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Choosing the good: 'to haireton' in ancient Greek ethics

Abstract

The following project is framed within the thematic project Greek classical philosophy. Plato, Aristotle, and their influence in Antiquity, coordinated by professor Marco Antonio de Avila Zingano (USP). In general terms, my research will deal with one important trait of human good, according to most of Greek ethical theories: the fact of being chosen or being choice worthy (±1ÁµÄ̽). Eudoxus was the first philosopher who brings this notion into the ethical discussion, according to specialized critics. He argued that all beings choose or pursuit the pleasure, from which he sustained that pleasure is the good itself. The reactions to this argument can be reconstructed through the Aristotelian treatises on pleasure, in Nicomachean Ethics, and the Philebus of Plato. In the first case, there are both brief presentations of the anti-hedonistic arguments developed by Speusippus, and a refutation of these arguments elaborated by Aristotle himself. In the second case, there is at least an explicit reference to the thesis and the arguments of Eudoxus. Besides, the Philebus confers a secondary place to pleasure into the structure of happiness, challenging evidently the identity between pleasure and good. In spite of these nuances and criticisms, nor Plato, nor Speusippus, nor even Aristotle, doubted about the relevance of Äx ±1ÁµÄ̽ for characterizing the good. As far as I know, the unique explicit attempt to undermine this notion can be found in the work of Sextus Empiricus. The third book of Outlines of Pyrrhonism and the eleventh of Adversus Mathematicos include an arsenal of arguments trying to destroy the notion of good itself. Indeed, some of these arguments highlight the weakness of its presumed choice worthiness. Nevertheless, these arguments are not directed against the ethical proposals of Plato or Aristotle, but against Stoic theories, which also followed the way opened by Eudoxus. My research will review some landmarks of this way. I will try to characterize the nuances implied in these various approaches to Äx ±1ÁµÄ̽, and the importance of this notion in the respective ethical proposal. My basic corpus will be Philebus, Nicomachean Ethics, Outlines of Pyrrhonism and Adversus Mathematicos. (AU)

Articles published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the research grant: