The Nicomachean Ethics
‘One swallow does not make a summer; neither does one day. Similarly neither can one day, or a brief space of time, make a man blessed and happy’In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle sets out to examine the nature of happiness. He argues that happiness consists in ‘activity of the soul in accordance with virtue’, for example with moral virtues, such as courage, generosity and justice, and intellectual virtues, such as knowledge, wisdom and insight. The Ethics also discusses the nature of practical reasoning, the value and the objects of pleasure, the different forms of friendship, and the relationship between individual virtue, society and the State. Aristotle’s work has had a profound and lasting influence on all subsequent Western thought about ethical matters.J. A. K. Thomson’s translation has been revised by Hugh Tredennick, and is accompanied by a new introduction by Jonathan Barnes. This edition also includes an updated list for further reading and a new chronology of Aristotle’s life and works.Previously published as Ethics

The Nicomachean Ethics Details

TitleThe Nicomachean Ethics
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJan 29th, 2004
PublisherPenguin Classics
ISBN-139780140449495
Rating
GenrePhilosophy, Classics, Nonfiction, Politics

The Nicomachean Ethics Review

  • Ahmad Sharabiani
    January 1, 1970
    The Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle The Nicomachean Ethics (Ancient Greek: Ἠθικὰ Νικομάχεια) is the name normally given to Aristotle's best-known work on ethics. The work, which plays a pre-eminent role in defining Aristotelian ethics, consists of ten books, originally separate scrolls, and is understood to be based on notes from his lectures at the Lyceum. The title is often assumed to refer to his son Nicomachus, to whom the work was dedicated or who may have edited it (although his young age ma The Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle The Nicomachean Ethics (Ancient Greek: Ἠθικὰ Νικομάχεια) is the name normally given to Aristotle's best-known work on ethics. The work, which plays a pre-eminent role in defining Aristotelian ethics, consists of ten books, originally separate scrolls, and is understood to be based on notes from his lectures at the Lyceum. The title is often assumed to refer to his son Nicomachus, to whom the work was dedicated or who may have edited it (although his young age makes this less likely). Alternatively, the work may have been dedicated to his father, who was also called Nicomachus.تاریخ نخستین خوانش: ماه مارس سال 2007 میلادیعنوان: علم اخلاق نیکوماخوسی؛ نویسنده: ارسطو؛ مترجم: صلاح الدین سلجوقی (زاده سال 1274 هجری خورشیدی، درگذشته سال 1349 هجری خورشیدی)؛ در 330 ص؛ موضوع: اخلاق، - سده 4 پیش از میلادعنوان: اخلاق نیکوماخوس؛ نویسنده: ارسطو؛ مترجم: محمدحسن لطفی؛ تهران، طرح نو، 1378، در 414 ص؛ چاپ دوم 1385؛ شابک: 9645625696؛ موضوع: اخلاق، - سده 4 پیش از میلاداخلاق نیکوماخوسی عنوان شناخته‌ شده‌ ترین اثر ارسطو، در زمینه اخلاق است. این اثر که نقش برجسته‌ ای در معرفی اخلاق ارسطویی دارد، از ده کتاب تشکیل و بر مبنای یادداشت‌ برداری از سخنان ارسطو در لیسیوم شکل گرفته‌ است. این اثر، یا توسط نیکوماخوس (پسر ارسطو)، ویرایش شده، یا به ایشان تقدیم شده‌ است. ا. شربیانی
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  • Glenn Russell
    January 1, 1970
    Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle postulates the highest human good is eudaimonia or what is loosely translated into English as happiness. And a substantial component in the path to such human happiness is acting with the appropriate virtues over the course of an entire lifetime. The details of these Aristotelean teachings form the Nicomachean Ethics, one of the most influential works in the entire history of Western Civilization. As a way of sharing but a small example of Aristotle’s extensiv Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle postulates the highest human good is eudaimonia or what is loosely translated into English as happiness. And a substantial component in the path to such human happiness is acting with the appropriate virtues over the course of an entire lifetime. The details of these Aristotelean teachings form the Nicomachean Ethics, one of the most influential works in the entire history of Western Civilization. As a way of sharing but a small example of Aristotle’s extensive philosophy outlined in these pages, I will focus on Book IV Chapter 8 where the eminent Greek philosopher addresses the virtue of being witty, sensitive to others, discerning and perceptive, particularly when we are at our leisure. Here are six Aristotle quotes and my brief accompanying comments: “Since life includes rest as well as activity, and in this is included leisure and amusement, there seems here also to be a kind of intercourse which is tasteful; there is such a thing as saying- and again listening to- what one should and as one should.”--------- Aristotle’s focus on time spent outside of work, what we nowadays refer to as ‘leisure time’, makes this section of his ethical teachings particularly relevant for us today, most especially since we are bombarded by a nonstop barrage of advertisements, store signs, billboards, Muzak, etc. etc., some subtle, many not so subtle. “The kind of people one is speaking to or listening to will also make a difference.” --------- Very important who we associate with both at work and outside of work. Aristotle is optimistic that we can actively participate in society and exercise discrimination as we develop wisdom to speak as we should and listen as we should. In contrast, another Greek philosopher, Epicurus, was not so optimistic on this point. Epicurus judged conventional society as blind and dumb, particularly as it pertains to men and women expounding values regarding such things as riches and fame and what constitutes our true human needs. The answer for Epicurus: withdraw into a separate community with like-minded friends and philosophers.“Regarding people’s views on humor there is both an excess and a deficiency as compared with the mean. Those who carry humor to excess are thought to be vulgar buffoons, striving after humor at all costs, and aiming rather at raising a laugh than at saying what is becoming and at avoiding pain to the object of their fun while those who can neither make a joke themselves nor put up with those who do are thought to be boorish and unpolished.” -------- Sounds like Aristotle attended the same junior high school and high school as I did. Again, he is optimistic that someone who aspires to philosophic excellence, virtue and the mean (maintaining a middle position between two extremes) can live among buffoons and boors without being pulled down to their level. The question I would pose to Aristotle: What happens when we live in an entire society dominated by vulgar buffoon and uptight boors, where the buffoons and boors set the standards for what it means to be human? Particularly, what happens to the development of children and young adults? “But those who joke in a tasteful way are called ready-witted, which implies a sort of readiness to turn this way and that; for such sallies are thought to be movements of the character, and as bodies are discriminated by their movements, so too are characters.” ---------- “I had an opportunity to see the Dalai Lama speak. You will be hard pressed to find someone with a more lively sense of humor. If you haven’t seen him speak, you can check out Youtube. “The ridiculous side of things is not far to seek, however, and most people delight more than they should in amusement and in jestingly and so even buffoons are called ready-witted because they are found attractive; but that they differ from the ready-witted man, and to no small extent, is clear from what has been said.” ---------- Ha! So Aristotle sees, in fact, how buffoonery can easily lapse into the social norm. Thus our challenge is how to retain our integrity when surrounded by slobs and buffoons. “To the middle state belongs also tact; it is the mark of a tactful man to say and listen to such things as befit a good and well-bred man; for there are some things that it befits such a man to say and to hear by way of jest, and the well-bred man's jesting differs from that of a vulgar man, and the joking of an educated man from that of an uneducated.” ---------- Aristotle’s overarching observation on how the wisdom of the middle way between two extremes applies here – not good acting at either extreme, being a boor or being a buffoon. Unfortunately, speaking and otherwise communicating in a buffoonish or boorish way is in no way restricted to the uneducated or dull – I’ve witnessed numerous instances of buffoonery and boorishness among the highly educated and intellectually astute. The entire Nicomachean Ethics is available online: http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/nic...
