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pea ALTSWRATRA, aadorxXO gooz xawiwns AIXXX JN ATOA AGTGAS Grava WOLIAT AHdOSOTIHd LNAIONY NI SHAIGN.LS GYOAxoO Woy JULIO, } fed cog 40" LT 4¥ goog Azenaqeg 6 uo power — | Greated on 9 February 2008 at 17.09 hours page 293 ARISTOTLE'S ARGUMENT FOR A HUMAN FUNCTION RACHEL BARNEY Practising your craft in expert fashion is noble, honorable and satisfying, (AwtHony Bourpain, Kitchen Confidential) Really, if the lower orders don’t set us a good example, what ‘on earth ie the use of them? (Oscar Wits, Dhe Importance of Being Earnsst) ly the famous ‘function argument’ of Nicomachean Ethies 1.7 (1097°22-1098'18) Aristotle gives an outline account of human virtue and happiness by relating them to our function or work [ergon]-If something hae.a funetion, he argues, its function deter mines what counts as ‘the goodand the well’ for that thing. Human beings do have a function; and since the function of a thing consists in the activity proper to or characteristic of it, the human function ‘must consist in rational activity. The virtue or excellence [aret2 of e thing is what makes it perform its function well; so, Aristotle concludes, the human good—that is, happiness—is activity of the soul involving rational virtue. "The function argument is one of the most discussed and debated arguments in all of ancient philosophy.’ But little attention has © Rachel Barney 2008 [My thanks for helpful comments on this paper go to wadiences which heard ea Yersions oft at Willams College, UC Davis and the University of Western Onsae tod in particular to Melissa Bary, Victor Caston, foe Cruz, John Thorp, and James Wlberding Earlier drafts have been much improved by helpfl, and deeply sce9~ ‘cl, comments frm Sarah Broadie, Michael Green, Tom Hurka, Brad lnocod, ‘Monte Johnson, Richard Kraut, and Jennifer Whitin, " Recent readings include: B Destée, ‘Comment démonteer le propre de Phomme? Pour une lecture “dialectique’ de EN, 6 [Comment démontrer) ix G. ‘Romever Dherbey and G. Aubry (eds), L'Bxcllence dave (Pars 2002), 59-61; A. Gomer: Lobo, “The Ergon Inference, Plronesin, 34 (2989), 170-84; C. Koreganrd, Created on 9 February 2008 st 17.09 hours page 294 294 Rachel Barney been paid to the opening moves of the argument, which lead up to Aristotle's claim that humsn beings do have a function—a claim I shall eall the function thesis” Strikingly, Aristotle introduces the function thesis in advance of any claims as 10 what our function might consist in:” Presumably, however, to say that happiness is the chief good seems a plati= tude, oid a clearer account of what it isis till desired. This might perhaps be given, if we could first ascertain the function of man. For just as for 1 Bute-player, a eculptoy, or any artist, and, in general, forall things that “Aristotle on Punesion and Virus’, History of Philosophy Quarteny, 3 (1988), 259~ 49,6. Lawrence, "The Function of the Fonction Argument ["Function’), cent Phils, 29 (2002), 445-75; iy "Human Good and Human Funetion’ /Goed) {aR Kraut (ed), The Blackwell Guide io Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics (Malden, Mass, 2096), 37-75; and J. Whiting, Aristotle's Function Argument: A Defense [Defense], Ancient Philosophy, 8988), 35-8, in addition to thse offered in more teneral studien such ae D, Bostock, aritaa'e Ethics (Ethies| (Oxford 2000). 15 21; 8. Broadie, Ethie with Arisale(Ethcr] (Oxford, 4998), 34-41; 5. Broadie and CRowe (ant, intra, and comm), Aste: Nicomachean Ethics (Commentary (Oxford, 2903), 296; DS. Hutchinson, The Varies of Aristotle (London, 1980); ‘T Trwin, Avon's Brat Principles (Princpls] (Oxtoré, 988), 382-5, 667 9.37; M.B Johoson. Avitileon Telly (Palate) (Oxford, 2008) 217-33; R. Krav “Aviaaite: Pobtical Philosphy (Aritots| (Oxlord, 2008), 82-4! M. C. Nussbaum, “Arutotle, Nature, and Féhics, in]. B-Altham and R. Havana (eds), World, Mind ‘and Heer: Bisays om he Bthicl Philosophy of Bernard Williams (Cambridge, 1909). Bonasr at uiavta, M. Palaluk, Avistate’: Nicomachean Ethics: An Intoducton [inis) (Cambridge, 2003). 74-7; C. D. C. Reewe, Practices of Reason (Practices) (Oxford, 1995), 129-8; G. Santas, Gondvess and Justice (Oxford, 2001), 236-50; and Sparshet, Thing Life Sorouly" A Study of the Argument of the Nicomachean his [Life] (Toronto, 1999). 425 } The only studiae I Roow of which focus on the ergument for the funetion thesis are 8. Suit “Aristotle on the Function of Man: Fallacies Heresies and other Entertainment’ [Fallacies], Camadian Journal of Philoephy, + (1974), 23-405 and ‘T."Tuoz20, “The Functon of Human Beings and the Rationality of the Universe [Agistorle and Zeno on Parts and Whole’ (Function. Phoenis, $0 (1996), 146-61 (cf. n. 22). Other particularly helpfl dueussions include those in Broadie, Boies, Destrée, ‘Comment demontrer, Kraut, Aristtls, Pakaluk, Hus, and Sparshor {ije, 8 well a5 that of Thomas Aquinas, Commowtary on avisttle’s Nicomachean Ethics, rane. ©, Litinger (Notre Dame, 1993), sees. 119-22, 40-1 A question thi raises is what work the function thesis does in the function argument asa whole. If we take 1097°33~1098'3 a8 establishing independently the ‘ore precise elsim thet the human funtion i rational acvity, shen the thesis may Serve only a propaedeutic formally dipensabe role, Alternatively, the specication of the human function as rational activity could be read as depending cn the prior Claim tha there is such function. Tam inclined cowards the later reading, bat to ‘reve for this would requie «fler discussion ofthe argument as 0 whole chan I fan here undertake. My understanding of the agend ofthe function argument ws 4 ‘hole largely follows the ormal reading of Larerence, “Function but this leaves the status of 1097°28-39 underdeteemined (cE his 434 0. 17)