Deliberation in Aristotle’s Ethics and the Hippocratic Corpus

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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aristotle deliberation hippocratic medicine reasoning practical
History of Philosophy
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ABSTRACT DELIBERATION IN ARISTOTLE’S ETHICS AND THE HIPPOCRATIC CORPUS Anna M. Cremaldi Supervisor: Susan Sauvé Meyer Many scholars view Aristotle as the source of the particularist position in modern ethics –the view that action-guiding principles cannot capture the complexity of moral cases. John McDowell, Martha Nussbaum, and other particularists have developed this aspect of Aristotle’s ethics. Rather than aiming to provide an account of action-guiding principles – the view goes – moral philosophers should provide a theory that focuses on situational sensitivity, judgment and moral perception. In this dissertation, I argue that Aristotle was not a particularist. While he does highlight the importance of moral perception and the complexity of moral cases, Aristotle’s claims are consistent with the endorsement of an important role for action-guiding principles in deliberation. The dissertation shows as much by taking a new methodological approach to the study of Aristotle’s ethics. Scholars tend to focus on Aristotle’s texts alone to resolve interpretive questions. I approach Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics as if it were part of a genre of treatises on practical sciences. This methodological approach requires that we read Aristotle’s ethics in a new way, since it encourages us to see trends that stand out only in relief against the backdrop of Aristotle’s intellectual context. Specifically, I argue that studying the Hippocratic Corpus will help to resolve the interpretive debate about Aristotle’s particularism. More generally, it will also help to resolve other outstanding interpretive problems concerning, for example, the technê analogy, perception of particulars and the status of universals in ethics. Thus, in my dissertation I highlight the significant thematic overlap between Aristotle’s account of deliberation and the Hippocratic Corpus’s presentation of medical deliberation. While Hippocratic treatises express many of the same concerns and concepts that are found in textual evidence invoked by the particularists, they do not support a particularist interpretation of medical practice. Rather, in the Hippocratic Corpus, general theories and principles play an action-guiding role in medical deliberation, and they help us to see how an analogous case may be true of ethical deliberation on Aristotle’s account.

Susan Sauvé Meyer
Gary Hatfield
Charles Kahn
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