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Drawn to the Good? Brewer on Dialectical Activity

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image of Journal of Moral Philosophy

In The Retrieval of Ethics, Talbot Brewer defends an Aristotelian-inspired understanding of the good life, in which living the good life is conceived of in terms of engaging in a unified dialectical activity. In this essay, I explore the assumptions at work in Brewer’s understanding of dialectical activity and raise some concerns about whether or not we have reason to embrace them. I argue that his conception of human nature and that towards which we are drawn stands in tension with empirical research on motivation. Given this tension, I conclude that it is implausible to construe living the good life as a unified dialectical activity.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Philosophy, Middlebury College


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