Aristotelian Perspectives on Social Ethics

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Aristotelian Perspectives on Social Ethics

I examine the philosophical perspectives of Aristotle on issues of medical ethics and on his social ethics in general, including the moral issues of abortion, euthanasia, and other issues of social ethics such as the issue of cloning. I have chosen the domain of applied ethics as viewed from the Aristotelian point of view precisely because certain issues have been virtually unexamined by scholars. I shall direct attention to certain treatises of the Aristotelian corpus such as On the History of Animals, On the Generation of Animals, On the Soul, The Nicomachean Ethics and The Politics. My main objective is to provide a more systematic account of the Aristotelian perspectives on the above controversial issues and to establish the Stagirite’s main approach to social ethics. For this reason, issues like the notion of personhood, his attitude towards death, and his theory of the will and ethical conduct of a moral citizen-agent will be examined. Throughout this investigation, the close interrelation between philosophy and medicine, both in antiquity and in modern times, will also become more apparent.

I. Abortion

Concerning the issue of abortion Aristotle's views are not considered as very clear or consistent throughout. We shall examine the relevant passages from both the biological and psychological treatises in connection with other of his contemporary — or not — medical findings. In our attempt to establish his main approach, we shall also unfold his views on the more modern notions of personhood as they are examined in his ethical and political works.

According to the Hippocratic oath, abortion is forbidden as morally unjustifiable. A physician is not to help a woman abort he...

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...Fye, Bruce W (1978): "Active Euthanasia: An Historical survey of its conceptual origins and introduction to medical thought", Bulletin of the History of Medicine 52, 492-502.

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Jaeger, Werner (1957): "Aristotle's use of medicine as a model of Method in his Ethics", Journal of the History of Science 77, 54-61.

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Westermack, Edward A (1906-8): The origins and development of the Moral Ideas, 2 vols., London: MacMillan & Co.

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