Philosophical ethics: Aristotle's method and a Gadamerian appropriation

Carlo DaVia, Fordham University


This dissertation raises anew a question that has been taken up in both anglophone and continental philosophical traditions, namely: what is the contemporary relevance of the method by which Aristotle argues in his ethics? Some anglophone scholars, such as Martha Nussbaum and John McDowell, have recently praised Aristotle for holding a metaethical view about the nature of justification in ethics. This view holds that ethical beliefs cannot be justified by appeal to extra-ethical claims about human biology, but must instead be justified by reflecting on and rendering coherent the ethical beliefs and practices of a community. This dissertation argues that although anglophone scholars are right in praising Aristotle for this metaethical view, they fail to recognize other important – and problematic – features of his ethics. In particular, they do not fully appreciate the fact that principal goal of Aristotle’s ethics is to develop and clarify univocal definitions of ethical phenomena. This demand for univocity is particularly problematic. For as Hans-Georg Gadamer shows us, language is essentially “metaphorical”. By this he means that every judgment carries over (meta-pherein) concepts into a new context that can imbue them with new meanings. The dissertation sketches Gadamer’s neo-Aristotelian account of ethics, arguing that it advances beyond both Aristotle’s account and the account that anglophone scholars often ascribe to Aristotle.

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Recommended Citation

DaVia, Carlo, "Philosophical ethics: Aristotle's method and a Gadamerian appropriation" (2015). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3728127.