The Corner

Aristotle & Consistency

From a reader (and political science prof):

“Mr. Goldberg,

Since Aristotle has entered the argument over consistency, you might want to recall the following from his Nichomachean Ethics, Book I, chapter 3 (Ostwald trans.):

’Our disucssion will be adequate if it achieves clarity within the limits of the subject matter. For precision cannot be expected in the treatment of all subjects alike, any more than it can be expected in all manufactured articles. Problems of what is noble and just, which politics examines, present so much variety and irregularity that some people believe that they exist only by convention and not by nature.’

Consistency is all well and good in ontology, but rigorous consistency cannot be applied to matters of justice, according to Aristotle, because the subject matter won’t allow it. This is why prudence is a virtue and bloodymindedness is not. I believe this also confirms Mr. Ponnuru’s comments.”

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