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  • Trevor
    January 1, 1970
    I’m a bit annoyed – I wrote up my review to this last night and thought I’d posted it, but it seems to have gone to god…not happy about that (amusingly enough). This is my reconstruction of last night’s review.There is a story that is almost certainly apocryphal about a French woman (in the version I know, this is Madame De Gaulle) who is in England towards the end of her husband’s career and is asked at some sort of official function what she wants most from life. She answers, ‘a penis’ – which I’m a bit annoyed – I wrote up my review to this last night and thought I’d posted it, but it seems to have gone to god…not happy about that (amusingly enough). This is my reconstruction of last night’s review.There is a story that is almost certainly apocryphal about a French woman (in the version I know, this is Madame De Gaulle) who is in England towards the end of her husband’s career and is asked at some sort of official function what she wants most from life. She answers, ‘a penis’ – which, unsurprisingly, brings a near complete silence over the room, something see seems completely confused by. Charles De Gaulle then says to his wife, ‘I think they pronounce it ‘appiness’, darling’Aristotle is writing about how to live a good life – pretty much what ‘ethics’ means – and his answer is that a good life is a happy life. Well, sort of. Actually, the Greek word that is translated as ‘happiness’ here (not unlike Madame De Gaulle’s mis-pronunciation) doesn’t necessarily mean what we would normally take ‘happiness’ to mean. Eudaimonia is made up of two words meaning ‘good’ and ‘soul’, but can also be translated as meaning ‘human flourishing’. Now, if you asked me how I was going and I said, ‘I’m flourishing’, that doesn’t necessarily mean ‘I’m happy’. It is not that the two ideas are a million miles apart, but even Roget would be unlikely to slam them together in his little book of synonyms.This is a remarkably practical book – not so much in that it tells you exactly how to behave at all times and in all circumstances, it isn’t practical in that sense, but rather that it sets about giving you tools to help make a rational judgement about how you ought to behave given various circumstances. It does this by discussing Aristotle’s ‘doctrine of the mean’. Aristotle says that every virtue falls between to extremes which are excesses of qualities that also go to make up that virtue. So, if you think of courage, for example, it falls between cowardice and foolhardiness. In one case you have an exaggerated regard for your own life (despite being seen as a coward and the likely humiliation that will bring) and in the other you are too prepared to throw your life away and therefore not giving your life its proper value. Now, the point is that Aristotle isn’t saying all that much here about how you might behave in a given situation, but rather giving you guiding lines to watch out for – his point is that if you are called upon to be brave there may be times when it is rational to behave in ways that might otherwise look foolhardy, and at other times in ways that might look cowardly – but a wise and happy person would do so on the basis of a rational assessment of where the mean lies given the time, place and circumstance – and knowing there are extremes you need to avoid is useful here.There are bits of this that I found much more annoying this time around than I did when I read it years ago (30 years ago, now – yuck… how did that happen?). In fact, I can’t quite tell if Aristotle has become more reactionary over the years or if I’ve become more progressive – but it’s one or the other.For instance, I found a lot of his discussions about women particularly annoying this time around. Take this as a case in point from Book VIII, “Sometimes, however, women rule, because they are heiresses; their rule is thus not in accordance with virtue, but due to wealth and power” (page 157). People will tell you that one of the problems with Aristotle and Plato is the fact that they could never conceive of a society in which there were no slaves – but one of the advantages of Plato is that he did think women could, and probably should, be educated. Aristotle clearly does not – but the point I would really like to make is that he notices when women rule due to their wealth and power, but not when men do the same. Given so many more men rule at all and so many of them rule due to the access their position gives them – it seems an odd thing for someone like Aristotle not to notice.Because this is quite a practical ethics, he spends a lot of time talking about the sorts of things people ought to have in their lives to make them happy – and this is why so much of the book is devoted to friendship. I won’t go over his arguments for the various types of friends one might have, but do want to talk about love and lovers. I think I could mount a case for saying that Aristotle is arguing against having a lover. Not that he is advocating a life of celibacy or even of abstinence, but rather that lovers come in what I like to think of as pairs (after McCullers or Somerset Maugham – who both said that there are lovers and the beloved and of the two everyone wants to be the lover, rather than the beloved) – and that since being either the lover or a beloved is basically irrational, given we fall in love by lightning strike as much as anything else, it might stop just as quickly as it all started, and then a lover who doesn’t love any more leaves a beloved who is no longer beloved – not the basis for a lasting relationship. The point being that friendship is based more rationally on mutual benefits and mutual care – if it was me, I’d pick the latter over the former (friendship over love) every time – if these things allowed for choices like that, that is.Now, I want to end by quoting a longer bit from Book X (page 200).“Some think we become good by nature, some by habit, and others by teaching. Nature's contribution is clearly not in our power, but it can be found in those who are truly fortunate as the result of some divine dispensation. Argument and teaching, presumably, are not powerful in every case, but the soul of the student must be prepared beforehand in its habits, with a view to its enjoying and hating in a noble way, like soil that is to nourish seed. For if someone were to live by his feelings he would not listen to an argument to dissuade him, nor could he even understand it. How can we persuade a person in a state like this to change his ways? And, in general, feelings seem to yield not to argument but to force. There must, therefore, somehow be a pre-existing character with some affinity for virtue through its fondness for what is noble and dislike of what is disgraceful.“But if one has not been reared under the right laws it is difficult to obtain from one's earliest years the correct upbringing for virtue, because the masses, especially the young, do not find it pleasant to live temperately and with endurance. For this reason, their upbringing and pursuits should be regulated by laws, because they will not find them painful once they have become accustomed to them.”I find this really interesting for a whole range of reasons. Okay, so, he starts off by saying that nature is the main thing to ensure that one is capable of learning – but it is interesting that this alone is not enough. Nature is essential, but left on its own will not get you very far. The other is teaching, but teaching too may not help unless you have been prepared to hear the lesson – something Gramsci talks about at some length saying working class children need to be given discipline (that they are unfamiliar with) if they are to have any hope of succeeding in education. What is stressed here is the development of habits and dispositions and that these are what allows the other two (nature and teaching) to be given any chance of success.Aristotle is keen to stress that he is talking about virtues – but again, the Greek word here (arête) doesn’t just mean morally good behaviours, but rather something closer to the excellences that we associate with different kinds of behaviours – so that a fisherman has virtues too, not in the sense of being morally upright, but rather, at knowing what is good for a fisherman to do and be. A lot of this reminded me of Pascal’s Pensées. There is a bit in that where Pascal says that happiness really isn’t related to the outcome, but more to the process. That is, that you won’t make a hunter happy by giving him a couple of rabbits at the start of the day and saying to him, ‘now you don’t have to go out hunting today, relax, enjoy yourself’. Rather, even a mangy rabbit caught through the effort of the hunt will be worth more to the hunter than a dozen plump ones handed over without effort at the start of the day. Not always true, of course, but I’m exaggerating to make the point. In a lot of ways that is Aristotle’s ethics – find out what you are meant to do and do that as best you can and that will make you happy – or good souled – or flourishing – one of those.
