An Examination of “Life” in Aristotle Concerning the Distinction Between βίος (Bios) and ζωή (Zoe)
Bagwell, Stephen 1989-
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In this study, I set out to determine whether the influential understanding of the distinction between bios and zoe in Greek philosophy, and in Aristotle in particular, that Hannah Arendt articulated in her work The Human Condition has a valid foundation in Aristotle’s writings. The distinction entails the view that zoe refers to a biological and cyclical life while bios refers to a life which can form a biography, shaped by the unique capacities of humans for action and speech. By a close reading of the Aristotelian texts that employ concepts referring to “life”—On the Soul, Parva Naturalia, Nicomachean Ethics, and Politics—I begin the enquiry by giving Aristotle’s basic account of bios and zoe. This is then followed by a detailed account of bios because the basic account does not really bring anything new to light for zoe, while what this account tells us concerning bios is insufficient. In fact, it is really the interpretation of bios, rather than zoe, that is controversial and therefore deserves more attention. I argue that Arendt’s account of the distinction between bios and zoe is found in Aristotle and that action and speech play a significant role in the activities of bios.
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
CommitteeStill, Carl; Jenkins, Maricarmen; Vargo, Lisa; Alward, Peter
Copyright DateJune 2018