Order in Multiplicity: Homonymy in the Philosophy of Aristotle

By Christopher Shields | Go to book overview

8
Goodness


8.1 A PROBLEM ABOUT THE NON-UNIVOCITY OF GOODNESS

Aristotle's appeals to homonymy have thus far met with some success. He is justified in treating 'body', 'oneness', and 'life' as homonymous. His treatment of life is an especially fruitful application of homonymy: the framework for core-dependent homonymy which Aristotle develops seems tailored to the richly textured concept of life. It displays both its multiplicity and its order; to some extent, Aristotle's success in this case provides motivation for taking the entire apparatus of core-dependent homonymy seriously.

Given Aristotle's success in establishing core-dependent homonymy thus far, it is reasonable to ask whether his most celebrated and difficult applications, to 'being' and 'goodness', also succeed. In this chapter, I consider the homonymy of 'goodness'. I argue that Aristotle's appeal to the homonymy of goodness is at best a mixed success. Some arguments upon which he relies fail. Others, less often noted, succeed, but only in so far as they establish its non-univocity. Because Aristotle's unsuccessful arguments are required to establish association, his account of the core-dependence of goodness is incomplete. It will be appreciated, however, that this is something which Aristotle himself allows (EN 1096b26-31).

I proceed by first placing the homonymy of goodness into its appropriate anti-Platonic context. I next point to some problems for Aristotle's arguments. Using the framework for core-dependent homonymy developed in Part I, I then determine a central adequacy constraint for Aristotle's appeals to homonymy in this area. I consider several attempts to articulate and defend Aristotle's main argument for the homonymy of goodness in Nicomachean Ethics i. 6, what I will call the categorial argument. I argue that none of these interpretations succeeds, because none establishes non-univocity. I then illustrate a successful argument for the homonymy of goodness drawn from a later Aristotelian philosopher, Thomas Aquinas. This argument is successful in so far as it neatly meets the adequacy constraints laid down for establishing the non-univocity of

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Order in Multiplicity: Homonymy in the Philosophy of Aristotle
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Contents ix
  • Abbreviations xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • I - Homonymy as Such 7
  • 1 - The Varieties of Homonymy 9
  • 2 - The Promises and Problems of Homonymy 43
  • 3 - Homonymy and Signification 75
  • 4 - Core-Dependent Homonymy 103
  • II - Homonymy at Work 129
  • 5 - The Body 131
  • 6 - Oneness, Sameness, and Referential Opacity 155
  • 7 - The Meaning of Life 176
  • 8 - Goodness 194
  • 9 - The Homonymy of Being 217
  • Afterword: Homonymy's Promise Reconsidered 268
  • Bibliography 271
  • Index of Passages Cited 281
  • General Index 287
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