Aristotle and the Affective Limits of Ethical Judgment

Casey Ford

This paper provides an original reading of Aristotle’s ethical philosophy, and its implications for the constitution of the social subject, by focusing on the role of “affect” in the determination of ethical judgment. Scholarship on Aristotle’s ethics has traditionally focused on the principles necessary for a subject to achieve “virtue.” This has generated an account of ethical action that stresses the essentially active capacity of the subject who, through her rational faculty of knowing the proper ends of activity, can thus determine the point of virtuous moderation. This paper supplements this active account of epistemic and ends-directed action with an elucidation of Aristotle’s insightful remarks on the fundamentally passive nature of the subject of affection. Inspired by Deleuze, we maintain that for Aristotle, ethical action is possible only through a milieu, a “middle” ground or world of non-rational becomings that are both the prior condition and limit of ethical judgment.

A Research and Publication Project