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Conference Proceeding

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Publication Title

Proceedings of Aristotele e le Sfide dei Suo Tempo



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Conference at Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan, Italy


In Book X chapter 7 of Nicomachean Ethics (henceforth, EN), Aristotle reaches two decisive conclusions: frst, the activity of our intellect which he terms θεωρία is the highest kind and comprises “complete happiness” (ἡ τελεῖα εὐδαίμονια, EN 1177a19); second, a theoretical life, being divine, counts as the highest, and is the one to aim at (EN 1178a5-7). These are compelling claims, rightly generating much scholarly comment, particularly about the balance of excellent theoretical and moral activity in the best human life.2 Yet the present paper proposes to follow a diferent standard, one with a broader, thematic approach to θεωρία. My overall aim is to place Aristotle’s discussion against a wider backdrop of θεωρία as a long-standing practice of the classical Greek period, one that consists in travelling to specifc religious sites, including Delphi, Olympia, Delos, and Eleusis, to name but a few, to observe rituals and performances. A natural question then arises concerning the reason for which Aristotle employs the same term as the practice. To provide an informed reply, we need to recount the features of theoria we fnd in the literary and historical sources, and compare them with Aristotle’s conception of it as the highest intellectual activity in EN X 7-8. While we fnd clear diferences between the cultural practice and Aristotle’s use of the notion, we fnd specifc features in common, such as that they involve visual spectatorship, and have a religious aim or a divine aspect.


Author Post. © Unipro 2018. This article is posted here for personal use, not for redistribution. The article was published in the Proceedings of Aristotele e le Sfide dei Suo Tempo, 2018,

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.