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title : Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics : Notes ...

author : Milch, Robert J.

publisher : John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (US)
isbn10 | asin :
print isbn13 : 9780822008897
ebook isbn13 : 9780822070122
language : English
subject Aristotle.--Nicomachean ethics, Ethics.
publication date : 1966
lcc : B430.M55 1966eb
ddc : 185
subject : Aristotle.--Nicomachean ethics, Ethics.
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Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics


Robert Milch, B.A.
Charles H. Patterson, Ph.D.
Professor of Philosophy
University of Nebraska

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Consulting Editor

ISBN 0-8220-0889-0
Copyright 1966
Cliffs Notes, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
Printed in U.S.A.
1999 Printing
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may not be used in whole or in part without written
Cliffs Notes, Inc. Lineoln, Nebraska
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Life of Aristotle
Aristotle's Works
Aristotle's Method & His Place in Intellectual History
The Main Points of Aristotle's Ethical Philosophy
Subjects Covered in the

Summaries and Critical Commentaries

Book 1

Book 2

Book 3

Book 4

Book 5

Book 6

Book 7

Book 8

Book 9

Book 10
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Selected Bibliography
Works by Aristotle Available in Paperback Editions
Review Questions
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The Aristotle's most important study
of personal morality and the ends of human life, has for
many centuries been a widely-read and influential book.
Though written more than 2,000 years ago, it offers the
modern reader many valuable insights into human needs
and conduct. Among its 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. In addition, the book vividly reflects Aristotle's
achievements in other areas of philosophy and is a good
example of his analytical method, which must be considered
the ultimate basis of all modern scientific research.
People have not changed significantly in the many years
since Aristotle first lectured on ethics at the Lyceum in
Athens. The human types and problems he discusses are
familiar to everyone. The rules of conduct and explanations
of virtue and goodness that he proposes can all help
modern man to attain a fuller and more satisying
understanding of his responsibilities as a member of society
and the purpose of his existence. For this alone Aristotle's
book is still worth reading.
Aristotle's Life
Aristotle was born in 384 B.C. in Stagira, a small town in
Thrace. His father, Nicomachus, was a famous doctor who
served as personal physician to King Amyntas II of
Macedonia and had many connections at the royal court. It
appears likely that Nicomachus played an important part in
Aristotle's early intellectual development, encouraging his
interest in biology and other natural sciences, and perhaps
also training him in medicine.
After the deaths of both his parents, Aristotle went to
Athens at the age of 17 to study at Plato's Academy. He
remained there for nearly 20 years, toward the end
supporting himself as a teacher of rhetoric. There were
many popular stories in ancient times about personal
conflicts between Plato and Aristotle during this period, but
they have no factual basis and seem to have been
prompted by Aristotle's later opposition to many of Plato's
doctrines. Aristotle was very much under Plato's influence
while studying at the Academy and his earliest written
works were dialogues patterned after those of Plato and
expressing conventional Platonic philosophical ideas. Even
many years after Plato's death, when he was fully
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in his own right as the head of a philosophical school,
Aristotle continued to remember his teacher with the
warmest affection and respect, as is shown by his
comments in the first book of the .
Nicknamed "the mind" and "the reader" by Plato, Aristotle
rapidly became one of the most outstanding students at
the Academy. When Plato died in 348 B.C., his nephew
Speusippus was appointed head of the school. Having no
personal loyalty to Speusippus and disagreeing with his
tendency "to turn philosophy into mathematics," Aristotle
decided to leave Athens. Some scholars have suggested
that he resented not having gotten the post which
Speusippus inherited.
Accompanied by a few other students, Aristotle went to
Atarneus, a small city on the western coast of Asia Minor,
which was governed by Hermias, a former student at the
Academy with whom he was friendly. Aristotle married
Hermias' niece and established his own school at Assos,
near the site of ancient Troy, on land Hermias gave him.
A few years later, Hermias was overthrown and murdered
by a pro-Persian faction. It was no longer safe for Aristotle
to remain at Assos, so he took his family to Mytilene on
the island of Lesbos, the home of Theophrastus, another
friend from his Academy days. Aristotle spent the next
three years there, collecting data for his studies in biology.
It is widely believed that he used this interlude for rethinking
his whole philosophical position and had completely broken
with Plato's system by the time he left Lesbos.
In 343 B.C., King Philip of Macedonia invited Aristotle to act
as tutor to his 13 year old son Alexander. Still under
Plato's influence to the extent that he thought it important
to teach philosophy to princes, Aristotle immediately
accepted the offer and moved with his family to Pella, the
Macedonian capital. He lived there for almost eight years,
but served as tutor for less than four because Alexander
was soon called on to act as regent for his father and
could spare little time for academic studies. The philosopher
and his pupil are said to have become good friends, but
in view of Alexander's later career and ideas, it is thought
that Aristotle's teaching made no lasting impression on him.
Philip was assassinated in 335 B.C. and Alexander became
King. After a quick pacification of the Greek states, he set
out on his famous campaign against the Persian Empire.
Several of Aristotle's students accompanied the victorious
army to do research in the strange new lands of the east,
and with Alexander's cooperation sent back at regular
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written reports on their findings, as well as samples of
plants, animals, minerals and anything else of interest.
Meanwhile, Aristotle returned to Athens, where he founded
his own philosophical school at the Lyceum, a public
garden and gymnasium dedicated to Apollo, which soon
became known as the "peripatetic" school because of the
or covered walk where he strolled each morning
with his students while lecturing on various subjects.
Aristotle remained in Athens for 12 years, during which he
did his most important writing and teaching. In all disciplines
he emphasized empirical research and the accumulation of
data before drawing conclusions, and the Lyceum was
noted, among other things, for its library and zoo, both of
which were valuable adjuncts to this aspect of his teaching.
The Lyceum soon came to rival the Academy, and
continued in existence as a school for nearly 800 years.
When Alexander died in Persia in 323 B.C., a wave of
anti-Macedonian feeling swept through Athens and the rest
of Greece. As Alexander's tutor and friend, Aristotle was
one of its first victims. He was charged with impiety and
brought to trial, more for political than religious reasons. To
prevent the Athenians "from sinning a second time against
philosophy," as he explained with an allusion to the fate of
Socrates, Aristotle took his family north to Chalcis, his
mother's birthplace, where he owned an estate. He died
there soon afterwards in November, 322, at the age of 62.
His old friend Theophrastus succeeded him as head of the
Lyceum and continued his work in Athens, while his son
Nicomachus along with some other students devoted
themselves to compiling and editing his lectures.
Aristotle's Works
Unlike the dialogues of Plato, none of Aristotle's surviving
works are noted for their literary craftsmanship, and, with
the exception of the were never
intended for publication in their present form. In ancient
times, when his published works were still in existence,
however, Aristotle had a solid reputation as a literary stylist,
attested by such authorities as Cicero and Quintillian.
When Aristotle died, his library, including all his notes, the
rough drafts of his lectures, and copies of his lectures
made by students, were inherited by Theophrastus, who in
turn left them to his own heir. The papers were taken to
Asia Minor for safekeeping and stored for many years in a
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damp basement where they were soon forgotten. They
were rediscovered around 100 B.C. and sold to a collector
of old books who took them to Athens, where they were
confiscated and sent to Rome after the city fell to Sulla's
legions in 86 B.C.
Aristotle's papers, by this time badly disorganized and
deteriorated, now came into the hands of librarians and
scholars in Rome, who edited them in a rather haphazard
fashion, occasionally filling in gaps with their own words. A
hastily copied and error-laden pirated edition of the text
quickly went into circulation. A more authoritative edition was
prepared a few years later and published around 70 B.C.
Since even the Lyceum had no definitive version of
Aristotle's teachings and he had been most widely known
until then for Platonist dialogues and general works written
on a semi-popular level, these newly published texts had a
tremendous intellectual impact and led to a revival of
interest in Aristotelian philosophy. His works were widely
studied and carefully preserved from then on.
In ancient times Aristotle was said to have written several
hundred books and treatises on a wide variety of subjects.
The titles of slightly more than 200 of these are still
known, but some seem to have been duplications. Others
were probably not genuine and may have been written by
his successors at the Lyceum. The present corpus of
Aristotelian works, most of which derive from the
manuscripts brought to Rome in 86 B.C., comprises 47
long and short treatises, about 20 of which are spurious,
as well as a large number of fragments that appeared as
extracts or references in the works of other ancient writers.
The following descriptive list, which includes most of the
works considered to be genuine, illustrates the broad scope
of Aristotle's interests and shows how he laid the
groundwork for later research and speculation in many
different fields.
I. Works on Logic (known collectively as the or
"tool" because they deal with methodology, the tool of

1. a treatise on the fundamental

classification of ideas, particularly isolated and uncombined

2. a treatise on philosophical terminology

in general, with emphasis on the theory and analysis of
propositions used to show relations between concepts.

3. 2 books on the laws of syllogistic

reasoning and the proper use of the syllogism.

4. 2 books on methods of
demonstration and definition.
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5. 8 books on dialectical inferences, probability,

and the use of the syllogism.

6. a treatise on the solution of

Sophist fallacies and the refutation of false syllogisms.
II. Works on Natural Science.

1. 8 books on the general bases and relations of

nature as a whole, containing discussions of movement
and change, place, time, motion, the transformation of
potentiality into actuality, .

