Confronting Aristotle's Ethics
Ancient and Modern Morality
What is the good life? Posing this question today would likely elicit very different answers. Some might say that the good life means doing good—improving one’s community and the lives of others. Others might respond that it means doing well—cultivating one’s own abilities in a meaningful way. But for Aristotle these two distinct ideas—doing good and doing well—were one and the same and could be realized in a single life. In Confronting Aristotle’s Ethics, Eugene Garver examines how we can draw this conclusion from Aristotle's works, while also studying how this conception of the good life relates to contemporary ideas of morality.
The key to Aristotle’s views on ethics, argues Garver, lies in the Metaphysics or, more specifically, in his thoughts on activities, actions, and capacities. For Aristotle, Garver shows, it is only possible to be truly active when acting for the common good, and it is only possible to be truly happy when active to the extent of one’s own powers. But does this mean we should aspire to Aristotle’s impossibly demanding vision of the good life? In a word, no. Garver stresses the enormous gap between life in Aristotle’s time and ours. As a result, this book will be a welcome rumination on not only Aristotle, but the relationship between the individual and society in everyday life.
“This is a smart, inventive, highly original, and important contribution to our understanding of Aristotle. Eugene Garver has a clear and unified vision of Aristotle’s project in ethics and, in particular, of the importance of Aristotelian politics and metaphysics in this understanding. His is an entirely new and refreshing approach, one that challenges many of the mainstream accounts of Aristotle. Overall, a healthy corrective to the appropriation and co-option of Aristotle by common sense and ordinary language philosophy that began towards the middle of last century.”--Charles Young, Claremont Graduate School
“Confronting Aristotle’s Ethics is a wonderfully rigorous, systematic study of Aristotle’s ethics, focusing on the difficult relations among dynameis, kineseis, and energeiai. These illuminate the relations between an activity’s external goals/ends (defending the city) and internal goals/ends (acting courageously for the sake of courage and virtue), and go some considerable way to showing that Aristotle’s ethics are political, making sense only in good polities, and also metaphysical, and that the metaphysical, in turn, must be understood in terms of the ethical. Garver powerfully shows what is attractive and what is repellant in Aristotle. A genuine tour de force—one of the most instructive and confronting works on Aristotle that we have.”--Michael Stocker, Syracuse University
“Throughout Garver offers fresh perspectives that illuminate Aristotle’s ethics and its application to contemporary life. Even where one might disagree with him, one will benefit from grappling with his ideas. Well worth reading.”--Norman Dahl, University of Minnesota
List of Abbreviations of Aristotle's Works
What Aristotle's Rhetoric Can Tell Us about the Rationality of Virtue
Decision, Rational Powers, and Irrational Powers
The Varieties of Moral Failure
Passion and the Two Sides of Virtue
Aristotle's Ethical Virtues Are Political Virtues
The Ethical Dimensions of Aristotle's Metaphysics
Living Politically and Living Rationally: Choosing Ends and Choosing Lives
Index of Passages in Aristotle's Works