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  • Bradley
    January 1, 1970
    This re-read was perhaps a slight bit superfluous. I remembered reading it way back in high school - on my own - just because I was that kind of geek.Get the foundations read, kid! Know what the whole line of thought is all about! Use it later to trounce your fellow debaters! Yeah, whatever. Logic and an examined life have since then been more of an end rather than a means.Case in point: This is about examining Happiness. It does so in a fairly exhaustive but not exhausting way. Aristotle just l This re-read was perhaps a slight bit superfluous. I remembered reading it way back in high school - on my own - just because I was that kind of geek.Get the foundations read, kid! Know what the whole line of thought is all about! Use it later to trounce your fellow debaters! Yeah, whatever. Logic and an examined life have since then been more of an end rather than a means.Case in point: This is about examining Happiness. It does so in a fairly exhaustive but not exhausting way. Aristotle just lays down the foundations, brings up the various opinions people usually hold about WHAT happiness entails, and then tries to pare away the flawed answers.Usually, a normal adventure tale is never about the end destination. End destinations are usually a let-down. The effort to get there is usually a lot more satisfying.Same for Aristotle. It turns out I remembered the first journey perfectly. And it brought me happiness. :)
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  • Markus
    January 1, 1970
    The Nicomachean Ethics is one of the greatest works of Aristotle, the famous philosopher who was really much more of a scientist than a philosopher. This is the book where he indulges in the discussion of happiness, virtue, ethics, politics, and really anything else describing the way in which human beings functioned together in the society of a Greek city-state of early Antiquity.Especially in the field of politics, this work excels, and Aristotle puts forth a particularly interesting theory on The Nicomachean Ethics is one of the greatest works of Aristotle, the famous philosopher who was really much more of a scientist than a philosopher. This is the book where he indulges in the discussion of happiness, virtue, ethics, politics, and really anything else describing the way in which human beings functioned together in the society of a Greek city-state of early Antiquity.Especially in the field of politics, this work excels, and Aristotle puts forth a particularly interesting theory on the forms of government. According to him, there are really only three different forms of government, but each of them comes with a corresponding corrupt deviation. The finest form of government, he says, is the monarchy, the rule of one. But its corresponding deviation, which is tyranny, is the worst form of government, and the line between the two is thin and sinuous. Likewise, the second finest form of government is the aristocracy, the rule of the best. And aristocracy in its corrupted form is oligarchy, the second worst form of government. Lastly, the third finest form of government is timocracy, the rule of property-owners, which was strikingly similar to the political system already existing in Aristotle's Athens. But the corrupt form of timocracy, he says, is democracy, a system in which society has deviated into a constant squabble where everyone seeks to advance their own interests rather than the interests of the state. The conclusion seems to be that as long as long as the rulers of the state are just and competent, it is better the fewer they are. But if the rulers are unjust and incompetent, the opposite is true. To those as interested in political theory as I am, I would recommend just reading Book VIII, and skipping all the rest.The most interesting thing about the book, however, is that the writing is absolutely terrible. Not the language, mind you, but the style in which the book is written. What is truly incredible is that the writing here is exactly how an average academic writer today would write his or her books. On one hand, that made this book ridiculously boring to read. On the other, it was really interesting because it proves how much modern academics owe to the legacy of Aristotle. And that they should find another source of inspiration, since for instance Plato was a far better writer than his most famous pupil.I would recommend this book only to those particularly interested in philosophical, political and ethical theory, and even then I would suggest just opening the book and reading the parts that sound interesting to you instead of attempting the dreary business of reading it as a whole.
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  • Brad Lyerla
    January 1, 1970
    Happiness is the activity of a rational soul in accordance with virtue, writes Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics. Activity means living. Rational soul means a human being. And virtue means human excellence. So happiness means a human living excellently. How does one live excellently? One learns to be good at the things that are human and these are called "virtues". Aristotle discusses many virtues, but four are primary: courage, temperance, justice and practical wisdom. Courage is how we deal Happiness is the activity of a rational soul in accordance with virtue, writes Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics. Activity means living. Rational soul means a human being. And virtue means human excellence. So happiness means a human living excellently. How does one live excellently? One learns to be good at the things that are human and these are called "virtues". Aristotle discusses many virtues, but four are primary: courage, temperance, justice and practical wisdom. Courage is how we deal with pain and disappointment. Courage is an example of the "golden mean". Courage is the mean between cowardice and rashness. Temperance is how we deal with pleasure. Temperance is the mean between over-indulgence and self-denial. Justice is how we deal with human relationships. Essentially, it means to give every person their due, which will be defined by their relationship to you. Practical wisdom is the knowledge to understand how to discern the moderate path or the mean and how to moderate passions in order to think clearly and make good decisions. But my favorite thing about the Ethics is that Aristotle devotes many pages to a discussion of friendship, which is fundamental to happiness. Some scholars believe that Aristotle's writing on friendship is misplaced. That is, when scrolls with the Ethics were first discovered, early scholars mistakenly mixed two books together. Perhaps, this is true. But it is heartening to read about happiness and find that much of the discussion has to do with being a good friend. One more thing about this great book. It is difficult to read. I am told that this is due to the fact that it was compiled from notes of Aristotle's students and was not written by Aristotle. That is, these are notes of his lectures.They read like it. My way of dealing with the impenetrability was to listen to lectures from the Teaching Company as I re-read the Ethics a few years ago. That made all the difference.