2. 2 books on the heavenly and

sublunary bodies.

3. 2 books on the cyclical

sequence of transformations.

4. 4 books on the phenomena of the air,

with some discussion of chemistry and physics.
III. Works on Biology.

1. 10 books containing a classified

collection of facts pertaining to the anatomy of organisms,
with particular emphasis on morphology (the branch of
biological science concerning form and structure without
regard for function).

2. 4 books on physiology.

3. .

4. 1 book on the
mechanical aspects of physiology.

5. 5 books on embryology
and reproduction.
IV. Works on Psychology.

1. 3 books on the nature, functions, and

elements of the soul, considered to be the foundation of all
modern psychological studies.

2. A collection of 9 treatises on specific areas of

psychological investigation, collectively known as the
and including such works as:

V. Works on Methaphysics.

1. 14 books on what Aristotle called ''first

philosophy," the study of absolute being, dealing with such
things as being in itself and the ultimate grounds of being,
the relation of matter and form, causation (material, formal,
efficient, and final causes), and the Prime Mover.
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VI. Works on Ethics.

1. .

2. 7 books, 3 of which are almost

identical with books of the and which
is evidently an earlier and less comprehensive treatment of
the same subject.

3. an abstract in 2 books of the other

works on ethics, which contains some Stoic elements and
is therefore thought to be at least partly spurious.
VII. Works on Political Science.

1. 8 books on the origins, purpose, and elements

of the state, the various kinds of constitutions, ideal
education, and related topics.

2. a treatise covering the

history and political development of the Athenian state to
about 328 B.C. This is the only surviving work from a
collection of 158 Greek and non-Greek constitutions made
at the Lyceum during Aristotle's lifetime, discovered by
chance in Egypt in 1890, and is the only known text
actually prepared by him for publication.
VIII. Works on Aesthetics.

1. a treatise on public speaking and means

of persuasion, with emphasis on logic, psychology, and

2. a treatise on the art of poetry which does

not survive in full, but contains a valuable and
comprehensive discussion of Greek tragedy.
Aristotle's Method and Place in Intellectual History
Aristotle's method, in ethics as in all other fields, was critical
and empirical. In the study of any subject he began by
collecting, analyzing, and grouping all relevant facts in order
to determine their meaning and relations with each other,
and this gave him a systematic and factually correct basis
from which to generalize about underlying rules or
principles. In generalizing, he used either the inductive
approach, reasoning from many observed single instances
to a universal proposition, or the syllogism, a means of
deductive reasoning which he invented, and defined as
"certain things being stated, something else follows of
necessity without need of further testimony," proceeding
from previously established general rules or facts down to
particular instances.
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The syllogism is used frequently by Aristotle in analytical
sections of the . It has two premises
one major (universal) and the other minor (particular), and
in its simplest form works as follows:
Major Premise: All A is B or: All men are mortal.
Minor Premise: C is part of A Socrates was a man.
Conclusion: C is B Socrates was mortal.

Of course, as Aristotle frequently warned, it is possible to

reason correctly from false premises, thus coming up with
a logically correct but untrue conclusion, and therefore it is
of essential importance to make certain that the premises
of a syllogism are true and sufficiently comprehensive to
cover all cases.
These modes of reasoning illustrate the most significant
difference between the Platonic and Aristotelian systems.
Plato postulated the existence of ideal, absolute standards
and forms, against which all human things had to be
measured. Aristotle, while not specifically denying the
existence of these abstract standards, approached the
same questions from another direction, and tried to
determine the nature of things by empirical observation and
logical analysis, never stating a hypothesis without first
testing it against the data.
Aristotle's work and method have had an unparalleled
influence on the development of thought. In the Middle
Ages he was considered an absolute authority on nearly
every subject, referred to by Saint Thomas Aquinas as
"The Philosopher" and by Dante as "Master of those that
know," although much of Aristotle's insistence on empirical
method was ignored by his medieval disciples.
Aristotle's technique and influence continued to play a large
role in the post-medieval world, and he is considered by
many as the father of research and empirical science, and
the founder of such diverse disciplines as logic, psychology,
political science, literary criticism, scientific grammar, physics,
physiology, biology and most other natural sciences. Some
scholars, in fact, have described the intellectual history of
western civilization as a permanent debate in which Aristotle
has sometimes triumphed and sometimes not, but in which
at all times his spirit and principles have acted as the
substructure and inspiration of progress.
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Main Points of Aristotle's Ethical Philosophy
1. The highest good and the end toward which all human
activity is directed is happiness, which can be defined as
continuous contemplation of eternal and universal truth.
2. One attains happiness by a virtuous life and the
development of reason and the faculty of theoretical
wisdom. For this one requires sufficient external goods to
ensure health, leisure, and the opportunity for virtuous
3. Moral virtue is a relative mean between extremes of
excess and deficiency, and in general the moral life is one
of moderation in all things except virtue. No human appetite
or desire is bad if it is controlled by reason according to a
moral principle. Moral virtue is acquired by a combination of
knowledge, habituation, and self-discipline.
4. Virtuous acts require conscious choice and moral
purpose or motivation. Man has personal moral
responsibility for his actions.
5. Moral virtue cannot be achieved abstractly it requires
moral action in a social environment. Ethics and politics are
closely related, for politics is the science of creating a
society in which men can live the good life and develop
their full potential.
Subjects Covered in The Nicomachean Ethics
Book I, Chap. 1-3: Nature of Ethics and methods of studying
Book I, Chap. 4-12: Discussion of Happiness and the good as the
ends of human life.
Book II, Chap. 1-4: Discussion of Moral Virtue.
Book II, Chap. 5-9: The Doctrine of the Mean.
Book III, Chap. 1-5: Moral purpose and moral responsibility.
Book III, Chap. 6-12, and Book IV: Discussion of particular moral
Book V: Discussion of Justice.
Book VI: The Intellectual Virtues.
Book VII: Continence and Incontinence.
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Books VIII and IX: Friendship.
Book X, Chap. 1-5: Further discussion of Pleasure.
Book X, Chap. 6-8: Happiness, the end of human life.
Book X, Chap. 9: Relationship of Ethics and Politics.

