The Metaethics of Law: Book One of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics

International Journal of Law in Context, Vol. 5, No. 4, 2009

Queen Mary School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper

53 Pages Posted: 10 Oct 2009

See all articles by Eric Heinze

Eric Heinze

Queen Mary University of London, School of Law

Date Written: October 4, 2009

Abstract

Traditional scholarship has approached Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics mostly as a system of positive ethics. Less attention has been paid to the work’s metaethics - the claims Aristotle makes about what any system of positive ethics must say or do in order to count as an ethical theory. In this article, Book One of the Nicomachean Ethics is read not simply as an introduction to Aristotle’s system of positive ethics, but as a statement of distinct metaethical principles, which can be evaluated independently of any view that might be taken of his positive ethics. Insofar as Aristotle inscribes his legal theory within his ethical theory, those principles stand as a metaethics of law. Under Aristotle’s legal metaethics, law necessarily presupposes (1) a concept of the ‘good’; (2) purpose; (3) dialectics; (4) objectivist ethics; (5) a best constitution; (6) a positive ethics; and (7) a concept of the ‘human.’

Keywords: Aristotle, conventionalism, ethics, dialectics, eudaimonism, metaethics, relativism, subjectivism, natural law, objectivism, rationalism

JEL Classification: K10

Suggested Citation

Heinze, Eric, The Metaethics of Law: Book One of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (October 4, 2009). International Journal of Law in Context, Vol. 5, No. 4, 2009, Queen Mary School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1482703

Eric Heinze (Contact Author)

Queen Mary University of London, School of Law ( email )

67-69 Lincoln’s Inn Fields
London, WC2A 3JB
United Kingdom

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