Found in Translation: Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics 3.5, 1113b7-8 and its Reception

Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 45:103-148 (2013)
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ABSTRACT: This paper is distinctly odd. It demonstrates what happens when an analytical philosopher and historian of philosophy tries their hand at the topic of reception. For a novice to this genre, it seemed advisable to start small. Rather than researching the reception of an author, book, chapter, section or paragraph, the focus of the paper is on one sentence: Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics 3.5, 1113b7-8. This sentence has markedly shaped scholarly and general opinion alike with regard to Aristotle’s theory of free will. In addition, it has taken on a curious life of its own. Part one of the paper examines the text itself. Part two explores its reception from antiquity to the present day, including present-day popular culture, later ancient, Byzantine, Arabic, Latin Medieval, Renaissance, Victorian and contemporary scholarship. There are some surprises on the way. (The paper also serves as an introduction to the reception of the Nicomachean Ethics from its beginnings to the present.)

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Susanne Bobzien
Oxford University


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