Book I

Chapter I
The Aim of All Action is the Good
All human actions and choices aim at some good, which
may be defined as the end or object of that action or
choice. There are as many kinds of ends as there are
kinds of activity and the ends may vary, depending on the
particular activity being studied ( , the end of medical
science is good health, the end of military science is
victory). Some ends are subordinate to other ends,
because the latter provide the motive for pursuing the
former ( , the activity of bridle-making is subordinate to
the more important activity of horsemanship, which is in
turn subordinate to the activity of military science). The
major ends for the sake of which minor ends are pursued
are superior and ought to be preferred.
Chapter II
Politics is the Study of the Good
If there should exist an end which is desirable for its own
sake, which determines and motivates all other actions and
choices, this end would be that which is absolutely good.
Knowledge of this good would be of great value, for it
would provide an aim for life and a standard by which to
evaluate all other activities and thoughts.
Politics, the most comprehensive of the practical sciences,
is the field of knowledge to which the study of this good
belongs. It is the aim of politics to create the best possible
conditions in which citizens can lead good lives. This can
only be achieved by a knowledge of the good. Thus, the
end of politics is human good. The study of ethics, which
shares this aim, is a branch of politics.
It is possible that the good of the community and the good
of the individual are identical, but even so the good of the
community is a greater
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and more perfect moral goal toward which to work. To
achieve the good of the individual is worthwhile, but the
good of the community, which is composed of many
individuals, has a higher, more divine quality.
Chapter III
Limitations on the Study of Politics and Ethics
The degree of precision and certainty that can be sought
in the study of any subject is dependent on the nature of
the particular subject. Some subjects allow more precision
in the conclusions to be drawn than do other subjects.
The questions of what is noble and what is just (the
subjects of politics and ethics) present a good deal of
varied opinion and divergence of opinion, and there is a
similar fluctuation in discussions on the nature of the good.
In any examination of this subject, one must be satisfied
with determining a rough outline of the truth, and must be
content with broad, generalized conclusions. We must
accept probabilities rather than absolute facts, for ethics is
not like geometry or physics. It is the sign of an educated
man that in every subject he studies, he seeks only that
degree of precision which the nature of the subject permits
( , it is absurd to expect logic from a public speaker
or probabilities from a mathematician).
It must also be remembered that men are competent
judges only of that which they understand. A good judge
in a specialized field must be a specialist in that field. A
good judge in general is one who has a good general
background of knowledge, culture, and experience. Thus,
the immature and the young are not equipped to be
students of politics and ethics, for they are not experienced
in the general business of life which is the basis of these
subjects. Also, the immature are easily swayed by emotions
and cannot derive benefit from a study whose end is not
knowing, but doing. This kind of immaturity is not always
due to age; it may also be due to a defect of character
present in a man of many years, for it comes about as a
result of leading a life made up of undirected and
unrelated emotional experiences. On the other hand, those
whose approach is directed by reason will benefit greatly
from the study of this subject.
Chapter IV
Varying Views of Happiness and the Good More
Discussion on Method
All knowledge, activity, and choice is directed toward some
good. The aim of politics ( , the highest good attainable
by action) is generally called
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"happiness." All people agree on giving it this name, but
there is much disagreement as to its definition. Even the
same man may define happiness differently at different
times ( , the sick man defines it as good health, the
poor man defines it as prosperity). The mass of men think
that happiness comes from sensual pleasure, material
well-being, and honorable status. Philosophers of the
Platonic school aver that there is an abstract, absolute
good from which all other specific goods are derived, and
that this is the source of happiness. There are many other
views. A detailed examination of all the opinions on the
nature of happiness would be pointless, and we must
concentrate our efforts on those which are most in
evidence or most seem to be based on good sense.
In regard to the method of this examination, it is important
to note the difference between arguments which proceed
from fundamental principles (deductive arguments) and
arguments which lead up to fundamental principles
(inductive arguments). In the study of ethics we must use
the inductive approach. We begin with that which is known,
more specifically, that which is known to us, and proceed
from this to more comprehensive statements and
awareness of the fundamental principle, or good. Thus, to
be a competent student of what is right and just ethics it
is necessary to have had a good moral upbringing. In
ethics we begin with the fact. If there is sufficient reason to
accept it as such, there is no need to determine why it
must be so, for the basis of our understanding of ethics is
relative, not absolute. Without proper moral training, it is
impossible to grasp the first principles of ethics, the
foundation of our study.
Chapter V
Varying Views of the Good Life
It is generally assumed that a man's idea of happiness
and the good is derived from the kind of life he leads.
There are three main kinds of life:
1. The life led by the masses of men, in which happiness
(the good) is identified with sensual pleasure. This is vulgar
and reveals a slavish, bestial mentality, little better than that
of the brute animals.
2. The life of the cultivated and men of affairs, in which
happiness is identified with honor (achieved through political
activity). This is too superficial a view, for honor is
dependent on those who confer it, not on those who
receive it, whereas the good is something personal that
cannot be taken away or given. Furthermore, men seek to
be honored for their virtue or excellence, and this makes it
clear that virtue and excellence are superior to honor.
Even excellence is an
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imperfect end, though, since such virtue is compatible with
inactivity, suffering, and misfortune ( , one can have
virtue while asleep, can possess it but not exercise it, can
be virtuous but suffer bad luck or harsh treatment) and in
any of these cases the possessor of virtue cannot be
called happy.
3. There remains the contemplative life, which is the source
of true happiness, but discussion of this will be reserved
until later.
It should also be pointed out that the life of the
businessman, devoted to seeking wealth, is limited by many
constraints and that wealth, while useful, is not an end in
itself. Properly used, wealth is a means to something else,
and thus is not in itself the source of happiness.
Chapter VI
The Platonic View of the Good
One of the dominant theories in the study of ethics is
Plato's conception of the universal good, the doctrine of
forms. He said that there exists an absolute good which is
the source of all goodness of whatever form or kind in the
universe. It is difficult to criticize the views of a beloved
former teacher, but one must give his highest allegiance to
First, contrary to Plato's theory, there must be many kinds
of good, not a single universal ideal, since the good seems
to be relative to particular individuals, places, circumstances,
and times. A single ideal cannot encompass both the
absolute and the relative. Good has no single meaning
common to all its applications.
Second, the idea of good is used in many different
categories. There cannot be an ideal of the good at one
time common to the concept of the good as such, the
good as the essence of something, and the good as a
relation between things. The things categorized under a
single platonic form are things of a single science, discipline,
or kind, yet there are different standards of the good in
different fields, and even at times in the same field. There
is no form of the good separate from its particular, finite
This platonic concept of the good as an absolute value
has no practical application and is of little value in everyday
affairs ( , knowledge of the ideal is of little or no use
to a carpenter or doctor, each seeking to attain the good
appropriate to his particular function). In our study we must
arrive at a formulation of the good that is within the reach
of human perception. We recognize that the practical good
varies in its applications.
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Chapter VII
Definitions of the Good and Happiness
What then is the good? Its specific character seems to
vary in different arts and different activities, yet in all it
appears to be that for the sake of which everything else is
done the end or purpose of the particular activity in
question ( , health in the case of medicine, a house in
the case of building).
Since there are many different ends and we choose only
some of these, as a means to something else, it is
obvious that not all ends are final ( , chosen for their
own sakes and not for the sake of something else). That
which is pursued as an end in itself is more final than that
which is pursued for the sake of something else. That
which is never chosen as a means to something else is
more final than that which is chosen both as an end in
itself and as a means to something else. Thus, what is
always chosen as an end in itself and never as a means
to something else is called final in an unqualified sense.
This description applies to happiness above all else, for
happiness is always chosen as an end in itself and never
for the sake of something else. Such things as honor,
pleasure, intelligence, and virtue, are all chosen only partly
for themselves, because while they are all goods, we
assume that they lead to happiness. Conversely, no one
chooses happiness for the sake of honor, pleasure, or
anything else.
We are led to the same conclusion by another argument.
It is generally accepted that the final good is self-sufficient (
, something which by itself makes life worth living, and
which is not limited to the good of a man alone but also
includes his family, friends, ). The final good cannot be
defined by reference to self alone, for man is a social and
political being and does not live in isolation. A self-sufficient
thing is that which taken by itself makes life something
desirable and not lacking in anything. Happiness fits this
description, for happiness is the most desirable of all things
and is not counted as one good among many. Thus, it
can be said, in summing up, that happiness is the end
toward which all conscious acts are directed; it is both final
and self-sufficient.
To call happiness the highest good is a platitude, and a
more clear account of it is still required. It will be easier to
understand the nature of happiness if we can ascertain the
proper function of a human being. This will give us another
view of the end of human life, already referred to as a
guide for defining happiness.
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It is clear that the mere act of living is not a function
peculiar to man, for even vegetables and plants experience
nurture and growth. A step higher than the vegetative life
is the life that is confined to the experience of sensation,
but this is shared with men by the brute animals. About
the mode of life that remains, it is possible to make two
statements; (a) that it belongs to the rational part of man,
(b) that it finds expression in action.
Now, the rational part of man can be active or passive. It
is passive in that it follows the dictates of reason. It is
active in that it possesses and exercises the ability to
reason. Similarly, since the reasonable element in rational
life may be active or passive, we must make it clear that
we are discussing a life determined by the use, as
