Aristotle holds that we desire things because they appear good to us--a view still dominant in philosophy now. But what is it for something to appear good? Why does pleasure in particular tend to appear good, as Aristotle holds? And how do appearances of goodness motivate desire and action? No sustained study of Aristotle has addressed these questions, or even recognized them as worth asking. Jessica Moss argues that the notion of the apparent good is crucial to understanding both Aristotle's psychological theory and his ethics, and the relation between them.
Beginning from the parallels Aristotle draws between appearances of things as good and ordinary perceptual appearances such as those involved in optical illusion, Moss argues that on Aristotle's view things appear good to us, just as things appear round or small, in virtue of a psychological capacity responsible for quasi-perceptual phenomena like dreams and visualization: phantasia ('imagination'). Once we realize that the appearances of goodness which play so major a role in Aristotle's ethics are literal quasi-perceptual appearances, Moss suggests we can use his detailed accounts of phantasia and its relation to perception and thought to gain new insight into some of the most debated areas of Aristotle's philosophy: his accounts of emotions, akrasia, ethical habituation, character, deliberation, and desire. In Aristotle on the Apparent Good, Moss presents a new--and controversial--interpretation of Aristotle's moral psychology: one which greatly restricts the role of reason in ethical matters, and gives an absolutely central role to pleasure.