The Nichomachean Ethics is arguably the most important work on ethics in western culture. But you might not be able read it on your own without constantly fogging out. So figure out a way to get through it with patience and attention. You will be rewarded for your effort.
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  • Mandi
    January 1, 1970
    Aristotle doesn't satisfy your whole soul, just the logical side, but here he is quite thorough. The Nicomachean Ethics is his most important study of personal morality and the ends of human life. He does little more than search for and examine the "good." He examines the virtue and vices of man in all his faculties. He believes that the unexamined life is a life not worth living; happiness is the contemplation of the good and the carrying out of virtue with solid acts. Among this book's most ou Aristotle doesn't satisfy your whole soul, just the logical side, but here he is quite thorough. The Nicomachean Ethics is his most important study of personal morality and the ends of human life. He does little more than search for and examine the "good." He examines the virtue and vices of man in all his faculties. He believes that the unexamined life is a life not worth living; happiness is the contemplation of the good and the carrying out of virtue with solid acts. Among this book's most outstanding features are Aristotle's insistence that there are no known absolute moral standards and that any ethical theory must be based in part on an understanding of psychology and firmly grounded in the realities of human nature and daily life. Though the over 100 chapters (divided into ten books) flow and build upon each other, you can benefit from reading just one of them. One of my favorite philosophical reads, I cannot say enough for the depth of insight Aristotle has into living the "good" life.
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  • Jasmine
    January 1, 1970
    "One lesson of our age is that barbarism persists under the surface, and that the virtues of civilized life are less deeply rooted than used to be supposed. The world is not too richly endowed with examples of perseverance and subtlety in analysis, of moderation and sanity in the study of human affairs. It will be a great loss if the thinker who, above all others, displays these qualities, is ever totally forgotten." D.J. Allan, author of The Philosophy of Aristotle, (Oxford 1952) about Aristotl "One lesson of our age is that barbarism persists under the surface, and that the virtues of civilized life are less deeply rooted than used to be supposed. The world is not too richly endowed with examples of perseverance and subtlety in analysis, of moderation and sanity in the study of human affairs. It will be a great loss if the thinker who, above all others, displays these qualities, is ever totally forgotten." D.J. Allan, author of The Philosophy of Aristotle, (Oxford 1952) about Aristotle (384 BC - 323 BC)
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  • Bruce
    January 1, 1970
    This is a book worth rereading every few years. It is actually lecture notes by one of Aristotle’s students, as are most of the extant writings attributed to Aristotle. Not a work to be rushed through, the Ethics requires concentration and pondering, work that rewards the effort.Aristotle begins by investigating what is good for man, proceeding to examine both moral and intellectual virtues. In each of these areas, he first defines his terms. Then he examines various virtues and vices such as co This is a book worth rereading every few years. It is actually lecture notes by one of Aristotle’s students, as are most of the extant writings attributed to Aristotle. Not a work to be rushed through, the Ethics requires concentration and pondering, work that rewards the effort.Aristotle begins by investigating what is good for man, proceeding to examine both moral and intellectual virtues. In each of these areas, he first defines his terms. Then he examines various virtues and vices such as courage, temperance, justice, and others. Next he discusses the differences between philosophic and practical wisdom before he turns to continence, incontinence, and pleasure. Finally, he includes a long section on friendship.Anyone thinking seriously about the meaning of life must take into consideration Aristotle’s views. He is concerned with the mundane rather than metaphysical reality and is always intensely practical. The enjoyment that derives from reading his works results from both his practical insights and the exercise of one’s own mind as one accompanies him on his explorations.
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  • Nemo
    January 1, 1970
    Aristotle vs. PlatoHaving just finished and enjoyed Plato's complete works, I find this book a bit annoying and uninspiring in comparison. Aristotle seems to take every opportunity to "correct" Plato, when in fact he is only attacking a strawman. His arguments, sometimes self-contradictory, often support and clarify Plato's ideas, albeit using his own terminology.Aristotle seems to have great difficulty appreciating or understanding Plato’s abstractions (from species to genus, from the individua Aristotle vs. PlatoHaving just finished and enjoyed Plato's complete works, I find this book a bit annoying and uninspiring in comparison. Aristotle seems to take every opportunity to "correct" Plato, when in fact he is only attacking a strawman. His arguments, sometimes self-contradictory, often support and clarify Plato's ideas, albeit using his own terminology.Aristotle seems to have great difficulty appreciating or understanding Plato’s abstractions (from species to genus, from the individual instances to the common patterns, i.e. Idea or Form). This is the cause of the majority of his attacks against Plato, as “piety requires us to honour truth above our friends.” How very noble of him!I don't know whether the Academy and Aristotle's Lyceum charged their students fees. If not, there were no financial incentives in disparaging their rival. If it was purely intellectual rivalry, using straw man is often a sign of an inferior intellect or character. Since both Plato and Aristotle believed that the intellect was the best part of man or the true man, to attack and destroy another's ideas would be equivalent to murder (or Freudian parricide).However, it could also be true that Aristotle was formulating his own philosophy through engagement with Plato's ideas, and intellectual competitions and debates help facilitate the development of sound ideas. Since this is the first book by Aristotle that I've read, it's very likely that I'm not giving him his due here. It may take some time to switch from Plato to Aristotle's way of thinking.A Champion of MediocrityAristotle's definitions of good, virtue and happiness are unsatisfactory to me. Good is "that at which all things aim". All people aim at happiness (or pleasure), therefore happiness is the supreme good. But, what exactly is happiness or pleasure? How can one hit his aim if he can't discern what he is aiming at? If virtue is "the mean between deficiency and excess", what is the difference between virtue and mediocrity?"Pleasure perfects activity not as the formed state that issues in that activity perfects it, by being immanent in it, but as a sort of supervening [culminating] perfection, like the bloom that graces the flower of youth." How can a fleeting thing that lacks permanence be the object of a lifelong pursuit?In the end, Aristotle agrees with Plato, perhaps begrudgingly as it was dictated by reason, that happiness is contemplation of the divine, which is pleasant, self-sufficient and continuous. He insists on making a distinction between activity and state, but in this instance the distinction is unclear to me.An Acute Observer of Human NatureThere are a few things I do appreciate in this book. Aristotle's joie de vivre (his delight in learning, being alive and active), his insights into human nature, his clear and penetrating psychological portrayal of various character traits and the dynamic relationships or transactions between human beings. He also introduced me to Pythagorean's fascinating mathematical representation of equality, A:B = B:C and A-M = M -C.
