Revaluing Ethics

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Challenges influential interpretations of Aristotelian ethical and political philosophy.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Smith does an incredible job of unlocking the hidden riches of Aristotle’s thought. He provides us with a new and worthwhile perspective in his elucidation of Aristotle’s dialectical approach, a perspective that fruitfully questions many standard views about the Nicomachean Ethics.” — William A. Welton, Xavier University
Library Journal
Running counter to the generally stated view that Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics is "a moral textbook written for an indeterminate audience," Smith argues instead that the Ethics "is a pedagogy and so must be read in light of the demands imposed by teaching and learning about politics in a tradition." Smith holds that the Ethics is not "an introduction to a value-neutral discipline. Rather, it is a course or teaching that means to explore the question of the best life as it appears from the perspective of one particular horizon that inhabited by ambitious young men of the ancient Greek city-state." Smith notes that since Aristotle was writing in a time of transition in the Greek world (Aristotle had gone to Macedon in 343 B.C.E. to tutor Alexander, the future son of Philip of Macedon; the Peloponnesian Wars had ended in 404 B.C.E.), the Ethics should be read as a dialectical pedagogy that is, as a text wherein inquiry takes priority over answers. Smith presents a very strong case for his reading of the Ethics, and his arguments should engender some stimulating and refreshing debate on a significant work in the Western philosophical canon. Highly recommended. Terry C. Skeats, Bishop's Univ. Lib., Lennoxville, Quebec Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780791451427
  • Publisher: State University of New York Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2001
  • Series: SUNY Series in Ancient Greek Philosophy
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas W. Smith is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Villanova University.

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Table of Contents



The Return to Aristotle
Dialectic: A Brief Overview


1. The Political Character of Aristotle's Pedagogy

Formation and Regimes
The Political Dimensions of the Pedagogy

2. The Audience of the Nicomachean Ethics

The Problem of Audience
Where the Action Is
The Love of Honor and the Love of Activity
The Ambiguous Results of the Pursuit of Honor
Political Effects of the Culture of Honor
Plato's Case against Virtue-as-Equity in the Republic
The Appearance of Virtue
Pedagogical Problems: How Love or Honor Leads to Complacency
Pedagogical Strategies: Virtue-as-Equity
Pedagogical Problems: Philosophy
Questioning Aristotle's Pedagogical Strategy


3. Approaching the Virtues

Does Aristotle Accept his Culture's Notions of the Virtues?
Bifurcating the Soul; Bifurcating Virtue Moral Paralysis
The Devaluation of Reason
Slicing and Dicing the Virtues

4. Criticizing the Moral Virtues

The Mean with Respect to Anger
Social Relations

5. Greatness of Soul

Aristotle on Greatness of Soul
The Iliad on Human Limits

6. Justice, Injustice, and Equity

Different Starting Points
Comfortable Risk Minimizers versus Needy Risk Takers
The Problem with Law
The Partiality of Law

7. Turning Reputable Opinion Upside Down

Reassessing the Relation of Thought to Practice
Thought as an Action
Aristotelian Rationality, the Human Good, and Life Plans
A New Start
Moral Weakness
New Distinctions
Standing Virtue on Its Head


8. Analogous Communities

From Having to Being: Equal versus Unequal Relationships
Interdependence and Human Flourishing
More in the Nature of Things
Analogical Communities
The Common Good in Aristotelian Thought
Theory Informing Practice
Why Bother?
Virtue-as-Equity, Virute-as-Fairness
The Negative Way to Vurtue-as-Equity

9. Hortatory Conclusions

Aristotle Tips his Pedagogical Hand
The Accounts of Pleasure
The Fulfillment of Desire
So Why Won't He Talk about Contemplation

Conclusion: Contemplation, Action, and the Limits of Aristotelian Political Philosophy

The Missing Question
Interpretive Problems
The Way the Problem Appeared to Aristotle's Audience
Practical Wisdom
Contemplation and Its Effects on Practical Wisdom
Practical Wisdom and Providing for Contemplation
Human Limits and the Limits of Aristotelian Political Philosophy


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