Taking Life Seriously: A Study of the Argument of the Nicomachean Ethics.
As for general patterns in Sparshott's interpretations, perhaps the most interesting is the tension he discerns in the text between the first-person and third-person points of view in Aristotle's accounts of virtue, happiness, and how we are to live. The first view presents the individual's aspiration for well-being from inside a life, whereas the demands of the external view shape the formal criteria articulated in the function argument. Put another way, this is the tension between happiness conceived as a property descriptive of a whole life and happiness as a "quality of experience," as Sparshott aptly puts it. He argues that the gap between the two views is bridged in book 9, where Aristotle analyzes friendship as shared awareness.
The unique value of Sparshott's commentary is evident in his treatment of the end of the treatise. On the question of the relative importance of the happiness to be achieved by the active and contemplative lives, Sparshott has nothing original to offer, preferring to follow the detailed defence of the primacy of contemplative virtue defended in R. Kraut's Aristotle on the Human Good (1989). Sparshott focuses instead on why Aristotle--quite surprisingly I have always thought--never says a word about whether the purely contemplative life is within the capacity of most people, or whether special gifts or a peculiar temperment are necessary for the pursuit of the philosophical life. Sparshott adroitly contrasts this remarkable silence with the elaborate psychological portrait of the philosopher supplied by Plato in Republic book 6. I strongly recommend Sparshott both for his thorough scholarship and for the wisdom of his judgments.
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|Publication:||The Review of Metaphysics|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Dec 1, 1995|
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