Aristotle’s Function Argument (FA) in NE I, 7.
The AIM of the FA is to discover the good for human beings, at least “in outline”.
The FA has two main parts:
First, A’s psychobiology from
, which locates human beings within the living
kingdom (the domain of ensouled or animate things) and tells us what human beings are
In this scheme classifications are made and essences are thought of in terms
of functions: activities of members of a species that are
to members of the species,
and can be either
with other species of the same genus or
of the species.
Second, a theory connecting this concept of function with good, in two ways: first, a
member of a species is good of its kind when it performs the functions of that kind well;
second, what enables a thing to perform its functions well (its virtues) are its good or part of
See if you can locate these two parts in A’s text and in the following reconstruction of the
FA, mostly by David Keyt (in “Intellectualism in Aristotle”).
1. In the animate world there are four general functions: to use food and reproduce, to
perceive, to move from one place to another, and to think.
Accordingly, there are three
general forms of life: the nutritive and reproductive, shared by all animate things, the
perceptive, shared by all animals, and the life of reason, practical and theoretical, which is
special to man. (De Anima
, Bk.I, Ch.l; II,4; III,9; Politics
2. One form of life is lower than another if and only if normal members of the first lack a
function that normal members of the second possess. Thus plants are lower than animals,