Can reason establish the goals of action? Assessing interpretations of Aristotle’s theory of agency

Discusiones Filosóficas 18 (30):35-62 (2017)
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Abstract
Scholarship on Aristotle’s theory of action has recently veered toward an intellectualist position, according to which reason is in charge of setting the goals of action. This position has recently been criticized by an anti-intellectualism revival, according to which character, and not reason, sets the goals of action. I argue that neither view can sufficiently account for the complexities of Aristotle’s theory, and suggest a middle way that combines the strengths of both while avoiding their pitfalls. The key problem for intellectualism is that Aristotle explicitly states reason cannot set the goals of action. The key problem for anti-intellectualism is that he also holds that the soul’s rational part must guide and prescribe over the non-rational part. I propose indirect intellectualism, a promising middle path.
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Archival date: 2017-11-03
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2017-11-03

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