Theses Doctoral

Happiness and Superlative Value in the Eudemian Ethics

Bonasio, Giulia

In my dissertation Happiness and Superlative Value in the Eudemian Ethics, I analyze dimensions of the Eudemian Ethics (EE) that, as I see it, make the EE a distinctive contribution to ethics. The EE discusses a superlative excellence called kalokagathia, the virtue of being-beautiful-and-good, which does not figure in the Nicomachean Ethics (NE). The agent who possesses kalokagathia is the best agent of Aristotle’s EE. Scholars tend to hold that the practically wise person, the phronimos, or the theoretically wise person, the sophos, are the best agents of the NE. If my reading of the EE is right, then the EE and the NE conceive differently of the best agent. This is salient in both treatises’ construals of the unity of the virtues. In the NE, the unity of the virtues includes the character virtues and phronêsis. In the EE, it additionally includes the virtues of theoretical thinking, or so I argue. The EE starts with what I call the Superlative Thesis (ST): happiness is what is best, most beautiful, and most pleasant of all. I take this beginning to be programmatic. Aristotle aims to show how these three kinds of value combine in the best human life, rather than coming apart. The Pleasure Thesis (PT) is the most contested aspect of ST: happiness is the most pleasant thing of all. On my reading, Aristotle fully embraces PT. In laying out his proposal for the best human life, the Aristotle of the EE develops a distinctive kind of naturalism, which I call Natural Goods Naturalism. I reconstruct this position in two steps: by interpreting the EE’s function argument; and by exploring the notion of natural goods, which is central to the EE, but does not figure in the NE. In sum, my dissertation argues that the EE contains a distinctive and under-appreciated option within ancient ethics, and that it contains ideas that are relevant to today’s virtue ethics and ethical naturalism.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Classical Studies
Thesis Advisors
Vogt, Katja
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
November 16, 2018