Nicomachean Ethics

The Nicomachean Ethics is Aristotle's most famous work about Ethics. Originally written for his son, Nicomach, it is meant as a guide for living a good life. Even though this was written a really long time ago, you should pay attention, as it is more than likely that you can use his ideas, insights and arguments when you try and figure out how to best live your life. Our ethical concerns just don't change very much at all…

For Aristotle ethics is an attempt to find out our chief end or highest good: some end is really final. He insists there must be one, or we could never explain anything. Much like Plato then, he looks for that thing which is good in itself, that goal which our actions all really aim at. In other words, our aspirations and desires must have some final object or pursuit. Generally, we call this final goal "happiness". However, since there seems to be a lack of agreement about what happiness actually is, Aristotle finds it necessary to discuss the nature of it for himself. Although he was Plato's student, Aristotle rejects Plato's ideas of the good existing as a form, in the realm of forms. Instead, he thinks that happiness must be based on human nature, and must begin from the facts of personal experience. The good for human beings will therefore be particular to human beings—our happiness must then be found in the work and life which is unique to humans. This can't just be the organic aspect of our existence ("vegetative" in aristotelian terms"), and it can't be linked only to our physical experiences, since animals also have these. Reason is what distinguishes humans from other forms of life, and thus our true happiness lies in the active life of a rational being. Our "eudamonia," the good life," needs to be a realization of our natural capacities over an entire life. You really can't be said to live a good life if you only do so for ten minutes a day.

Aristotle Takes on Plato

Aristotle's NE Book by Book

Nichomachean Ethics Themes

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