The Department of Philosophy cordially invites you to the Public Defense of the PhD Dissertation
Nevim Borcin (PhD candidate, Department of Philosophy)
on "The Theoretical Underpinnings Of Aristotle's Practical Philosophy"
Members of the Defense Committee:
Supervisor: István Bodnár (CEU)
External examiner: Dorothea Frede (University of Hamburg)
Internal Examiner: Cathy Mason (CEU)
Chair: Michael Griffin (CEU)
The defense will be held on Friday, 10 November from 4.00 PM in room A-215
This dissertation argues that when Aristotle constructs his arguments in his ethics (political science more broadly), he sometimes, though not always, appeals to concepts, principles or accounts from his metaphysics, physics, and psychology and thus, his practical philosophy is dependent on his theoretical philosophy to a considerable degree. More specifically I defend the following theses which give rise to four mutually supporting and interlocking essays in four chapters, each of which can also be regarded as an independent contribution to the ongoing debate.
In chapter 1, I examine EN vii 1.1145b2-7, a methodological statement that has widely been taken as the clearest announcement and application of dialectical methodology. I challenge the prevailing interpretation of EN vii 1 and advocate for a deflationary and non-dialectical account which aligns with Aristotle’s scientifically oriented general methodology. I argue that Aristotle’s practical philosophy adheres to a scientific method, as employed in other scientific treatises, which argue from facts and observations rather than endoxa, i.e., reputable opinions, as such.
In chapter 2, I argue that the ergon, i.e., the function, of human beings in the ergon argument at EN i 7 must be construed against a teleological framework of Aristotelian natural science. I demonstrate that the concept of ergon is used in the same sense as it has been argued for in extra-ethical treatises. Furthermore, I defend the following two claims: First, human beings should not be analogized to artificial tools or bodily parts in terms of their ergon. I will propose that Aristotle employs a non-homonymous conception of ergon in the sense of the final cause and the essence of the thing. In this sense, the concept of ergon applies indiscriminately to artificial tools, organic parts, and whole living beings including humans. However, due to their specific natures tools and organic parts possess an other-regarding ergon while whole living beings have a self-regarding ergon. Second, natural teleology, which operates strictly in the case of other living beings, does not determine human beings in the same manner. Human beings require certain internal and external enabling conditions to complete their form.
In chapter 3, I turn to the Protrepticus an early text dedicated to making exhortations to do philosophy. I present arguments for the following claims: First, Aristotle coherently defends the view that while theoretical knowledge is intrinsically valuable and choiceworthy as an end in itself, it also possesses some accidental utility in practical life. Second, Aristotle regards theoretical knowledge of the human end, the human soul, and its parts as a prerequisite for the good person or politician to engage in noble actions and establish good laws. Third, the theoretical knowledge required for the good person or politician must be understood in a non-minimalist sense, meaning it cannot be acquired solely through observation or experience, but rather through engaging in philosophy to a certain extent. Fourth, the non-minimalist requirement for theoretical knowledge in the good person or politician is consistent throughout Aristotle’s later, more mature treatises.
In chapter 4, I address a vexing question in Aristotle’s political science. Aristotle holds the belief that some individuals can be enslaved without injustice based on their nature. The question of how we should interpret the nature that Aristotle attributes to the natural slave is a subject of debate. I argue that what Aristotle calls the natural slave is a legitimate human being who nonetheless possesses an ineliminable rational deficiency. Furthermore, since the so-called natural slaves share the same defining ergon as the rest of human beings, Aristotle’s theory of human nature, which underpins his political science, is not in conflict.