31 August 2005

Aristotelian Particularism

On another note , I finally was able to study Anthony Price's BACAP contribution from last year, "Was Aristotle a Particularist?" I may eventually post something on his arguments, but for the moment I wanted simply to show how he defines the question, which I found very useful (I cite with his permission):

A recent line of thinking which may further our understanding of Aristotle is particularism. This label, being applicable to somewhat different claims, rather identifies a tendency than a dogma. We may oppose particularism to generalism, trying to identify where he stands, through a variety of issues. The questions that I shall try to answer, each within a section of this paper, are the following:

(1) Does Aristotle suppose that an agent’s practical decisions apply to a particular situation an articulate general specification of eudaimonia?

(2) Does he suppose that there are any principles to guide decisions that apply without exception?

(3) Does he suppose that there are factors to be taken into account whose valence is invariable between different contexts?

(4) Does he suppose that, as Jonathan Dancy has put it (1993: 50), ‘there is nothing that one brings to the new situation other than a contentless ability to discern what matters where it matters’?

An extreme particularist reading of Aristotle would answer ‘no’ to the first three questions, and ‘yes’ to the last. I shall argue for positive answers to (2) and (3), and negative ones to (1) and (4).