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Aristotle’s Uses of ‘ἕνεκά του’ and ‘οὗ ἕνεκα’

Takashi Oki

Nagoya University

1.

It is well known that teleological notions play important roles in Aristotle’s physics as well as in his ethics. In this paper, I consider how Aristotle employs ‘ἕνεκά του’ and ‘οὗ ἕνεκα’ in passages on chance from the Physics, and in passages on ignorance in action from the Nicomachean Ethics and the Eudemian Ethics. In doing so, I seek to clarify that Aristotle’s uses of the two terms in the Physics and in the Ethics are in harmony with each other, but not in the way previously thought.

2.

I argue that scholars often fail to see precisely that, in the ‘ignorance’ passages from the two Ethics, the ‘οὗ ἕνεκα’ corresponds to ‘saving’ rather than to ‘killing’ (E.N. III.1 (1111a5), E.E. II.9 (1225b3-4)), and to ‘grazing’ rather than to ‘wounding’ (E.N. V.8 (1135b15-16)). Ross (1936) is wrong in thinking (i) that the ‘οὗ ἕνεκα’ in the texts corresponds to ‘killing’ and to ‘wounding’, and (ii) that ‘the οὗ ἕνεκα’ in the texts should be taken to mean a ‘result’ rather than a ‘goal’. Criticizing Ross, Lorenz (2015) properly argues that (ii) is implausible. But Lorenz (wrongly, I think) accepts (i) when he claims that the agents are considered to be ignorant that their actions are for ‘killing’ (or ‘wounding’) in the texts.

3.

I explain that, in Aristotle’s arguments in Physics II.5 and in the three ‘ignorance’ passages from the two Ethics, ‘for the sake of something’ is sometimes used to explain the wish or thought of an agent, but is sometimes used to explain the type or nature of an action. Aristotle thinks that the thought or intention of an agent does not always accord with the type or nature of what he actually does. There are two cases in which the former does not accord with the latter:

(A) While an agent does something not in order to achieve X, the type or nature of what he actually does is for the sake of X.

(B) While an agent does something in order to achieve X, the type or nature of what he actually does is not for the sake of X.

I argue that Aristotle discusses a case of (A) in the lucky creditor’s story in Physics II.5 and cases of (B) in the three ‘ignorance’ passages from the two Ethics, contrary to some scholars (Freeland 1985; Lorenz 2015) who think that in both Aristotle considers cases of (A). Through a close examination of the relevant texts, I seek to show that, in the three ‘ignorance’ passages from the two Ethics, Aristotle thinks that what the agents actually do is ‘not for the sake of saving/grazing/rejuvenating’ someone (of which fact they are ignorant) rather than that it is ‘for the sake of killing/wounding’ someone (of which fact they are ignorant). The facts of which the agents are considered to be ignorant are cases of (B) rather than of (A).

Aristotle’s arguments in the Physics and in the Ethics are in harmony with each other in the sense that in both he considers cases in which the thought or intention of agents does not accord with the type or nature of what they do, presupposing the two different uses of ‘for the sake of something’ which explain the thought or wish of an agent and the type or nature of his action respectively.


Session/Panel Title

Philosophy

Session/Paper Number

83.1

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