opposed to the mere possession, of the rational faculty.
Let us make certain assumptions and follow them to their
1. That the proper function of a man is the activity of his
soul in conformity with a rational principle or, at least, not
divorced from it.
2. That the proper function of an individual and of a good
individual of the same class ( , a harp player and a
good harp player) are generically the same, except that
the proper function of the latter (the good individual of the
same class) requires superiority in accomplishment ( ,
the harp player's function is to play the harp, the good
harp player's function is to play well).
3. That the function of man is thus a certain form of life in
combination with a rational principle or reasonable ground
of action (as shown above).
4. That the function of a good man is to enact that form
of life well.
5. That a function is performed well when performed in
accordance with the virtue or excellence appropriate to it.
Thus, we have demonstrated that the good for men is an
activity of the soul in accordance with excellence or virtue,
or, if there should be more than one form of goodness, in
accordance with its best and most complete form. This
activity must be carried out over an entire lifetime, for
happiness is more than a momentary state. A single day
or brief period of felicity does not make a man entirely
and perfectly happy.
This is only a brief outline of the good. The details must
still be filled in, but the most difficult part of the study has
been accomplished, for the foundation has been provided
for the remainder of our analysis.
Page 19
It must be remembered, though, that ethics is not an exact
science. Precise conclusions cannot be reached and we
must be satisfied with approximations. Different subjects
have different requirements and depend on different kinds
of conclusions. A carpenter and a geometrician both seek
right angles, but with different aims and needs, depending
on the problems posed by their occupations.
Also, ethics is a practical science, and it is often not
necessary to inquire after causes or to reason why
something is what it is ( , to seek first principles). In
ethics the very existence of a fact is often the existence of
the principle too. Some fundamental principles can be
determined by indirection, some by sense perception, some
by habituation or learning, and others by other means.
Each must be determined by the appropriate means and
must be defined correctly.
Chapter VIII
Confirmation of Our View in Popular Ideas on Happiness
The first principle we have arrived at (the definition of
happiness given above) must be tested logically, as a
conclusion drawn from premises, and also in the light of
generally held opinions on the nature of happiness, for
something that is true will be found to be in harmony with
all the evidence. Let us examine these opinions:
1. Good things are commonly divided into three classes;
(a) external or worldly goods, (b) goods of the body, (c)
goods of the soul. According to this tripartite division, goods
of the soul are goods in the highest and fullest sense, for,
while goods of the body and external goods are needed
for complete happiness, they are not capable of giving
happiness alone. According to our definition, happiness is
an activity of the soul, and in this we see that our
definition coincides with general belief.
2. Another view is that the happy man leads a good life,
and this is in accordance with our definition of happiness
as a good life and state of well-being.
3. All the characteristics that people look for in happiness
virtue, practical wisdom, theoretical wisdom, prosperity,
are included in our definition of happiness.
4. Our definition also agrees with those who define
happiness as virtue or as a particular virtue, for we have
said that happiness is activity
Page 20
in conformity with virtue and this implies that the happy
man possesses virtue. It is important to note that we have
said activity in accordance with virtue, for a state of
inactivity cannot produce good effects. Actions that conform
to virtue are naturally pleasant and are thus pleasant in
themselves. The life of men who practice virtue is itself a
pleasure and does not require the inducement of added
pleasure, in fact, the man who does not enjoy performing
virtuous acts is not a good man at all, regardless of the
acts he may perform. The sensation of pleasure belongs
to the soul, and all men derive pleasure from what they
love, in this case, virtue. Thus, the man who is happy
according to the terms of our definition fulfills the standards
of this generally held belief also.
All these views mentioned above have been held by the
masses of men for many years or by a small but select
group of extraordinary men. It is likely that they are right in
at least a few respects, and for this reason we have
compared them to our definition of happiness.
It must be stated at this point that happiness, though the
most pleasant and noblest thing in the world, requires
external goods to some extent. It is not possible to perform
noble acts without the necessary wherewithal. Many actions
can only be performed with the help of instruments, as it
were friends, wealth, political influence. The absence of
certain external goods, such as good ancestry, good looks,
good children, can spoil what might otherwise be supreme
happiness. This is why people classify good luck with
happiness or virtue, because the last two require a firm
basis of external prosperity.
Chapter IX
How Happiness is Acquired
What then is the source of happiness? Is it learning,
discipline, reason, divine dispensation, chance, or something
else? Certainly, if anything comes to man from the gods, it
must be happiness, for it is the best of all human things.
Yet, though happiness is divine, it is attained through virtue
and some regimen of training and learning. Happiness, as
the end of excellence and virtue, is the best of all things,
divine and blessed, but men must attain it by their own
Since happiness is dependent on excellence, it can be
shared by many people, for study and effort make it
accessible to anyone whose capacity for virtue is
unimpaired. It is reasonable to assume that happiness is
acquired in this way and not by chance, for in nature
things are arranged in
Page 21
the best way possible. The same must be true of all the
other products and results of logical causation.
Earlier it was stated that happiness, the good of man, is
some kind of activity of the soul in conformity with virtue,
and that all other goods are either necessary prerequisites
for happiness, instruments for attaining it, or adjuncts to its
possession. This kind of happiness can only be developed
by a man living in a community, for the main concern of
politics is to engender a certain character in the citizens of
a community, to make them good and disposed to perform
noble actions. The end of politics is the best of all ends,
for it is to create an environment suitable for exercise of
reason and virtue and the development and maintenance
of happiness.
In this connection it is worth pointing out that animals
cannot be happy, for they are unable to participate in
moral or rational activities, and children cannot be happy
either, for they are too young to engage in such activities.
At most a child can be called happy if he shows promise
eventually to do so.
We must also recall that there are many changes and
contingencies in life. True happiness requires complete
virtue and also a complete lifetime for its expression. Thus,
even a man who seems to be happy may come to a
wretched end, and then no one will continue to call him
Chapter X
Can a Man be Called Happy Within His Lifetime?
There is an old saying that we should call no man happy
as long as he is alive. This is a paradox because it
implies that a man can be happy after he is dead. The
words also imply that happiness is subject to the changes
experienced in life, but we believe that happiness and
virtue are permanent, stable things. In the long run true
nobility and virtue can endure all the vicissitudes of fortune.
In the face of life's most bitter sorrows, the virtuous and
happy man will continue to be virtuous and will endure
hardship with resigned dignity. Although it is true that to a
certain extent external goods are necessary for happiness,
their absence or loss will not make the happy man
unhappy. He will always be able to make the best of
whatever happens.
It is now possible to define the happy man as one who
realizes in action a goodness that is complete and that is
adequately furnished with external goods, and that not for
a limited period but for a complete lifetime, who lives
virtuously and whose death is not inconsistent with his life.
Page 22
Chapter XI
The Relation Between the Dead and the Living in Regard
to Happiness
The question also arises, are the dead affected by the
fortunes of their descendents or friends? We know two
things to be true in this connection; (a) that the misfortunes
of our friends can sometimes affect or influence us or
sometimes appear trifling, (b) that it makes a great
difference in our reaction whether misfortune befalls men
before or after their deaths. Thus, it can be inferred that if
the dead retain any sense of good and evil, it is so weak
that it does not have the force or quality to make the
unhappy happy or the happy unhappy.
Chapter XII
The Degree of Praise Accorded to Happiness
Having settled these questions, it would be worthwhile to
decide whether happiness is something to be praised or
something to be honored and valued. Observation shows
that there are many different kinds of praise, and that
praise is bestowed on something in regard to the quality of
that thing and the relation it has to other things. This
indicates that praise is appropriate only for relative goods
or potential goods. Happiness, on the other hand, is an
absolute good, for it is the final and ultimate good, the best
of all things, and something to which nothing else may be
compared. Thus, happiness must be considered as
something divine, worthy of the highest approbation.
Chapter XIII
Psychological Basis of Virtue
Since happiness is an activity of the soul in conformity with
perfect virtue, it is now necessary to determine the nature
of this virtue or excellence. This will make it possible for us
to determine more clearly the nature of goodness in regard
to both ethics and politics, a matter of great attention to
the statesman, who devotes his most serious attention to
his efforts to make good men of his fellow citizens.
Needless to say, the virtue we must consider is human
virtue, for we are seeking after the nature of human good
and human happiness. By human virtue we mean an
excellence of the soul, not the body, for happiness has
been defined as an activity of the soul. Clearly then, it is
necessary for a statesman to have some knowledge of
the workings of the soul, or psychology. We will limit this
inquiry to the extent required for the proper study of ethics.
Page 23
Some of the doctrines on the soul stated in our earlier,
less technical works on the subject, are adequate for our
present purposes. Let us review them:
1. The soul consists of two elements, one rational and the
other irrational. Whether these are physically separate, or
are separate only abstractly ( , as are the concave
and convex portions of a lens) is irrelevant to our present
2. The irrational element of the soul is divided into two
parts. The first is vegetative in nature and common to all
living things, thus it is not relevant to a discussion of
human virtue. The other part is the source from which all
appetites and desires spring ( , the emotions). This part,
though irrational, bears a special relation to the rational
faculties in that it can be made submissive to the reason
and obedient to its dictates.
These distinctions within the soul allow us to make a
classification of the virtues, analagous to the classification of
the parts of the soul. Some virtues are called ''intellectual" (
, wisdom, intelligence, prudence) and are virtues of the
rational faculty of the soul. Other virtues, like generosity or
liberality and temperance or self-control are "moral" virtues,
the virtues of character, and belong to the irrational
element of the soul. They are attained when the irrational
element is made to act in accordance with the dictates of
the reason. Because it can be made subject to the
reason, this element of the soul may actually be classified
as intermediate, not fully rational or irrational, but this is not
of great importance at this point.

