Journal of Philosophical Research


published on August 8, 2018

Daniel Coren

Making Sense of the Sentence
Nicomachean Ethics I.2.1094a18–22

Early on in his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle argues that there must be a single end or good desired for its own sake, for the sake of which all of our other ends are desired. The argument includes the following conditional: “If we chose everything for the sake of something else so that the process went on forever, then our desire would be empty and futile.” This paper addresses that conditional. First, I explain why the conditional appears to be false. Second, I resolve some ambiguity in it. Third, I argue that the conditional enjoys a plausible and charitable reading when understood as a claim about ordinary human lives and psychology, and when read in the context of Aristotle’s conception of ethics.

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