Reason and intuition in Aristotle's moral psychology: why he was not a two-system dualist

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Colleges, School and Institutes


This paper is about the interplay between intuition and reason in Aristotle’s moral psychology. After discussing briefly some other uses of ‘intuition’ in Aristotle’s texts, I look closely at (a) Aristotle’s notion of virtue and emotion (Section 2); (b) affinities, or lack thereof, between Aristotle’s view and the Two-System (dual-process) model of moral judgement that has made headlines in contemporary moral psychology (Section 3); and some complications of the Aristotelian picture related to the specifics of moral functioning at different developmental levels (Section 4). The lesson drawn is that, despite recent attempts to co-opt Aristotle to the Two-System camp, he was, for all intents and purposes, a One-System theorist with respect to the relationship between intuitive emotion and reason. In that sense, his theories are in line with recent findings in neuroscience which show how emotion stimulates reflection rather than directly driving action. Even the motivational make-up of the ‘incontinent’ does not (as might perhaps be urged) provide a persuasive counter-example to a One-System interpretation of Aristotle.

Bibliographic note

Publisher Copyright: © 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


Original languageEnglish
JournalPhilosophical Explorations
Early online date13 Jun 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Jun 2021


  • Aristotle, developmental levels, emotion, intuition, Jonathan Haidt‌, two-system theory

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