The Ethical Culmination of Aristotle’s Metaphysics

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Long, Christopher P. “The Ethical Culmination of Aristotle’s Metaphysics,” Epoché 8, 1 (Fall 2003): 121-140.

This article takes up the rather bold philosophical suggestion that Aristotle’s Metaphysics culminates not in the purity of God’s self-thinking found in book XII, but rather in the far more ambiguous set of contingent principles found in the Nicomachean Ethics. The suggestion defended is not that Aristotle intended this itinerary for the Metaphysics, but rather that the text itself leads us in this direction. Taking its cue from such contemporary thinkers as Martin Heidegger, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Theodor Adorno and Emmanuel Levinas, the article attempts to think through the relationship between ethics and ontology by reinvestigating the relationship between Aristotle’s Metaphysics and his Nicomachean Ethics. It is argued that the ontological conception of praxis developed in the middle books of the Metaphysics points already to the Nicomachean Ethics where a conception of knowledge—phronêsis—is developed that is capable of addressing the lacuna in the account of ontological knowledge offered in the Metaphysics.

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