Aristotle on Divine and Human Contemplation

Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 7:131–160 (2020)
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Aristotle’s theory of human happiness in the Nicomachean Ethics explicitly depends on the claim that contemplation (theôria) is peculiar to human beings, whether it is our function or only part of it. But there is a notorious problem: Aristotle says that divine beings also contemplate. Various solutions have been proposed, but each has difficulties. Drawing on an analysis of what divine contemplation involves according to Aristotle, I identify an assumption common to all of these proposals and argue for rejecting it. This allows a straightforward solution to the problem and there is evidence that Aristotle would have adopted it.

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Bryan C. Reece
Baylor University


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