Aristotle's Denial of Deliberation about Ends
APSA 2013 Annual Meeting Paper
Polis 30.2 (2013)
23 Pages Posted: 16 Sep 2013 Last revised: 30 May 2015
Date Written: September 16, 2013
Although Aristotle stated that we do not deliberate about ends, it is widely agreed that he did not mean it. Eager to save him from implying that ends are irrational, scholars have argued that he did recognise deliberation about the specification of ends. This claim misunderstands Aristotle’s conceptions of both deliberation and ends. Deliberation is not the whole of reasoning: it is a subcategory concerning only practical matters within our power. Not deliberating about something thus does not preclude other forms of reflection on it, such as that involved in specification. Yet on Aristotle’s view, our ends are not in our power. They are generated not by individual choice but by nature, which in the case of human beings includes roles for both language and politics. Ends are thus beyond individual deliberation, though not beyond reason. This is no minor point. The claim that human beings can act rationally depends upon it.
Keywords: Aristotle, deliberation, reason, practical reason, practical wisdom, means, ends, collective action, language
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