Rabinoff, Sharon Eve. “Perception in Aristotle's Ethics”. PhD, Boston College, 2013. http://hdl.handle.net/2345/3323.
In Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, the project of developing virtue and of being virtuous is always realized in one's immediate, particular circumstances. Given that perception is the faculty that gains access to the particular, Aristotle seems to afford perception a central role in ethical life. Yet Aristotle does not provide an account of ethical perception: he does not explain how the perceptual faculty is able grasp ethically relevant facts and how the perceptual capacity can do so well, nor does he explain the manner in which perception influences ethical decisions and actions. It is the project of this dissertation to provide such accounts. There are two main difficulties in the notion of ethical perception in Aristotle's thought: first, perception appears ill-suited to ethical life because the objects of perception are always perceived with respect to the individual's subjective condition--her desires, fears, etc. The information relayed by perception is always relative to the perceiver, i.e. merely the apparent good. Second, virtue is the excellence of the rational soul, while perception is a faculty shared by non-rational animals. It appears, then, that perception must be limited to playing an instrumental role in ethical reasoning and action. This dissertation addresses these difficulties by developing an account of uniquely human perception that is influenced and informed by the intellectual element of the soul. I argue that the project of ethical development, for Aristotle, is the project of integrating one's perceptual faculty with the intellectual capacity, such that one's perception transcends the natural relativity to the perceiver and gains access to the true good as it emerges in one's particular situation.