The Nicomachean Ethics

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 a...

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Title:The Nicomachean Ethics
Author:Aristotle
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ISBN:0140449493
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Paperback
Number of Pages:329 pages

The Nicomachean Ethics Reviews

  • Mandi
    Oct 08, 2008

    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.

  • Ahmad Sharabiani
    Oct 02, 2009

    The Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle

    عنوان: اخلاق نیکوماخوس؛ ارسطو؛ مترجم: صلاح الدین سلجوقی

  • Nemo
    Sep 24, 2010

    Having 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

    Having 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.

    Aristotle'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.

    There 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.

  • Bruce
    May 18, 2011

    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

    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

    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.

  • John Doe
    Dec 26, 2011

    If you are going to walk, you may as well learn to walk in the proper way. If you are going to eat, you may as well learn the art of eating. Which one is the salad fork? Aristotle thinks we achieve happiness by learning the art of living. Our lives are a work of art, and we learn the technique of happiness.

    It is true that we want a doctor that knows the art of surgery. And this makes make him a good surgeon. But being competent does not make you a good person.

    I like the idea that ethics has to

    If you are going to walk, you may as well learn to walk in the proper way. If you are going to eat, you may as well learn the art of eating. Which one is the salad fork? Aristotle thinks we achieve happiness by learning the art of living. Our lives are a work of art, and we learn the technique of happiness.

    It is true that we want a doctor that knows the art of surgery. And this makes make him a good surgeon. But being competent does not make you a good person.

    I like the idea that ethics has to do with feelings, and I think we aren't always moved to act by the right reasons. But I am an Aristotelian by no means.

  • Hend Mous'ad Muhammad
    Oct 08, 2012

    ابرز ما جاء فى الكتاب نظرية الوسط الأخلاقى لأرسطو، الذى أطلق عليه الوسط العادل القائم على تجنب الإفراط والتفريط، فإذا كانت خصائص الفضيلة هى التوسط، فإن خصائص الرذيلة هى الإفراط أو التفريط، ينطبق هذا على الأخلاق والسلوك والعادات، بل وعلى الجمال الحسى، ففضيلة كل شيء فى تحقيق الإعتدال، فالشجاعة متوسطة بين الخوف والتقحم، والسخاء وسط بين التبذير والتقتير، وقل مثل هذا فى الحلم والحياء وغير هذه من الأخلاق والإنفعالات والسلوك.

  • Brad Lyerla
    Nov 18, 2013

    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 w

    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 very difficult to read. I am told that this likely is due to the fact that it was compiled from notes of Aristotle's students and is not the book that Aristotle wrote. That is, these are notes of his lectures. 

They read like it. 

My way of dealing with its impenetrability was to listen to lectures from the Teaching Company as I reread 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 can't read it on your own without constantly falling asleep. So figure out a way to get through it with patience and attention. You will be rewarded for your effort.

  • Markus
    Nov 04, 2014

    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

    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

    , the rule of one. But its corresponding deviation, which is

    , 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

    , the rule of the best. And aristocracy in its corrupted form is

    , the second worst form of government. Lastly, the third finest form of government is

    , 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

    , 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.

  • Glenn Russell
    Dec 12, 2015

    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:

  • Cassandra Kay Silva
    May 05, 2016

    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.