Theology, reflexivity, and desire in Aristotle's "Metaphysics" and "Nichomachean Ethics"

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Charles E. Winquist


Philosophy, Theology, Religion

Subject Categories

Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion


This dissertation argues that "theology" became an intellectual discipline with its own field of inquiry, distinct from those of other fields such as physics, biology, rhetoric, or politics, because it was viewed as resolving a conflict within desire between identification with the object of desire, and enjoyment of that object. An alternative formulation of this thesis is that theology, at the moment of its philosophical conception, was a necessary strategy for reformulating the concept of desire so that philosophy could escape the conceptual conflict between the beauty it ascribed to the reciprocal desire of equal interlocutors, and the ugliness it ascribed to the acts toward which that desire aimed.

Using a genealogical method, the dissertation traces the path Aristotle takes from the founding of the science of being qua being, to his discovery that it is a theological science, to his discussion of the nature of the being that is the object of theology. Focusing on the centrality of the concept of desire in Aristotle's Metaphysics, the author argues that the antinomies of "friendship" discussed in the Nichomachean Ethics poses the problem of desire in particularly graphic terms, and that Aristotle there resorts to a theological mechanism for resolving this problem. Aristotle believes he can resolve the antinomies of friendship he inherited from Plato by detaching friendship, divine contemplation, and God's self-enjoyment from its homosexual Platonic context. Thus, this dissertation takes the position that the problem of desire in Aristotle is posed by Platonic aporias concerning friendship, and that Aristotle's solution is to remove desire from eros, and attach it to divine theoria.


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