.¹⁷ Jonathan Vogel, who initiated its use in a recent spate of literature in epistemology, despairs of a general characterization of the term, since, he claims, ‘ “bootstrapping” is a term of art, introduced by examples’.¹⁸ Vogel’s argument, designed to be a reductio, illustrates the pejorative use of the term. The reference to the idea of ‘pulling oneself up by one’s own bootstraps’ seems to be understood as attempting to get something for nothing, to turn straw into gold. Philosophical usages typically refer to the idea of deriving something at a higher order or meta-level from things at a more fundamental level. Often there is an anti-foundationalist implication: we are not ‘building upward’ in approved ways, but getting there by some sleight of hand. In Barbara Herman’s words, ‘you use a bit of what you already have to get some place you haven’t been before, but need to go’.¹⁹ She critiques the bootstrapping move that characterizes constructivist metaethics, which attempts to generate claims about normativity from the structure of agency: To the extent that Frankfurt or Korsgaard would bootstrap their way from essentially Humean materials, plus a more complex story of the needs and identity conditions of agency, to the autonomous will, their conception of autonomy cannot outstrip the carrying capacity of the elements with which they begin. Wanting more from the will, or from the concept of action, in order to bridge the gap between reasons and value for the sake of a moral imperative, more has to be built into the start-up conditions. Bootstrapping is not alchemy.²⁰

¹³ Cohen (2010), p. 155. ¹⁴ Cohen (2010), p. 156. ¹⁵ For an alternative account of the role of bootstrapping in epistemology that is considered legitimate, see Wedgwood (2013). ¹⁶ Zurn (2010). ¹⁷ Cf. Richardson (2008), p. 7, for a related concern about the legitimacy of reasons. ¹⁸ Vogel (2008), p. 528. ¹⁹ Herman (2002), p. 253. ²⁰ Herman (2002), p. 266.

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She is discussing attempts to show how an account beginning from the descriptive facts of what agents pursue can—by examining the presuppositions of acting or agency—bootstrap an account of normativity, i.e. the kind of bootstrapping I am ascribing to Aristotle. The alternatives to bootstrapping are, as Herman puts it, ‘moral skepticism and serious metaphysics’.²¹ Bootstrapping is, in other words, an attempt to provide a grounding for normative requirements using the materials given, without resorting to the kind of metaphysical assumptions—divine command, Platonic forms, a noumenal self—that are notoriously hard to justify. Bootstrapping is a middle way, but one that Herman presents as suspect. The charge that an account is mere bootstrapping suggests that it attempts an alchemical transformation: illegitimately trying to make materials of one kind yield an impossible result. I shall label the pejorative use of the term ‘mere bootstrapping’, to differentiate it from a usage that implies success, ‘justificatory bootstrapping’. Some bootstrapping moves seem legitimate, I suggest, because the context implies that there has already been a successful performance. The analysis is offered from a perspective wherein the bootstrapping has already been accomplished.²² Democratic theorists are trying to imagine conditions for the theoretical legitimacy of functioning democratic institutions, after all, and are not still in the process of actually building them; ethicists and epistemologists are seeking theoretical justifications for ongoing practices that are integral to our ethical life or to knowledge practices. While we may be struggling to explain the alchemy at a theoretical level, its practical viability is shown by the existence of the practices in question. However shaky philosophical inspectors may diagnose the foundations to be, others focus on the fact that knowledge production and normative practice are nonetheless upstanding in everyday life. We have the gold, even if we are unsure whence it came. There may be no more than a difference of perspective between those suspicious of bootstrapping claims and those curious about how they were accomplished. Given that the rabbit is already out of the hat, there may be grounds to question the metaphysical picture from which the ‘impossibility’ claim is formulated. If we are trying to explain the grounding of a normative practice by appeal to features that are not already normative, or to account for second-order judgements from the justification for first-order judgements, we are in effect assuming that new ground has been reached: we are looking backwards and accounting for a fait accompli. Justificatory bootstrapping assumes the possibility of success, even while admitting a bemused puzzlement as to exactly how the transition was achieved. Like the Neurathian boat being repaired on the water, attempts to occupy the space between scepticism and serious metaphysics eschew foundational explanations, sacrificing the appearance of solidity to their derivations. But nonetheless these attempts are not mere hand-waving.

²¹ Herman (2002), p. 266.

²² I am grateful to Carrie Jenkins for helping me clarify this distinction.

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There is, then, a philosophically respectable notion of bootstrapping whereby we can reflect from within on a practice that has normative presuppositions, and seek to justify those normative presuppositions. We do so, despite the fact that, from one perspective at least, the normativity emerged mysteriously from non-normative materials. To reflect backwards on a successful bootstrap from the vantage point of success is to acknowledge the implausibility of foundationalist ambitions. We come to believe that our perceptual processes are reliable from within the hermeneutic circle; we accept some institutions as legitimate without ever having occupied an original position; we take our ethical pronouncements to have normative weight even as we recognize the absence of an Archimedean Point from which to ground them. There are a number of areas of philosophy where—if we would otherwise be faced with an impasse between scepticism and ‘serious metaphysics’—bootstrapping seems the preferred option. It is widely accepted that, on the question of the natural good, Aristotle’s approach was a middle way between the metaphysical extravagances of Platonism and the eliminative strategy of materialists such as Democritus and Empedocles. I have been suggesting that the same is true of practical value. Neither the appeal to transcendent sources of good, nor the subjectivism of the hedonist and Cyrenaic schools, seemed to him an adequate approach. Far from supposing that human nature provided us with ethical norms, I suggest that Aristotle sought to show how the norms inherent in ethical life are bootstrapped from the presuppositions of action. While Aristotle did not use this term, he may have recognized a comparable necessity to explain the origins of ethical norms, without assuming the existence of an Archimedean Point.

Socratic Bootstrapping The essential point legitimating the comparison to modern bootstrapping accounts of norms is that Aristotle’s conception of the relationship between different sciences would force him to confront the question of the sources of normativity. Aristotle recognizes a need for progressive layers of complexity in successive sciences, with their distinct modes of explanation. Aristotle’s hierarchical approach to explanation means that he situated the inquiry into practical norms against the background of a hierarchical structure in which ethics was built upon an account of living things and of animal self-motion. In the study of the latter, ethical normativity was absent. At the same time, recognizing a question about sources, he rejected the appeal to the gods or to transcendent Forms. This argumentative context makes it reasonable to look for indications of Aristotle’s metaethical reasoning. While he may not inhabit the ‘disenchanted’ world of modernity, which foregrounded a question about the sources of normativity, there are other ways that such questions could be raised. The positive evidence for my account of Aristotle’s metaethics includes his procedure in beginning a treatise on ethics with an analysis of the nature of action. It is no accident that all four surviving ethical treatises take as a starting point to ethical

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inquiry the fact that actions are goal-directed.²³ The inference is most clearly laid out at the beginning of Nicomachean Ethics, but also found—as I argued in the previous chapter—in Politics, Magna Moralia, and (less explicitly) in Eudemian Ethics. The distinction between sources of value is articulated most clearly in Eudemian Ethics 2.6, but other texts support the notion that the practical good is not regarded as equivalent to or derived from the natural good. Action is ascribed only to beings capable of rational choice, and brings along with it the notion of the practical good. Understanding the presuppositions implicit in the notion of action helps us understand why the norms of ethics are not merely subjective or arbitrary impositions, but are bootstrapped from the notion of agency. It is possible to fail to achieve agency: small children have not yet developed this capacity, and those he describes as ‘brutish’ apparently never do. Nonetheless, once we enter the realm of agency, we can no longer rationally avoid the question of what is best for us to do, since engaging with that question is part of what it means to act. We can decline to be practically rational, as plenty of people evidently do: Aristotle recognizes the impossibility of persuading them. He is rather offering an understanding, for those committed to the ethical project, of the logic of practical rationality. Our animal makeup puts us in the situation of aiming at apparent goods, i.e. the objects that our biological nature present to us as attractive objects for pursuit. The possession of practical reason, however, puts us in a fundamentally different situation. This faculty has as its subject matter the question what goals are good for us to pursue or perils to avoid. This commits us to consider not only the most effective means to our given ends, but also whether apparent goods are indeed best. This is what it means to be a practical reasoner: one who applies reason to consider what to do. Practical reason allows us to ask whether the apparent good is also the real good.²⁴ We can refuse to deploy our reason, but rationally speaking we are already committed to the project of trying to make sense of our actions. To be practically rational, then, is to engage with the question whether what we aim at is in fact really good for us to do. It does not imply that we accept any particular answer, but does imply that we take the question as part of our proper sphere of concern. We may of course decide not to care whether the apparent good is in fact truly good. The fact that many people fail to appreciate what is truly good does not undermine the point that all of us are implicitly committed to seeking the good, by virtue of having practical reason.

²³ See Chapter 7, above. ²⁴ Hursthouse’s Neurathian naturalism suggests that biological nature can constrain ethical deliberation without determining it: Hursthouse (1999), esp. pp. 224–6. Aristotle’s vision seems to put rather more emphasis on our notion of what is fine and noble, rather than on our ‘characteristic ways of going on’: Aristotle’s vision seems less concerned with ethology than Hursthouse’s.

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Of course, in Aristotle’s world, there is no literal transformation or evolution. Nonetheless, we can usefully contrast the human and animal forms of selectivity, in order to inquire into the sources of normativity. The bootstrapping process can thus be analysed, albeit artificially, into a series of stages, remembering that for Aristotle there are no temporal origins of human capacities: 1. Natural need for cooperation. Fulfilling the basic functions of human nature (nutrition, reproduction) requires cooperative behaviour and mutual protection. 2. Instrumental value of certain traits for fulfilling natural goals. Any form of living together requires modifying brute appetites or impulsive desire-satisfaction and developing habits of self-control, awareness of others’ perspectives, vicarious enjoyment of others’ success, etc. Since people can choose better or worse options, we positively/negatively evaluate tendencies to act in certain ways rather than others and provide feedback to others on their choices. 3. Instrumental value of agency and practical reasoning. Living together requires us to reflect on our choices and engage in assessment and justification of our choices to others. This public use of practical reasoning promotes active cultivation of the habits of action that reinforce the traits preferred at stage 2, and develop the character virtues. 4a. Recognition of non-instrumental value of ethical traits/capacities. Developing traits and capacities at stages 2 and 3 brings new experiences of the fineness of certain traits and actions. We come to accord final value to the specifically human traits, seeing them as finer than temperamental tendencies, or the characteristics we share with non-human animals. 4b. Striving to realize final values that transcend instrumental goals. The capacity for assessing choices in 3 requires us to ask questions about relative values of different ways to fulfil the biological demands of 1. Recognition that some traits and actions are inherently better leads to striving that transcends the goals of stage 1. 5. Theoretical awareness that biological demands bring us to develop ethical traits/capacities. Ethical reflection developed in stages 3 and 4 brings us to reflect theoretically on the existence of mechanisms inherent in our nature for developing self-awareness. The crucial step here is the transition from stage 3 to stage 4, wherein traits that had their origin in natural needs come to be accepted as non-instrumentally valuable. The fact that certain traits are useful for the community is undoubtedly an important criterion for practical reason to consider in deliberating, but for practically rational beings it cannot be definitive. A cruel practice that promotes social cohesion may be rejected; we can reconfigure unjust institutions even at the cost of social instability. Because we can step back and ask of any natural goal whether it is genuinely good, it is the endorsement of practical reason that carries weight, not the natural origins of the demand. The pleasure we take in a given action can be a legitimate criterion to

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use in evaluating choices, although it needs to be remembered that the things we find pleasant change in the course of ethical development, and that some pleasures can be deemed unworthy of our better selves. Aristotle’s emphasis on the fineness of virtuous actions has rightly been stressed by some scholars:²⁵ specific actions are known to be right in certain situations because of their inherent fineness. It is sometimes thought that Aristotle regards fineness as a competing criterion, distinct from goodness. This is how Moss reads him, implying that the subjective pleasure we get from aesthetic appreciation is on a par with the pleasures of sensory response, as if we were choosing aesthetic or sensual pleasure as competing alternatives to the good. Other readers equate the notion of the fine with what is chosen for its own sake, not what is chosen for the experience it invokes in us.²⁶ I agree with the latter that references to the ‘fineness’ of choices or virtues does not imply that the goals are chosen because of a substantive natural quality such as harmony or symmetry. Rather, Aristotle may be referring to the fact that its value has come to be seen as non-instrumental, since it is not productive of some extra thing beyond itself. ‘Fineness’ is a way of valuing, not an object of experience. The difference is significant. When we take sensory pleasure in some object, we are valuing the object for the experience it provides us. If chocolate no longer gave us that particular sensory experience—if our taste buds become radically different—it might no longer be prized in the same way. If we regard aesthetic appreciation as grounded in the experience it produces in us,²⁷ this leaves open the possibility of severing the connection between the beauty of some object and the awareness we have of experiencing it. This seems difficult to reconcile with the idea that fine things are chosen for themselves. But if, as Cooper argues, the fine is only found to be pleasant because it is good—in contrast to the pleasure sought by appetitive desire, which is directly at pleasure, not at some abstract notion of good²⁸—the manner of pursuing the fine would render the two crucially different. The search for pleasure ends with the experience, but the pursuit of the fine involves considering what is truly good, regardless of how it appears to us or affects us. Hedonism is content with appearances; the search for the fine is not. Unlike the experience of pleasure, a delight in the fine because it is good commits us to caring about the veridicality of the goals we take to be choiceworthy. While Aristotle acknowledges the existence of a kind of pleasure different from the crude physical pleasure of the hedonists, he does not deny that the pleasures of the more developed kind are nonetheless experiences and not linked to judgement. If we see ourselves as natural creatures, driven by the rewards programmed into our biological functions, we would be allowing goals not under the control of our moral selves to decide our

²⁵ Cf. esp. Allan (1971); Engberg-Pedersen (1983), esp. pp. 45–93; Cooper (1999b); Richardson Lear (2004); Moss (2012). ²⁶ McDowell (1998), p. 169; Cooper (1999b); Richardson Lear (2004), p. 124. ²⁷ Moss (2012), pp. 206–19, esp. p. 213. ²⁸ Cooper (1999b), pp. 270–1.

