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Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, Volume 48$
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Brad Inwood

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198735540

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198735540.001.0001

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The Concept of Ergon: Towards an Achievement Interpretation of Aristotle’s ‘Function Argument’

The Concept of Ergon: Towards an Achievement Interpretation of Aristotle’s ‘Function Argument’

Chapter:
(p.227) The Concept of Ergon: Towards an Achievement Interpretation of Aristotle’s ‘Function Argument’
Source:
Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, Volume 48
Author(s):

Samuel H. Baker

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198735540.003.0006

In Nicomachean Ethics 1.7, Aristotle gives a definition of the human good, and he does so by means of the ‘ergon argument’. This chapter clears the way for a new interpretation of this argument by arguing that Aristotle does not think that the ergon of something is always the proper activity (‘function’) of that thing. Though he has a single concept of an ergon, Aristotle identifies the ergon of an X as an activity in some cases but a product in others, depending on the sort of thing the X is — for while the ergon of the eye is seeing, the ergon of a sculptor is a sculpture. This alternative interpretation of Aristotle's concept of an ergon allows the key explanatory middle term of the ergon argument to be what it ought to be: ‘the best achievement of a human’.

Keywords:   Aristotle, Nicomachean ethics, Eudemian ethics, function, ergon, human good, happiness, achievement

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