Advertisement

Wisdom and the Origins of Moral Knowledge

  • Randall CurrenEmail author
Chapter

Abstract

Aristotle presents his Nicomachean Ethics and Politics as an ordered pair comprising political science (hê politikê epistêmê), suggesting an axiomatic structure of theorems that are demonstratively deduced from first principles. He holds that this systematic knowledge of ethical and legislative matters provides the ‘universals’ essential to phronesis or practical wisdom, and that its acquisition begins in sound habituation. Aristotle thereby assigns habituation an epistemic role that must be understood in light of his account of the nature of a science. This paper argues that what would be inductively established by, or on the basis of, sound habituation is the supposition that the natural kind of activity constitutive of living well exists; it establishes the supposition on which Aristotle’s definition of a eudaimon life rests. Having addressed this central interpretive issue, the paper sketches a psychologically grounded position on the substantive philosophical questions at stake. Are there natural signs of flourishing and failure to flourish present to us in our experience of attempts to live well? If such signs exist but are not sufficient to qualify ethical beliefs as knowledge in their own right, might they play a role in a science of what is good and bad for human beings?

Keywords

Aristotle Wisdom Ethical science Habituation Eudaimonia 

References

  1. Barnes, Jonathan. 1984. The Complete Works of Aristotle, vol. 2. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Charles, David, 2015. Aristotle on Practical and Theoretical Knowledge. in Bridging the Gap Between Aristotle’s Science and Ethics ed. Henry and Nielsen, pp. 71–93. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Curren, Randall. 2000. Aristotle on the Necessity of Public Education. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  4. Curren, Randall. 2010. Aristotle’s Educational Politics and the Aristotelian Renaissance in Philosophy of Education. Oxford Review of Education 36 (5): 543–559.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Curren, Randall. 2013. Aristotelian Necessities. The Good Society 22 (2): 247–263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Curren, Randall. 2014a. Aristotle. In Encyclopedia of Educational Theory and Philosophy, vol. 1, ed. Denis Phillips, 55–59. Los Angeles: SAGE Reference.Google Scholar
  7. Curren, Randall. 2014b. Motivational Aspects of Moral Learning and Progress. Journal of Moral Education 43 (4): 484–499.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Curren, Randall. 2014c. Judgment and the Aims of Education. Social Philosophy & Policy 31 (1): 36–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Curren, Randall. 2015. Virtue Ethics and Moral Education. In Routledge Companion to Virtue Ethics, ed. Michael Slote and Lorraine Besser-Jones, 459–470. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  10. Curren, Randall. 2016. Aristotelian versus Virtue Ethical Character Education. Journal of Moral Education 45(4): 516–526.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Curren, Randall, and Ellen Metzger. 2017. Living Well Now and in the Future: Why Sustainability Matters. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dancy, Jonathan. 2014. Intuition and Emotion. Ethics 124: 787–812.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Greene, Joshua D. 2005. Cognitive Neuroscience and the Structure of the Moral Mind. In The Innate Mind: Structure and Content, ed. P. Carruthers, S. Laurence, and S. Stitch. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Henry, Devin, and Karen Margrethe Nielsen (eds.). 2015. Bridging the Gap Between Aristotle’s Science and Ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Karbowski, Joseph. 2015. Endoxa, Facts, and the Starting Points of the Nicomachean Ethics. in Bridging the Gap Between Aristotle’s Science and Ethics, ed. Henry and Nielsen, pp. 113–129. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Kraut, Richard. 1984. Aristotle on the Human Good. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Moss, Jennifer. 2011. Virtue Makes the Goal Right: Virtue and Phronêsis in Aristotle’s Ethics. Phronesis 56 (4): 204–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Natali, Carlo. 2010. Posterior Analytics and the Definition of Happiness in NE I. Phronesis 55 (4): 304–324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Nichols, Shaun. 2005. Innateness and Moral Psychology. In The Innate Mind: Structure and Content, ed. P. Carruthers, S. Laurence, and S. Stitch. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Nielsen, Karen Margrethe, 2015. Aristotle on Principles in Ethics: Political Science as the Science of the Human Good. in Bridging the Gap Between Aristotle’s Science and Ethics ed. Henry and Nielsen, pp. 29–48. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Reeve, C.D.C. 2006. Aristotle on the virtues of thought. In The Blackwell guide to Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, ed. R. Kraut, 198–217. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  22. Ryan, R., Randall Curren, and E. Deci. 2013. What Humans Need: Flourishing in Aristotelian Philosophy and Self-Determination Theory. In The Best Within Us: Positive Psychology Perspectives on Eudaimonia, ed. A.S. Waterman, 57–75. Washington, DC: APA.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Ryan, Richard M., and Edward L. Deci. 2017. Self-determination Theory: Basic Psychological Needs in Motivation, Development, and Wellness. New York: Guilford Publishing.Google Scholar
  24. Shields, Christopher, 2015. The Science of Soul in Aristotle’s Ethics. in Bridging the Gap Between Aristotle’s Science and Ethics, ed. Henry and Nielsen, pp. 232–253. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of RochesterNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations