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Desire, Practical Reason, and the Good$
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Sergio Tenenbaum

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195382440

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195382440.001.0001

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Aristotle’s Non-Trivial, Non-Insane View that Everyone Always Desires Things under the Guise of the Good

Aristotle’s Non-Trivial, Non-Insane View that Everyone Always Desires Things under the Guise of the Good

Chapter:
(p.65) 4 Aristotle’s Non-Trivial, Non-Insane View that Everyone Always Desires Things under the Guise of the Good
Source:
Desire, Practical Reason, and the Good
Author(s):

Moss Jessica

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195382440.003.0004

Aristotle’s Non-Trivial, Non-Insane View That Everyone Always Desires Things under the Guise of the Good, Jessica Moss Aristotle appears to hold the most extreme possible version of the view that all desire is for things qua good: He makes this claim not only of the desires characteristic of rational, deliberated human action but also of appetites (epithumiai), paradigmatically nonrational desires for pleasure. This entails that animals, infants, and even akratics pursue their pleasures under the guise of the good. The trouble with this view is that it looks either insane or trivial. Aristotle seems to be making either the absurd claim that every appetite is for something the agent believes good, or the very boring claim that every appetite is for something the agent desires. Some interpreters try to rescue him with a deflationary reading of his frequent claim that appetites are for “the apparent good,” but this is textually insupportable: Aristotle is clear that we have appetites for pleasure because it appears good to us. This chapter argues that Aristotle not only means what he says on this topic, but says something both reasonable and substantive. Drawing on passages from the psychological works (especially the de Motu Animalium and the De Anima), I argue that on Aristotle’s view all appetite presupposes pleasurable perception of the desired object, where to feel perceptual pleasure in something is to perceive (veridically or otherwise) that thing’s value—to perceive it as good. This takes care of the insanity charge: If pleasure counts as finding-good, it follows that all appetites are desires for something the agent finds good (in this perceptual mode; a rational agent may also have a conflicting rational judgment that the thing is bad, and a corresponding rational aversion to it). It also takes care of the triviality charge: I argue that on Aristotle’s view, perceptual pleasure is a genuine form of value-awareness, and, in fact, forms the cognitive basis for rational

Keywords:   Aristotle, pleasure, perception, desire, good, value-perception

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