Teleology and Awareness in Aristotle's Ethical Thought
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In a famous argument at the beginning of the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle argues that the function and good of the human being is the "actuality of the soul in accordance with virtue". Presenting a view critical of the widespread intellectualist reading of Aristotle's Ethics, in this thesis I argue that the characteristic function of the human being is constitutive of a distinctly human life as a dynamic formal cause teleologically operative in human awareness. I argue for the validity of my own view in a preliminary way in the introduction by way of Aristotle's critique of the Platonic forms. In the second chapter, I argue that the processes of the non-rational part of the soul are acquired and actively operate once acquired independently of singular dictates of active reason within the individual. By this I mean that the virtues do not obey reason in the sense that they receive individual commands from discursive reason to desire or feel in certain ways. Rather, although the moral virtues are formed gradually by repeated acts of choice, as affective states, they are activated by being affected from without by external stimuli. These external stimuli produce impulses in the soul which are conducive to virtuous action, including a cognitive element: primarily, non-rational and non-discursive evaluative judgments of phantasia, which supply a human agent immediately with the ends of his action and the beginning-points of deliberation. These judgments are the awareness of sensible particulars as pleasant. In the third chapter, I turn to the De Anima in order to illuminate the cognitive conditions of human praxis. Following on the arguments contained in the second chapter, I argue that there are two primary cognitive moments which are necessary conditions of action. While the ends of desire are immediate objects of awareness and move humans as unmoved movers, motivational desires, which move as efficient causes, are initiated by a distinct cognitive power: proclamations to pursue or avoid.