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  • Elie F
    January 1, 1970
    It is rare that a philosophical book about ethics can be so investigation-based and have so much common sense in it.
  • Paul
    January 1, 1970
    Such an impressive book that it's honestly hard to do it justice. The philosophical distinctions that Aristotle introduces here -- the three types of friendship, hexis as the key to understanding moral action, the vice/virtue distinction, the spoudaios, etc. etc. -- are impressive enough on their own that any one of them could be the basis of an entire philosophical school in any century. But when you realize that Aristotle was literally the first writer in the Greek tradition to deeply consider Such an impressive book that it's honestly hard to do it justice. The philosophical distinctions that Aristotle introduces here -- the three types of friendship, hexis as the key to understanding moral action, the vice/virtue distinction, the spoudaios, etc. etc. -- are impressive enough on their own that any one of them could be the basis of an entire philosophical school in any century. But when you realize that Aristotle was literally the first writer in the Greek tradition to deeply consider any of these issues, his achievement becomes all the more difficult to comprehend; imagine being not only the inventor of a philosophical topic (ethics did not exist as a clearly demarcated field of study even in Plato), but also such a brilliant thinker that you're still deeply influential on all Western ethical thought, thousands of years later? (And that you also, incidentally, wrote 452 other works, basically invented natural science, etc. etc.)
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  • C
    January 1, 1970
    There's nothing I could possibly say about this book that hasn't already been said, and hasn't already been said better than I could articulate any point. The degree to which we have fallen from Aristotle's view of man is abominable. The need to which we ought to return to his view is dire, and necessary. Is man operating according to his function? No. Are we achieving excellence? Rarely. Who amongst us is virtuous, and who amongst us experiences eudaimonia? Few, if any. So long as the structure There's nothing I could possibly say about this book that hasn't already been said, and hasn't already been said better than I could articulate any point. The degree to which we have fallen from Aristotle's view of man is abominable. The need to which we ought to return to his view is dire, and necessary. Is man operating according to his function? No. Are we achieving excellence? Rarely. Who amongst us is virtuous, and who amongst us experiences eudaimonia? Few, if any. So long as the structure of our social relations remains contrary to the function of man, life will suck, and so long as we fail to see the necessary connection between individual flourishing and our social roles, we'll fail to be virtuous, excellent, or happy. In my opinion all ethics is either expanding upon Aristotle's keen insights, or turned down a dark road of no return (Kantianism, Utilitarianism, Social Contract theory, etc.) Consequential and deontological ethics, lack the teleological force of Aristotle's views.
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  • Cassandra Kay Silva
    January 1, 1970
    I actually read this previously within the larger context of an extended work, but I decided to revisit it because I felt that some of the ethical pondering in this work matched up with some life incidents that I was trying to review. I know that reviewing your life based on ancient literature is not the norm but I felt that this was more pertinent to my life than most of the more modern literature available. I don't know how to explain this. Its like asking why Marcus Arrelius is on my bedside I actually read this previously within the larger context of an extended work, but I decided to revisit it because I felt that some of the ethical pondering in this work matched up with some life incidents that I was trying to review. I know that reviewing your life based on ancient literature is not the norm but I felt that this was more pertinent to my life than most of the more modern literature available. I don't know how to explain this. Its like asking why Marcus Arrelius is on my bedside table. Its not that I entirly agree with his sentiments and ideas its just that it provides some perspective and grounding when my vantage is a bit askew. I think this a must for everyones collection.
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  • Cphe
    January 1, 1970
    I dare say that if I ever come to read this again I would no doubt rate it higher than I have done here. Also if you are looking at this particular book then you already have an inkling as to it's purpose and what it is about. I'm no scholar, not by a long shot but found that a disciplined approach helped because it is a dense read. I read this as part of a group read and looking back it is the only way that I could have tackled this. On reflection I couldn't say that I read Aristotle's Nicomach I dare say that if I ever come to read this again I would no doubt rate it higher than I have done here. Also if you are looking at this particular book then you already have an inkling as to it's purpose and what it is about. I'm no scholar, not by a long shot but found that a disciplined approach helped because it is a dense read. I read this as part of a group read and looking back it is the only way that I could have tackled this. On reflection I couldn't say that I read Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, I'd be more comfortable saying that I studied it.
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  • Mia (Parentheses Enthusiast)
    January 1, 1970
    This one’s for smarter people than I to figure out. It’s entirely possible the convoluted sentences that gave me so many headaches were the fault of the translation; I thought it was a tangled, muddy mess with flashes of occasional brilliance and clarity—Aristotle shining through?—but I appreciate the practicality of the philosophy laid out here. “Hence we ought to examine what has been said by applying it to what we do and how we live; and if it harmonises with what we do, we should accept it, This one’s for smarter people than I to figure out. It’s entirely possible the convoluted sentences that gave me so many headaches were the fault of the translation; I thought it was a tangled, muddy mess with flashes of occasional brilliance and clarity—Aristotle shining through?—but I appreciate the practicality of the philosophy laid out here. “Hence we ought to examine what has been said by applying it to what we do and how we live; and if it harmonises with what we do, we should accept it, but if it conflicts we should count it as mere words.”