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actions. However, if we reflectively decide to pursue a virtuous action for its own sake, we are choosing it as fine, i.e. as a final end. This may seem to purchase ethical value at too cheap a price. Couldn’t the confirmed hedonist deliberate about possible lives, and decide that—for her or him—the life of bodily pleasure is what is actually valuable, noble, or fine? Aristotle argues against Eudoxus that such a choice of life would not stand up to sincere rational consideration. Plato had already shown the difficulties of any attempt to rationally defend the life of pleasure. For one, adding any other good to the life of maximum pleasure would make it better, so pleasure alone clearly cannot be the ultimate good.²⁹ Aristotle has no objection to including pleasure as a consideration in our choices about actions, but there are other genuine goods, and combining them all coherently into a life requires practical reason. People may in fact pursue hedonist lives, but do so without having sincerely deliberated; those who really reflect could not rationally endorse the idea that such a life is truly best. In supposing that the very act of engaging in practical reasoning about the good leads us away from certain answers and towards others, Aristotle might be depending upon the Socratic experience of leading a number of interlocutors through a questioning process and finding them unable to maintain certain positions in the face of careful questioning. Scoffers like Callicles begin with iconoclastic and self-serving positions, but find themselves unwilling to publicly embrace the consequences of their initial position. The fact that their position is unworthy in other people’s eyes, and involves giving up a claim to possess what are valued traits, is part of this process. Euthyphro, for example, thinks he knows what piety is, despite the apparently outrageous implications his view has in the eyes of his fellow Athenians. What Socrates shows him is that, to maintain that his notion of piety is choiceworthy and not merely a personal quirk, he has to be able to give reasons and engage with the views of others. Nothing prevents us from pursuing our personal preferences without defending them, and Plato is not blind to the fact that many people simply follow their preferences. But this is to surrender rational agency, which requires the notion that our ends are choiceworthy and not simply the ends we happen to have. To take a goal to be choiceworthy is to assume the burden of defence. I hold myself accountable—in principle—to other rational agents, by virtue of the fact that I take my choices to be valuable and not merely contingently valued by me. If you show yourself to be beneath contempt—beastly, as Aristotle would have it, or seriously flawed in your choices—I may take that prima facie commitment to be cancelled and discontinue the conversation. But I must in principle try to justify my choices to others if I want to see those choices as justifiable, i.e. as truly valuable and not merely what I happen to want.³⁰ ²⁹ NE 10.2. ³⁰ Yack (1993), pp. 43, 62, stresses the role of ‘holding accountable’ in the Aristotelian notion of justice.

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Practical reasoning does not thereby reduce to a process of endorsing the values of one’s own community. What guarantees, we might wonder, that the choices of a practically wise person are in a direction of moral progress? The answer cannot simply be that they are the product of intellectual engagement. The sophists were thinkers, with ideas on the nature of ethical value, but some of their proposed revisions were socially destructive and did not stand up to scrutiny. An Aristotelian answer would surely have to stress the role of the virtues of character in informing the practical reasoning of the wise person, in contrast to the interest-driven reasonings of figures like Thrasymachus or Euthyphro. Nothing guarantees that merely thinking about ethics will necessarily lead us to better answers. From the first-person perspective, we may not be well placed to know whether we are in fact practically wise ourselves. But Aristotle does think that other people can, by and large, recognize the practically wise. One reason why various naturalist readings of Aristotle’s ethics have gained such favour may be that some such justification seems required.³¹ Aristotle needs some reason to believe that the ethical values he takes for granted are the right ones. I argued above that the charges of complacency sometimes raised are not justified by any lack of criticism of contemporary values. How, then, did he maintain confidence in the ethical beliefs of those around him, if it were not from a confidence in the guiding hand of human nature? In closing, I shall argue that Aristotle’s answer to this depends on the existence of the phronimos, the practically wise individual.

Finding the Phronimos Williams questioned the truth-aptness of ethical beliefs, because he thought that the truth claims of ethical statements suffer by comparison with the modern sciences: ‘science has some chance of being . . . a systematized theoretical account of how the world really is, while ethical thought has no chance of being everything it seems.’³² Scientific claims produce convergence of opinion, and are thought to do so because they are ‘guided by how things actually are’. Ethical claims, he thinks, produce no such convergence, and even where they do, we are not inclined to explain that convergence as being a result of the world-guidedness of ethical discourse. Williams anticipates criticism from those who question the pretensions of scientific methodology to provide confidence in a certain picture of the world, but also from those who attempt to articulate a truth-apt reading of ethical discourse via the use of thick ethical concepts. If we were to anticipate an Aristotelian response to Williams, it would be of the latter variety. Aristotle seems more sanguine than Williams about the existence of convergence on ethical values. Is there room for Aristotle to have confidence that some degree of ³¹ This is the argument considered by Scott (2015), for example. ³² Williams (1985), p. 135.

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convergence of opinion in ethical matters might allow room for the notion that ethical judgements could be tracking the truth? On Williams’s reading, Aristotle takes there to be some impetus built into human nature leading us towards ethical truth.³³ For an Archimedean naturalist, confidence that our nature is broadly truthtracking would be the ground for regarding ethical claims as truth-apt. But as I have argued, Aristotle only thinks we have a natural capacity for the virtues: he does not— with a few anomalous exceptions, such as Politics Book One—look to nature to provide substantive ethical judgements. How, then, could he think that we recognize the rightness of ethical judgements, and come to regard them as more than merely conventional beliefs? Sabina Lovibond suggests that the modern search for foundations arises because of a ‘loss of conviction that we know, concretely, who exemplifies phronêsis’.³⁴ I believe that this is in fact the correct point of focus for understanding Aristotle’s view. Even as early as the Protrepticus, Aristotle identified the phronimos as the standard or criterion.³⁵ Aristotle seems to share with Socrates the conviction that we can all— more or less—identify examples of excellence when we see them. Socrates’ project depended on our pre-theoretical ability to correctly identify examples of virtuous actions; Aristotle’s project centres, by contrast, on our ability to converge on examples of virtuous individuals. Despite considerable theoretical disagreement as to the best life, Aristotle seems to be assuming that most people are able to agree on which individuals are exemplars of practical wisdom. These are not the same as the people we envy or admire. Rather, they are ethical examplars, the people we look to for ethical guidance. We recognize that their choices are the best, even if—before the fact—we would not have known what to do. I suggest that Aristotle’s ethics depends, for its epistemological grounding, on our ability to converge—in a very general way— on certain exemplars. Not everybody needs to agree all the time, and the people we identify as good judges do not need to be perfect; the convergence still needs to be marked enough that we have some confidence in our views on what a good person looks like. If we can do this—agree on exemplars—then we can attempt to model our actions on them and learn from their explanations, after the fact, of their reasons. Ethical decisions are always made in a context, so this requires considerable imagination, reflection, and deliberation. Aristotle does not suggest that the process is an easy or straightforward one. But by taking the phronimos as the central point of his ethical theory, he has in effect circumvented the epistemological difficulty of knowing which principles are the right ones, or which actions are good. For those who take correct principles as the focal point of their ethics, the difficulty arises of knowing how to apply these correctly in complex situations; the same issue arises for ethics centring on identifying correct actions. Because he focuses on the centrality of individuals, his ³³ Williams (1985), p. 44. ³⁴ Lovibond (1995), pp. 104–5. ³⁵ Protr. 6.39, 16–20; Hutchinson and Johnson (2014), p. 394.

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ethics allows for variability in circumstances, since the phronimoi are always making judgements about particular situations. Relying on our identification of individual exemplars, Aristotle lets these practically wise persons show us the best action in particular situations.³⁶ As Linda Zagzebski has argued, this ability to identify paradigm cases enables Aristotle’s account to escape the charge of circularity.³⁷ Zagzebski compares Aristotle’s use of a paradigm to the theory of direct reference, arguing that theories that centre on identifiable paradigm cases can define other key terms by reference to these anchoring instances. His theory does not need to offer a precise account of what phronêsis is, for example, since it is identified as the skill at reasoning exemplified by the phronimos. She cites evidence that the qualities admired even by quite different societies bear a considerable degree of overlap. If Aristotle believes that there is general convergence in identifying people who have phronêsis, he might reasonably take this agreement as the still point to which truth claims cling. Although the confidence in the correctness of the judgement of some people over others is easily misinterpreted as a sign of complacency, it may have been based on confidence in the judgement that some people are better or worse judges than others. The degree of convergence on this need not be complete for him to take widespread agreement as the basis for confidence in the reality of ethical judgement. This kind of view is compatible with epistemic modesty, and with respect for the views of less expert participants.³⁸ If we excise the expectation that the best judges are likely to be people of a certain class or group, there is nothing objectionably elitist about recognizing that people have different degrees of skill as practical reasoners, and that we can—by and large—converge in our assessment of who the exemplars are. The sceptic might question whether the belief in the superiority of the practical judgement of some individuals over others is a kind of mass delusion: that those who admire so-called exemplars are mere dupes, and the wisdom they supposedly embody meaningless. Although I earlier defended Aristotle from the charge of complacency on the grounds that he too readily accepts Athenian values or restricts his audience to those who are well brought up, it is certainly true that he does not seem concerned about the possibility that our entire ethical practice is founded on massive error. This thought is certainly available to him: it is a question raised by Plato’s interlocutors, such as the iconoclastics Thrasymachus and Callicles. Radical dissenters had hijacked the agenda in Socrates’ day, but Plato himself seems to have recognized that conversations with them only go so far. They are not amenable to persuasion, and conversations with them typically end in an impasse, when the interlocutor hurries off the stage. The real audience are the ³⁶ I owe my appreciation of this point to Alan Thomas. ³⁷ Zagzebski (2006), p. 58. ³⁸ Chappell (2005), pp. 254–5, challenges the assumption that the appeal to the phronimos need be elitist.

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bystanders: those who—like Glaucon and Adeimantus—are not incorrigible. They ask philosophy to tell them why their values are not foolish or naive; why it is not a sign of weakness to adhere to what they already believe is right. Aristotle seems at times not to take seriously enough the threat of scepticism, but it may be simply that he is addressing the doubts that belong to real students of ethics, not to the iconoclastic dissenters. In such a complex and subtle subject as human action, it may be that there will always be some disagreement about particular practices and actions, and even some differences on how best to characterize the phronimos. Aristotle does not expect ethics to yield the same degree of precision as geometry. It may be enough to escape from scepticism if, by and large, people converge in identifying those individuals who exemplify practical reason and those who spectacularly lack that quality. Ethical scepticism tends to arise because of disputes about particular, borderline issues, and not because of serious concerns about an ‘inverted spectrum’. I suggest that Aristotle needs to have confidence in our ability to identify phronimoi—practically wise individuals—in order to avoid scepticism about the reality of practical wisdom. This belief does not cast him as epistemically naive, but rather shows how he might have thought overall confidence in our ability to move towards ethical truth was validated.³⁹ Does Aristotle’s reliance on the judgements of certain individuals render his account of the good vulnerable to charges of arbitrariness? This would only be the case if we doubt the reality of the virtues, i.e. of the dispositions that render some individuals better judges of situations than others. Aristotle has confidence in the reality of practical wisdom because he has confidence that there are robust character traits rendering some of us better judges than others: there is, in his view, a genuine metaphysical state that consists in having good character.⁴⁰ A phronimos is not exercising existential choice but, rather, exemplifies virtuous character traits from which the right sorts of decision seem to follow. Nonetheless, such deliberations could not be codified or generated from a set of general principles, because of the holistic nature of practical judgement. Aristotle is confident epistemologically in the existence of superior judges: this would be justified if there is sufficient consensus of opinion amongst observers as to which persons are simply better at making practical judgements. He does not need to believe in perfect exemplars to think that—as a matter of empirical fact—people tend to converge in their judgements as to which of the people around them are stronger or weaker at practical judgement. Importantly, we can make this assessment with only imperfect practical wisdom ourselves. This last feature, allowing recognition even by the less wise, is needed to avoid a vicious circularity that would lead to ³⁹ Zagzebski (2006), pp. 58–9. ⁴⁰ Here, I am assuming that the critique of virtue ethics offered by contemporary situationism has been answered. For an Aristotelian response, see Kamtekar (2004).

