In this incisive study Sarah Broadie gives an argued account of the main topics of Aristotle’s ethics: eudaimonia, virtue, voluntary agency, practical reason. Sarah Broadie concentrates on what he has to teach about happiness, virtue, Never forgetting that ethics for Aristotle is above all a practical enterprise, she. , English, Book edition: Ethics with Aristotle / Sarah Broadie. Giving an analysis of the main themes of Aristotle’s ethics, the author concentrates on his.

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As the title indicates, the twelve essays in this volume address a range of topics in metaphysics and ethics, brkadie from a recognizably Aristotle-influenced point of view but only sometimes in explicit dialogue with, or explication of, that philosopher. The essays are mostly recent sincebut there are two from the s and one from the ’80s. Broadie’s work is well known to students of Aristotle, and these essays exhibit her usual high level of insight and interest — though also a tendency to elliptical and sometimes frustratingly inexplicit argumentation.

I will give a synopsis of the papers and then discuss in detail a question which spans four of her essays, on the nature and role of the highest good. According to ‘From necessity to fate: The — questionable — assumption seems to be that a prospective outcome E is desirable iff either Hroadie will occur and things would have been worse if it didn’t, or E won’t occur and things would have been szrah if it did.

If determinism is true, we cannot rationally assess these counterfactual claims, because if any particular matter of fact had been different the entire history of the world would have been different, and we have no chance of calculating what things would have been like instead. This is the view that everything in the history of the world “is settled at all times in history, or is timelessly settled” 56in contrast to the view that “there are contingencies or alternative possibilities in the universe, and then matters come to be settled one way or the other in the course of history,” so that the world “becomes determinate bit by bit through time” Examples of ES include Eternalism in the philosophy of time, as well as determinism.

Broadie claims that for any kind of ES-theorist, “counterfactually supposing that E did not happen at t implies counterfactually supposing the never-having-been-actual of the whole of actual-world history” — and if we make the latter supposition, we again have no chance of calculating what things would ethocs been like instead. In ‘A contemporary look at Aristotle’s changing Now’Broadie worries that recent i. She thinks an Aristotelian view does better at exhibiting their ehics.

On the view she presents, 1 the now changes, not like something moving from one ariatotle to another where the locations exist independently ethiccs the moving thingbut more like something altering where the properties exist only by being instantiated by the altering thing ; 2 broade event is before another only if it is either nearer to the now in the future or further from the now in the past.

There is no relation of order between an event in the past and an event in the future though there will be, once both are past. Descartes’ soul sarxh essentially an intellect, whereas Plato’s is essentially a valuer; a Platonic soul is responsible for its own embodiment or separation, by way of aristogle desire for or indifference to aeistotle enjoyments, whereas a Cartesian soul is not, partly because it can have no such desires unless embodied.

In ‘Taking stock of leisure’ newBroadie proposes that one of the distinctive features of humans is “the capacity to appreciate leisure and distinguish it from non-leisure.

Chapters share the aim of developing a view on which a there is a highest good or possibly severalbut b not every decision should aim at achieving or preserving it.


In chapters 8 and 11 Broadie attributes a view of this kind to Aristotle, while in chapters 9 and 10 she recommends one on its own merits. Aridtotle main reason for attributing claim b to Aristotle is his refusal to offer universal principles of action the thought being, why not offer “always pursue [highest good],” if he endorsed it?

She also says that Aristotle’s examples ethic virtuous activity often don’t portray agents as etuics at happiness the highest goodwhether their own or others’ More considerations can be found in ‘Against the Grand End View’, chapter 4. Broadie has three components from which to construct views of the kind she wants.

First is a distinction between two “levels” of practical thought: Second is a separation between questions saran right and questions of good. Third is a story about the relation between the highest good and other goods, on which those others need not be any kind of means to the highest.

Ethics with Aristotle – Oxford Scholarship

Chapter 8 introduces the first two components. Even if the highest good is the ultimate end of all goodsit doesn’t follow that all right action is for the sake of the highest good n. Architectonic thought and action should always aim at the highest good, but broadiw thought and action should not: Though this isn’t explicit, the idea must be that in ground-level practice we may respond solely to considerations of right, without aiming at any good at all; for at this stage Broadie seems to be granting that all goods are for the sake of the highest good, and hence that when we correctly pursue any good we are ultimately pursuing the highest good.

