Research Project

Max DuBoff, Classics & Philosophy

Advisor: Robert Bolton, Philosophy

Aristotle claims in the Nichomachean Ethicsand elsewhere that certain types of intellectual and moral knowledge require orthos logos(sometimes translated as "right reason"). A prominent recent interpretation of orthos logosin Aristotle holds that, particularly as applied to moral reasoning (phronēsis), right reason requires an agent to grasp an explanatory account of the knowledge in question. Prima facie, this interpretation seems accurate for discovering scientific knowledge. However, drawing on Aristotle's Rhetoricand other sources from his corpus, I push back against this argument and show that Aristotle presents multiple cases, such as rhetorical and eristic reasoning, where one can grasp an account of certain knowledge with orthos logoswithout identifying a corresponding explanation of it, because the account itself is more fundamental than an explanation for it. I thus cast doubt upon the claim that phronēsisin Aristotle requires explanatory accounts. Then, drawing on moral psychology and considering the impact of this conclusion about phronēsison Aristotle's discussion of moral weakness (akrasia), I consider the causes of violent actions on an individual ethical level with an eye to how practical philosophy can help reduce violence.