Dissertation: "Perception and Persuasion in Aristotle's Ethics"

Abstract

Claims throughout Aristotle’s corpus seem to support two opposing views of motivation which have divided commentators: a rationalist view, which maintains that reason ultimately controls our actions, and a Humean view, which maintains that non-rational desires ultimately control our actions. My dissertation harmonizes these seemingly incompatible claims by offering the first robust account of Aristotle’s psychology to detail how reason can modify desire. My project argues that our actions are motivated by sense perception: we pursue what we see as good. By and large, what we perceive to be good is determined by non-rational desire. However, reason has the ability to re-arrange and manipulate the content of our perceptions, altering them and potentially changing what we see as good.

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