An aristotelian analysis of the structure of human action

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The hidden ideologies of individualism and instrumentalism have been well documented in psychological theory, research, and practice. Critiques of these ideologies tend to run out of steam regarding alternatives, however. This chapter applies an Aristotelian analysis that shows how to transcend these ideologies and thereby enhance the discipline of psychology. Aristotle first clarifies that all human activity, including psychological work, aims at what is good. Activities can be understood instrumentally, with a means-end structure or constitutively, with means constituting the end. Activities can also be understood as individual pursuits or activities that can only be pursued with others, which are shared endeavors. Although psychologists focus almost exclusively on individual, instrumental activity, the highest forms of activity are shared and constitutive. Attachment theory provides a good illustration of the enrichment that this analytic structure affords.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Wiley Handbook of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology
Subtitle of host publicationMethods, Approaches, and New Directions for Social Sciences
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781118748213
ISBN (Print)9781118748336
StatePublished - Apr 10 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Aristotle
  • Attachment
  • Constitutive activity
  • Eudaimonia
  • Individual activity
  • Instrumental activity
  • Shared activity
  • The good

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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