Skip navigation
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Title: Defining the Human Good: Aristotle's Ergon Argument
Authors: Baker, Samuel Hunter
Advisors: Morison, Benjamin C.
Contributors: Philosophy Department
Keywords: Aristotle
Subjects: Philosophy
Classical studies
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Aristotle begins the Nicomachean Ethics by emphasizing that the virtuous person should understand the nature of the best good achievable by humans in action, something Aristotle calls the "human good." In Nicomachean Ethics I 7, he defines the human good as "activity of the <rational part of the human> soul on the basis of virtue and if there are more virtues than one, on the basis of the best and most end-like and moreover in an end-like [i.e. complete] life." The argument by which he arrives at this definition is known as the ergon argument. This dissertation aims to improve our understanding of the definition by analyzing how it follows from this argument. My interpretation is novel, as I reject the ubiquitous assumption that the ergon of an X is always the proper activity of that X. I argue instead that the ergon of an X is an activity in some cases but a product in others, depending on what the X is. Thus, while the ergon of the flautist is his performance (an activity), the ergon of the sculptor is a sculpture (a product). This enables us to see that the fundamental rationale of the ergon is that just as the best achievement of a sculptor is a certain version of his ergon, which is a sculpture, so the best achievement of a human will be a certain version of his ergon, which is an activity of the rational part of the human soul. When Aristotle adds the further features "on the basis of virtue," "on the basis of the best virtue," and "in a complete life" he does so in order to mark off the best achievement of a human from the mere proper achievement of a human. Observing this enables us to see how a monistic reading of the definition--on which the "best virtue" is theoretical wisdom--could in fact follow from the premises of the ergon argument. It also enables us to understand the proper explanation for why "in a complete life" is added, namely, because continuity and perpetuity make the best activity even better.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Philosophy

Files in This Item:
File Description SizeFormat 
Baker_princeton_0181D_10849.pdf1.85 MBAdobe PDFView/Download

Items in Dataspace are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.