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scepticism about our ability to recognize the good. Just as Plato relied on our ability to identify virtuous actions prior to knowing the definition of the virtue, so Aristotle supposes that we have little difficulty identifying which individuals are practically wise, even before we acquire much practical wisdom ourselves. We can refer to the actions of these individuals to anchor our ability to distinguish the good. We do not require infallible judgement here, but merely the ability to recognize better examples of virtuous individuals in order to have confidence in the robustness of our normative picture. To deny this would be tantamount to rejecting the notion that we can legitimately distinguish better and worse in actions at all. Is Aristotle right about this? It seems to be an empirical question whether this kind of convergence in fact exists. It is, I believe, critical to the project of Aristotelian virtue ethics that this be established. Without such a starting point, sceptical concerns may be insurmountable. But if some such degree of convergence indeed exists in our ordinary ethical experience, there may be reason to suppose that our imperfect attempts to describe the qualities possessed by such persons, and to capture the rightness of the judgements they make in imperfect generalizations, may nonetheless be tracking some non-subjective truth. Williams suggested that there were functioning societies in the past whose values we cannot take seriously. But the existence of and toleration of oppression does not mean that the costs of such practices were not known. Even in a slave-holding society such as Aristotle’s, people were not unaware of the harm done to their slaves: while a practised blindness might be cultivated, there was also a squirming, uncomfortable awareness of what at the time was said to be a necessity.⁴¹ Aristotle defends slavery, on the grounds of its necessity to achieve valued social goods and even on the grounds that it is beneficial to some people to have masters; nonetheless, his justification does not encompass the actual practice of slavery as it existed in his day.⁴² And it is significant that his posture is defensive and not celebratory: his stance shows an awareness of the troubling aspects of the institution, even by those who argued for its continuation. Aristotle’s own failure to appreciate the importance of the philosophical challenges to slavery and oppression in his own day are perpetual embarrassments to those who study his theories. But these failings do not negate the value of his theory, which suggests that there is a certain robustness to the account of the virtues, and that there is a real direction to the reasoned conversation about the best life for human beings and the best political structure within which they can flourish.

⁴¹ Cf. duBois (2010), pp. 54–66, 90, 101, 105; For the challenges to slavery among the sophists, see Guthrie (1969), pp. 155–60; Kerferd (1981), p. 156; Garlan (1988); Garnsey (1997); Kraut (2002), p. 278; Pellegrin (2015), p. 31. ⁴² Cf. Chapter 5, above. Finley (1980), p. 99, emphasizes the rarity of expressions of guilt about the treatment of slaves, especially in the Greek world; cf. Garnsey (1997), for a different perspective.

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Suppose that Aristotle is correct to believe that there simply are certain persons who better exemplify practical wisdom than others: that the agreement of reasonable people about the excellence of certain individuals in their own milieu is not mere delusion. It seems to have been evident to Plato’s circle that Socrates exemplified moral excellence, despite the fact that he did not fit other common criteria of status in his society: wealth, beauty, youth, nobility. With particular examplars in mind, we try to refine a discursive account of the particular excellences such individuals display, and to try to understand and explain the rightness of the particular judgements and actions they make and perform.

Conclusion Throughout this monograph I have been arguing that Aristotle should not be understood as an Archimedean ethical naturalist, and also that he should not be taken to be naive about metaethical questions. From a survey of the role that Aristotle has played in the ‘ethics wars’ of the late twentieth century, I noted the variety of readings offered of Aristotle’s views on these two questions. By examination of Aristotle’s philosophical milieu, I argued that he could not have been unaware of metaethical questions about the status of ethical values. The challenges raised by materialists, sophists, and Cyrenaics—and the reaction to these in Plato’s work—provide ample context for Aristotle to be taken to be metaethically self-aware. I further argued that the ‘Explanatory Hypothesis’ provides a reading of Aristotle’s justification for introducing teleology in natural philosophy according to which we can sensibly ask whether Aristotle regarded human nature as offering an ‘Archimedean Point’ to justify ethical claims. I then examined the textual evidence, to show that he did not do so. The evidence of the ethical treatises does not stand up to the suggestion that Aristotle was an ethical naturalist, in any interesting sense: that he looked to human nature to provide substantive ethical guidance or to justify ethical demands. Although human nature sets some minimal parameters on the kind of ethics we can accept, that is true of virtually any ethical theory. I argue that the notorious function argument does not qualify Aristotle as an Archimedean naturalist. The stipulation that we must use reason in our lives is moot here, since the contents of the deliberations of reason are not specified by nature but by reason itself. Practical reason deliberates about the constitution of ends, and not merely about means. Aristotle is not making a claim about the content of an ethical life, but rather claiming that whatever life we choose, it must be one that reason would endorse. This is not the kind of picture that can be filled in by value-neutral investigation of our nature. The absence of any detailed blueprint from Aristotle’s ethical works is good reason for doubting that he thought any such conception could be supplied by nature, or that practical reason proceeds deductively in the manner of theoretical reason. Aristotle’s insistence on the non-instrumental value of the virtues militates against

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the notion that ethics concerns the fulfilment of natural goals, rather than ones that we value for themselves. The Politics provides the best evidence for Aristotle’s substantive use of the appeal to human nature. However, I argue that this work shows no evidence of a clear, biological notion of human nature—most likely because it was written early—and thus that the appeal to ‘nature’ in the Politics cannot be taken as an ‘Archimedean Point’. Rather, it derives from the sophistic dichotomy of nomos–phusis, and can only be accessed from within a normative perspective. Having set aside the apparent evidence that Aristotle was an Archimedean naturalist, I reconstructed an account of his metaethical reasoning. I argued that Aristotle regarded the practical good as a distinct kind of value, and did not assimilate it to natural good. Human beings are described as the source of the practical good. His emphasis on the importance of action in delimiting the sphere of ethics indicates that the practical good is bootstrapped from the commitment—inherent in the very notion of action—to the pursuit of the practical good. In contrast to animal selfmotion—which takes its goal from animal nature—human choice is governed by practical reason, which by its nature is capable of and thereby committed to reflecting on its own proper goals. Ethical choices cease to be instrumental. Rather, they are responses to the fineness of the choices themselves, a response that comes with a commitment to care whether its goals are truly good. Unlike Socrates, Aristotle interprets the notion that ‘every action aims at some good’ as a formal and not a substantive claim: all actions by their nature accord positive valency to their objects of pursuit, and therefore the practical good needs to be sought among the things we aim at. The nature of action as reasoned choice commits us to aiming at what is really good and not merely at the apparent good. This formal analysis does not yet tell us how to give content to that idea, but merely commits us to the project. Only practical reasoning can determine what the practical good looks like. Although Aristotle regards divine reasoning as higher on the scale of natural goodness, that is not the criterion by which we assess practical activity, since—as he points out—ethical action is not the province of the divine at all. The reading of Aristotle’s metaethical views that I have called ‘Socratic bootstrapping’ is only implicit in the text, and never clearly spelled out. The strongest argument in favour of the interpretation offered here is that it yields a philosophically interesting interpretation of Aristotle’s text. Not only does it avoid saddling Aristotle with a scope fallacy in his opening sentence, but it also avoids criticisms raised against a substantive reading of the claim that every action aims at some good. A second consideration in favour of this reading is that it makes good sense if we regard the ethical treatises as located within a hierarchical picture of the sciences, wherein the background is the account of the soul and of the motion of animals. Focusing attention on the structure of animal pursuit and the logic it entails, Aristotle considers the different constraints introduced by the particularly human ability to reflect on what is truly valuable and not merely valued by us. The notion of the practical itself—the logic of pursuit—introduces the new category of the ‘good’ in the

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sphere of action. Viewing ethical theory against the background of an account of the non-human natural world, we can better appreciate why Aristotle formulated a view of practical value based on the structural features of action. A third consideration is that this account better explains the paucity of substantive appeals to human nature in the ethical works. The absence of a detailed ‘blueprint’ for living well, and the non-instrumental value accorded to the virtues, make little sense if we regard Aristotle as an Archimedean ethical naturalist. Naturalistic readings in the style of Philippa Foot’s recognize that the presence of reason in human beings makes a difference, but it is important to recognize just how much of a difference it makes. Because practical reason allows us to override our nature or transform it, the authority of nature is no longer definitive. And while it is part of our nature to possess reason, the contents of its deliberations are not—for Aristotle—natural facts. It may seem to some modern readers that this account of Aristotle’s metaethical reasoning renders practical judgement arbitrary or subjective, since it denies that any point of appeal outside of practical reason can serve as a definitive argument for any ethical claim. In Aristotle’s eyes this is not arbitrary: good practical judgement is that of the person able through their character virtues to perceive the right course of action. Practical reason may weigh considerations from various sources—including usefulness of natural goals, or the pleasurableness of an option—but does not take any such criterion as a sufficient justification, until reason endorses its rightness in that particular context. It is the work of practical reason to judge what is best; the role of the virtues in forming the judgement of the virtuous agent is ineliminable from that account. It is both Aristotle’s reason for confidence in the truth of such judgements, and also the reason why they cannot be reduced to a set of rules or formulae. As has often been remarked, we learn disappointingly little from Aristotle about the contents of practical reasoning. Here, I have made no attempt to speculate as to what Aristotle might have said about this, confining myself to uncovering his account of the sources of the practical good. I have argued that, for Aristotle, practical reason and not human nature is the source of the practical good. Human beings are not, for Aristotle, the best thing in the universe. But ethical value—the making of good choices in the sphere of human action—is our distinctive job. We cannot delegate that work to our biological nature, nor hope for answers from the divine sphere. We are committed to doing our best in the practical realm, because we are capable of reason, and every action aims as some good. To find what is truly good in the practical sphere is the commitment of practical reason.

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CODA Aristotle and the Practical Turn The kind of ethical position that I have reconstructed from suggestions in Aristotle’s text is a version of a popular move in contemporary ethics, labelled ‘the practical turn’ by William FitzPatrick.¹ This school of thought can only be characterized loosely, since terminology is still in flux and much disagreement exists on fundamentals. Very roughly, this kind of position seeks to avoid two extremes: the view that the practical good is antecedently ‘out there’ in metaphysical space, independent of human thought and choice and waiting to be discovered; and the position that ethical claims are not truth-evaluable, whether because they have a non-cognitivist basis or because they represent outright error. Constructivism is one school of thought attempting to straddle this divide. While Rawls’s theory of justice is considered to have put constructivism on the philosophical map, more recent constructivist accounts have focused on ethical normativity. The parallels of interest here are to constitutive versions of constructivism, which attempt to extract normativity from formal features of action. I have argued that debates about the sources of values flourished in antiquity, and that there is good reason to read Aristotle as consciously searching for an intermediate position between the Platonist extreme on the one hand, and the sceptical or noncognitivist positions articulated by sophists, hedonists, Cyrenaics, and other challengers. Against twentieth-century readers, I have argued that Aristotle is neither naively assuming the existence of ethical values in nature nor using an empirically accessible notion of human nature as an Archimedean Point to justify ethical claims. Rather, I propose, he sees practical reason as an independent source of normativity, and one to which we are already committed by virtue of our status as agents. The faculty of rational choice commits us to seek what is truly good, and not merely to pursue what appears pleasant. It is from this basis that ethical value is bootstrapped, by virtue of our attempts to find the truth about what is to be done. It should not be so surprising to discover that Aristotle’s work bears similarities to some contemporary constructivist projects: David Enoch, Stephen Engstrom, and Kieran Setiya have each independently suggested that Aristotelian ideas may have

¹ FitzPatrick (2005).

