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Eve A. Browning
Journal of the History of Philosophy, Volume 47, Number 4, October 2009, pp. 620-621 (Article) Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press DOI: 10.1353/hph.0.0162
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$90. providing a stabilizing but distanced and abstract mode of considering the highest and most divine matters of which we are capable of thinking. Aristotle’s Ethics as First Philosophy. Aristotelian ﬁrst philosophy equals what later came to be called metaphysics. and is characterized by its remoteness from particular human discourses and desires. then labor to ﬁnd considerable agreement among moral philosophers of the past? For suggested answers readers might need to consult Schneewind. either. when we begin with our own convictions about timeless truths. 543–44. To his credit. degrees of accuracy within them.” he emphasizes that “the directive role of moral virtue is Aristotelian” (528).620 journal of the history of philosophy 47 : 4 october 2009 because they are ﬁne (206). for “that motive is central both to the Aristotelian and to the Stoic account of the virtues” (384). Irvine Claudia Baracchi. First principles are also divorced from perception and are known through an incompletely explained intuitive process. But he never really answers the larger question about his approach to the history of ethics: how much do we lose. along with some equally rare praise of Scotus and Ockham (526–27. If his account of Aristotelian naturalism is correct. Yet taken together. The later Christian claim that “the virtuous person does the right actions because they are right” represents no major departure. 2008. An only slightly shaky consensus among Aristotle’s readers has emerged through this process over time: on that consensus. Irwin acknowledges at least one ﬂaw in his grand unifying vision. and the relation between sciences and practical concerns than almost any other philosopher we know. and especially in his argument that all moral virtues simpliciter are gifts of grace. and from the types of knowledge we connect most directly with perception. but remain indemonstrable. concerned with the good of other individuals or the common good? On this issue Irwin ventures some rare criticism of Aquinas. why does Aquinas attribute the naturally acquired moral virtues of temperance and courage to lower powers of the soul and only the virtue of justice to the will? Why does he treat temperance and courage as directed to the individual’s own good. Almost every devotee of Aristotle is compelled to choose certain texts as authoritative and relegate others to some speciﬁc topic-context in which they have limited validity. Aristotle’s statements on these matters belie the apparent systematicity of his philosophical temperament. Theoretical wisdom or contemplation soars above the domain of the human struggle. nor does their claim that virtue is identical to happiness represent a major departure from Aristotle’s ethics (340–41). Cambridge-New York: Cambridge University Press. Claudia Baracchi offers a fresh way of understanding the relationship between theoretical and practical concerns in Aristotle. even philosophically. Cloth. lumping naturally acquired justice together with the God-given virtue of charity as higher virtues. 679–80. 709). infused by God together with the theological virtue of charity? While Irwin grants that Aquinas “introduces a Christian element” by treating charity as “an appropriate directing principle. “ﬁrst philosophy” and its characteristics. Baracchi does nothing less than . In this beautifully written. contributors to The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy. Might one at least see a major departure in Aquinas’s demotion of naturally acquired moral virtues to “virtues” only in a relative sense. and if he is right to cast Aquinas as its best exponent. Bonnie Kent University of California. She presents what could be called a holistic interpretation of Aristotle’s philosophical project. densely argued.00. In this book. and other drudges who favor the “Cantabrigian” approach (10). Aristotle’s writings contain more direct statements about priorities and rankings among the various sciences. one that links the loftiest metaphysical passages with the most intimately personal and practical texts. routes to knowledge from ﬁrst principles. The Stoics’ ethical theory does not depend on their idea of a divine intelligence that orders everything for the good of the universe (291). ix + 342. Pp. and thoroughly delightful book.
a “Prelude” taking up issues of knowledge. The main thesis of the book is stated as follows: “The twofold claim put forth in this study. But beyond that. for Aristotle. Intellect is the ﬁrst “product” of the One. Emilsson combines both admirably. metaphysics is grounded in practical. ethics is properly metaphysical. Plotinus on Intellect. Though not all her interpretations will win every reader’s heart. one that places ethics and politics at the foundation and center. renders it at once less tidily schematic and more cohesively elegant. all are meticulously grounded in texts with ample Greek citations bracketed inside translations. but rather to be mutually determining. that is to say. This book is a very signiﬁcant contribution to the literature on Aristotle and. Baracchi gives us an Aristotle committed to “a political practice (or making) infused with intellectual insight and a speculative posture involved in ethico-political matters” (306).19 (16–52). involved in human action and even human construction. Pp. Baracchi shows how Aristotle interweaves and makes interdependent noesis and praxis : “In other words. wisdom. the ethical/political domain of human experience is the true source and driver for all human activities. including those typically considered most remote or even divorced from it. this gives her argument a degree of transparency that is literally engaging. . not simply and automatically determined by nature. such as the various abstract sciences and metaphysics. ethical. Individual acts of knowing spring from speciﬁc human minds grounded in social circumstances and driven by individual desires. in turn. “it is ethics that presents properly metaphysical traits. Eve A. The result is an understanding of Aristotle’s project that. $65. where the operative principles that underlie particular passages often need to be teased out carefully.00. paradoxically. the domain of ethics must be considered in its originary character. Due to the self-determining character of human life. Throughout the main section’s commentary on Nicomachean Ethics 1–7. Indispensable requirements for this task are attention to philological and historical detail. 2007. Baracchi believes that. Browning University of Minnesota. although neither separate from nor against it” (51). Oxford: Clarendon Press. and a “Concluding Section” on Nicomachean Ethics books 10–12 (260–307). the bulk of the book). and its particular way of knowing. and ﬁrst principles via discussion of Metaphysics A and Posterior Analytics B. that is to say. to the general human project of harmonizing what may appear to be disparate intellectual and practical demands. and a general sensitivity to the problems Plotinus is facing. Yet why and how precisely is Intellect “produced”? What characteristics distinguish it. identify the end and make it visible” (123). Cloth. thought and action appear not to be related according to the former’s priority and the latter’s derivative character. in its ontological priority as well as systematic comprehensiveness” (39). subsequently. an “Interlude” on Metaphysics G. although saying this already entails a semantic reconﬁguration of the term ‘metaphysics’. and due also to the intrinsically open or “inﬁnite” nature of human conversation or logos. and (2) that. It could be suggested that the ethical reﬂection is ‘beyond physis’ in the sense that it concerns what is not by nature. The book is organized into an Introduction that sets out the plan. viii + 232. conversely. Duluth Eyjólfur Kjalar Emilsson. from its higher cause? Questions such as these will lead one deep into the metaphysics and epistemology of the Enneads. For while deliberation determines the course of action appropriate to the end. Thus. In Plotinus’s universe. action is implicated in the formation of the virtues that. In the end. and political concerns. more broadly.book reviews 621 present a new way of reading most of the key Aristotelian texts. but extends their sway throughout the human philosophical enterprise. is (1) that the science articulated in the Metaphysics remains essentially ‘architectonic’. a “Main Section” interpreting the ﬁrst seven books of the Nicomachean Ethics (53–219.
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