Volume 72, Issue 2, December 2018
David N. McNeill
Akratic Ignorance and Endoxic Inquiry
Aristotle claims in the Metaphysics that in order to be resourceful in first philosophic inquiry it is useful to go through perplexity well. In this essay, the author argues that that perplexity plays a parallel role in Aristotle’s account of practical, deliberative inquiry in the Nicomachean Ethics. He does so by offering an interpretation of the relation between Aristotle’s account of akratic ignorance in Nicomachean Ethics 7 and his emphasis on the necessity of going through perplexity when inquiring into akrasia. Along the way, the author tries to shed some additional light on Aristotle’s conception of endoxa, his account of the so-called practical syllogism, and the distinction between ethical virtue simply and “authoritative” virtue. But the intention throughout the essay is to examine the role that perplexity about the phenomena of ethical life plays in Aristotle’s account of the kind of thoughtfulness required for excellence of character.