Aristotle on “Steering the Young by Pleasure and Pain”

Journal of Speculative Philosophy 29 (2):137-164 (2015)
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Abstract

At least since Burnyeat’s “Aristotle on Learning to Be Good,” one of the most popular ways of explaining moral development in Aristotle is by appealing to mechanisms of pleasure and pain. Aristotle himself suggests this kind of explanation when he says that “in educating the young we steer them by the rudders of pleasure and pain” (Nicomachean Ethics X.1, 1172a21). However, I argue that, contrary to the dominant view, Aristotle’s view on moral development in the Nicomachean Ethics is not mainly about learning to feel pleasures and pains in relation to the right kinds of objects and activities. I show that given Aristotle’s account of the relationships between pleasure and virtuous actions, on the one hand, and between pleasure and virtuous dispositions, on the other, pleasure can only have a supporting role in our learning to be good, and not a guiding one.

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Marta Jimenez
Emory University

References found in this work

Ethics with Aristotle.Sarah Broadie - 1991 - New York, US: Oxford University Press.
Aristotle on learning to be good.Myles F. Burnyeat - 1980 - In Amélie Oksenberg Rorty (ed.), Essays on Aristotle's Ethics. University of California Press. pp. 69--92.
Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics.Christopher Rowe & Sarah Broadie - 2004 - Philosophical Quarterly 54 (215):309-314.
Aristotle's painful path to virtue.Howard J. Curzer - 2002 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 40 (2):141-162.

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