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  • Frankie Della Torre
    January 1, 1970
    The Nicomachean Ethics represents Aristotle’s search for how to live the virtuous life. The treatise doesn’t search for an abstract virtue in itself (like Plato), but rather for how to achieve virtue in practice. This is a necessarily inexact, almost pragmatic enterprise, and Aristotle thinks we should approach it as such rather than pretending we’re discussing mathematical platitudes.Aristotle thinks that all human activity chases some end that we consider good. The highest ends are those that The Nicomachean Ethics represents Aristotle’s search for how to live the virtuous life. The treatise doesn’t search for an abstract virtue in itself (like Plato), but rather for how to achieve virtue in practice. This is a necessarily inexact, almost pragmatic enterprise, and Aristotle thinks we should approach it as such rather than pretending we’re discussing mathematical platitudes.Aristotle thinks that all human activity chases some end that we consider good. The highest ends are those that we pursue in themselves, as opposed to those things that we pursue as means to other ends. There must be a supreme good, a final motivation that inspires all other pursuits. This final end, Aristotle thinks, is happiness. Humans seem to act in such a way that we choose happiness as an end sufficient in itself.But since there are a number of competing definitions of happiness, Aristotle assesses goodness in terms of how humans perform (rather than discuss) the happy life. He observes that we call people good if they perform their functions well (e.g. a person who plays flute well is a good flutist). Humans seem to have a function that distinguishes us from plants and animals, namely, our rationality. Thus, man is good when he actively (throughout his lifetime) exercises his soul’s rational faculties in conformity with the moral virtues—this is true happiness. In other words, virtue is a way of life, a lifestyle.Aristotle thinks that virtues of character can be described as means, intermediates, between the extremes of deficiency or excess. Someone who always runs away from conflicts in fear is said to be a coward (i.e. deficiency), while someone who never fears anything is said to be rash (i.e. excess). In this instance, virtue is the mean between these two extremes—namely, courage. For Aristotle, the morally virtuous life comes when a person habitually chooses these good actions deliberately, accurately balancing between the two polar vices. This is not an easy task, however, for man is naturally prone to anything but equilibrium. Still some things don’t have means, but are simply inherently wrong (e.g. murder). One’s virtue or vice is also something which affects a person’s experience of pleasure or pain. The truly virtuous person will feel pleasure at noble actions, and pain at evil actions. Furthermore, Aristotle attaches three other important conditions to one’s virtuous actions: (a) they must be done knowingly, (b) they must be chosen for their own sakes, and (c) they must be chosen by someone with a steady disposition.Virtue also presupposes the concept of choice. Aristotle divides actions into three classes: voluntary, involuntary, and non-voluntary. An action is voluntary when the moving principle comes from within the person choosing—entailing culpability. An action is involuntary when the moving principle comes from without (e.g. someone who is carried somewhere by the wind)—entailing immunity. And an action is non-voluntary when a person has to choose between the lesser of two bad options—in this category it can be debated whether a person is responsible for their choices. The virtuous life is one that entails voluntarily doing what’s right for one’s lifetime, in-keeping with a virtuous character.
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  • Christopher (Donut)
    January 1, 1970
    Reading a book a week with a Goodreads group (the Ethica Nicomachea (EN) is divided into ten books), by the end I was exhausted, and took a long break before reading the Interpretive Essay, which, when I did sit down and read, I thought did an excellent job of pointing out some of Aristotle's complexities.So, I don't give it five stars because I loved it from cover to cover, or would start reading it again tomorrow, or any time, but five stars because it is the kind of book that would reward a l Reading a book a week with a Goodreads group (the Ethica Nicomachea (EN) is divided into ten books), by the end I was exhausted, and took a long break before reading the Interpretive Essay, which, when I did sit down and read, I thought did an excellent job of pointing out some of Aristotle's complexities.So, I don't give it five stars because I loved it from cover to cover, or would start reading it again tomorrow, or any time, but five stars because it is the kind of book that would reward a lifetime's study, which is pretty daunting, come to think of it.Am I letting you down, EN?
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  • Crito
    January 1, 1970
    This is an excellent edition if you really want to dig your teeth into Aristotle, Sarah Broadie's near line by line commentary is great. The translation is technical and might not appeal to you if the idea of an even drier Aristotle makes you wretch, but it at least makes things less ambiguous. You could always read a different one in tandem because the commentary is really the star of this one.
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  • Gavin
    January 1, 1970
    Forgive a long and direct quoting of my favourite passage:"Benefactors are thought to love those whom they have benefited more than the beneficiaries love their benefactors... [m]ost people conclude that it is because the latter owe and the former are owed a debt... It may be thought, however, that the cause lies deeper in nature, and that the case of the lender is not even analagous. It is not affection that the lender feels, but a wish for the debtor's safety with a view to reimbursement; wher Forgive a long and direct quoting of my favourite passage:"Benefactors are thought to love those whom they have benefited more than the beneficiaries love their benefactors... [m]ost people conclude that it is because the latter owe and the former are owed a debt... It may be thought, however, that the cause lies deeper in nature, and that the case of the lender is not even analagous. It is not affection that the lender feels, but a wish for the debtor's safety with a view to reimbursement; whereas the author of a kindness feels affection and love for the recipient even if he neither is nor is likely to be of any use to him. This is just what happens in the other crafts too. Every craftsman loves the work of his own hands more than it would love him if it came to life. Probably this happens most of all with poets, because they are exceedingly fond of their own poems, loving them as if they were their children. Well, the case of the benefactor is much the same. What he has benefited is his own handiwork; so he loves it more than the work loves its maker. The reason for this is that existence is to everyone an object of choice and love, and we exist through activity (because we exist by living and acting); and the maker of the work exists, in a sense, through his activity. Therefore the maker loves his work, because he loves existence. This is a natural principle; for the work reveals in actuality what is only potentially."In truth this is more of a psychological insight than a philosophical one, but I embrace these even when the ancient context sometimes lessens their practical worth. In the excellent introduction it's pointed out that Aristotle's aim is really "human expertise rather than moral excellence", and in this sense it is more concerned with practical concerns than I found with Plato's Republic, which I read before this. The prescriptivism might annoy at first, but in the end you see the shape of what he's getting at, and recall Aristotle's own warnings that none of this is an exact science. I particularly like his principle of aiming for the mean in all things - essentially, always choosing the porridge that is neither too hot nor too cold, in virtue. He leaves it to us to work out where our own "means" lie, which thankfully separates it from any specious self-help book - but I absolutely get it. I get the impression this idea was a Big Thing with Aristotle - I haven't read any of his other works, but it's a principle I can get behind.Unfortunately it's a tough read in parts. As the introduction politely puts it, "the vintage is not for quaffing". Apparently Aristotle was wonderfully good at speaking and writing, but what we've gotten passed down through the ages amounts to terse lecture notes, though it isn't as bad as that sounds. Plato is better in this respect. Still worth it though. The translation is good, reasonably well annotated, and the introduction is sensible though probably more interesting to read afterwards. There's plenty of other Aristotle about, but this is probably a good one to have a go at.
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  • Andrew
    January 1, 1970
    The introduction goes through the word 'ethics' and how Aristotle meant something different - more about character.Also by happiness he meant something different.There exists an indeterminancy of translation: you can never have a perfect translation - but translations are to be judged by how closely they bring about the same sensations as the original work.So I think the translation of this book is not bad, but misleading- and it'd be better to use the original Greek words for these complex idea The introduction goes through the word 'ethics' and how Aristotle meant something different - more about character.Also by happiness he meant something different.There exists an indeterminancy of translation: you can never have a perfect translation - but translations are to be judged by how closely they bring about the same sensations as the original work.So I think the translation of this book is not bad, but misleading- and it'd be better to use the original Greek words for these complex ideas, instead of using bastardized English words that hold modern connotations.It's amazing how many modern beliefs are rooted in these ancient texts. For that alone I'd give this book 5 stars - it allows the reader to understand the opinions of his society, and perhaps transcend them through sober evaluation.I'd recommend reading the 1st chapter and the last one (the tenth), as those deal explicitly with happiness; which is the chief concern of this text.
