Academic journal article The Review of Metaphysics

Semler, Stephanie M. A Person as a Lifetime: An Aristotelian Account of Persons

Academic journal article The Review of Metaphysics

Semler, Stephanie M. A Person as a Lifetime: An Aristotelian Account of Persons

Article excerpt

SEMLER, Stephanie M. A Person as a Lifetime: An Aristotelian Account of Persons. Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2016. x + 158 pp. Cloth, $80.00--Semler proposes to extract from Aristotle's ethical writings a philosophically interesting account of personhood. Beginning with Locke's observation that persons are intelligent agents capable of law, happiness, and misery, she suggests that in offering a morally rich account of happiness Aristotle must also be offering an implicit account of personhood. Because Aristotelian happiness can be assessed only in view of an entire life, she concludes that "Aristotle's notion of persons must be conceived in terms of capacities over lifetimes, rather than as individuals at some point in a lifetime."

According to Aristotle, Semler argues, a person is an agent capable of happiness because capable of self-determination. This capacity for selfdetermination is a complex, layered potentiality; it involves capacities for voluntary agency, deliberate choice, character formation, rational understanding of pleasure, recognition of self as one among others, and mental independence. A fully developed person, Semler concludes, is a self-determined agent, an agent who combines self-control with conscious ownership of his own mental states. Such ownership requires the absence of compulsion in forming beliefs; ideally, none of the agent's mental states should fall outside the reach of his own assessment.

Although Semler refers to current accounts of personhood in her introduction, she does not engage these accounts in the remainder of the book: there is no dialogue with other philosophers, whether contemporary or historical. Nor does she offer novel interpretations of particular Aristotelian claims. …

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