Aristotle: Nature

Terence Irwin

in The Development of Ethics: Volume 1

Published in print September 2007 | ISBN: 9780198242673
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191680519 | DOI:

Series: Development of Ethics

Aristotle: Nature

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This chapter looks more closely at Aristotle's position on function, essence, and nature. Here Aristotle explains what he means by attributing a function to human beings, and on what grounds he attributes it to them. Aristotle's claims about function do not simply say that we have natural tendencies. He also attributes to human beings a nature that is not simply the sum of all natural tendencies. To speak of a thing's nature and of what is in accord with its nature is to select among the natural tendencies, since they may not all accord with the nature of the whole. Aristotle's conception of nature connects a thing's nature with its essence, and with the kind that it belongs to. This account of the Function Argument attributes a naturalist position to Aristotle. He argues for his account of the human good from premises about the nature of human beings as rational animals.

Keywords: Aristotle; function; essence; nature; human beings; Function Argument

Chapter.  11236 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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