Aristotle's Theory of Human Action

Dissertation, City University of New York (1986)

Terrell Bynum
Southern Connecticut State University
Aristotle's theory of human action is an impressive achievement that has served philosophy well for more than two thousand years. In every philosophical era it is explored anew--and with great profit. As a contribution to contemporary efforts in this regard, the present dissertation aims to lay out, lucidly and in detail, the various components of Aristotle's action theory. ;Since actions, according to Aristotle, constitute a sub-class of "the voluntary", the dissertation begins by examining Aristotle's account of voluntary activities. It discusses the chief characteristics shared by all such activities, and compares the Nicomachean and Eudemian accounts. ;Perception is examined next, because percepts and their lingering traces , according to Aristotle, are the triggers of desire. And desire provides the impetus for animal behavior and human action. Aristotle's analysis assumes a rich array of desire-types, including appetites, passions, emotions, and wishes, all of which are analyzed in the dissertation. ;The keys to adult human action--distinguishing it from animal and child behavior--are deliberation, "choice" and the so-called "practical syllogism". The dissertation examines these in some detail and produces a model of the practical syllogism. ;Once the practical syllogism has been examined, the dissertation considers the question of whether Aristotle's theory of action provides a successful resolution of the so-called "problem of free will". It is argued that Aristotle--despite common misconceptions to the contrary--was aware of the problem and had a promising philosophical basis for its solution
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