Most ancient Greek thought about the nature of human life

was governed by two fundamental assumptions and these
are the basis of Aristotle's approach to the study of ethics:
1. That human life is comprehensible only when conceived
of as being directed toward some end or good, and that it
can be interpreted by a categorization of ends and means.
In the sense that human life is thought to contain an ideal
element, most Greek moral philosophy, including Aristotle's,
is idealistic. Since Aristotle's moral system is concerned with
determining ultimate causes and ends it can also be
considered teleological.
2. That the end toward which all practical human activity is
directed is definable in advance of its realization. This takes
moral knowledge out of the realm of abstraction and
speculation, and gives it great
Page 24
practical importance as a code for personal life and a
guide for the organization and administration of the political

Aristotle's conception of goodness is set forth in the

opening sentence of this book. "Every art and every kind
of inquiry, and likewise every act and purpose, seems to
aim at some good; and so it has been well said that the
good is that at which all things aim." This view appears
obvious when we stop to consider the meaning of the
word "good" as it is used in our everyday experience. We
call an act good if it satisfies a particular need. The
satisfaction of this need is then considered good if it is a
means for satisfying some further need, and this in turn is
good if it will satisfy still another one. Eventually this
process must reach some point that is no longer a means
for some further end but is an end in itself. This final end
or goal of life is what Aristotle means by the highest good.
It is the purpose of the study of ethics to discover the
nature of this highest good and to find the appropriate
means for its realization.
Because happiness is generally regarded as an end in
itself rather than a means for achieving something else it
would seem quite proper to call happiness the highest
good or the ultimate goal for human life. However, this will
not be sufficient unless we specify the kind of happiness
that is most desirable for nothing is more obvious than the
fact that the nature of happiness varies with the type of
person who experiences it and the same is true with
regard to the methods by which it is obtained. Some
people find happiness in the pursuit of sensual pleasures.
Others find it in the pursuit of wealth or honor, and there
are still others who find it in the activities that are
associated with the contemplative life. Surely the kinds of
happiness obtained by these different activities do not have
equal value and it is for this reason that the student of
ethics must give careful attention to the implications that are
involved in each of them. It should also be noted that any
adequate consideration of the good life must take into
account the activities of life as a whole and these will
involve his relationships to other members of the community
in which he lives as well as those which pertain only to his
individual welfare. The subject of ethics is indeed a
complicated one. To deal with it successfully one needs
maturity of judgment and familiarity with a wide range of
relevant facts. The results of ethical inquiry cannot be
established with the same degree of certainty that is
possible in the more exact sciences. Nevertheless, reliable
results can be obtained and these can be most helpful in
guiding one toward a more adequate understanding of
what it means to live at one's best.
Page 25
In everyday life we speak of a thing being good when it
serves the purpose for which it exists. For instance, we
say that a knife is a good knife if it cuts well. A fruit tree
is good if it produces the fruit that may reasonably be
expected of it. Now the good of any object is to be found
not in that which it has in common with other classes of
objects but in that which is peculiar to its own class. It
would be absurd to judge the goodness of a knife or a
tree on the basis of some function for which neither of
them was intended. If this is true with reference to physical
objects the analogy holds for human beings. A good man
is one who fulfills the purpose for which human beings
exist and that purpose must be identified with those
characteristics which distinguish man from other creatures.
For Aristotle, this distinguishing characteristic is the ability to
reason. The so-called lower animals have sensations,
feelings, and that type of consciousness which includes
these elements but man is the only animal that can make
rational judgments and hence it is in the exercise of this
unique capacity that his goodness is found. Critics of
Aristotle's view may insist that man has other unique
capacities along with his ability to reason. He is a social
being who can participate in the intellectual life of the
community. He has an aesthetic capacity which enables
him to appreciate and enjoy the beautiful in the world
around him. He has a sense of duty and moral obligation
and he can worship and adore with religious zeal and
devotion. Aristotle, too, recognizes all of these abilities but
inasmuch as no one of them can function properly without
the use of reason he includes them all as activities which
may be guided and controlled by one's rational nature.
The fact that some activities are ends in themselves while
others are primarily means for some end leads to an
important distinction between intellectual virtues and moral
virtues. These two kinds of virtue correspond in a way to
the two elements of which the soul is composed. Intellectual
virtues belong to the rational element and they consist of
understanding, the acquisition of wisdom, the appreciation of
beauty, and activities of a similar nature. Moral virtues have
to do with the irrational element of the soul and they
consist of bringing the appetities and physical desires under
the control of reason. Aristotle does not consider the animal
appetites which form a part of human nature as bad in
themselves. It is only when they get out of control and
there is either an excess or a deficiency that they are
harmful to the soul. When they are regulated in
accordance with the "golden mean" they make a positive
contribution toward the good life. On the other hand the
intellectual virtues are never in excess for their achievement
always enhances the welfare of the entire soul.
Page 26
Book II

Chapter I
Moral Virtue as a Result of Habits
It has been shown that there are two kinds of virtue
intellectual and moral. Intellectual virtue is the result of
learning. Moral virtue, on the other hand, comes about as
the result of habit and practice. This shows that the moral
virtues are not implanted in man by nature, for nothing
created by nature can be made to change its direction or
tendency by habit, nor are the moral virtues produced in
man against nature. Man is not born either moral or
immoral, but he has the capacity to develop moral virtue
and this capacity can only be developed through
The development of moral excellence is not comparable to
the development of other human capabilities. All men are
endowed with certain faculties by nature. The ability to use
these faculties is acquired before they are actually used (
, man has the ability to see before he sees, he has
the ability to hear before he hears). The moral virtues,
though, are acquired only by exercising them, just as skill
in the arts and crafts is acquired only through use. For
example, just as men become builders by building and
harpists by playing the harp, so they become just by
performing just actions and temperate by exercising
self-control. This view is corroborated by what can be
observed in any political system. Legislators seek to make
good men of their citizens by making good behavior
habitual through good laws. It is success or failure in this
area that makes the difference between a good and a
bad constitution.
The same factors that produce any excellence or virtue
can also destroy it, and this is also true in the arts and
crafts. For instance, it is only by playing the harp that a
man becomes either a good bad harpist. If this were
not so, there would be no need for teachers and
everyone would be born either a good or a bad
craftsman. Likewise, it is only by action and by dealing with
other men that one is able to become either just or
unjust, brave or cowardly, temperate or intemperate.
Thus, it is possible to make this generalization that
characteristics develop from corresponding activities. For this
reason we must be certain that our activities are of the
right kind, for any variation in them will be reflected in our
dispositions. This point underscores the importance of early
education, for it makes a great difference whether or not
one is inculcated in certain habits from an early age.
Page 27
Chapter II
Methodology of the Study of Ethics Discussion of the
Nature of Moral Qualities
Ethics is a subject of great practical importance as well as
theoretical interest, because we are interested not merely in
determining the nature of goodness, but also in how we
may become good men. For this reason it is necessary to
investigate the problems of right and wrong actions and
proper conduct, for, as stated above, our actions govern
the characteristics we develop.
It is generally conceded that men must act according to
what they consider the right principle or reason, and this
will be taken as the basis of our discussion. First, it must
be pointed out once again that any discussion of conduct
and actions can only be a rough outline. It will lack
scientific accuracy, for there is little or no exact data
available in matters of this kind and one can demand only
what the subject allows. This is true of moral philosophy in
general. It is even more true of the discussion of particular
ethical problems, for very frequently it is necessary to
judge a particular case solely on its own merits and
circumstances. Our arguments, though inexact, will depend
on the situation itself.
Let us begin with the following observation that the nature
of moral qualities is such that they can be destroyed either
by deficiency or excess. Just as too much or too little food
or exercise is bad for the body, so the man who fears
everything becomes a coward and the man who fears
nothing becomes reckless or foolhardy, and neither is able
to develop the virtue of courage. This same rule holds in
regard to all the virtues. Excess or deficiency destroys
them. Action in accordance with a mean produces and
maintains them. The same actions that produce virtue may
be either the cause or destruction of that virtue, or may
be manifested in its active exercise, for virtues are
expressed in actions of the same kind as initially
established them.
Chapter III
Pleasure and Pain the Test of Virtue
To determine whether or not one is in full possession of a
particular virtue or excellence, the pleasure or pain that
accompanies the exercise of that quality can be used as
an index. This is because moral excellence is primarily a
matter of concern with pleasure and pain. The following
points are relevant here:
Page 28
1. The pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain are
the main causes of evil action, for pleasure can make men
do base things and pain can deter them from doing noble
things. This is why Plato said that right education is a
matter of making men feel pleasure and pain for the right
2. Virtue is concerned with actions and feelings or emotions
and these may be accompanied by pleasure or pain.
3. Pain is used as an instrument of punishment, for nature
works by means of opposites and pain can have a
remedial effect in the case of vicious men.
4. Every characteristic of the soul shows its true nature in
regard to those factors which can make it better or worse.
Men become corrupted through pleasure and pain, either
by pursuing or avoiding pleasure or pain of the wrong
kind, or at the wrong time, or in the wrong way. This
indicates that the object of ethics is to learn to feel
pleasure or pain for the right reasons. We may assume
that virtue enables men to act in the best way in matters
involving pleasure and pain, and that vice does the
At this point it has been determined that moral goodness is
a quality disposing men to act in the best way while
dealing with pleasures and pains, and that vice disposes
them to act in the worst way in the same situation.
There are three factors which determine our decisions in all
our actions: (a) the noble or morally fine, (b) the beneficial
or expedient, (c) the pleasurable; and there are three
factors that determine avoidance in our actions: (a) the
base, (b) the harmful, (c) the painful. In dealing with the
effects of any of these, it is most likely the good man who
will be able to make the right decision and the bad man
who will make the wrong decision, especially in matters
pertaining to pleasure.
Furthermore, the capacity for pleasure, which men share
with the animals, is ingrained in human beings. In all
actions, to some extent, pleasure and pain are used as a
standard. Thus, to feel pleasure and pain wrongly is an
important factor in human conduct. It has been said that it
is harder to fight against pleasure than it is against anger,
but both virtue and art have always been concerned with
that which is harder, for success in something is
proportionate to the difficulty of achieving it. Virtue is not to
be interpreted as freedom from pleasure and pain. Rather,
these are the materials which, when moulded into the right
form, enable us to become virtuous.
Page 29
To sum up, the following conclusions can be made:
1. Virtue or excellence is concerned with pleasure or pain.
2. The actions which produce virtue are identical in
character with those that increase it.
3. These same actions differently performed can destroy
4. Virtue finds expression or is actualized in the same
activities which produce it.
Chapter IV
Relation of Virtue and Virtuous Action
A difficulty arises at this point, in that we have said that
men become virtuous by performing virtuous actions. A
critic of this view might say that men are already virtuous if
they perform virtuous actions, just as a man is already
literate if he reads and writes correctly and is already
musical if able to play an instrument. However, this is a
false analogy and not a valid objection, first, because there
is a significant difference between acts that create virtue
and acts that are caused by virtue, and, second, because
excellence in the arts is determined only by the end
product and not by the process by which that product is
created, so that in judging a musician one is only
concerned with the music he produces and not with his
method of playing the instrument. Or, another case in point,
it is quite possible to find someone who speaks according
to the rules of grammar without having any knowledge of
those rules, but it is not possible to consider this man
literate or well-versed in grammer.
This is not the case in ethics. A virtuous act is not
virtuous only because it is an act of a certain quality or
kind. The agent or doer of a virtuous act must also be in
a certain frame of mind and have certain characteristics
when he acts. There are three conditions required; (a) that
the agent must be fully conscious of what he is doing, (b)
that he must deliberately choose or will his action, and
must choose it for its own sake, (c) that the act must
proceed from a fixed moral disposition.
These requirements, with the exception of mere knowledge,
are not among the necessary qualifications of the artist or
craftsman, despite the fact that their products may be
deemed excellent or virtuous. This is an additional reason
why the analogy cited at the head of this chapter is not
valid; the actions that produce virtue are like the actions
produced by virtue
Page 30
only in regard to their external superficial appearance and
not in their inner nature. Thus, the three conditions
mentioned are of great importance, for it is only through
the repeated performance of virtuous actions that virtue is
Therefore, acts are called virtuous when they are the kind
of acts a virtuous man would perform, but a man who
performs a virtuous act is not necessarily himself virtuous.
The virtuous man is the one who performs the act in the
way common to virtuous men, , he knows that the act
is the right thing to do in the circumstances, and he does
it for the right motive. We can be assured that men
become virtuous through the performance of virtuous acts
since there is not the slightest likelihood of a man ever
becoming virtuous by any other course of conduct. Those
who devote themselves to the theoretical study of ethics
often assume that this makes them moral, but they are
foolish, for knowledge of moral philosophy without the
exercise of morality is of little value.
Chapter V
Definition of Virtue Genus
It is now necessary to make a formal definition of virtue or
excellence, starting with the determination of its genus (the
class of things to which it belongs), and following with a
determination of its differentia or species (the point or points
which distinguish it from other members of its class).
Since the human soul is conditioned by three factors
emotions (feelings), capacities, and dispositions
(characteristics) it is evident that virtue must be one of
these. Emotions include such things as anger, appetite,
fear, confidence, envy, pity, and any other state of mind
that involves pleasure or pain. Capacities are our faculties
for experiencing emotions. Dispositions are the conditions or
states of character in which we are in regard to emotions
( , we say that one has a bad disposition where
anger is concerned if he tends to become excessively or
insufficiently angry, and has a good disposition toward
anger if he consistently feels the appropriate amount of
Virtue is something for which men are called good or bad
or for which they are praised or blamed. Since one is not
called good or bad on the basis of his emotions, it is clear
that virtue is not an emotion. Furthermore, virtues are the
result of some kind of choice but a man does not
exercise his will ( , make a choice) when he
experiences such emotions as anger or fear. It is also
clear that virtue is not a capacity, since a man is not
praised or blamed for having the ability to experience
certain feelings. A
Page 31
human being receives his capacities from nature, but
nature does not cause him to develop into a good or bad
man. Therefore, since virtues and vices are not emotions
or capacities, they must belong to the genus known as
dispositions or characteristics.
Chapter VI
Definition of Virtue Species
To differentiate virtue from the other members of its class,
the following proposition is relevant that every virtue
influences or affects that of which it is the virtue in two
ways; (a) it produces a good state in it, (b) it enables it to
perform its function well ( , the virtue of the eye makes
both the eye and its function good, for good sight is due
to excellence of the eye). In accordance with this
proposition it can be said that virtue in man is whatever
characteristic makes him a good man and causes him to
perform his function well.
Any continuous activity (including feeling and action, the raw
materials of virtue) is divisible into parts. These may include
a larger part, a smaller part, and the half or equal part,
which can be defined as the mean between too much
and too little. In things which do not vary there is an
objective mean which is always the same ( , the mean
between two points ten miles apart is always five miles).
The mean is relative in such things as the feelings and
actions of men. This is because there are differences
between people in regard to most characteristics and
attributes ( , ten pounds of food may be too much for
a man and two pounds not enough, but this does not
necessarily imply that six pounds is the right amount for
him or for all men).
All arts and crafts aim at this relative mean ( , nothing
can be added to or taken from a perfect work of art
without destroying it). In the same way moral virtue aims at
the relative mean in feeling and action. Moral virtue can be
defined as a disposition to choose the mean relative to
oneself, as determined by a rational principle ( , by the
rational principle that would be applied by a man with
practical wisdom and common sense).
It is possible to experience too much or too little of any
emotion, and in either case the emotion is not experienced
properly. The mark of virtue is to experience an emotion at
the right time, toward the right objects or people, for the
right reason, and in the right manner; in other words, in
accordance with the mean. This principle applies to the
evaluation of all
Page 32
human actions. Excess, mean, and deficiency can be
determined for all feelings and modes of action.
As already shown, virtue is concerned with emotions and
actions. In judging emotions and actions, we criticize
excess and deficiency and praise the mean, which is
construed by most people to constitute success. Both
praise and success are signs of virtue and excellence.
Consequently, virtue must be a mean in the sense that it
aims at the mean.
A further proof it has often been said that in all things
there are many ways to do wrong but only one way to
do right. The Pythagoreans claim that good is determinate
(limited) and evil indeterminate (unlimited), making it easy to
do evil and hard to do good. In our view, which is quite
similar, there is a single mean surrounded by excessive or
deficient alternatives, so that it is easier to find the
extremes than the middle. The old saying, "Bad men have
many ways, good men but one," is an empirical
observation that supports this construct.
It is now possible to offer a more precise definition Virtue
is a disposition of the soul in which, when it has to choose
among actions and feelings, it observes the mean relative
to itself. This mean is determined by a rational principle of
the kind that would be formulated by a man of good
sense and practical wisdom.
The mean can always be determined by reference to the
two vices of excess and deficiency. All vices exceed or fall
short of what is required by virtue in emotion and action,
but virtue always finds and chooses the mean. By definition
of its nature or essence, virtue is a mean, but in regard to
general standards of what is right and good, virtue is an
We must note that it is impossible to choose a mean in
regard to some actions or feelings. Emotions like malice
and envy, actions like adultery, theft, and murder are evil
in any form or degree. One can never do right by
experiencing such feelings or committing such deeds. It is
absurd to discuss whether there is a mean, excess, or
deficiency in unjust, cowardly, or intemperate actions and
emotions, for then one would end up with such ridiculous
conceptions as a mean of excess, a mean of deficiency,
an excess of excess, or a deficiency of deficiency. In the
same way there can be no mean, excess, or deficiency in
regard to such things as justice and temperance, for in a
sense their mean is an extreme. Stated in general terms,
there can be no mean in something which is an excess
or deficiency, and there can be no excess or deficiency in
a mean. Evil is evil in every form or degree; good is good
in every form or degree.
Page 33
Chapter VII
Particular Examples of the Mean and Extreme
In the study of morality particular statements often come
closer to the truth than generalizations. This is because
human behavior is made up of many individual actions,
with all of which any theory of human behavior must
harmonize. In view of this we will now briefly illustrate the
doctrine of the mean by reference to specific areas of
feeling and action. All virtues and vices mentioned in the
survey that follows will be discussed more fully later on.