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helped inspire the contemporary ‘practical turn’.² Korsgaard’s notion that we as agents are in some way the source of our own practical norms is developed against the background of Aristotelian as well as Kantian thought;³ Grice’s analysis of value acknowledges its Aristotelian inspiration; Mark LeBar’s constructivism draws on Aristotelian resources.⁴ The general strategy of extracting ethical commitment from the norms implicit in existing practices resonates with some of the projects developed in Anscombe’s wake. It is not especially controversial to note that Aristotle emphasized the distinctive features of the practical realm, and developed an account of ethics that centres on the nature of agency and practical reason. The question is whether he saw this emphasis as providing a basis for an account of ethical normativity. I have been arguing that Aristotle’s emphasis on the distinct source of practical value is no accident, and that he saw the search for the truly good as already implicit in the notion of action. My proposal is that he did not stumble blindly into an analysis of ethics that begins with the fact of human choice and the fact that action invariably aims at some good. Rather, he consciously articulated the starting point for ethical inquiry with the nature of action and the commitments that come with it. His language may not be as precise and sophisticated as that of modern theorists, but the projects have comparable features. If Aristotle sought to show how objectivity in ethics might be generated from the norms of action, it is reasonable to ask how his view compares to contemporary positions such as constructivism, or more specifically the variety of constructivism that takes normativity to be implicit in the norms that are constitutive of practical agency. In closing, I shall outline how the reading of Aristotle I have been proposing fits within this contemporary debate. I shall also note how I believe an Aristotelian constructivist might reply to some prominent recent criticisms of this kind of position.

Constructivist Accounts of the Practical Good LeBar defines constructivism by the attempt to occupy a intermediate position between realism and scepticism or subjectivism: it is ‘the notion that our true normative judgements represent a normative reality, while denying that that reality is independent of our exercise of moral and practical judgement’.⁵ This ‘broad church’ definition leaves considerable leeway for different accounts of how the ² Enoch (2011), p. 208; Engstrom (2013), p. 134; Setiya (2013), p. 3. ³ Korsgaard (2009), especially section 2.2, pp. 35 ff. The Sources of Normativity later allows to Aristotle more sophistication than its initial survey would suggest. ⁴ LeBar (2008), (2013a). LeBar (2013a), p. 112, denies that this is a position any ancient author held, however, endorsing the ‘discontinuity thesis’; cf. LeBar (2013b), p. 199. ⁵ LeBar (2008), p. 182.

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actions of moral agents come to constitute or construct ethical values.⁶ One form that this takes is proceduralist: Rawls’s account of the creation of norms of political justice via the hypothesized consent of agents in an idealized decision situation is one prominent version of constructivism, indeed the one which gave rise to the popularity of the term.⁷ However, proceduralist versions of constructivism do not exhaust the available philosophical space.⁸ Mark Timmons also characterizes constructivism broadly: it includes any view that ‘there are substantive moral properties and moral facts . . . [that] are constituted by (actual or ideal) human attitudes, conventions and the like’.⁹ The labels for varieties of contructivism—proceduralist, contractualist, constitutivist—refer to the various ways of specifying the contents of the relevant moral claims. Constructivism is sometimes presented as a new development epitomized by only a small number of post-Kantian theories, i.e. Rawls, Korsgaard, Velleman.¹⁰ The broad church approach includes a larger range of theories. I take it that the positions that have been called ‘constitutivist’ are a subset of constructivism:¹¹ they include theories that position normativity as a product of human practical agency, but— rather than seeing norms emerge as the result of a deliberative procedure—they regard normativity as built into the norms of practical agency from the start. Constitutivists argue that, by virtue of regarding ourselves as agents, we are already committed to embracing certain norms that come along with agency. On this taxonomy, the view I have been ascribing to Aristotle would be classified as a constitutivist account of normativity. In contrast to Korsgaard’s or Velleman’s influential accounts, it is neither our practical identities nor our striving for selfunderstanding that gives content to the account, but rather our implicit commitment to rationally deliberating about the best course of action. For Aristotle, commitment to using practical reason and to search for the true good are implicit in the notion of agency.¹² Some contemporary theorists in the philosophy of action follow the lead of Cullity and Gaut in distinguishing ‘recognitional’ accounts of the good in action from constructivist accounts:¹³ ‘recognitional’ accounts are also characterized as realist, since they imply that value is ‘out there’ prior to human thought and deliberation, to be discovered. In contrast to my own position, Cullity and Gaut consider Aristotle— rather than Plato—to be the epitome of a recognitional theorist, since they take the ⁶ For surveys of varieties of constructivism, see Street (2010); Bagnoli (2011). ⁷ Rawls (1980). Darwall, Gibbard, and Railton (1992) popularized the notion that constructivism is exhausted by proceduralism: Street (2010), p. 365. ⁸ LeBar (2008); Street (2010); Bagnoli (2011). ⁹ Timmons (2003), p. 394. ¹⁰ Rawls (1980); Korsgaard (2003), (2009); Velleman (2009). ¹¹ Enoch (2006), (2011); Bagnoli (2011), pp. 17–21. ¹² LeBar’s reconstruction of Aristotelian constructivism relies on the notion of eudaimonia to give content to the account: LeBar (2008), p. 194. For the idea that Aristotle’s ethics might be objective without being world-centred, see also Chappell (2005). ¹³ Cullity and Gaut (1997).

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goodness of actions to exist prior to the phronimos’ recognition of it as good.¹⁴ Aristotle writes of the phronimos ‘perceiving’ the right course of action: this use of perceptual language in Aristotle has been emphasized by Wiggins and McDowell. The recognitional language might seem to imply that the practical value identified by the practically wise agent thus exists in the world outside of human thought, metaphysically speaking, and thus that Aristotle is a realist and not a constructivist. But the language of perception is not sufficient for this conclusion.¹⁵ Metaphors are notoriously open to different readings: Aristotle may be using the metaphor of perception not to suggest that the practical good is independent of human agency, but instead to highlight the immediacy and holism of the practical agent’s process of moral judgement. Aristotle might use the language of perception for its factive aspects, emphasizing the correctness of the phronimos’ judgement. Nonetheless, I argue that his position should not be regarded as realist, because of the ineliminability of the virtuous agent exercising practical judgement in the process of making the decision right. For a recognitional view, the insistence that some persons have a superior capacity to ‘get it right’ means little more than that their perceptual abilities are finely tuned to accurate appraisal of values that are in the world: their virtue serves to make them a better conduit to value-recognition. On this account, the agent would be necessary in a purely epistemological sense, and would not play an integral role in the construction of value. An alternative reading, however, is that the phronimos’ judgement plays an active role in the rightness of the choice in question. As I read Aristotle’s view, the role played by the practically wise person is not merely epistemological, but constitutive. Pace Cullity and Gaut, the perceptual language does not require reading Aristotle as a realist. Cullity and Gaut’s terminology avoids the minefield of ontological commitment, but retains the implication of a mind-to-world direction of fit.¹⁶ Recognitionalist accounts are those that suppose we strive to align our judgement with the world.¹⁷ Subjectivism about values would reverse the direction of fit: like desires, values as the non-cognitivist conceives them exhibit world-to-mind direction of fit. In this terminology, the kind of constructivist position I am interested in—one which regards normative claims as truth-apt—would deny that the direction of fit goes unequivocally in either direction. This is because the operation of practical rationality constructs or constitutes truths that become part of an expanded notion of ‘the world’. The veridicality of practically wise judgements makes them look more like discoveries rather than inventions; the fact that the number of things that exist has been enlarged ¹⁴ Cullity and Gaut (1997), p. 13. Plato’s idea that we recognize the antecedent perfection of the Forms has classically been taken to epitomize the ‘recognitional’ account: cf. LeBar (2008), pp. 186, 194. ¹⁵ LeBar (2008), p. 193. ¹⁶ Cf. Dancy (1993), p. 31, for a critique of the assumption that mental states must have one direction or the other. ¹⁷ Cullity and Gaut (1997), p. 18.

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by the activity of practical reasoners makes them look more like inventions than discoveries. Neither is strictly true. The constructions of practical reason become truth-apt, straddling a false dichotomy.

Constitutive Varieties of Constructivism As I have been arguing in the previous two chapters, Aristotle attempts to bootstrap the normativity of ethics from an account of the nature of action. He takes action to be a central category, and employs it in his metaethical reasoning for refining his notion of the kind of good he is seeking. He takes goal-directedness to be constitutive of action: the necessity of aiming at some good also commits us—as practically rational—to consider whether our goal is in fact the good, i.e. the right course of action for us to pursue, and not merely one that appears so. While we could reject the aspiration toward the best goal, as understood by practical reason, this would amount to rejecting practical rationality. To be fully human is to turn our practical reason to bear on our own activity. While it is certainly possible to take the life of pleasure as sufficient and never ask whether what seems good really is good, to do so would be to be less than fully human, since practical reason could never endorse such a life as best for us. Attempts like that of Eudoxus to offer reasoned defences of the life of pleasure are readily refuted. A common complaint raised against constructivism is that any attempt to show how the activity of practical agents might generate normative constraints would face the problem of competing alternatives. If there is no antecedently established standard of correctness, the deliberation of qualified practical reasoners might be expected to result in different answers, any of which would equally meet the criteria offered. This might seem to open the door to scepticism, or to a subjectivist reading of the answers on offer. There are, evidently, a variety of ways in which human beings have realized the norms implicit in agency. I believe that the danger of underdetermination can be overstated, however, and that ethics can tolerate a degree of latitude or uncertainty. All we need for confidence in its progress is a degree of convergence towards a smaller range of acceptable answers. We don’t always know that we are right; some issues in ethics are more central than others; there is often some latitude within which reasonable people disagree.¹⁸ Aristotle urges us not to expect more precision than the subject matter allows. Aristotle’s idea that certain agents better exemplify practical wisdom is enough to avoid subjectivism or sceptical doubt, if it is indeed true that there is at least a degree of convergence among practically wise agents, and confidence that we can, by and large, recognize which agents are practically wise. An Aristotelian constructivism can also concede a role to collective experience: just as individuals need practice to get better at making wise ¹⁸ This point is expressed well in Wolf (1992).

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judgements, so we as societies may benefit from accumulated shared experiences and social experiments, and reach a deeper appreciation of which ways of living are fine and good. Such a constructivist reading of Aristotle is not incompatible with the notion that nature sets certain constraints or parameters on human choice. In contemporary ethics, David Wong articulated a contemporary constructivist ethics that recognizes the functional origins of ethical demands in the need for cooperation, but does not view those origins as rendering ethical values instrumental.¹⁹ Wong regards it as part of the functionality of ethical demands that they not seem to us to be instrumental in character. He rejects the position of Richard Joyce, who holds that the naturalist origins of ethics force us to adopt an error theory with respect to our internalization of those norms.²⁰ Central to Wong’s approach is the view that practical reason is not Humean in character, because of the role of ethical norms in shaping our motivational economy: the process of learning moral reasons is vital to the formation of agency.²¹ Hence, his constructivism is able to explain something contemporary naturalists typically struggle with, which is the normative grip that moral reasons have on us.²² Like Aristotle, Wong recognizes that not every individual accepts the demands of morality. He does not see this fact as undermining its normative credibility.²³ A prominent contemporary criticism of constitutivist constructivism is that it does not succeed in answering the moral sceptic, i.e. in showing why an individual should care about the norms that are embedded in practical agency. David Enoch has influentially criticized the views of Korsgaard and Velleman on the grounds that they cannot answer sceptics who are unmoved by the argument that those who reject practical norms also forfeit their claim to be considered agents. His response is that sceptics need not be moved by this but could simply consider themselves as ‘shmagents’, i.e. as close as possible to agents but lacking the features that are said to be constitutive.²⁴ Enoch’s target is not the claim that practical agents are committed to ethical norms in some unspecified objective sense, but that they are subjectively committed to caring about norms.²⁵ Both the constitutivists and their critics compare the question to one of whether we need to accept the goals of chess-playing in order to count as playing chess.²⁶ Consider the question whether I have a reason to checkmate my opponent: the constitutivist claims that, unless we take ourselves to have a reason, we are not really playing chess. The response that we could be playing against a child with no intention to win, and thus have no reason to execute a checkmate, tests the claim that commitments are constitutive. Constitutivists respond that such a person is not

¹⁹ ²² ²⁵ ²⁶

Wong (2008). ²⁰ Wong (2008), pp. 238 ff. ²¹ Wong (2008), p. 242. Wong (2008), p. 243. ²³ Wong (2008), p. 265. ²⁴ Enoch (2006). Enoch (2011). Enoch (2006), pp. 185–7; O’Hagan (2014), pp. 19–20; Silverstein (2015), p. 1132.

