Document Type

Thesis

Degree

Master of Arts

Major

Philosophy

Date of Defense

4-18-2013

Graduate Advisor

Jon McGinnis

Committee

Brunero, John

Wiland, Eric

Abstract

Aristotle’s discussion of equity (ἐπιείκεια) in the Nicomachean Ethics and the Rhetoric is examined in its proper historical legal and political context in order to present an informed understanding of equity and its role in Aristotle’s thought. Contemporary interpretations have invoked anachronistic legal features, and these interpretations, as a result, have failed to capture the proper understanding of the text. After an examination of relevant features of Athenian legal practice, this thesis argues that the Athenian institution of arbitration exemplifies the proper role of equity, a role in which equity is that type of justice that approaches the higher virtue of friendship. Having developed this understanding of Aristotelian equity, this thesis will examine its treatment in the philosophy of Aristotle’s great scholastic interpreter, Thomas Aquinas, arguing ultimately that Aquinas’s doctrinal commitments prevent him from understanding and embracing equity in this manner developed in this thesis.

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