At this point in his lecture Aristotle used a chart on which

the moral virtues and vices were diagrammed. A chart
follows (p. 34) which incorporates the main elements of his
survey and illustrates the principle of excess, mean, and
deficiency in several different areas of feeling and action.
Chapter VIII
Relation of Mean and Extremes
As shown above there are three kinds of dispositions. Two
are vicious (one characterized by excess, the other by
deficiency), and one is virtuous (the mean). All three are
opposed to each other, but not always in the same way.
The two extreme states (excess and deficiency) are
opposed to each other and also to the middle state or
mean. The mean, while opposed to both extremes, may
be considered excessive in regard to deficiency and
deficient in regard to excess ( , a brave man may
seem reckless in relation to a coward, but cowardly in
relation to a reckless man). For this reason people at one
extreme often consider people in the middle to be guilty of
the opposite extreme.
The extremes are more opposed to each other than either
is to the mean, because they are further apart from each
other than either is from the center ( , on line ,
A and C are extremes, B is the mean). There often
seems to be a similarity between some extremes and
some means ( , recklessness sometimes seems to
resemble courage, extravagance to resemble generosity).
There is little similarity between the extremes because
things that are furthest removed from each other are
defined as opposites.
In some cases one extreme is more opposed to the
mean than the other extreme is, ( , cowardice is more
opposed to courage than is recklessness,
Page 34
fear cowardice courage unnamed
confidence recklessness (overconfidence) courage cowardice
sensual pleasures (note that pain may arise from the desire for
such pleasures) self-indulgence (intemperance) self-control
(temperance) ''insensitivity" (word in this context coined by Aristotle)
giving of money extravagance generosity stinginess
taking of money stinginess generosity prodigality
giving of money on a large scale (as for charity or public use)
vulgarity magnificance meanness
pursuit of honor on a large scale vanity highmindedness
pursuit of honor on a small scale ambitiousness unnamed, could be
called ambition in proper amount unambitiousness
anger shorttemperedness gentleness apathy
telling the truth about oneself boastfulness truthfulness self-depreciation
pleasantness in amusement buffoonery wittiness boorishness
pleasantness in daily life obsequiousness friendliness grouchiness
shame bashfulness modesty shamelessness
pain and pleasure felt at good or bad fortune of others envy
righteous indignation spite
Page 35
self-indulgence is more closely related to self-control than is
insensitivity). There are two reasons for this: (a) when one
extreme is closer and more similar to a mean we often
assume that only the other extreme is opposed to the
mean, (b) the more naturally a man is attracted to
something, the more opposed to the mean that thing
seems to be ( , since men are naturally attracted to
pleasure, they incline more easily to intemperance than to
self-control, and they describe intemperance as more
opposed to self-control than its opposite, insensitivity to
Chapter IX
How to Find the Mean
The following points have been established:
1. Moral virtue is a mean.
2. It is a mean between two vices, one marked by excess
and the other by deficiency.
3. It is a mean in the sense that it aims at the middle
point in emotions and actions.
Here are some rules for the guidance of those who seek
the mean ( , who seek after virtue):
1. Avoid the extreme most opposed to the mean for which
you are seeking. One of the two extremes is always more
in error than the other. If you must err from the right path,
it is better to choose the lesser of two evils.
2. Guard against those errors into which you are most
likely to fall because of your natural inclinations by forcing
yourself to move in the opposite direction. One can
determine his natural inclinations by observing the amount
of pleasure and pain he experiences in regard to certain
3. Remember that you will make few mistakes if you try to
avoid pleasure and pleasant things and move away from
whatever is most tempting for this will tend to be the path
toward the mean.
It is difficult to give any more specific guide-rules, especially
where particular cases are involved. At any given time it is
possible to praise someone who seems deficient in anger,
and at another to praise someone who is
Page 36
excessively angry. There is no simple formula to determine
how a man should act in a given situation or how far he
can err before he is considered at fault. This difficulty of
definition is inherent in all cases of perception. Questions of
degree are bound up with the circumstances of particular
cases. The solution in every case rests on one's own
moral sensibility. But this much is clear: in all areas of
human conduct the mean is most desirable and its
attainment is the source of all moral virtue.

