The Society for Ancient Greek Philosophy Newsletter

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My central aim is to show that Aristotle convincingly avoids what has been the linchpin of the dominant contemporary view of the starting point of practical reasoning: that practical reasoning must begin, both normatively and motivationally, with some desire or want (call this sub-Humeanism). My task is made more difficult by the presence of a now common interpretation of Aristotle himself in which desire is both normatively and motivationally super-ordinate. On this view, Aristotle cannot be a genuine alternative to the contemporary view, since he just is a contemporary: Aristotle is the first sub-Humean about practical reasoning.

In order to show that Aristotle is a genuine alternative to the dominant contemporary view, I must recover (or construct) an Aristotle as far as possible untainted by modem philosophical psychology. That is, I must provide an alternative interpretation. My interpretation will rest on three moves: 1) Taking EN as the paradigmatic account of practical reasoning, and interpreting DA and DMA from that stance; 2) Examining the language which Aristotle uses for clues to his position; 3) Distinguishing between two respects in which practical reasoning might be said to have an άρχή: in respect of its moving the agent, and in respect of its character as reasoning.


March 95 Pac San Francisco

Chair: A Preus

Lynn Holt presented “Aristotle on the Arche of Practical Reasoning” to the Society at its meeteing with the Pacific Division in San Francisco in 1995. A revised version was published in Journal of Philosophical Research 24 (1999) 365-396. That version is online at:

For information about the author, see: