25 April 2005

Life, Theoretically Speaking

I'm puzzled by Lear's treatment of NE 1.5.1096a4, which reads:

Third of the three lives in question, then, is the life of reflection, about which we shall make our investigation in what follows. (Broadie and Rowe)

tri/toj d' e)sti\n o( qewrhtiko/j, u(pe\r ou(= th\n e)pi/skeyin e)n toi=j e(pome/noij poihso/meqa.
Broadie and Rowe give the usual view when they say (ad loc) "In fact this discussion does not occur until x.7-8 (1177a12-1179a32)." Lear agrees with this: "[A]t NE I.5 1096a4-5 Aristotle promises to describe the theoretical life later; NE X.7-8 is the place he does it"(178).

Yet this seems at odds with Lear's treatment of 10.8.1178b28-32, which reads:
So happiness extends as far as reflection does, and to those who have more of reflection, more happiness belongs too, not incidentally, but in virtue of the reflection; for this is in itself to be honored. So then happiness will be a kind of reflection. (Broadie and Rowe)

e)f' o(/son dh\ diatei/nei h( qewri/a, kai\ h( eu)daimoni/a, kai\ oi(=j ma=llon u(pa/rxei to\ qewrei=n, kai\ eu)daimonei=n, ou) kata\ sumbebhko\j a)lla\ kata\ th\n qewri/an: au(/th ga\r kaq' au(th\n timi/a. w(/st' ei)/h a)\n h( eu)daimoni/a qewri/a tij.

Broadie and Rowe remark astutely (ad loc.) that 'happiness extends as far as reflection does' may indicate "(1) the proportion of time someone spends on reflection (this by contrast with the gods, whose happiness is coextensive with their life, 25-6). But the context equally suggests reference to (2) a range of kinds of activity which the term 'reflection' can cover. In that case, the point is that grounds for calling an activity 'reflection' are grounds for calling it 'happiness'."

Lear, as we might guess, opts for (2) (citing Broadie and Rowe for this at 196,n.45), and claims that 'reflection' or 'theoretical activity' covers, too, activity of practical reason, and thus the actions of the various virtues of character:
The actualization of phronesis is not theoretical contemplation, but it is, according to my interpretation, theoria...tis. (195)

But the life aimed at practical wisdom has already been deemed happy in a way; thus it must include theoria tis. (196, n. 43)

Courageous, temperate, and just actions are not only expressions of virtue, they are godlike....The divine activity extends into human life not only through human contemplation but also through morally virtuous activity. (196)

In support of her this view, Lear points out that "theorein often refers to practical contemplation. See NE 1139a6-8, 1140a10-14, 1141a25-26 for unambiguous examples" (195, n.42).

But then, if this is her view, why wouldn't she hold that "in what follows" (e)n toi=j e(pome/noij) at 1.5 1096a4 refers not to 10.7-8 but rather to all the rest of the Nicomachean Ethics?!! --Because Lear's view is that Aristotle regards the entire NE as a discussion of human life as devoted to theoria in one form or another.