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  • Thomas
    January 1, 1970
    Aristotle's most polished book is still a diamond in the rough, and the student must still be the one to smooth the edges. It's not an easy task, but a worthy one, if only to admire the precision of his thinking. Aristotle is a scientist in style and personality, which raises a serious question right at the outset: "Is human happiness a science?" He seems to say that it is not, but then he proceeds with a scientific analysis, because as a scientist he has no alternative. It is a curious exercise Aristotle's most polished book is still a diamond in the rough, and the student must still be the one to smooth the edges. It's not an easy task, but a worthy one, if only to admire the precision of his thinking. Aristotle is a scientist in style and personality, which raises a serious question right at the outset: "Is human happiness a science?" He seems to say that it is not, but then he proceeds with a scientific analysis, because as a scientist he has no alternative. It is a curious exercise.
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  • Markus
    January 1, 1970
    I'm way too dumb for this
  • Alan Johnson
    January 1, 1970
    I finished this Bartlett-Collins translation of Aristotle's monumental Nicomachean Ethics today. I read Books 1 and 2 in the hardcover edition and the remainder in the Kindle edition (which is easier on my eyes). In 1969, I read the entirety of the David Ross translation of this treatise. I reread a substantial portion of that translation in 1996. (I also read portions of the Martin Ostwald translation in 1965). It is a difficult and complex work of art. To the extent I understand (or think I un I finished this Bartlett-Collins translation of Aristotle's monumental Nicomachean Ethics today. I read Books 1 and 2 in the hardcover edition and the remainder in the Kindle edition (which is easier on my eyes). In 1969, I read the entirety of the David Ross translation of this treatise. I reread a substantial portion of that translation in 1996. (I also read portions of the Martin Ostwald translation in 1965). It is a difficult and complex work of art. To the extent I understand (or think I understand) it, I agree with some of Aristotle's points and disagree with others. I do not have time to write a detailed analysis of the entire Nicomachean Ethics. See, however, my extended discussion of Book 1 here. For my and others' additional comments, see the Ethical Philosophy of Aristotle topic of the Political Philosophy and Ethics Goodreads group.The Bartlett-Collins translation may be the best of the extant translations, though I have some disagreements with a few of their translation decisions. The translations of Joe Sachs, C. D. C. Reeve, and Martin Ostwald are also generally good. Sir David Ross's translation is mostly reliable, though I have issues with some of his translation decisions. I am not familiar with other translations.My plan now is to reread Aristotle's Eudemian Ethics, which I previously read in 2014.Alan E. JohnsonSeptember 10, 2018
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  • Jeffrey Brannen
    January 1, 1970
    First philosophy book I’ve read with a cliffhanger ending... Who knew you could do that?Third attempt and finally completed it. One of the foundational works of Western civilization and something that modern authors and audiences are interacting with, even if they don’t know it. What is the chief end of man? What is the highest purpose of his existence? Aristotle argues that the answer is happiness. The rest of the work is attempting to sort through that answer, especially as it relates to the c First philosophy book I’ve read with a cliffhanger ending... Who knew you could do that?Third attempt and finally completed it. One of the foundational works of Western civilization and something that modern authors and audiences are interacting with, even if they don’t know it. What is the chief end of man? What is the highest purpose of his existence? Aristotle argues that the answer is happiness. The rest of the work is attempting to sort through that answer, especially as it relates to the city. I found most of the work helpful, especially as I am trying to better understand ancient Greece. The worldview is quite different in its assumptions from our own, but it is that difference that makes it so valuable. They aren’t making the same mistakes we are (even if they’re making mistakes of their own). The Barnes and Noble’s edition I worked through was well designed except for the end notes. They were not excessive and could have been footnotes because most of them were explanatory in nature. While footnotes can chase off people afraid of technical works, I’m not imagining that the sorts of people reading The Ethics would be bothered by a few brief footnotes. There was plenty of space to take notes in the margins and the paper was of good quality. The binding held up well. I can’t address the quality of translation for two reasons. One, I can’t read Greek well-enough to compare the original to the translation and, two, this is the first time I’ve read The Ethics so I’ve nothing to compare it to.
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  • Amy
    January 1, 1970
    Dry but thought-provoking. Obviously, it is hard to rate someone like Aristotle. For the way it shaped Western thought, Ethics easily deserves 5 stars. Yet it also proved a dense and frequently uninteresting read, so in fairness to myself as an educated reader, I'm rating based on my personal understanding and appreciation. 4 stars it gets.
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  • Erick
    January 1, 1970
    This is one of the more important of Aristotle's works; and, for me, one of the more practical and interesting ones. Here, Aristotle's pedantry does seem to yield better results. In any discussion of ethics, one should investigate as many facets and hypotheticals that may possibly be relevant and appropriate. Aristotle, to his credit, does the subject justice; and even if I may not totally agree with him in all of his conclusions, overall, I think I can assent to much that is here. Prior to Aris This is one of the more important of Aristotle's works; and, for me, one of the more practical and interesting ones. Here, Aristotle's pedantry does seem to yield better results. In any discussion of ethics, one should investigate as many facets and hypotheticals that may possibly be relevant and appropriate. Aristotle, to his credit, does the subject justice; and even if I may not totally agree with him in all of his conclusions, overall, I think I can assent to much that is here. Prior to Aristotle, and even after, many philosophical schools (the Stoics especially) oversimplified the subject of ethics and/or morals. Pleasure itself was often seen as an evil that should be eradicated root and branch. Aristotle holds that this trivializes the nature of pleasure and treats all pleasures the same way. For Aristotle, there are pleasures that are healthy and some that are unhealthy. The most healthy is the pleasure that comes from contemplation and intellectual pursuits. The most unhealthy are those that come from fleshly lusts. I am mostly in agreement with Aristotle here. I think Aristotle trivializes the nature of anger though and does not recognize that it can be as bad, if not worse, than other so-called lusts of the flesh. I think it would be hard to argue against the assertion that most violence stems from anger in some manner. So I personally (counter to Aristotle) would list anger as one of the worst of the fleshly dispositions when it is not controlled. Aristotle sees moderation as the key component of a healthy disposition. One needs to avoid extremes and find a happy medium. Indeed, Aristotle sees happiness as the goal of this moderation. One can only find this medium through a process of intellection. The mind must be actively engaged in the pursuit of ethics. Much of Aristotle's thought here presupposes a familiarity with his categories. So some acquaintance with Aristotle's logical works can help to understand Aristotle's approach to ethics. The edition I read was from Dover and was translated by D. P. Chase. Chase left some important Greek terms untranslated, which I was very happy to see. He clarifies these Greek terms in the endnotes. His notes are incredibly illuminating; although, I am dissatisfied with the lack of proper footnoting. I would have rather that the Greek words, and other notable portions that are dealt with in the endnotes, were properly marked in the book so one could refer to the back as one reads. As it stands, I read the notes after I had finished the book. I encourage anyone who reads this edition to regularly refer to the endnotes while reading because they do offer some great insights into the text. Nicomachean Ethics is definitely essential Aristotle and I do personally recommend it as a great philosophical work dealing with the subject of ethics. I personally feel that one can not approach this subject without love (agape/phileo) playing a more substantial role than it does for Aristotle, but one can certainly appreciate the insights Aristotle does offer regarding this subject.
