Aristotle on ethical ascription : a philosophical exercise in the interpretation of the role and significance of the hekousios/akousios distinction in Aristotle's Ethics
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In his ethical treatises Aristotle offers a rich account of those conditions that render people’s behaviour involuntary, and defines voluntariness on the basis of the absence of these conditions. This dissertation has two aims. One is to offer an account of the significance of the notions of involuntariness and voluntariness for Aristotle’s ethical project that satisfactorily explains why he deems it necessary to discuss these notions in his Ethics. My own account of the significance of these notions for Aristotle’s Ethics emerges from my arguments against the two most influential views concerning this significance: I argue that Aristotle’s concern with voluntariness in his Ethics is not (primarily) shaped by a concern with accountability, i.e. with those conditions under which fully mature and healthy rational agents are held accountable or answerable for their actions; nor is it (primarily) shaped by a concern with the conditioning of pain-responsive agents for the sake of socially useful ends that are not, intrinsically, their own. Rather, his concern is with reason-responsive agents (which are not morally accountable agents, nor merely pain-responsive agents) and the conditions for attributing ethically significant behaviour to them. This is what I call ‘ethical ascription’. The second aim of this dissertation is to provide a comprehensive account of those conditions that defeat the ascription of ethically significant pieces of behaviour to reason-responsive agents, and to show the distinctiveness of Aristotle’s views on the nature of these conditions. The conclusions I arrive at in this respect are shaped by the notion of ethical ascription that I develop as a way of reaching the first aim.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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