SOPhiA 2017

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Action-guidance in Aristotelian Ethics
(Ethics, English)

This paper addresses the problem of action-guidance in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics according to which we are not told how to act, but rather what sort of person we should be, thus leaving us with no substantial instruction when faced with hard cases. I start by introducing McDowell's particularist reading of Aristotle, according to which the virtuous person sees the right course of action in every situation she is faced with. There is no need for general moral principles to function as action-guiding (which is not to say that they do not exist at all), because if we are virtuous we will always know what to do. I then argue that this interpretation is not accurate and that general moral principles do play a significant role in action-guidance in Aristotelian ethics. In order to support my argument I first consider Book V, where Aristotle briefly accounts for equity as what corrects the inevitable omissions of the process of applying universal laws to particular cases, and then Book II, where Aristotle mentions perception as what allows the virtuous person to hit the right mean when doing so implies deviating from the mark in order to hit it. In both cases I argue that McDowell's particularist interpretation fails to account for the fact that general moral principles provide action-guidance and that it is not the case that the virtuous person sees an answer that is already particularised in the situation itself; rather, the virtuous person will see the principles as action-guiding, but will find a way to apply the universal moral principles to particular cases, exactly in the same way the adjudicator will bend the limits of law in order to re-interpret them in accordance with the particular hard case.

Chair: Noelle Rohde
Time: 11:15-11:45, 14 September 2017 (Thursday)
Location: SR 1.007

Matilde Liberti 
(University of Stirling, UK)

I am currently graduating in Philosophy at the University of Stirling (4-year-programme). In September 2017 I will enrol in the MA Cultural Studies at SOAS University in London. I wrote this paper as an assessment for the module on Aristotelian Ethics I have just concluded.

Testability and Meaning deco