Passion and Reason: Aristotelian Strategies in Kierkegaard’s Ethics

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Abstract:

Both Aristotle and Kierkegaard show that virtues result, in part, from training which produces distinctive patterns of salience. The “frame problem” in AI shows that rationality requires salience. Salience is a function of cares and desires (passions) and thus governs choice in much the way Aristotle supposes when he describes choice as deliberative desire. Since rationality requires salience it follows that rationality requires passion. Thus Kierkegaard is no more an irrationalist in ethics than is Aristotle, though he continues to be charged with irrationalism. The compatibility of an Aristotelian reading of Kierkegaard with the “suspension of the ethical” and general problems with aretaic ethical theories are treated briefly. The author argues that it is possible to preserve a realist ethics in the face of the “tradition relativism” which threatens the version of virtue ethics here attributed to Kierkegaard.

Keywords: Aristotle; Kierkegaard; rationality; salience; virtue

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-9795.00106

Publication date: June 1, 2002

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