The Human Function Argument Essay

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The Human Function Argument

Aristotle argues that the human function is activity of the soul that expresses or requires reason. This argument is found in Nicomachean Ethics approximately between Bekker lines 1097b24 and 1098a9.

1. Humans must have a function, or else they would be idle, which is absurd. Aristotle directly asks the reader if humans might have no important overall function other than a chosen occupation in society but suggests that this would not be expected of nature. Terence Irwin used the word idle in his 1985 translation when phrasing this disjunct of Aristotle?s question.

2. Each human body part has a function, so the whole human must likewise have a function. This premise appears parallel to Aristotle?s
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Aristotle presents a short analysis of the rational part of the soul, dividing it into two parts, a part that uses reason and a part that obeys reason. He sees life as supported by activity and not just the capacity to do something.

8. Therefore, the human function is activity of the part of the soul that expresses or requires reason. In seeking the human function, Aristotle has first shown that there is a human function (1 and 2) and narrowed down the human features that may be a function (3 through 7) before reaching his conclusion (8).

Aristotle has formulated an economical and clear argument, but the passage that contains it fails to connect all the premises to other parts of the text to lend them supporting arguments. Aristotle extended his approach of starting from what is commonly believed to even this human function argument which is crucial to the whole work. As a result, many readers may be left unconvinced.

The third, fourth, and fifth premises comprise a major questionable area. The third premise, The human function is unique to only humans themselves, was indirectly introduced as a goal in what Aristotle was looking for in terms of a function, without explanation of why the human function must be unique. Does Aristotle think in unsupported anthropocentric terms and feel it was not questionable to ascribe a special function to humans? Or does Aristotle have an ecological view and think that every
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