In this essay, Pierre Aubenque reflects on the return to Aristotle in the second half of the twentieth century characterized by a re-reading of central chapters of the Nicomachean Ethics. Contemporary Aristotelianism, in Aubenque’s view, recognizes in Aristotle a philosopher of dissemination and difference, and reads the second chapter of the first book of the Nicomachean Ethics as outlining the impossibility of enclosing the good in a single concept, which results in the dissolution of the so-called “science of the good” for the sake of a plurality of fragmented and non-homogeneous forms of knowledge. Aubenque warns against such reading of the Nicomachean Ethics that attributes to Aristotle a form of moral particularism and relativism. Although for Aristotle λόγος introduces within human nature the possibility of discussions about ends and deliberations about means, and thus, a certain pluralism in the formulation of ethical rules, it nevertheless remains the expression of unity and universality of human nature and thus plays a central role in the realization of the highest potentialities of human nature—the τέλος that remains the same for all people.
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Pierre Aubenque is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV). His numerous publications on Aristotle and Greek philosophy include the two-volume study, Problèmes aristotéliciens (Vrin, 2009/2011); Études sur la Métaphysique d’Aristote (Vrin, 2009); Concepts et categories dans la pensée antique (Vrin, 1980); La prudence chez Aristote (Presses Universitaires de France, 1963); and Le problème de l’être chez Aristote (Presses Universitaires de France, 1962). His previous contributions to the Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal include “The Relationship between Hermeneutics and Ontology in the Case of Aristotle’s ΠΕΡΙ ΕΡΜΗΝΕΙΑΣ,” Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal 34:1 (2013); “The Science without a Name,” Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal 29:2 (2008), and “The Origins of the Doctrine of the Analogy of Being: On the History of a Misunderstanding,” Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal 11:1 (1986).
Pierre Aubenque, “The Role of the Nicomachean Ethics in Contemporary Discussions of Ethics,” trans. Anna Strelis Söderquist, Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal 36:2 (2015), pp. 425–36.