Stockholm History of Philosophy Workshop: Alexander Stöpfgeshoff & Frans Svensson (Göteborg)


Date: Friday 5 April 2024

Time: 13.15 – 15.00

Location: D700

The Honorable, the Useful, and the Pleasurable: Buridan on Good and Goodness


How unified is the good? In 2.11 of his extensive commentary on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, John Buridan considers a traditional division within the good between things that are honorable, useful, and pleasurable. Buridan argues that this division should be rejected. In his view, anything that belongs to the good is honorable as well as useful and pleasurable. The division is nevertheless important for our understanding of goodness (for our understanding of the nature of the good, if we will), according to Buridan. Several centuries before, for example, Franz Brentano, A. C. Ewing, and Roderick Chisholm, Buridan proposes a fitting attitude account of goodness. In its most general sense, he says, the good refers to the desirable, that is, to that which is (would be) a fitting object of desire. However, we can distinguish between three different ways in which things may be desirable: in themselves (in which case they are honorable), as means to some other good (in which case they are useful) and for ourselves (in which case they are pleasurable). On the substantive level, these always coincide. But that is arguably not something that follows from the account of goodness itself, according to Buridan. 

In this talk, we will critically examine both Buridan’s rejection of the division within the good between the honorable, the useful, and the pleasurable, and his fitting attitude account of goodness.