Aristotle's trinitarian doctrine of the mean has been criticized

on the following grounds:
1. Such an abstract mathematical formula cannot be
applied to every situation.
2. It would appear that most virtues have only one
opposite vice and not two, and that the Aristotelian
conception of extremes is artificial in this sense, especially
since Aristotle occasionally has to fall back of the artifice of
referring to "nameless" virtues and vices.
3. That Aristotle's definitions of virtues and vices artificially
narrow them in order to make them fit his formula.
4. That his doctrine is primarily aesthetic rather than moral,
and is based on standards of proportion and symmetry
which in themselves have no ethical value.
An important point worth noting is that Aristotle's mean is
not a rigid mathematical abstraction, since he points out
several times that it is a "mean relative to ourselves," and
differs for people of different dispositions or in different
circumstances. Although his doctrines are stated abstractly,
Aristotle was well aware that goodness and moral conduct
cannot be reduced to artificial formulas or rules.

Having indicated the general character of the study of

ethics Aristotle proceeds in Book II to a more detailed
account of the virtues that are included in the moral life.
Certain observations are made concerning the nature of
virtue and its relation to the various activities which make
up the life of the ordinary human being. Unlike those
moralists who describe the good life in terms of obedience
to a set of laws which are imposed on
Page 37
people from without, Aristotle sets forth the view that the
good life consists in the proper development and control of
those elements that are within one's own nature. It is for
this reason that he is often referred to as an exponent of
self-realization ethics. The essential meaning of this doctrine
is that the self to be realized or the one which is the
standard of goodness consists of an organization of the
elements that are included in one's entire personality. The
principle to be used in bringing about this organization is
that the larger and more inclusive interests should always
be given preference over the smaller and less inclusive
ones. This means, for example, that the appetites and
desires which are for the moment or which will endure for
only a short period of time should always be subordinated
to those which pertain to life as a whole. Or, again, the
possession of material goods which have a positive value
for human life must not be allowed to interfere with the
achievement of spiritual values. To permit them to do so
would be to sacrifice a more inclusive good for the sake
of a smaller one. The same principle must be used in
adjusting one's own interests to the welfare of others. It is
always a mistake to sacrifice the welfare of a large group
in order to promote the interests of a smaller one. When
the elements included in it are properly organized human
nature is good. It is the perversion of it that constitutes
moral evil.
As mentioned before, it is impossible in the field of ethics
to lay down exact rules of conduct that will be entirely
adequate for every new situation which arises. While it is
true that all human beings are alike in some respects,
there are individual differences. Then, too, the
circumstances under which people live are constantly
changing and what is appropriate for one person in a
specific situation will not be what another person should do
under different conditions. Even so, it is possible to indicate
some general principles that will serve as a guide for
anyone who wishes to use them regardless of the
circumstances under which he is living. One of these
principles has to do with the acquisition of virtues. People
are not born with a set of virtues embedded in their
nature. Neither are they born with a nature which is
inherently evil. The fact is that human nature has
possibilities both for good and for evil. It is up to the
individual to determine which ones shall be realized. It is
the purpose of the study of ethics to guide one toward the
realization of his best possibilities. This involves the
acquisition of virtues and this is brought about through the
development of habits. As Aristotle sees it, the good
person is one who finds pleasure and satisfaction in doing
those things that are in harmony with his own good and
also the good of others. This is not something that
happens to a person all at once. It is acquired through
actions which are carried out over a considerable period of
time. The formation of good habits is often a difficult task
especially during the earlier stages of the process. At first
the actions are carried
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out from a sense of duty but the longer they are
continued the easier they become and once the habit has
been developed the activity requires very little effort. In fact,
it has a tendency to become automatic. Now a good
character consists of a good set of habits and it is not
until these have been formed that one can rightly be called
a good person. While the habits are being formed he is
making progress toward the good life but he has not fully
arrived until they have become a part of his nature.
With reference to the appetites and desires which are
closely associated with the physical body the virtuous life
consists in following the doctrine of the "golden mean."
According to this principle an activity is good only insofar
as it is present in the right amount. Too much or too little
is an evil to be avoided but "the right amount for the right
person, in the right place, and at the right time" is a
positive good. This view stands in sharp contrast with the
one that classifies all activities as being entirely good or
entirely bad. That which is harmful when carried to an
excess may be a positive good so long as it is kept within
proper bounds. Each person must determine for himself
just what is the proper amount in his particular situation.
This sounds like a dangerous procedure which would
permit each individual to judge the appropriate amount of
any activity on the basis of his wishes or desires. But this
is not what Aristotle meant. He insisted that the decision
should be based not on one's feelings but on what reason
tells him is most appropriate with reference to his life as a
whole. In those instances where his judgment is likely to
be influenced by his immediate desires he should make
proper allowances for this fact and thus make it possible
for reason to fulfill its task. Again, attention is called to the
fact that the doctrine of the golden mean does not permit
a certain amount of any kind of activity which may appear
attractive at the moment. There are some things such as
injustice, wanton cruelty, and the like which make no
contribution to the proper development of human
personality. They are always injurious in any amount and
for this reason they should not be tolerated at all.
Book III
Chapter I
Voluntary and Involuntary Action
We now turn to a discussion of the individual's responsibility
for his acts and the voluntary nature of moral purpose. As
already shown, virtue or
Page 39
moral excellence is a matter of feeling and action. Since a
man is praised or blamed only for things done voluntarily, it
is essential to distinguish between voluntary and involuntary
Involuntary actions are those performed under compulsion
or as a result of ignorance. An act is compulsory if it
originates in an external cause and the agent (doer of the
act) contributes nothing to it ( , this is the case when
the captain of a ship is forced off course by adverse
The situation is not always this clear. Some acts involve a
mixture of voluntary and involuntary ( , when a man
obeys a tyrant's command to commit an immoral act in
order to protect his loved ones). Such acts in the end
must be classified as being more akin to voluntary, since
the man freely chooses between alternatives. Actions
cannot be judged only according to abstract moral
principles, but must be evaluated in regard to the
particulars of the given situation and there are some things
which a good man ought not to do under any
Acts committed in ignorance are not considered to be
voluntary, but a distinction must be drawn between an act
done through ignorance which is subsequently regretted by
the agent (classified as an involuntary act), and such an
act which is not regretted (classified as a non-voluntary
act). There is also a distinction between an act
ignorance and an act done ignorance. A drunken man
may act ignorantly, but his ignorance is due to the alcohol
he has consumed and not to his own lack of knowledge;
in this sense his act may be non-voluntary.
One might claim that an evil man is ignorant of the
difference between right and wrong, with the result that his
evil deeds due to this ignorance are non-voluntary and not
reprehensible. This is a serious error. Involuntary acts are
the result of ignorance in a particular situation, but
"universal" ignorance ( , ignorance of what is right and
wrong) can never be condoned. Such ignorance does not
make an act involuntary, but it does make it evil. The only
ignorance for which an agent can be forgiven is ignorance
of the particular circumstances attached to his act. So long
as an act originates in the agent and he understands the
circumstances in which he acts, his act is voluntary and he
is responsible for its consequences.