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really playing chess but rather simply pretending, playing a chess-like game for pedagogical reasons. Enoch argues that this is good enough in ordinary parlance to count as playing, or at least to raise a question why it matters whether we should be so classified. For the constitutivist, however, agency is not trivial, nor is it as easy to opt out as with the rules of chess.²⁷ O’Hagan notes an ambiguity in Enoch’s argument: at times he seeks to evade the ‘pragmatic self-refutation’ objection by casting scepticism as a purely theoretical question, not a position occupied by a real human being.²⁸ On this formulation, constitutivists can respond as they do to the perennial sceptic who is asking for an external reason to be ethical, ignoring the fact that the constitutivist justification is offered from within the stance of agency. At other moments, however, Enoch presents the sceptic as occupying a real position: as similar to an agent in as many respects as possible, yet eschewing the supposedly definitive features of agency. These presumably include the kind of engagement that would give agents a reason to care about norms. ‘Shmagents’ are meant to challenge intutions about necessary connections.²⁹ I take it that, for Aristotle, the real challenge comes not from such theoretical possibilities but from the real sceptic. Imagine what it would mean actually to be a quasi-agent, analogous to a quasichess-player: someone who might, from the outside, look a lot like an agent, but who did not accept the norms of agency as providing reasons for them. They would in effect be going through the motions of acting, and at the same time asking why they should care about getting it right. Such a position seems to represent an extreme form of disaffection, and one that would be difficult to occupy. Chess is, after all, merely one of the things we can be doing, and can readily yield place to other activities like pedagogy or childcare. Meaningful activity itself is a much bigger sacrifice to make. The fact that some may opt out of agency does not undermine the value of the justification: this is a price few would want to pay. The high cost of ‘shmagency’ demonstrates the value of the commitment to ethics in a way that is a validation of practical reason, not a prudential benefit. Enoch recognizes that the dialectic hinges on a question of the burden of proof. He notes two distinct ways in which Velleman writes of the ‘inescapability’ of agency: natural and dialectical.³⁰ The natural inescapability speaks to the question of the realities of human living: it is not psychologically possible to live a life without committing to certain goals, following norms or rationality or the like. Dialectically, the inescapability charge is that sceptics, in making claims, are de facto adopting the very norms of agency they claim to eschew. Enoch’s answer to the first is that the natural fact does not constitute a justification; his answer to the second is that the sceptic is not to be understood as a real person, but as a position in logical space.

²⁷ On the kind of inescapability involved, see Tiffany (2012); Silverstein (2015). ²⁸ O’Hagan (2014). ²⁹ O’Hagan (2014), p. 20. ³⁰ Enoch (2011), p. 215.

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To rely on the pragmatic self-refutation of anyone actually adopting such a stance is to miss the point. We are, indeed, in a situation where the burden of proof is critical. It is the strength of Enoch’s position that his argument does not depend on disputing any particular details of the account of agency or normativity on offer, but is raised wholesale against the constitutivist strategy. As with the epistemological sceptic, Enoch shows that it is always possible to ask a question ad hominem of any constitutivist position, but not to embody a position from which the thoroughgoing doubt expressed could plausibly be motivated. An Aristotelian constitutivist could simply bite the bullet, and recognize that there is very little to be said to occupants of Enoch’s position. Pragmatic self-refutation has been successfully deployed since Plato’s arguments with Callicles, to show that the scoffers are, at heart, still nursing an attachment to the good, and to some standards of coherence. If any of us cared to look more closely at what was involved in being shmagents, the notion might lose any plausibility it seemed to possess. In the context of Aristotle’s work, the closest analogue to shmagency is the use of the argument that certain commitments were constitutive of human being: that those who live the life devoted to pleasure were less than fully human. Arguments of this style should not be dismissed as gestures of impotence or a kind of sophisticated name-calling. Nussbaum rightly argued that Aristotle’s appeal to the function argument should be considered an internal and not an external appeal to human nature.³¹ It is not a claim about species membership. As Nussbaum argues, Aristotle is making an appeal from a perspective internal to the moral perspective that is tied up with the things that human beings find valuable and that are central to our conception of valuable human lives. To reject these constraints—to ask, with Enoch’s sceptic, ‘why should I care?’—would be to turn one’s back on the moral community and everything that most of us find valuable.³² To embrace shmagency would be, in Aristotle’s terms, to live the life of the Cyclops. Aristotle recognizes that there is, ultimately, nothing to say to the person who takes such a self-destructive stance. There are, and continue to be, those who choose not to care whether the apparent goods they pursue are indeed truly good, and decline to pursue the ethical life. There is perhaps little for a community to do about such individual defectors beyond damage control: the more serious problem is surely to ensure that the education of the next generation is such that the proportion of defectors does not become too great for society to tolerate. The sceptic can choose to take a Pyrrhic victory, and celebrate alone. There may be the Cyclops for company, and perhaps Velleman’s Satan; a few committed pleasure-seekers may tag along, at least until they take the true measure of the company they keep. But most human ³¹ Nussbaum (1995). ³² On the difference between the schmagency question as asked from the internal or the external point of view, see Silverstein (2015).

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beings—however imperfect—will choose to remain within some subset of the ethical community, and strive to get it right to some degree. This is neither a cautionary tale, nor an instrumental justification of the ethical life. It is simply a status report on the dialectical situation vis-a-vis the sceptic who has been dogging ethicists for some two and a half millenia now. If it seems to some readers to be a sign of Aristotle’s so-called ‘complacency’ that he begins ethical theory from this point and not from the endless head-to-head with the recalcitrant sceptic, it may be that the complacency charge is simply misplaced. Most of us perennially find certain goods to be our ultimate values, and treasure them for that alone. Unless we are incurable, a conversation with an actual interlocutor is often enough to persuade us out of any theorically motivated iconoclasm: shame, empathy, self-respect, desire for approval, fear of loss, love for others, honour, all work to keep us bonded to the ethical life. That is what it is to be human. How we got there is another story, and perhaps not one we could ever fully tell. But however badly we live up to our own aspirations, it is nonetheless the space where most of us choose to dwell. Aristotle may be no more able than Korsgaard or Velleman to explain why we should care about action or agency, and so seek for what is truly good. There may be little to say to those who just don’t ‘get it’. Those who question its theoretical merits may be looking for an instrumental justification, where all that can really be said is to reiterate and expand, from within the ethical perspective, on its worth. To those with foundationalist intuitions, that is theoretically dissatisfying. But then, Aristotle never supposed that theory could do much for us in this particular sphere. Only human living can help us learn about the practical good.

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Glossary of Greek terms to agathon, the good agora, market place akrasia, lack of self-control or ‘weakness of will’ archê, pl. archai, starting point or governing principle bios praktikos, practical life bios theôretikos, contemplative life boulêsis, wish dunamis, pl. dunameis, power energeia, activity epistêmê, pl. epistêmai, an organized branch of knowledge epithumia, nonrational appetite ergon, function or characteristic activity eudaimonia, happiness or flourishing hormê, impulse to kalon, the fine or noble kinêsis, motion or change kurios, controlling nomos, convention or law orexis, desire polis, city-state phantasia, faculty of imagination phronêsis, practical wisdom phronimos, pl. phronimoi, the practically wise individual phusis, nature praxis, action prohairesis, decision technê, pl. technai, art or craft telos, goal or end theôria, theoretical contemplation

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Rowe, Christopher (1975), ‘A Reply to John Cooper on the Magna Moralia’, American Journal of Philology 96: 160–72. Russell, Daniel (2009), Practical Intelligence and the Virtues (Oxford: Oxford University Press). Russell, Daniel (2012), ‘Aristotle’s Virtues of Greatness’, in Rachana Kamtekar (ed.), Virtue and Happiness: Essays in Honour of Julia Annas, Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy suppl. vol. (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 115–47. Sabini, John and Maury Silver (2005), ‘Lack of Character? Situationism Critiqued’, Ethics 115: 535–62. Salkever, Stephen G. (1990), Finding the Mean (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press). Salkever, Stephen G. (1991), ‘Aristotle’s Social Science’, in Carnes Lord and David K. O’Connor (eds), Essays on the Foundations of Aristotelian Political Science (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press), 11–48. Santayana, George (1962), Reason in Common Sense: The Life of Reason, vol. 1 (New York: Collier Books). Scharle, Margaret (2008), ‘Elemental Teleology in Aristotle’s Physics 2.8’, Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 34: 147–83. Schmidtz, David (1995), Rational Choice and Moral Agency (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press). Schofield, Malcolm (1999), ‘Social and Political Thought’, in Keimpe Algra, Jonathan Barnes, Jaap Mansfeld, and Malcolm Schofield (eds), The Cambridge History of Hellenistic Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 739–70. Schofield, Malcolm (2006), ‘Aristotle’s Political Ethics’, in Richard Kraut (ed.), The Blackwell Guide to Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (Malden, MA: Blackwell), 305–22. Schofield, Malcolm (2012), ‘Injury, Injustice, and the Involuntary in the Laws’, in Rachana Kamtekar (ed.), Virtue and Happiness: Essays in Honour of Julia Annas, Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy suppl. vol. (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 103–14. Scott, Dominic (2015), Levels of Argument: A Comparative Study of Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (Oxford: Oxford University Press). Sedley, David (1991), ‘Is Aristotle’s Teleology Anthropocentric?’, Phronesis 35: 179–96. Sedley, David (1999), ‘The Ideal of Godlikeness’, in Gail Fine (ed.), Plato, vol. 2 (New York: Oxford University Press), 309–28. Sedley, David (2003), Lucretius and the Transformation of Greek Wisdom (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). Sedley, David (2007), Creationism and Its Critics in Antiquity (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press). Sedley, David (2010), ‘Teleology, Aristotelian and Platonic’, in James G. Lennox and Robert Bolton (eds), Being, Nature, and Life in Aristotle (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 5–29. Sedley, David (2013), ‘The Atheistic Underground’ in Verity Harte and Melissa Lane (eds), Politeia in Greek and Roman Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 329–48. Segvic, Heda (2000), ‘No One Errs Willingly: The Meaning of Socratic Intellectualism’, Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 19: 1–45. Setiya, Kieran (2013), ‘Murdoch on the Sovereignty of Good’, Philosophers’ Imprint 13/9: 1–21.

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Index Locorum Aristotle De Anima DA 2.4 63n.61 DA 2.4, 416a10–12 48n.142 DA 2.5, 417a22–34 73n.118 DA 2.5, 417a22–b9 139n.61 DA 2.5, 417a25 75n.128 DA 2.5, 417a30–3 75n.129 DA 3.5 119n.92 DA 3.9–10 63n.62, 134, 137n.41 De Caelo DC 1.3, 270b19–20 33n.62 DC 2.12, 292a14–b9 144n.87 Eudemian Ethics EE 1.1, 1214a1–9 68n.87 EE 1.1, 1214a7 133, 133n.27 EE 1.1, 1214a13–14 65n.66 EE 1.2, 1214b10–11 150nn.112, 115 EE 1.3, 1215a8–19 65n.66 EE 1.4, 1215a20–5 65n.66 EE 1.4, 1215b6 68n.88 EE 1.5, 1216a20–27 69n.91 EE 1.7, 1217a30–40 133n.26 EE 1.8 65n.67, 131n.16 EE 1.8, 1218a39–b6 131nn.17–18 EE 1.8, 1218b4–6 132, 132n.23 EE 2.1, 1219a1–7 67n.79 EE 2.1, 1219a14–23 60n.47 EE 2.1, 1219a14–1219b3 60n.46 EE 2.1, 1219a24–39 61n.48 EE 2.1, 1219a37–39 60, 60nn.42–3, 61n.49 EE 2.6, 1222b15–18 134, 136n.36, 142, 142n.79 EE 2.6, 1222b15–31 134, 134n.31 EE 2.6, 1222b18–20 141n.75, 142, 142n.80 EE 2.6, 1222b20–3 142, 142n.78 EE 2.6, 1222b22–5 142, 142n.77 EE 2.6, 1223a5–9 138n.54 EE 2.6, 1223a7–1223a16 134, 134n.31 EE 2.6, 1223a15–16 136n.36 EE 2.8, 1224a26–30 141n.75 EE 2.8, 1224b32–6 76n.132 EE 2.9, 1225b11–13 139n.55 EE 2.10, 1227a21–8 86n.43 EE 2.11, 1227b22–5 116n.74 EE 3.1, 1230a16–33 107n.34 EE 3.7, 1234b2–6 105n.18 EE 7.1 72n.112 EE 7.2, 1237a17 74n.124

EE 7.12 72n.112 EE 7.15/8.3, 1248b8–35 103n.7 EE 7.15/8.3, 1248b34–6 108n.40 EE 7.15/8.3, 1248b36–1249a3 76n.134, 107n.33 EE 7.15/8.3, 1249a10–14 108n.39 Generation of Animals GA 5.1, 778a29–b2 46n.137 Generation and Corruption GC 2.10–11 50n.157 Historia Animalium HA 1.1, 488a7–10 96n.106 Magna Moralia MM 1.1, 1181a24–1182a33 149n.107 MM 1.1, 1182a26–30 132, 132n.24 MM 1.1, 1182a34–1182b5 149, 149n.108 MM 1.1, 1182b12–32 62n.55 MM 1.1, 1182b22 59n.39 MM 1.4, 1184b31 60n.41 MM 1.10–11 134n.30 Metaphysics Metaph. 1.5, 986b21 29n.24 Metaph. 1.9, 992a7–9 146n.100 Metaph. 3.6, 1003a6–13 131n.19 Metaph. 4.4 63n.60 Metaph. 4.4, 1006a15 37n.91 Metaph. 12.7, 1072a26–28 139n.63 Metaph. 12.7, 1072b11 51n.160 Metaph. 12.7, 1072b24–31 68n.82, 144n.89 Metaph. 12.8, 1074b10–12 33n.62 Meteorologica Mete. 1.3, 339b28–9 33n.62 Motion of Animals MA 6, 700b23–6 133, 133n.25 Nicomachean Ethics NE 1.1, 1094a1 1, 1n.1 NE 1.1, 1094a1–3 145, 145n.92 NE 1.1, 1094a10 149n.109 NE 1.2, 1094a26 149n.109 NE 1.2, 1094b9–10 149n.110 NE 1.3, 1094b12–14 109n.43 NE 1.3, 1094b15 149n.111 NE 1.3, 1095a2–5 125n.114 NE 1.4, 1095a13–15 147, 147n.101 NE 1.4, 1095a15–16 133n.28 NE 1.6 65n.67 NE 1.6, 1096a23–9 129n.3

