Aristotle and the Master Science of Life

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Tuesday, October 3, 2017 - 3:30pm
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Tuesday, October 3, 2017 - 3:30pm to 5:10pm

At the very beginning of the Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle invokes the need of a master-science ('most architectonic'), a science that determines the good human life in a community and provides for its order and laws. If this aspect does not receive much attention in the secondary literature that seems to be largely due to the fact that after this great entrance the master-science and legislator do not receive much attention. They do, however, reemerge in the transition to the Politics in the EN's final chapter.

There are three questions concerning such a master-science: (1) Does Aristotle assume that such an architectonic science actually exists? (2) Does Aristotle assume that there is an architect? (3) Does Aristotle assume that the best state, the 'architecture', exist? As a survey of the relevant texts will show, there is a negative answer to all three questions. The final question is, therefore, whether Aristotle regards himself as the master-architect and whether his ethics and politics are supposed provide such a science. As will be pointed out, Aristotle does not assume that role for himself. Instead, he regards it as his task to provide the philosophical groundwork of such a science. That groundwork consists in the explanation of the principles of ethics and politics that are necessary for a proper understanding of the good life, of the rules and laws it presupposes, and of the political institutions it requires.