Pleasure and the Discovery of Nature

in Aristotle's Dialogue with Socrates

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print July 2008 | ISBN: 9780226080505
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226080543 | DOI:
Pleasure and the Discovery of Nature

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The reconsideration of human character in Book VII of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics takes the form of an exploration of the psychology of desire, and the perspective of the inquiry exhibits the effects of the path it has followed to reach this point. Having been freed, apparently, from seeing things through the lens of morality, the argument turns to the natural attraction to pleasure and repulsion from pain that is evident throughout animal life, including human life. While departing from the presuppositions of virtue and vice, the inquiry in Book VII brings to light a range of human character that extends beyond those alternatives. The inquiry of Book VII opens a window through which we glimpse the repellent bestiality of which human beings are capable. Aristotle set the stage in Book II for his debate with Socrates when he interpreted the Socratic turn to logoi as a misunderstanding of ethical virtue. Aristotle's final confrontation with Socrates compels him to wrestle with all the puzzles involved in explaining the power of pleasure to lead us astray.

Keywords: Aristotle; Nicomachean Ethics; virtue; vice; pleasure; nature; bestiality; Socrates; logoi

Chapter.  12597 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy

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