Commentary on russell


Dan Russell argues that neither the Stoic nor the Aristotelian position in the "sufficiency debate" is acceptable. The sufficiency debate is the dispute over whether virtue is sufficient for eudaimonia. But the Aristotelian position fails, says Russell, because it attempts to combine contradictory views about agency and eudaimonia. He claims that Aristotelians try to maintain both a "directive conception" of goodness (according to which eudaimonia has a certain structure in so far as it accords overarching eudaimonic value to virtuous activity) and an "additive conception" of goodness (according to which eudaimonia is an unstructured heap of goods and allows that a person's life is made happier merely by the addition of any conditional good to the heap). The Stoic position fails, Russell concedes, because its purely formalized conception of agency fails to acknowledge that happiness is vulnerable to reversals of fortune. Russell presents what he takes to be an alternative to both the Aristotelian and Stoic positions, one he calls the "embodied conception of agency." I argue that Russell's alternative changes the terms of the debate and so fails to resolve it. I also argue that a proper interpretation of Aristotle reveals that his position is consistent in accepting a directive conception of goodness, rejecting an unqualified additive conception of goodness, but acknowledging that virtuous activity is not sufficient for happiness.

Publication Title

Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy

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