Volume 12, 2018
Paul Ricoeur’s Critical Reconstruction of Aristotle’s Ethics
In Oneself as Another Paul Ricoeur develops a practical philosophy that articulates the Aristotelian and Kantian traditions, the pursuit of the “good life” and the moral imperative. What he proposes is a critical reconstruction of Aristotle’s ethics. Ricoeur does not merely seek to give a faithful rendering of Aristotle’s theory. Rather, he is interested in discussing the problems that are posed by this theory. In particular, there are two problems that deserve attention: The distinction between praxis and poiesis and the concept of happiness. On the one hand, Ricoeur gives an interesting account of the distinction between praxis and poiesis. However, he concludes by questioning the philosophical relevance of this distinction. On the other hand, Ricoeur interprets the human ergon – in the effectuation of which happiness consists – as the realization of a personal life project. In this paper, I discuss Ricoeur’s interpretation of Aristotle on both points. Firstly, I envisage a reformulation of Ricoeur’s solution to the problem of praxis that preserves the relevance of the distinction between praxis and poiesis. Secondly, I propose an alternative interpretation of the human ergon that relates happiness to a sort of “practical presence” rather than to the temporality of a life project.