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The Constitution of Agency$
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Christine M. Korsgaard

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199552733

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199552733.001.0001

Aristotle's Function Argument

Chapter:
(p.129) 4 Aristotle's Function Argument
Source:
The Constitution of Agency
Author(s):

Christine M. Korsgaard (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199552733.003.0005

In Nicomachean Ethics 1.7, Aristotle claims that to discover the human good we must identify the function of a human being. He argues that the human function is rational activity. Our good is therefore rational activity performed well, which Aristotle takes to mean in accordance with virtue. This argument has been criticized at almost every point. This chapter defends Aristotle's argument from these criticisms. Drawing on the account of form and matter in Aristotle's Metaphysics, it argues that “function” does not mean purpose but rather a way of functioning — how a thing does what it does. The way human beings do things is by making rational choices. The human good or happiness is not merely a result of rational choice, but consists in it, because a rational action or activity is one whose principle expresses the agent's conception of what is worth doing for the sake of what.

Keywords:   action, Aristotle, choice, form, function, happiness, good, purpose, rational, virtue

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