Manusya, Journal of Humanities

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Aristotle understood ethics to be a practical rather than a theoretical science. It is a pragmatics, if you will, concerned with bringing about a good life. But the problem and the question from which Aristotle's ethics begins and to which it constantly returns concerns the relation of the theoretical to the practical: his concern is for the type or mode of discourse one could use in providing an account of the good life (Eudaimonia). Is this a propositional, apophantic discourse, a discourse claiming to represent the truth and what is true and from which one could then go on to prescribe a course of action, or, and this may be closer to Aristotle, is the philosophical discourse on ethics rather a descriptive one which takes humankind for what it is, not what it ought to be? This relation between theory and practice, between description and prescription, between science and action, is a question and a problem for Aristotle. It is my purpose to take up this question in connection with Aristotle's texts on Eudaimonia. Another question shall be raised here: What is the relevance of Aristotle's treatment of Eudaimonia to our contemporary, "modern" concern for ethics and the good life? I would assume, natively perhaps, that even today we are not indifferent to this question of what is a good life, and that we are not indifferent to the many ways in which the "good life" has been described. It would seem, then, that Aristotle's texts have a particularly striking importance for us today insofar as we prolong the philosophical questioning of the possibilities for ethical and political discourse today and continue to ask who and what we are as human beings. My purpose in what follows shall be two-fold: not only to present an account of Aristotle's ethnics, but to show how Aristotle's ethics is of importance for contemporary philosophy, especially for the pragmatism of Richard Rorty, the hermeneutics of Hans-Georg Gadamer, and the 'post-structuralism' of J-F Lyotard. Accordingly, there will be two overall divisions in the following essay: First, I shall treat Aristotle's doctrine, especially in its relation to and distinction from Plato, and in the second, I shall sketch three directions in contemporary philosophy for which Aristotle's thought is significant.

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