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Nicomachean Ethics (cont.) NE 1.6, 1096a29–34 129n.4 NE 1.6, 1096a35–b4 129n.5 NE 1.6, 1096b3–4 129n.6 NE 1.6, 1096b6 146n.100 NE 1.6, 1096b7–26 130n.9 NE 1.6, 1096b14–18 131n.13 ΝΕ 1.6, 1096b18–25 133n.27 NE 1.6, 1096b20–5 131n.14 NE 1.6, 1096b26 130n.10 NE 1.6, 1096b30–31 129n.1 NE 1.6, 1096b32–1097a12 130n.11 NE 1.6, 1096b33–5 131n.15 NE 1.7, 1097a28 73n.114 NE 1.7, 1097b7 73n.114 NE 1.7, 1097b25–32 67n.78 NE 1.7, 1098a3 70n.101 NE 1.7, 1098a5–7 143n.84 NE 1.7, 1098a16–17 60, 60n.42 NE 1.8, 1098b32–1099a5 144n.85 NE 1.9, 1099b17 73n.114 NE 1.9, 1099b25 60n.42 NE 1.10, 1100a15 144n.85 NE 1.10, 1100b13–30 144n.85 NE 1.12 37n.89 NE 1.12, 1101b19–20 70n.102 NE 1.13, 1102a17 60n.42 NE 2.1, 1103a20 75n.131 NE 2.1, 1103b14–25 76n.135 NE 2.4, 1105a31 118n.84 NE 3.1, 1110b18–19 57n.22 NE 3.1, 1110b19–24 141n.70 NE 3.1, 1111a26–7 141nn.71, 74 NE 3.1, 1112a18–1112b10 132n.22 NE 3.2, 1111b8–9 141n.74 NE 3.2, 1111b26 114n.62 NE 3.3, 1112b10–11 125n.115 NE 3.3, 1112b12 114n.62 NE 3.3, 1112b34 114n.62, 117n.81 NE 3.4, 1113a14 114n.62 NE 3.4, 1113a15–19 117n.80, 155n.134 NE 3.4, 1113a15–1113b1 147, 147n.103 NE 3.5 78n.147 NE 3.5, 1113b3 114n.62 NE 3.5, 1113b18–19 134, 136n.39 NE 3.8, 1116a3 107n.30 NE 3.8, 1116a16–b23 106n.23 NE 3.8, 1116a30–1117a9 76n.134, 106n.24 NE 3.8, 1117a17–22 153n.122 NE 4.2, 1122a23–5 107n.27 NE 4.2, 1122a32–3 107n.26 NE 4.2, 1122b20–6 107n.28 NE 5.1, 1129a27–1130b8 25n.9 NE 5.5, 1132b22–30 25n.10 NE 5.7, 1134b18–19 32n.51, 77n.140 NE 5.7, 1134b18–1135a15 77n.138

NE 5.7, 1134b24 77n.139 NE 5.7, 1134b24–30 25n.11, 77n.142 NE 5.7, 1134b34 77n.141 NE 5.7, 1135a1–6 78n.143 NE 6.1, 1138b25 105n.16 NE 6.2, 1139a18–20 141n.75 NE 6.2, 1144a7–9 116n.74 NE 6.7, 1141a21 51n.160 NE 6.9, 1142b33 116n.75 NE 6.13, 1144b3 76n.133 NE 6.13, 1145a4–6 116n.74 NE 7.2, 1146a5–7 148n.104 NE 7.2, 1146a26–30 150nn.116–17 NE 7.3, 1146b31–5 157n.143 NE 7.8, 1151a15–19 116n.74 NE 8.3, 1156b7–32 72n.112 NE 8.5, 1157b25-1158a2 72n.112 NE 9.7, 1167b16-1168a9 74n.123 NE 9.7, 1168a5–20 144n.85 NE 9.9 72n.112 NE 9.9, 1170a13 74n.124 NE 9.9, 1170a25–b7 74n.123 NE 10.2 37n.89, 172n.29 NE 10.2, 1172b9–34 68n.82 NE 10.2, 1172b35-73a4 133, 133n.29 NE 10.4 68n.82, 74n.120 NE 10.4, 1175b20–33 68n.82 NE 10.4, 1174b31–1175a5 139n.61 NE 10.6, 1176a30 58n.28 NE 10.7 58n.29, 75n.129 NE 10.7, 1177a27–b1 73n.115 NE 10.7, 1177b26 51n.160 NE 10.8 58n.29, 70n.102 NE 10.8, 1178a16–19 116n.74 NE 10.8, 1178b10–21 44n.126, 144n.88 NE 10.8, 1178b21–3 144n.89 NE 10.9, 1179b20–3 76n.133 NE 10.9, 1180a27 32n.54 Parts of Animals PA 1.1, 640a19–26 46n.132 PA 1.1, 640a33–b4 46n.134 PA 1.1, 641a26 142n.81 PA 1.1, 642a25–31 44n.124 PA 1.1, 645a33–b14 119n.91 Physics Phys. 1.9, 192a17 51n.160 Phys. 2.1, 192b14–15 45n.131 Phys. 2.2, 194b9–10 63n.56 Phys. 2.2, 194b32 46n.135 Phys. 2.5, 196b11 113n.60 Phys. 2.6, 197b1–8 141n.76 Phys. 2.7, 198a25–7 142n.81 Phys. 2.8, 198b17–33 46n.132 Phys. 2.8, 198b35 113n.60 Phys. 2.8, 199a15–16 94n.97

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  Phys. 8.2, 252b21–8 138n.48 Phys. 8.4, 255b25–30 139n.62 Phys. 8.6, 259b6–17 138n.48 Poetics Poetics 25, 1461a1 29n.24 Politics Pol. 1.1, 1252a1–3 148, 148n.105 Pol. 1.2, 1252b13 93n.86 Pol. 1.2, 1252b16–30 94n.89 Pol. 1.2, 1252b27–30 108n.42 Pol. 1.2, 1252b30–2 94n.90 Pol. 1.2, 1253a7–18 94n.91 Pol. 1.2, 1253a20–5 94n.94 Pol. 1.2, 1253a25–7 94n.92 Pol. 1.2, 1253a29–30 94n.93, 95n.98 Pol. 1.2, 1253a31–3 75n.130, 76n.135, 95n.100, 96n.109 Pol. 1.2, 1253b9 84n.25 Pol. 1.2, 1253b19–22 84n.24 Pol. 1.2, 1253b31–9 96n.108 Pol. 1.4, 1254a1 90n.70 Pol. 1.4, 1254b15 89n.60 Pol. 1.8, 1256b10–22 83n.12 Pol. 1.13, 1259b2 89n.61 Pol. 2.1, 1260b35 95n.102 Pol. 2.2, 1261b7 84n.20, 87n.48 Pol. 2.3–4 87n.49 Pol. 2.4, 1262a37 100n.129 Pol. 2.5, 1262b7–14 88n.51 Pol. 2.5, 1263a41–b1 87n.50 Pol. 2.5, 1264b4–6 32n.52, 92n.79 Pol. 2.6 88n.52 Pol. 2.7, 1266a38 99n.125 Pol. 2.7, 1267b3 87n.48 Pol. 2.8, 1268b26–8 100n.130 Pol. 2.8, 1268b38–1269a4 24n.6, 33n.61 Pol. 2.8, 1268b38–1269a28 100n.131 Pol. 2.8, 1269a9–13 113n.61 Pol. 2.9, 1269a32–4 99n.125 Pol. 2.9, 1269a34–6 99n.126 Pol. 2.9, 1270a12 100n.129 Pol. 2.9, 1271b10–11 100n.129 Pol. 2.10, 1271b32 88n.56 Pol. 3.4 100n.128 Pol. 3.5, 1278a20 145n.91 Pol. 3.6, 1278b16 84n.21 Pol. 3.7, 1279a23–b10 83n.19 Pol. 3.9, 1280a32–4 98n.122, 144n.90 Pol. 3.9, 1280a35–1281a2 97n.115 Pol. 3.9, 1280b4–12 100n.128 Pol. 3.9, 1280b33–1281a10 85n.37 Pol. 3.9, 1281a3 108n.41 Pol. 3.12, 1282b14 149n.106 Pol. 3.13, 1284a3–b34 81n.4 Pol. 3.13, 1284b32 88n.57 Pol. 4.4, 1291a9 83n.16

Pol. 5.1, 1301a20 83n.15 Pol. 5.3, 1302b35–9 83n.18 Pol. 5.3, 1302b36 83n.15 Pol. 7.1, 1323a17 98n.120 Pol. 7.1, 1323a23 68n.81 Pol. 7.1, 1323b35 83n.15 Pol. 7.3, 1325a18–33 69n.90 Pol. 7.4, 1326a35–9 96n.110 Pol. 7.4, 1326b2–5 96n.111 Pol. 7.4, 1326b5–7 97n.113 Pol. 7.7, 1327b29–33 81n.4 Pol. 7.8, 1328a37–8 60, 60n.41 Pol. 7.8, 1328b6–22 92n.77 Pol. 7.8, 1328b19–23 84n.28 Pol. 7.10, 1329b25–30 33n.62 Pol. 7.10, 1330a3 99n.127 Pol. 7.11, 1330b21 100n.129 Pol. 7.11, 1331a14 100n.129 Pol. 7.13, 1332a9 60n.41 Pol. 7.13, 1332a22 60n.41 Pol. 7.13, 1332a39–41 75n.127 Pol. 7.16, 1335b18–19 83n.15 Pol. 8.4, 1338b9–38 76n.134, 107n.33 Posterior Analytics Post. An. 1.7, 75b15–20 63nn.56–7 Post. An. 1.9, 76a22–5 63n.57 Post. An. 1.13, 79a10–16 63n.58 Post. An. 1.34, 89b10–16 75n.126 Rhetoric Rhet. 1.9, 1366b1–2 103n.6 Rhet. 2.23, 1399b6 29n.24 Sophistical Refutations SR 22, 179a5–10 131n.19 [Aristotle] Problemata Books 27–30 55n.8 Cicero Att. 11.16.3 68n.89 Diogenes Laertius Lives 5.11–16 72n.111 Lives 6.33 78n.146 Lives 6.37 78n.146 Lives 6.40 32n.53 Lives 6.61 32n.53 Heraclitus Frr. 241–4, KRS 29n.25 Herodotus Histories 2.2 33n.64 Histories 3.38 30n.33 Hesiod Works and Days 276 32n.55 Iamblichus Protr. 6.39, 16–20 174n.35 Protr. 11, 56.15–57.23 55n.11

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 

Lucretius DRN 5.925ff 35n.74 DRN 5.958–9 35n.75 DRN 5.1011–1027 35n.76 DRN 5.1108–1140 35n.77 DRN 5.1143–1160 35n.78 Plato Apol. 32B-C 125n.116 Eu. 10A-D 31n.42 Gorg. 482E–484A 36n.86 Gorg. 488B–505C 155n.135 Laws 10, 889A6–7 39n.103 Laws 10, 889B2 39n.104 Laws 10, 889E1–2 39n.105 Laws 10, 889E4-890A10 39n.101 Laws 10, 891C2–5 39n.104 Laws 10, 892A2–B10 39n.106 Laws 10, 892C 33n.58 Laws 10, 895A7–C7 39n.107 Laws 10, 896D1–3 39n.108 Parm. 130C–D 41n.119 Phaedo 78B–81A 40n.112 Phaedr. 229B–E 31n.44 Phaedr. 245C–E 40n.115 Phaedr. 265E 84n.23 Phil. 29a–30d 40n.110 Prot. 332A–E 150n.116 Prot. 349B 103n.5 Prot. 356B 37n.92

