The Society for Ancient Greek Philosophy Newsletter

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My basic complaint is that it’s not at all obvious that maximizing the theoretical activity of our most divine element does full justice to the richly textured environment provided by the first 9 1/2 books of the NE, which seemed to call for focused development of the full range of our human potential, combining moral and intellectual virtues along with provision for adequate supplies of external goods. The older language of the seemingly endless debate about whether or not the NE settles for an inclusive or dominant-end conception of eudaimonia has been redescribed - in Michael Pakaluk’s new terminology - as the choice between Collection and Selection. Pakaluk sees an almost deliberately sustained ambiguity at the heart of the NE in his recent introduction to that work. He concludes his book by saying that both options are embraced in the end, but in an order that is unsatisfying since it does not adequately provide the reasons why contemplation’s credentials for top prize “do not carry over and explain, with complete persuasiveness, why the activities of the other virtues are counted as happiness at all” (p. 329). For, it has been frequently observed that even if the NE were to be judged in the end – with Richardson Lear et al. – as selectionist in picking out contemplative energeia (theoria) as primary happiness with the life of that other (i.e. moral) virtue only secondarily eudaimon, the same could hardly be said for the EE; or, so it would appear… But, when we get to the EE’s last chapter, god pops up again and this time even more obviously as the object of our contemplation and service although without all the “bells and whistles” about how superior theoria is to praxis or any explicit claims that our nous is our best part, linking us to the divine. This sudden appearance of god at the end, however, clearly reminds Kenny of the old Catechism answer to the biggest of why questions. Q: “Why did God make you?” A: “…to know him, love him and serve him in this life, and be happy with him forever in the next”. Kenny went on to remark that the EE account, “seems, when decoded, to be remarkably similar: the key to virtue is to know, love and serve God; and that knowledge, love, and service constitute happiness in this life, whether it be mortal or immortal”. My question, however, is that when we compare the NE & EE endings with “god-talk” in mind, what differences/similarities show up? How significant are they?


Larry Jost presented “Theoria, Theos, and Therapeia in Aristotle’s Ethical Endings” to the Society at its meeting with the Eastern Division in New York in 2009. A revised version was published in P. Destree & M. Zingano, eds. 2015. Theoria. Vrin.

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