Aristotle's Moral Realism Reconsidered: Phenomenological Ethics (Hardback) book cover

Aristotle's Moral Realism Reconsidered

Phenomenological Ethics

By Pavlos Kontos

© 2011 – Routledge

202 pages

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This book elaborates a moral realism of phenomenological inspiration by introducing the idea that moral experience, primordially, constitutes a perceptual grasp of actions and of their solid traces in the world. The main thesis is that, before any reference to values or to criteria about good and evil—that is, before any reference to specific ethical outlooks—one should explain the very materiality of what necessarily constitutes the ‘moral world’. These claims are substantiated by means of a text- centered interpretation of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics in dialogue with contemporary moral realism. The book concludes with a critique of Heidegger’s, Gadamer’s and Arendt’s approaches to Aristotle’s ethics.


"The moral realism that this book defends may be contrasted with phenomenological accounts of moral experience found in Heidegger, Gadamer, and Arendt and with the view of analytic philosopher John McDowell. […] This well-structured argument for a strong version of moral realism makes use of a comparable analysis of people's capacity to perceive a common physical world. Such a clearly delineated shift in perspective raises many questions and undoubtedly will rejuvenate current discussions of moral realism." – S. A. Mason, Concordia UniversityinChoice

"This daring and resourceful book draws on a deep familiarity with the analytic (McDowell) and phenomenological (Arendt, Gadamer, Heidegger) traditions and their common ancestors (Aristotle, Kant) to defend a novel type of moral realism that owes most to the Nicomachean Ethics, and to a provocative interpretation of the kind of practical or 'phronetic' perception introduced there. It marks the presence of a distinctive new Greek voice on the philosophical scene. Anyone interested in ancient or modern ethics will benefit from engaging with it."C.D.C. Reeve, Delta Kappa Epsilon Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the UNC at Chapel Hill, USA

"The strength of this book lies in its offering a novel Aristotelian ethical theory that is both accessible to, and yet critical of, the two main contemporary western philosophical traditions. The particularly novel aspect of the theory lies in its emphasis on the ontology of prakta." – Carlo DaVia, Fordham University, USA in International Philosophical Quarterly

"Aristotle's Moral Realism Reconsidered: Phenomenological Ethics is an extremely ambitious work that combines detailed Aristotle and Kant exegesis with philosophical engagement across analytic and continental traditions. … Kontos' engagement with the diverse range of topics covered in the book is truly admirable, and one cannot help but feel that he is onto something deep and important. In particular, his attempt to counteract the solipsistic slant of many contemporary ethical frameworks is extremely refreshing and insightful. … [T]he book contains enough food for thought to keep even the most voracious philosophical appetite engaged and stimulated." Joseph Karbowski, University of Notre Dame, USAin Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

"What a fine book Kontos has written. It will surely be of use to a great many scholars working in many different areas. It is a book I admire a good deal, not only for its clarity and rigor, but also for its willingness to navigate disputes on both sides of the English Channel."J. Jeremy Wisnewski, Hartwick College, USA in Philosophy in Review

"Kontos’ Ancient Greek perspective on the notion of prakton is original and enriching for the actual discussion of moral realism. Even for those who know Ancient Greek philosophy, Kontos’ perspective on action is uncommon, for one tends to emphasize the ephemeral character of actions […]. In Pavlos Kontos’ monograph, by contrast, it’s the visibility and solidity of actions –i.e., their capacity to leave behind them traces in the world- as well as their worldliness that come to the foreground."– Friederike Rese, University of Freiburg, Germany in Zeitschrift für Philosophische Forschung

"The knowledge of the sources displayed by the author, his explicit phenomenological orientation as well as the serious way in which he attempts to appropriate the point of view of the analytic tradition, render this text an important element in the increasingly wide debate between these two institutionalized traditions."Antonio Caeiro, Universidade Nova de Lisboa,Portugal in Euphrosyne

Table of Contents

Introduction I: Aristotle and Kant: Actions within the Moral World 1: Action, πρακτόν and Visibility 2: Phronetic Perception 3: Aristotelian Constructivism 4: Kant: Action, the Good and their Common Categories II: Phenomenological Voices and their Dissonances 5: Towards a Phenomenological Moral Realism 6: Heidegger on Aristotle’s and Kant’s Ethics 7: Gadamer and Practical Rationality 8: Arendt on Action and Performances Conclusion: The Many Faces of Moral Realism Notes Selected Bibliography Index of Names Index of Subjects Index of Passages


About the Author

Pavlos Kontos is Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Patras University, Greece. He is the author of L’action morale chez Aristote (Presses Universitaires de France, 2002) and D’une phénoménologie de la perception chez Heidegger (Kluwer, 1996) and co-editor of Kant: Making Reason Intuitive (Palgrave, 2006) and Gadamer et les Grecs (Vrin, 2005).

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Ethics and Moral Theory

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PHILOSOPHY / History & Surveys / Ancient & Classical
PHILOSOPHY / Ethics & Moral Philosophy