Rep. 1, 338C 34n.68 Rep. 1, 338C–350D 155n.135 Rep. 1, 362Eff 30n.36 Rep. 1, 365D6–9 30n.37 Rep. 2, 372D–374E 35n.79 Rep. 2, 375A 32n.53 Rep. 4, 435B–445A 157n.142 Rep. 5, 451D 32n.53 Rep. 5, 453E–456A 90n.66 Rep. 6, 505E–517A 40n.113 Rep. 6, 508B12–13 146n.100 Soph. 245E–246D 40n.114 Theaet. 152B 36, 36n.85 Tim. 21E–25D 33n.60 Tim. 29A1–10 40n.118 Tim. 34B8ff 40n.117 Sextus Empiricus AM IX 51–6 29n.28 AM IX 54 31, 31n.39 Xenophanes Fr. 166, KRS 29, 29n.24 Fr. 168–9, KRS 29n.23 Fr. 186, KRS 29, 29n.24 Xenophon Mem. 2.1 38n.94 Mem. 2.1.21–34 68n.87 Mem. 3.8 38n.94 Mem. 9.92–100 40n.110

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Subject Index Ackrill, J.L. 57–8, 69, 115 action 1, 4–5, 42, 53, 64, 73–4, 98, 119, 130–43, 161–3, 166, 178, 182, 185, 189 archê of action 134–43, 168–9 activity 60–1, 67, 71, 73–4, 98, 111, 143–4, 152 active versus passive 50–1, 60, 91, 157 activity versus use of virtue 60–1, 143–4 second actuality 139 Adeimantus 30, 175–6 adjectives attributive versus predicative 16 agent 5, 111, 113, 120–1, 125–7, 161, 183 agency 152, 158, 160, 163–4, 169–70, 172, 182–3, 186–7, 189 anti–agency 158 character of the agent 113, 126 quasi–agent 187 schmagent 186–8 akrasia, weakness of will 155, 157, 162 Alexander of Macedon 81–2, 96–7 amoralism 18 anachronism 52 Anaxagoras 29, 68 Andronicus of Rhodes 62 animals 4, 16–17, 32–3, 35–7, 42, 47, 50–1, 75–8, 83, 92–3, 117, 119, 134, 136–7, 142–4, 148–9, 151, 154–5, 157–9, 162–5 political animals 4, 95–6 Annas, Julia 18, 45, 66, 78, 86, 88–9 Anscombe, G.E.M. 1, 7–16, 21, 145–7, 153–4, 181–2 Anscombean revival 20 anthropology 35–6, 43 appearance–reality distinction 36–7, 147–8 archê 134–43, 161, 179 kuriai archai 135, 137–40, 161 Archimedean ethical naturalism 3, 5, 15, 17, 22, 41–3, 52, 54, 62, 66–7, 72, 75–6, 78–81, 86, 89, 92–3, 101–2, 108–9, 114–15, 119, 127–8, 163, 173–4, 178–80 Archimedean Point 2–3, 14, 18–21, 23, 41–5, 54, 73, 82, 86, 89, 97–9, 101–2, 108–9, 128, 143–52, 168, 178, 181 Aristippus 37–8 Aristotle’s treatises authenticity of Magna Moralia 59–60, 131, 149 authenticity of Protrepticus 55

catalogues of Aristotle’s works from antiquity 62 common books to Eudemian and Nicomachean Ethics 55–7 cross–references between 55 references to historical events 59, 81–2 relationship amongst ethical works 54–62, 105–6, 136 relationship between political and ethical works 61–2, 82, 86 relationship between scientific and normative works 64–6, 81–3, 85–6, 126 relative dating of works 55–6, 58–62, 81–9 Aristotelian categoricals 15–17, 19 Aristotelian necessity 15–16 ‘argument from queerness’ 7, 11–12 Athens 81 Athenian democracy 24 Athenian law 30 Athenian politics 30 Athenian society 24 Athenian Stranger 39 Athenian values 175 Athenian women 92 atheism 31–2, 39–40 atomism, see also Democritus, Epicurus, Lucretius 34 autochthonous origins 33 Barney, Rachel 155–7 belief 26, 36 biology Aristotle’s biology 45–7, 50–2, 54, 61–2, 73, 81–6, 89, 99–100, 111, 127 biological conception of nature 27–8, 92, 97–8 biological heritage 4–5, 16–18, 32, 66, 86, 114–15, 161–3 contemporary biology 5, 17 blueprint, missing 3, 102, 108–14, 126–8, 178–80 Bodéüs, Rchard 58 Bok, Hilary 121–2, 152–3 bootstrapping arguments, see also Socratic bootstrapping 152, 160–1, 165–70, 185 justificatory bootstrapping 167–8 mere bootstrapping 167 Broadie, Sarah 26, 70, 109–12, 152 Burnyeat, Myles 116

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

 

Callicles 14, 21–2, 27–8, 32, 39, 172, 175, 188 causes, see also materialism, Unmoved Mover efficient cause 48–9, 136–7, 139–42, 153, 161, 164 emanating cause 139 final cause 140–3, 153, 161 formal cause 142 uncaused cause 137–9 character 78, 102–3, 111, 113, 116–18, 139–40, 163, 176 Charles, David 46–7, 138–9 children 76–8, 118–19, 136–7, 143, 157–8, 169 choice 1, 3, 5, 32, 42, 64, 71–2, 98, 108, 111, 127, 132–4, 143–55, 158–9, 161–2, 165, 169–72, 179, 182, 184 circularity charge 166, 175–7 city 35, 40, 84, 92–5, 100–1 city state or polis 3, 80–3, 85–8, 93, 96–8, 101, 148–9 clan–village organization 93–7 Cleary, J. 39 Cohen, Stewart 165–6 Cole, Thomas 32–3, 35–6 complacency charge 23–8, 37, 173, 175, 188–9 concepts 42, 77–8, 117, 165 concept acquisition 74–5, 115–18 conception of the good 139–41, 143, 154–5, 157–8, 162–3 linguistic concepts 40–1 ‘thick’ ethical concepts 12–14, 21, 173 ‘thin’ ethical concepts 13, 154–5 constitutions 78, 83–5, 87–9, 94–5, 99–100 constructivism 20, 166, 181–9 ‘broad church’ definition of 182–3 constitutivist forms of 181–3 contractualist forms of 182–3 proceduralist forms of 182–3 convention 25, 30, 36, 39, 74–5, 77–8, 89, 97–8 convergence of opinion 173–5, 185–6 Cooper, John 49–50, 59, 131, 136–8, 141, 171 cosmic order 49–51 courage 103–7 cradle argument 78 Crete 88–9 Critias 30–1 Cullity, Garrett 183–5 culture, origins of 33–5 cultural relativism 12–13, 30, 37, 177 Cyclops 32, 188–9 Cynics, see also Diogenes the Cynic 32, 92 Cyrenaics 4, 28, 36–8, 147–8, 151, 168, 178, 181 Dahl, Norman 73–4 Dancy, Jonathan 119–23, 125–7

de las Casas, Bartolomé 90–1 deliberation 64, 118, 161, 176 about ends versus means 114–19, 127–8, 164–5, 178 Delos 68 dêmiourgos, see Divine Craftsman democracy 88–9 democratic theory 166–7 Democritus 34–6, 168 Descartes, René 28 desire 63–4, 133, 136–8, 147–8, 156, 162, 170–1 Dicaearchus 68 Diogenes the Cynic 78 Diogenes Laertius 72 direction of fit 184–5 ‘discontinuity thesis’ 12–13, 20–1, 23, 28, 41, 62 ‘disenchanted universe’ 2, 4, 8–13, 18–22, 27–8, 31, 37, 52, 168 dispositions 73–7, 120–1, 126, 139, 143–52, 176 Divine Craftsman 40–1, 44 dramatists, ancient Greek 29 Eleatic Stranger 83–4 emotivism 16 Empedocles 46, 168 empiricism 18, 21, 37, 84–5, 98–9 empirical investigation 19, 41–3, 79, 85–6 in Aristotle 18, 43–5, 47, 50–1, 54, 82–3, 101 ‘practical empiricist’ reading of Aristotle 115–18, 156 Engberg–Pedersen, Troels 25 Engstrom, Stephen 181–2 endoxa 64–5 Enlightenment 12, 21 Enoch, David 181–2, 186–8 Epicurus 34–6 epistêmê 98–9, 149 epistemology 26–8, 36–8, 40–1, 123–4, 165–7, 184 epistemic confidence 27, 174–5 epistemic modesty 25, 175 ergon, see function ethics Judeo–Christian 9–10, 12–13, 21, 125 medieval and early modern 12 modern 5–23, 80–1, 119–20 ethology 16, 42 eudaimonia, see also happiness 15, 57, 60, 73–4 Eudoxus 37, 68, 172, 185 Euripides 30–1 Euthyphro 31, 172–3 evaluation, ethical 16, 161–3 praise and blame 134–43, 153, 158–9, 162 Everson, Stephen 146

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  ‘every action aims at some good’ 1, 5, 64, 145–60, 168–9, 179–80, 182, 185 ‘Guise of the Good’ 1, 152–60 substantive vs. formal interpretation 152–60, 179 evil 35–7, 149, 154 evolutionary theory 32, 42–3 excellence, see virtue explanation, see also cause Explanatory Hypothesis 43–6, 51–2, 81, 84, 98–9, 178 inference to the best explanation 45, 54, 81 fact–value distinction 4, 11–14, 20–1 fallacy charge 1, 145–7, 179–80 family 93–4 first discoverers 33–4 FitzPatrick, William 17, 181 flourishing 14–15, 26, 42, 46, 60–1, 65, 70, 100–1, 114, 177 Foot, Phillipa 2, 7–8, 10–11, 13–19, 41–2, 46–7, 106, 129–30, 163, 180 form 2, 9–10, 36, 45–6, 48–9 Form of the Good 59, 64–5, 109, 129, 131 form–matter distinction 91 Platonic Forms 38–41, 59, 109–11, 129–34, 146–8, 152, 157, 168 species form 46, 50, 136, 142 fortune or luck 60, 73–4, 103–4 Freeland, Cynthia 57 friendship 58, 72, 74, 79, 90–1 function or ergon argument 3, 66–74, 79, 104, 178, 188 functions in biology 15–16, 47–8, 50–1, 63–4, 67, 83–4, 98, 116, 164, 170–2 Furley, David 49–50 Garfield, Jay 123 Gaut, Berys 183–5 Geach, Peter 16, 129–30 gender differences 51 generation, see reproduction geometry 62–3 Glaucon 95, 175–6 Golden Age 32–3 God or gods, see also Divine Craftsman, Unmoved Mover 28–9, 30–2, 34–6, 39–40, 42, 50–1, 53, 70–1, 77–8, 81–2, 134–5, 138–9, 144–5, 149, 154, 168, 179–80 divine authority 28–9, 31, 34, 40–1, 44–5 divine design 39–40, 44–5, 49–50, 88–9 divine governance 135, 142 divine intelligence 40–1 divine lawgiver 9–10, 13–14, 31–2 divine legislation 9–10, 12–13, 21 divine power 12 divine will 12, 71, 109–10, 152



good, the 13–40, 59–61, 64, 108, 129–34, 144–60, 171–2, 179, 183, 188 good life 1, 15, 42, 67–8, 70, 108–11, 150–1, 189 appearing good 116–17, 156 natural good versus practical good 3, 41, 70, 99, 132–4, 149, 152, 157–8, 162–5, 168–9, 179–80 recognitional accounts of 183–5 singular conception of 1, 130–1, 145–7 true good versus apparent good 117–18, 146–8, 159, 161, 169, 179–80, 183, 185 Gotthelf, Allan 48–9 Gottlieb, Paula 105–6 ‘Grand End’ hypothesis 109–12, 128, 150–1 Grice, Paul 160, 163–5, 181–2 ‘Guise of the Good’, see ‘every action aims at some good’ habit 86–8, 116–17, 126, 152–3 Hacker–Wright, John 17 happiness, see also eudaimonia 1, 36–8, 60–1, 65–6, 115, 144–5 Hector 107 hedonism 37–8, 68, 151, 168, 172, 181, 188–9 Hellenistic medicine 91 Henry, Devin 65–6 Heraclitus 29 Herman, Barbara 166 hermeneutic circle 168 Herodotus 30, 33–4 Hesiod 29, 32–3 historians, ancient Greek 29 historical narratives 2, 7–13, 23 holism about ethical judgement 66, 111, 114, 119–24, 126–7, 176 Aristotelian holism 124 Homer 29, 32 homonymy principle 84 honour 38, 103–4, 106–7, 115, 189 hormê, see ‘inner nisus’ Hursthouse, Rosalind 13–14, 16–18, 54 Hutchinson, Doug 38, 55, 58 Iamblichus 55 ideal realm, see polity immortality 40 impiety 29 Inglis, Kristen 111 ‘inner nisus’ or hormê 14, 73–6, 93–4, 100–1 institutions 35–6, 87–9, 97–8, 100, 166–7 intentionality 152–3 inverted spectrum problem 25, 176 Irwin, Terence 61, 79, 82, 105, 124–6 Isocrates 38, 72

