Any sound practical philosophy must be clear on practical concepts—concepts, in particular, of life, action, and practice. This clarity is Michael Thompson’s aim in his ambitious work. In Thompson’s view, failure to comprehend the structures of thought and judgment expressed in these concepts has disfigured modern moral philosophy, rendering it incapable of addressing the larger questions that should be its focus.
In three investigations, Thompson considers life, action, and practice successively, attempting to exhibit these interrelated concepts as pure categories of thought, and to show how a proper exposition of them must be Aristotelian in character. He contends that the pure character of these categories, and the Aristotelian forms of reflection necessary to grasp them, are systematically obscured by modern theoretical philosophy, which thus blocks the way to the renewal of practical philosophy. His work recovers the possibility, within the tradition of analytic philosophy, of hazarding powerful generalities, and of focusing on the larger issues—like “life”—that have the power to revive philosophy.
As an attempt to relocate crucial concepts from moral philosophy and the theory of action into what might be called the metaphysics of life, this original work promises to reconfigure a whole sector of philosophy. It is a work that any student of contemporary philosophy must grapple with.
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Table of Contents
The Representation of Life
Can Life Be Given a Real Definition? 33
The Representation of the Living Individual 49
The Representation of the Life-Form Itself 63
Naive Action Theory
Types of Practical Explanation 97
Naive Explanation of Action 106
Action and Time 120
Two Tendencies in Practical Philosophy 149
Practices and Dispositions as Sources of the Goodness of Individual Actions 167
Practice and Disposition as Sources of Individual Action 192