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Edited by Jan Peil and Irene van Staveren
Chapter 3: Aristotle
Ricardo Crespo Introduction In his Lives of the Philosophers, Diogenes Laertius depicts a very well-known portrait of Aristotle’s life and work, characterizing him as a morally good person. Diogenes transcribes Aristotle’s last will and testament, in which the philosopher expressed in detail the caring for his relatives and freeing of his slaves. This concern for all of them reflects the non-ethereal nature of his Ethics, which is firmly rooted and embedded in matter and time. Diogenes writes of Aristotle’s teachings, ‘virtue was not sufficient of itself to confer happiness; for that it had also need of the goods of the body, and of the external goods’. Hence, we are obliged to look after not only virtue but also these goods. According to Aristotle, as quoted by Diogenes, ‘things which are ethical . . . concern politics, and economy, and laws’. In effect, Aristotle conceived economics as one of the practical sciences (epistèmè praktikè), which were the ethical sciences. For him, the highest practical science was politics, to which economics, as the other practical sciences, was subordinated. However, we must clarify two points. First, the connection between economics and ethics, according to Aristotle, is not direct and intrinsic. Aristotle used the term oikonomikè, here translated as ‘the economic’. Second, strictly speaking, Aristotle’s concept of ‘the economic’ differs from today’s economics. At the beginning of an article on the Aristotelian notion of economy, Christian Rutten (1987, p. 289) notes the following: Firstly, ‘the economic’ of Aristotle does not correspond at all with that that...
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