24 April 2005

A Fourth Problem

After studying Lear's book some more, I think she is concerned with another 'problem of mid-level goods', distinct from the three I've already listed:

4. If happiness is the ultimate end (i.e. that for the sake of which we reasonably choose everything else, and which we don't reasonably choose for the sake of anything further in turn), then how is it that Aristotle, as it seems, wishes to count some mid-level goods, which are not ultimate in this sense, as happiness nonetheless (although in a 'secondary' sense)?
This is the problem of why some mid-level goods are treated by Aristotle as if they were not mid-level goods. And I think the theory of 'approximation' gives a plausible answer to this: happiness in the strict sense includes only philosophical contemplation; happiness in a secondary sense includes all goods that suitably approximate philosophical contemplation.


David said...

What approximates contemplation? Defense of one's country in war? Procreation? Writing? Is not contemplation sui generis?

Anonymous said...


You are right, the claim seems initially quite implausible, and this is what Almeida focused on in his review. Lear has fairly lengthy discussions of courage, moderation, and magnanimity, trying to make these out as 'approximations'. I'll be explaining her views on these in subsequent posts.


Posted by Michael Pakaluk