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  • Feliks
    January 1, 1970
    It's a strange book from Aristotle, who is my favorite classical thinker. Many readers say it's his best. I wish I could join in the enthusiasm. Many say its "quintessential" Aristotle. I can agree with this, and gladly, too. After all, it's certainly written in the Aristotlean style I admire: very crisp, deliberate, patient, methodical, and transparent. Many readers also say it's "their favorite work of Aristotle's". Unfortunately, I can't go along with this. As important as this book is, it is It's a strange book from Aristotle, who is my favorite classical thinker. Many readers say it's his best. I wish I could join in the enthusiasm. Many say its "quintessential" Aristotle. I can agree with this, and gladly, too. After all, it's certainly written in the Aristotlean style I admire: very crisp, deliberate, patient, methodical, and transparent. Many readers also say it's "their favorite work of Aristotle's". Unfortunately, I can't go along with this. As important as this book is, it is not a pleasure or a treat to plod through. The first four chapters left me entirely flat. And many later sections also, left me unmoved. Only in Chapter V did I see the famous Aristotlean, analytical turn-of-mind I appreciate so much. This lone chapter makes it worth the read; and worth its reputation; but it can not save the rest of the pages from their dour and homely character. Much of this tract simply anatomizes various facets of man's character and faculties. A staid and stentorian list of our passions, our faults, our habits, our excesses. Certainly--representing the first ethical treatise of this kind in western civilization--this marks it as pioneering and fundamental; yet it is still not the content I was seeking from this legendary title. Still not the most dazzling rays I've discovered, from this great mind. Perhaps it's just my yen for Metaphysics; where Aristotle remains firmly my choice of thinker. But what I really seek from a "guide to human ethics" is assistance in better applying ethics to my humble and lowly existence. I don't particularly require a roadmap to my human psychology; as one might find in a psychiatric glossary. But this is precisely the problem with 'Ethics', (as I experienced it, anyway). It is somehow too 'patent'. Too much of an 'encyclopedia'. It reads like a 'primer', or a 'dictionary'. Admittedly, some readers state that the 'simplistic' approach in it, is uniquely, Aristotle's own knack. He formulated thoughts that 'are so natural and intrinsic that they feel like your own'. Be that as it may...it is still a slog. Ultimately, this book will remain on my shelf for 'reference' rather than for 'delight'. That superb Chapter V; and some other remarkable passages...that's the extent of my thrill with this famous milestone of western thought!
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  • Tony
    January 1, 1970
    THE NICOMACHEAN ETHICS. Aristotle. ****.I have been picking away at this work for weeks now, and have decided that I have read enough to say I have the gist of Aristotle’s teaching on the subject. This is a stand-alone work, although it does presage “The Politics,” the summation of the same concerns for the State as this one does for the individual. As with many of the ancient philosophers, reading their writings is often a chore. It seems that they tend to repeat themselves over and over but us THE NICOMACHEAN ETHICS. Aristotle. ****.I have been picking away at this work for weeks now, and have decided that I have read enough to say I have the gist of Aristotle’s teaching on the subject. This is a stand-alone work, although it does presage “The Politics,” the summation of the same concerns for the State as this one does for the individual. As with many of the ancient philosophers, reading their writings is often a chore. It seems that they tend to repeat themselves over and over but using different phraseology. What is key with most of them is to isolate the gist of their thinking from each section before moving on. Although I consider this an important work of philosophy, I don’t consider it a general reader’s book. It is more a book that should be read as part of a study of philosophy of the ages. As a general reader, I am sure that I missed a lot of what he was trying to tell us, where I would not have done so under the tutelage of a trained teacher. “ “Ethics” discusses those admirable human qualities which fit a man for life in an organized civic community, which makes him “a good citizen,” and considers how they can be fostered or created and their opposites prevented. This is the darnel of the Ethics, and all the rest is subordinate to this main interest and purpose. Yet ‘the rest’ is not irrelevant.” Slow reading is an imperative with Aristotle. He says too much in simple terms for any swift read. I used to wonder – back in my college days – what students could possibly be doing in a course intitled, “Politics and Poetics.” Now I know. Recommended.
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  • kaelan
    January 1, 1970
    Aristotle’s main purpose in Nicomachean Ethics is to define what exactly constitutes virtue and, more generally, the good life. To the modern reader, many of his arguments appear blatantly invalid (perhaps most troubling is that his account seems to rest on a possible tautology: a virtuous act is an act such that a virtuous man would do it). Furthermore, many of his beliefs are so grounded in 4th-century Greek thought as to make any modern day applications of his philosophy improbable.Nonetheles Aristotle’s main purpose in Nicomachean Ethics is to define what exactly constitutes virtue and, more generally, the good life. To the modern reader, many of his arguments appear blatantly invalid (perhaps most troubling is that his account seems to rest on a possible tautology: a virtuous act is an act such that a virtuous man would do it). Furthermore, many of his beliefs are so grounded in 4th-century Greek thought as to make any modern day applications of his philosophy improbable.Nonetheless, there are moments of brilliance here. Personally, I found Aristotle's dismissal of the possibility of universal moral laws particularly interesting. Also, I was entertained by his common-sense approach – especially in regards to friendship.Whether or not you take any practical wisdom away from this book, Aristotle is one of the most important figures in the history of Western philosophy, and it is interesting to see where we came from.Edit: the more I think back on this book, the better it seems. Aristotle has been criticized as relying too heavily on 'common sense' notions (see Russell's History of Western Philosophy). Perhaps there is some truth to these claims. Yet, there is advice in NE that I would gladly pass on to people I actually know. This raises the question: if philosophy cannot be put into practice – particularly in regards to an ethical theory, what value can it have? Aristotle, for better or for worse, was attempting to create an ethics that could be lived.
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