Aristotle on Prescription

Deliberation and Rule-Making in Aristotle’s Practical Philosophy


The focus of Aristotle on Prescription is Aristotle’s reflections on rule-making. It is widely believed that Aristotle was only concerned with decision-making, understood as a deliberative process enabling a person to arrive at particular, contingent decisions. However, rule-making is fundamental to Aristotle’s ethical texts. Establishing rules means indicating patterns for action that are sufficiently specific to meet situational difficulties and sufficiently constant in time to provide us with a code of behaviour to be used in similar situations. When we prescribe rules, we demonstrate the ability to direct not only our own life but also other people’s lives. Alesse’s book explores Aristotle’s deep reflections on the nature and functions of prescription, and on the relationship between rules and individual decisions.

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Francesca Alesse is Senior Researcher at the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (Italy). She has published monographs and articles on Hellenistic philosophy and edited collective volumes on early and late philosophical traditions (e.g. Philo of Alexandria and Post-Aristotelian Philosophy, Brill 2008).
"The book presents challenging and controversial interpretations of a variety of texts and issues, and … will be of interest to specialists in Aristotle’s practical philosophy." — David J. Riesbeck, in: Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2019.07.62



Note to the Reader

1 The Reasons for This Research

1 The Focus of This Research. Aristotle Reflects on Prescription  

2 The Historical Background: the Debate on Prescription in the V and IV Centuries  

3 Aristotle’s Criticism of Socrates  

4 Prescription in Plato’s Republic

5 The Reasons for a Historiographical Inquiry. Synopsis of the Book

2 Problems and Debates

1 The Relationship between Deliberation and the So-Called Practical Syllogism  

2 The Relationship between the Logical Form of Deliberation and Practical Syllogism  

3 The Object of Deliberation  

4 Circumstances. The Particularistic Interpretation  

5 The Shaping of Habit  

6 Concluding Remarks on the Debate about Practical Reasoning

3 Deliberation and Prescription

1 Preliminary Remarks: Deliberation as Procedural Reasoning  

2 The Structure of Deliberation  

3 The Hypothetical Method  

4 The Mathematical Model  

5 The Remote End  

6 Desire, Deliberation and Prescription  

7 Deliberative Imagination and Recollection  

8 The Conversion of Deliberation into Syllogism  

9 The “Advantage” of Syllogism. Normative Opinions

4 Prescriptive Reason and Practical Wisdom

1 Preliminary Remarks on Aristotle’s Notion of Prescription  

2 The Semantic and Conceptual Domain of Prescription. The Platonic Background  

3 Prescriptive Logos as a Psychic Faculty  

4 The Argumentative and Discursive Nature of Prescriptive Logos  

5 The Prescriptive Function of Practical Wisdom  

6 Prescription and Moral Character  

7 Ergon and chresis

5 Prescription and Architectonic Order

1 Prescription and Politics. Preliminary Remarks  

2 The Difference between Action and Production  

3 The Relationship of Prescription with Use and Possession  

4 Prescriptive Wisdom and True Opinion  

5 Brief Remarks on the Guiding Functions of the State




Specialists (including advanced students) in ancient philosophy, or more generally the history of philosophy or ideas; specialists in ethics.
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