Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
My dissertation will draw attention to an underexplored problem in Aristotle's theory of the good and advance two alternative proposals about how it can be solved. Aristotle endorses an inconsistent triad of premises concerning homonymy, comparability, and goodness. First, he argues that the good is homonymous: there is no single characteristic, goodness, which is shared by all good things. Rather, he argues that different kinds of good things require different accounts specifying what it is for them to be good. Second, he holds that homonyms are incomparable. If two things are homonymously F, then we are not entitled to claim that one is more F than the other, or that they are F to an equal degree. The incomparability of homonyms entails, for example, that if two goods are homonymous, we cannot claim that that one is better than the other or that they are equally valuable. Finally, however, Aristotle holds that goods typically are comparable. Indeed, several passages throughout corpus suggest that he thinks of the cosmos as an axiological hierarchy in which every being can be ranked on a single scale of better and worse.This inconsistent triad constitutes a seldom recognized problem for Aristotle's theory of the good which I call "the incomparability problem." In the dissertation, I clarify the shape of the incomparability problem, explore the conceptual resources Aristotle has available to resolve it, and critically engage with the relatively small body of secondary literature that discusses it. Finally, I develop two possible solutions to it, both of which, I argue, are more promising than any alternatives in the literature thus far.
Duncan, Robert, "Homonymy and the Comparability of Goods in Aristotle" (2018). Dissertations. 3331.
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