On the other hand, good ground-level agency is itself part of the highest good aimed at in our architectonic thinking.

Chapter 9 again emphasizes the distinction between right and good; Broadie argues plausibly that principles saraah right and wrong may be grounded independently of the highest good, contrary to J. Mill’s assumption in Utilitarianism that the ancients identified the highest good with the foundation of morality. She also introduces component three, a proposal about the role of highest good in relation to other goods. According to the proposal, the highest good is that whose presence in a life is a necessary condition for anything else’s making a difference to the goodness of that life.

If V is the highest good then, for all possible lives. G1 no life without V is better than any other life without V. G2 any life with V is better than any life without V. The semi-formalization is my own. Any life without the highest good is worthless, while any life that includes it sarag positive value.

Other goods can make one life with the highest good better than another.

Because they make this difference only among lives with the highest good, Broadie regards the highest good as making them good; it is the “source of value for the other goods” Of course, the other goods need not in any way be means to the highest good.

Broadie’s favored candidate for the role of good-maker is virtuous activity, i. Other goods, such as pleasure and friendship, are ultimate ends — not to be pursued for the sake of anything further — but they are worth pursuing only if they will be enjoyed together with virtuous activity. Given this structure of goods, we should sometimes focus specifically on the highest one, developing and sustaining our own and others’ commitment to doing what is morally right. But while all our activity should be virtuous activity, some of it should aim at nothing when we act solely on considerations of rightand some of it should aim at non-highest goods as ultimate ends.

This is certainly an interesting ethical picture, worth serious consideration. Unfortunately, it cannot be Aristotle’s as it stands, and by the time Broadie returns to him it will have been crucially altered. At the end of chapter 10, Broadie notes that the highest good as good-maker is not the most desirable good, because “it is more desirable to have the good-maker plus the other goods. Thus O is a good-maker when and only when it actually, so to speak, does confer value on the other goods — on the things that have worth only when it is present along with them.


But for that to happen, these other things have to be present along with it. Thus the good-maker understood in this way is also what is most desirable.


If we individuate objects of desire finely, the trick won’t work, since what we should desire is not the good-maker making good but the other things made good. Perhaps Broadie thinks desires are identical if they are necessarily co-satisfied.

At any rate, by the end of chapter 11 she is indifferent arostotle saying that the highest good — now Aristotle’s aritsotle good — is the good-maker actually making good the other goods, and saying that it is a combination of the good-maker with the other goods.

The good-maker is virtuous activity more accurately, the disjunction of virtuous activity with excellent theoretical activity: The highest good is happiness. The difference between potential and actual good-maker is greater than Broadie lets on. First, the highest good as actual good-maker is not something required for anything to make a difference to the goodness of a life: Two non-happy lives can differ in goodness if only one includes virtuous activity, or if the other elements of a complete life are not ethic present in them.

More important, the highest good is now something to which every good contributes: Wigh Broadie abandons, perhaps unconsciously, one ground for denying that every good should be chosen for the sake of the highest good. The highest good turns out to be ethically indiscernible from the all-inclusive good. It has an interesting internal structure — a number of elements along with a good-maker on whose presence their goodness depends — but that isn’t what Broadie offered to tell us about.

In fact, why think Aristotle believed in a good-maker? The notion is supposed to correspond to his “principle and cause of the goods” at NE 1. That leaves the distinction between right and good, and the two levels of practical thought. As to the first, though Aristotle may have admitted independently grounded principles of right, it is implausible that he thought actions or decisions should ever be motivated solely by them.

He says in various contexts that every action and decision, indeed every animal movement, aims at some real or apparent good. This means that unless some non-highest goods should be pursued as ultimate ends, every action and decision should aim at the highest good.

Finally, the distinction broafie architectonic and ground-level activity. Broadie could maintain that virtue requires us to have a range of ground-level ultimate ends, so that, since virtuous activity is the core of happiness, we can be happy only if we don’t always pursue happiness: It’s a fine story and maybe an ancient one, but should we think it was Aristotle’s?

The “two level” component insulates it from defeat by straightforward counterexample: But there is no clear-cut evidence that Aristotle subscribed to this separation of levels. The proposal has to be assessed holistically, by seeing whether it yields a satisfying, economical overall interpretation of Aristotle’s ethical writings. I won’t attempt that here.

If V is the highest good then, for all possible lives, G1 no life without V is better than any other life without V ; G2 any life with V is better than any life without V.