Volume 15/16, 2017/2018
Le Principe du Bien: Platon, Aristote et leur postérité
Platon et Aristote sur le bien en soi
In this paper, I examine Plato’s and Aristotle’s contrasted treatment of the “Good itself ” and its relation to the human good. Contrary to a common view, Aristotle does not attack the very concept of a Good itself, but rather Plato’s interpretation of it as the Idea of the Good. One of his central criticisms is that such an Idea would have no practical use. By an analysis of the Philebus, I try to show why and how this Idea does have such a use in Plato, but in a way which could not satisfy his pupil, because for Aristotle, the Good itself must be an ultimate end which must have a direct efficiency on the whole world, without any need of the mediation of knowledge. In the Metaphysics, Aristotle shows that such an end can be identified with a purely active intelligence, which he names God. Although this Good itself is absolutely necessary and thus cannot be a “practical good” in Aristotle’s terms, its contemplation by human intelligence (i.e. what Aristotle calls sophia) can be, because it is for its part contingent. I conclude in assessing the main consequences of Plato’s and Aristotle’s different views of the Good itself on their philosophy as a whole.