Aristotle and The Philosophy of Law: Theory, Practice and Justice

Volume 23 of the series Ius Gentium: Comparative Perspectives on Law and Justice pp 123-133


Is There Any Theory of Value in Aristotle’s Ethics?

  • António de Castro CaeiroAffiliated withPhilosophy Department of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, New University of Lisbon, FCSH/Universidade Nova de Lisboa Email author 

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Raising questions concerning what could be an Aristotelian theory of value doesn’t necessarily mean that Aristotle is a precursor of the “Wertphilosophie”. This would be a sheer anachronism. On the practical horizon we can get a more hierarchical organization of the goals we are up to. The ὄρεξις, intentional project, we live by, is motivated positively by goals we choose to pursue: the glory (τὸ καλόν), the useful (τὸ συμφέρον), and the pleasure (τὸ ἡδύ). On the contrary, we try to avoid the opposite ones: the disgrace (τὸ αἰσχρόν), the damage (τὸ βλαβερόν), and the painful (τὸ λυπερόν). But what qualifies values? Is it not through a relationship we build up with ourselves that we come to value things? The scale of values Aristotle sketches has the exterior goods at the bottom and the goods pertaining to the soul as the most extreme ones, even inestimable. How do we get access to ourselves and to others? What do we mean when we think of someone as being useless or incapable? What does it take for us to define a great man?