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Aristotle on the Meaning of Man

A Philosophical Response to Idealism, Positivism, and Gnosticism

Peter Jackson

Why was (and is) Aristotle «right» and why are we «wrong»? In other words, why are Aristotle’s philosophical reflections on man and the world full, real, and convincing and why is so much of our modern philosophy partial and false? This work offers a detailed assessment of Aristotle’s thought in response to these questions.

Using «man» as a case study, this work shows how Aristotle philosophically treats «him» as a physical, biological, social, political, ethical, creative, poeticising, and philosophising object in the world. It then continues by laying out his consequent conclusions regarding the necessary capacities of natural objects in the world.

Regarding the modern philosophical approach to «man», this work shows that it flows from several directions into narcissism, nihilism, and a desire to control and manipulate the world and other people. In short, this work considers these approaches and seeks to show that Aristotle’s philosophy is «right», true, and commendable and that our modern philosophy is (often) «wrong», vacuous, and distasteful.

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Chapter 1.4: Exploring the Habits of Aristotle’s “Working Man”


← 76 | 77 →CHAPTER 1.4

Exploring the Habits of Aristotle’s “Working Man”

Let us build on the “states” and “virtues” which either “stand up” or “equilibrate” as “courage” and “temperance” and complete a picture of how a “man” is transformed into a “working man” with formed habits of “craft” or “skill” or (in Greek) of “technē” (and we will move on later to consider the “higher” virtues of the “philosophical man” or “virtuous man” such as contemplation, friendship etc. in Chapter 2.2). We can begin this task by considering that the first line of the Nicomachean Ethics is that:

Every art (τέχνη) and every inquiry (μέθοδος), and similarly every action (πρᾶξίς) and [choice] (προαίρεσις), is thought to aim at some good (ἀγαθοῦ τινὸς ἐφίεσθαι δοκεῖ; N.E. I 1094a 1–2)

which shows us (a) that the fundamental aim of the Ethics is to explore how the “good” exists in “action (praxis)”, in “choice (prohairesis)”, in practical “art/craft (technē)” and in intellectual “inquiry (methodos)”1, 2 and (b) that ← 77 | 78 →the Ethics does to some extent seek to illuminate the nature of human ethics by analogous reference to human skill and human knowing.

I will concentrate in this chapter on explaining “action” in “art” and how it relates to the “choice” involved in the human “virtues” in the Ethics but will begin by showing the relationship between – and consistency between – the Ethics and other works in the Aristotelian corpus on the subject of “art”. We find (i) that Aristotle...

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