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

 

Jaeger, Werner 56–9, 61 Johnson, Monte 38, 55, 58 Joyce, Richard 186 judgement 42, 76–7, 88, 96, 100–1, 110–14, 120–7, 148–50, 159, 162, 167, 171–2, 175–8, 180, 182–5 Judgement of Paris 68 Judson, Lindsay 83 justice 25, 27–8, 32, 34, 59, 76, 85, 95–8, 103–4, 106 natural justice 76–8, 80 justification, internal versus external 18, 67 Kahn, Charles 30 kalon, the fine or noble 85–6, 104–8, 127, 133, 143, 170–2, 179 Kamtekar, Rachana 155–6 Kantianism 9–10, 19, 21, 181–2 Kenny, Anthony 55–7, 137–8, 140 Keyt, David 82, 93 kind terms, see also species nature 15–17, 50, 83–4 kingship 88–9 knowledge 69 Korsgaard, Christine 2–4, 7–13, 20–1, 28, 31, 41, 53–4, 74–5, 104, 159, 162–3, 166, 181–3, 186, 189 Kraut, Richard 61, 67, 86, 95, 109–11 Kullmann, Wolfgang 85 language 34–5, 42 conventionality of language 74–5 language instinct 74–5 law 24, 30, 32, 35, 39–40, 85, 88, 95–8, 100, 113 Lawrence, Gavin 71 Lear, Gabriel Richardson 104–5 Lear, Jonathan 127 LeBar, Mark 20, 181–2 Lennox, James 76–7 Lesbos 81 lives, choice of 67–73, 151, 172 inclusive versus dominant reading 69–70 life of pleasure 68, 151–2, 172, 185 life of reason 69, 108–9, 151–2 political life 69, 108–9 Lloyd, G.E.R. 51, 61, 82, 84–5 Lovibond, Sabina 174 luck, see fortune Lucretius 34–6 Lyceum 72, 81–2, 149 Lycophron 97–8 MacIntyre, Alisdair 7–8, 10–13, 15–16, 21, 23–4, 45, 129–30 Mackie, J.L. 7 materialism 9, 34–5, 39, 41, 46, 168, 178 material cause 40–1, 43–4, 48–50, 117, 164 matter 10, 38–41

mathematics, see also geometry 134–8, 142 McDowell, John 7–8, 13, 18–22, 27–8, 32, 54, 79, 102–3, 111–13, 119–20, 124, 126–8, 152, 164–5 mean, doctrine of 105–6 megalopsuchos or great–souled man 25 metaethics 2, 9, 11–13, 22–4, 28, 53–4, 64–6, 126–7, 132, 166, 168–9, 178–80 metaphilosophy 30 metaphysics, Forms, see also categories 4–5, 7–11, 21, 26–8, 35–6, 39, 44–5, 50–1, 70–1, 73–4, 123–4, 129–34, 146, 163, 167–8 alchemical transformation 167 metaphysical categories 129–30, 143–4 metaphysical transubstantiation 163–5 Milgram Obedience Experiments 121–2 Miller, Fred 61, 82, 85–6 mind–body distinction 10 Moss, Jessica 115–19, 155–7, 171 Mulgan, Robert 97–8 Meyer, Susan Sauvê 137–9, 142 mythology 29, 31 Nagel, Thomas 69, 71 naivete charge 10, 19–20, 22, 30, 41, 52–3, 175–6, 178 nation state 96 naturalism in ethics 2–3, 8, 12, 14, 17, 46–7, 52–3, 79, 156 of the polis 93–8 nature, see also biological heritage hierarchical organization of nature 4, 70 natural limit 96 ‘nature does nothing in vain’ 84 scala naturae 70 second nature 79 supernatural 15 Neo–Aristotelian ethics 17 Neoplatonism 139 Neurathian reflection 18–20, 167 Nielsen, Karen 126 Nightingale, Andrea 130 nominalism 12 nomos–phusis distinction 30–2, 36, 39, 77–8, 82–3, 85, 90, 128, 178–9 non–cognitivism in ethics 7–8, 11–17, 19, 21, 37, 181, 184–5 normativity 5, 8–12, 38–41, 53–4, 152, 158–9, 162–3, 166–8, 181–2, 185 normativity in nature 5, 31, 45, 50–2, 142 normative facts 11–12 Nussbaum, Martha 18, 48, 67, 92, 117, 188 objectivity of ethics 16–20, 78, 182 objects of pursuit 133–4, 143, 146, 157, 162–3, 169, 179

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  O‘Hagan, Emer 187 optics 62–3 pain 36–7, 120–1, 151 Palaephatus 31–2 particularlsm 65–6, 102–3, 119–25 Pearson, Giles 57 Pellegrin, Pierre 43, 165 perception 47, 63–4, 138, 158–9, 165–6 perceptual model of ethical judgement 66, 112, 114, 119–20, 124–6, 183–5 Pericles 72 personhood 164–5 phantasia 116–17 Philip of Macedon 81–2 phronêsis, see also practical wisdom 56–7, 96, 116–18, 150, 174–5 phronimos, see also practical wisdom 27, 100–1, 110–13, 117, 121, 125–6, 152, 173–8, 180, 183–4 Plato 9, 21–2, 26–8, 30–4, 36–41, 44–5, 53, 58, 60, 68–9, 83–4, 87–8, 90, 92–3, 100–1, 104, 130, 132–3, 143, 150–1, 155–7, 172, 175–8, 181, 188 Platonists 4, 131, 168, 183–4 Plato’s Academy 59, 81, 131 pleasure, see also lives 34–5, 36–8, 57–8, 58, 68, 69, 74, 104–7, 115–16, 119–21, 133, 143, 146–7, 151, 154, 156, 171–2, 185 polis, see city state political art 43, 55–6, 100, 149 polity or ideal realm 88–9, 98 positivism 4, 11, 21, 28 potential first versus second 73–6, 86, 139 Powers, Nathan 39–40 practical wisdom, see also phronêsis 27, 57–8, 109–10, 149, 152, 173–8, 185–6 practices, social 11, 13, 16, 21, 26, 32–3, 35–6, 42, 85–6, 89, 99, 167, 176 pragmatic self–refutation 187–8 prescriptivism 16 Presocratics, see also Anaxagoras, Democritus, Empedocles, Xenophanes 4, 28–30 principle of non–contradiction 37 Prodicus 31–2 progress in ethics 24 Prometheus 33–4 properties 10, 38–42, 53 Protagoras 29, 34, 36, 150 Psammetichus 33–4 psychology 14, 26–7, 65–6, 74 ‘quarrel of the ancients and moderns’ 9–10 rainfall example 49–50 Rankin, H.D. 31–2

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Rawls, John 181–3 realism in ethics 25 reason 30, 42, 50–1, 53–4, 66–7, 79, 86, 99, 104, 111, 130, 134, 152, 158–9, 162–5 instrumental nature of 114, 117 practical reason 3–5, 16, 19, 56–7, 64–7, 70–2, 80, 87–8, 109–18, 127–8, 144–5, 147, 150–2, 158–60, 162, 165, 169–71, 178–80, 182, 185–6 non–deductive nature of 102, 111, 113, 178–9 theoretical reason 3, 56–8, 64, 67, 117, 125, 170, 178–9 reflective endorsement 18, 53–4, 108, 157–9 religion, see also God or gods 29 reproduction or generation 47, 91–2, 135, 140 reproductive fitness 46 responsibility, see also cause 134–43, 144, 152–3, 158–9, 161 causal responsibility 135–6, 153 meta–level control 140–1, 153, 158–9, 162 rhetoric 30 Roberts, Jean 94–5, 139–40 Rossian generalism 122 Rowe, Christopher 56–9, 105–6 rules 113–14, 122, 127, 180 rule–governed reasoning 119–24 Salkever, Stephen 100–1 Satan 154, 158, 188–9 scepticism 18, 25, 36, 75, 113, 167–8, 175–7, 181–3, 185–9 sciences, see also biology 4, 37, 43, 149 Aristotle’s view of 43, 64 hierarchical arrangement of 43, 62–5, 148, 163–4, 168, 179–80 intermediate sciences 62–4 modern sciences 10–12, 15, 17–18, 21, 28, 41, 51, 80–1 natural philosophy 10, 30, 178 philosophy of science 123 scientific investigation 42, 72 social sciences 42–3, 98–101 Scientific Revolution 12, 21 Scott, Dominic 26–7, 82 Sedley, David 39–41, 44, 50, 83 Segvic, Heda 155–6 self–motion 39–40, 47, 63–4, 133, 137–8, 143–4, 150–1, 153–8, 165, 168, 179–80 self–interest 11–12, 34–5, 38, 95 self–sufficiency argument 72 Setiya, Kieran 181–2 Sextus Empiricus 30–1 silencing of competing considerations 112–13, 120–3 Sisyphus 30–1 situational appreciation 112–13, 120–2, 124–6 slavery 3, 24, 79–80, 89–91, 99, 108–9, 144–5, 177

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

 

smugness 27 social hierarchies 24, 26 Socrates 27–31, 35, 37–8, 60, 66, 92, 95, 110, 125, 155–6, 172, 174–5 Socratic Bootstrapping 5, 160, 168–73, 178–80 Socratic Intellectualism 65 Socratic Paradox 155–7, 160 sophists, see also Callicles, Euthyphro, Protagoras, Prodicus, Thrasymachus 4, 21–2, 28–34, 36, 39, 82–3, 85, 90, 92, 128, 150, 173, 178, 181 Sorabji, Richard 48, 115, 165 soul 39–41, 60, 64–7, 73–4, 118–19, 143–4, 179–80 tripartite soul 68 Sparta 26, 107–8 species 36, 43, 46–8, 50, 64 species kind 15–17, 19, 46–7, 163 species nature 3, 83, 159, 163 Stoics 49–50, 65–6 Strato of Lampsacus 91 stylometric analysis 58–9 subjectivism in ethics 2, 10–13, 19, 21, 23, 78, 180, 182–6 supervenience of moral judgements 123–4 Taylor, Charles 12 Taylor, C.C.W. 32 technê 100, 156 technology 32–3 teleology 1, 8–9, 14, 16–17, 21, 39–41, 43–52, 54, 62, 64, 81, 83–5, 90–1, 128, 145, 155–6, 159, 163–5, 178 anthropocentric reading of 50, 83 cosmic teleology 49–50 Theophrastus 49–50, 68, 81 Thompson, Michael 15–17, 47 Thrasymachus 34, 75, 173, 175 Timmons, Mark 182–3 tragedy 57, 85 truth 26–8, 30, 36, 104–5 universal truths 66 truth–aptness of ethical claims 7, 12–14, 19, 21, 37, 173–4, 184–5 tu quoque argument 89, 92–3 universals 59, 77, 111–12, 131–3 universal generalizations 113, 119–20, 126 Unmoved Mover 50–1, 142 valency 119–23, 144, 154–5, 157–8, 179

value 21, 24, 28, 34–7, 41, 143–4, 165–6, 173 final value 38, 104–5, 108, 130–1, 170–2, 179, 186 instrumental value 38, 107–8, 170 natural versus ethical value 71, 164–5, 168–9 value–neutral perspective 15, 19, 27–8, 42–3, 51, 67, 80–2 Velleman, David 1, 153–5, 157–8, 183, 186–9 vices 16–17, 105 virtue or excellence, see also character, phronimos 2, 3, 8–9, 13–14, 16, 17, 21, 24, 25, 44–5, 57–8, 60–1, 67, 73, 75–8, 103, 173–4, 176 Aristotle’s list of the virtues 103–8 character virtues 57, 71, 170, 173, 180 civic virtues 14, 87 conflicts between virtue and desire 121 conflicts between virtues 121 natural virtues 76–7, 80 non–instrumental value of virtues 3, 102–5, 127–8 social virtues 106 unity of the virtues 112 virtue ethics 13–16, 18, 21 Aristotelian virtue ethics 5, 7–8, 10–12, 18, 177 Vogel, Jonathan 166 voluntarism 21 voluntary actions 137–41 wealth 89, 103–4, 106–7, 121 White, Nicholas 93 White, Stephen 51, 68 Whiting, Jennifer 71 Wieland, W. 48 Wiggins, David 102–3, 112, 115–16, 118, 126–7 will 12, 16, 166 Williams, Bernard 2–3, 7–8, 12–15, 18–19, 21–2, 27–8, 41–2, 44–5, 66, 73, 80–1, 98–9, 173–4, 177 wisdom 103–4 Witt, Charlotte 66 women, subordinate status of 3, 24, 79–80, 89–92, 108–9 Wong, David 186 Woodcock, Scott 16–17 Xenophanes 28–30 Xenophon 37–8 Zagzebski, Linda 175 Zeus 31–2, 111