The Dialectical Method in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics

Finnigan, B. (2006) The dialectical method in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, Phronimon 7 (2): pp.1-15

This article investigates Aristotle's methodology in the Nicomachean Ethics [EN] It is widely agreed that Aristotle's explicit account of his methodology in EN is the method of dialectic. However, it has been argued that Aristotle does not consistently practice this method and often appeals to metaphysical principles in his other texts to construct his moral theory. As aresuIt, if has been claimed that Aristotle not only diverges from his dialectical method, but also contradicts his doctrine of the autonomy of distinct branches of philosophical enquiry.

I investigate what it would mean for Aristotle's account to be dialectical and argue that it is indeed Aristotle's explicit methodology but that he does in fact diverge from it. I go onto argue that we can understand this divergence as a response to the definitive problem of EN; namely, how can we actually achieve the highest good in our actions. I conclude that we can thus understand the divergence as consistent with the claim that EN is on autonomous enquiry.