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Aristotle on Necessities and Needs

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 July 2010

Soran Reader
Affiliation:
University of Durham
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Summary

Aristotle's account of human needs is valuable because it describes the connections between logical, metaphysical, physical, human and ethical necessities. But Aristotle does not fully draw out the implications of the account of necessity for needs and virtue. The proper Aristotelian conclusion is that, far from being an inferior activity fit only for slaves, meeting needs is the first part of Aristotelian virtue.

Aristotle on Necessity

The core concept of necessity, for Aristotle as for us, is of ‘that which cannot be otherwise’. This concept plays a useful role in all sorts of different contexts. We say ‘it must be’ about things we must do in order to achieve our ends, things we must do because something or someone requires it, things that must be the case because something else is the case, things we must believe if we believe the things we already do. We might experiment with metaphysical applications of this idea of what cannot be otherwise, as when we say ‘there must be a God’, or ‘good must triumph over evil’, or ‘there must be a reason for this’. Once you start to look, necessities are everywhere. Aristotle took this homely notion of necessity for granted. He talks in the Prior Analytics, for example, of the way that some things belong to others ‘necessarily’ (29b29–32a17), and he does not distinguish between ‘logical’ necessity and ‘metaphysical’ or ‘physical’ necessity.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2006

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