Aristotle's conception of the voluntary nature of moral

purpose is best illustrated by a simple syllogism, in which
the major premise is taken to represent "universal"
ignorance and the minor premise to represent "particular"
ignorance. Where the major premise is that taking another
Page 40
property without his knowledge or consent is stealing and
the minor premise is that a particular thing is another
person's property, it can be proved that removing that
particular thing from a given place is stealing. According to
Aristotle, ignorance of the major premise results in an evil
act, but ignorance of the minor premise results in an
involuntary act, , it is not stealing if one does not know
the property belongs to someone else. It is a serious
moral flaw if a man does not understand what stealing is,
but it is possible to know that stealing is wrong and still
take someone else's property in ignorance. This is the sort
of ignorance of particular circumstances that results in an
involuntary act for which one is not morally responsible.
For an act to be voluntary, one must know: (a) who the
agent is, (b) what he is doing, (c) what person or thing is
affected, (d) the means being used, (e) the result intended
by the action, (f) the manner in which the agent acts. No
one can be ignorant of all these factors, especially the first
since every agent knows his own identity, but it is possible
to be ignorant of some. For example, one may not know
all the consequences of his act (b), he may mistake one
person or thing for another (c), he may mistake a
dangerous weapon for a harmless tool (d), he might try to
save someone's life by giving him a drink that is actually
harmful (e), he might strike someone too hard and injure
him (f). In all these areas genuine ignorance is possible. In
any given situation, obviously, some factors will be more
important than others.
Since an action is involuntary when performed under
constraint or through ignorance, a voluntary action can be
defined as one in which the initiative lies with the agent
and in which the agent knows the particular circumstances
in which his action is performed. Acts due to passion or
desire are classified as voluntary, on the grounds that
irrational emotions are as much a part of human beings
as reason, and that actions which spring from them are as
much a man's responsibility as those he performs after a
process of intellectual reasoning.
Chapter II
Definition of Choice
Choice, in the sense of deliberate or preferential choice of
a particular mode of action is closely related to virtue. While
choice is the result of one's initiative, it is not the same as
a voluntary act. Even children and animals can engage in
voluntary actions, but they do not exercise choice. An act
done on the spur of the moment may be voluntary, but it
is not always the result of choice.
Page 41
Some thinkers identify choice with a form of desire appetite,
anger, or rational wish or with some kind of opinion, but it
must be distinguished from all of these. It is most like a
rational wish, but one can wish for the impossible while
one cannot choose the impossible, and one can wish for
something that does not depend on one's own action, but
cannot choose something that does not depend on one's
own action. Wish pertains to ends. Choice pertains to
means. Together they are the main factors in moral
purpose, and moral purpose is the most important element
in a virtuous act.
Chapter III
Definition of Deliberation
Besides choice and voluntariness, the other element in
moral purpose is deliberation, which is concerned with what
is in our power and can be done ( , with means, not
ends). In the process of deliberation one presupposes a
limited end (determined by wish or desire) and tries to find
a way to attain this end, working backwards from the end
until hitting on a means that can be adopted here and
now. The last step in the analysis is the first to be taken
in fact. The two limitations on the deliberative process are
(a) its end (which may be considered a "first principle" that
must be accepted), and (b) one's perception of the actual
The objects of deliberation and choice are the same,
except that the object of choice is determined on the basis
of deliberation. Choice may then be defined as a deliberate
desire for things that are in our power, while deliberation
tells us what is within our power to choose. The
relationship of all these processes can be formulated as
Desire: I desire A.
Deliberation: B is the means to A.
C is the means to B.
N is the means to M.
Perception: N is something I can do here and now.
Choice: I choose N.
Act: I do N.

To sum up: 1. Man is the source of all his actions. 2.

Deliberation is concerned with things attainable by human
action. 3. Actions aim at ends other
Page 42
than themselves ( , one cannot deliberate about ends
nor about particular facts but only about means to an
Chapter IV
Definition of Wish
Choice (as determined by deliberation) is concerned with
means to an end. Wish is concerned with the end. Some,
including philosophers of the Platonic school, maintain that
we always wish for the good (with good defined in an
absolute sense), while others, including some Sophists, say
that we wish only for what seems good to us. Both
positions have difficulties. The first forces us to say that
when a man makes a wrong choice he really does not
wish what he wishes. The second implies that there are
many different and even contradictory ideas of what is
Our position is that the object of wish ( , the end
toward which men aspire) is always good in the absolute
sense, though on the practical level it may be what seems
good to an individual in given circumstances, according to
the standards of a virtuous man. Two analogies may help
to explain this: Men in good health consider wholesome
things which are really wholesome, but invalids and sick
people may find other things wholesome. In the same way
people differ about definitions of bitter, sweet, heavy, and
hot, but a man with the proper standards will judge these
things correctly.
To sum up, what is good and pleasant varies under
different conditions or in different situations. Ordinary men
often choose the pleasant in the misguided belief that it is
good, and avoid pain thinking it is evil. The chief distinction
of the virtuous man is his ability to see the truth in any
particular moral question, thus he sets the standards for
judging such questions. Before general principles are
applied in the evaluation of moral purpose, one must
always consider the particular situation.
Chapter V
Man's Moral Responsibility as an Agent
The object of wish is an end. The objects of deliberation
and choice are the means to that end. Since actions are
concerned with means, it is clear that actions are based
on choice and are thus voluntary. In any given situation,
men voluntarily choose the means they apply. It is always
in their power to act or to refrain from acting. Every man
is personally responsible for his acts.
This conception of personal moral responsibility is supported
by the empirical experience of many people, including
judges and legislators.
Page 43
Laws reward moral acts and punish immoral, which would
be foolish if men didn't choose to act as they do.
Moreover, the law penalizes evil doers, but not those who
have acted involuntarily due to compulsion or ignorance (
, in cases where there are extenuating circumstances).
The agent is held responsible, however, in situations where
it is fair to claim he is the cause of his own ignorance (
, in cases of drunkenness).
Socrates used to say that no man is willingly bad. This is
false, unless we claim that man is not the source of his
own actions, but we have already shown that human
actions in the moral sphere are voluntary.
Some thinkers try to escape the question of personal
moral responsibility by saying that men seek their
good and cannot be blamed for holding erroneous ideas of
what is good. In our view a man is as much responsible
for what appears good to him as he is for his actions.
It has also been claimed that some men cannot be held
responsible for their actions because they have become
habitually self-indulgent or unjust and can no longer control
themselves. Since such men initially became that way
voluntarily, it is impossible to excuse them for their acts or
present state. It must be definitively stated that all virtues
and all vices are voluntary. Every man is fully responsible
for his own actions.
To sum up the whole discussion:
1. Virtues are means and characteristics.
2. Virtues (and vices) tend to produce the same kind of
actions as those to which they owe their existence.
3. Since they find their expression in voluntary action, the
existence of virtue and vice is dependent on how a man
decides to act in any given situation.
4. Action and character are both voluntary, but not in the
same sense. Men control their actions from beginning to
end, so long as they know the particular circumstances
surrounding their actions, but they control only the
beginning of their characteristics. The particular steps in the
development of characteristics are imperceptible, just as
they are in the spread of a disease, but their beginning is
5. Since action and character are both voluntary, it is
possible to hold a man morally responsible for the
consequences of his actions and state of character.
Page 44
A discussion of the individual virtues now follows, with
emphasis on definitions, explanation of the areas in which
they operate, and their modes of operation.
Chapter VI
Courage (i)
Courage is a mean between fear and recklessness. All
objects of fear are fearful things, and generally they are
evil also, so fear is defined as the expectation of evil. It is
right and proper to fear some evils, but wrong to fear
those which are not within one's control as an agent. The
truly courageous man is concerned only with the most
terrible of evils death and in particular with death in the
most noble of circumstances, war. The real test of courage
is how a man behaves in the face of dangers that are to
some extent within his control.
Chapter VII
Courage (ii)
Like all human beings, the courageous man fears what is
fearful, but he endures his fear in the right way and for
the right reason because his aim is to act with nobility. It is
possible to fear things to a greater or lesser extent than is
warranted or to fear what is not really fearful, and these
are the forms taken by the vices surrounding courage.
Common useage has no name for excessive lack of fear,
but the man who is afraid of nothing is either a madman
or totally immune to pain. Excessive confidence is called
recklessness. Excessive fear is cowardice. Cowards,
reckless men, and courageous men are all concerned with
the same situation, but have different attitudes toward it.
The first two groups practice extreme forms of behavior,
while the latter keep to the mean and behave properly.
Chapter VIII
Courage (iii)
There are five lesser forms of courage:
1. Political or civic courage ( , that of citizen-soldiers),
which inspires men to face danger for the sake of honor
and renown or to escape the disgrace assigned by law to
cowardice. Because it has a noble motive-honor it is
closest to true courage. A lower form of political courage is
that in which fear of punishment is the only motive.
Page 45
2. Courage of experience ( , that shown by
professional soldiers), which is primarily a matter of knowing
when real danger is present and being familiar with
dangerous situations. When the confidence of experienced
men is shaken, they tend to be more cowardly than less
experienced men who have political courage.
3. Courage inspired by anger, pain, or some other blind
emotion. This is similar to the courage shown by brute
animals. It is the most ''natural" kind of courage and can
develop into true courage if choice and correct moral
purpose are added.
4. Courage based on optimism and sanguine temperament.
This comes from a sense of superiority rather than a
noble motive and rapidly turns to cowardice in the face of
failure or adverse circumstances.
5. Courage due to ignorance. This is the least enduring
kind and changes to cowardice as soon as the facts in
any situation become known.
Chapter IX
Courage (iv)
Courage is concerned with feelings of confidence and fear.
It often involves facing what is painful, but, like all virtues,
its end is pleasant. In many cases, the more happy a
man is, the more painful it is for him to exercise courage
in a dangerous situation because death seems more
painful to him, but this raises his courage to a higher level
and makes him even more noble and virtuous.
Chapter X
Self-Control (i)
Temperance or self-control is a virtue of the irrational part
of human beings. It is a mean in regard to sensual
pleasures and is concerned only with those pleasures
which human beings share with the lower animals. ( ,
taste and touch, more specifically, pleasures of eating,
drinking, and sexual intercourse). Mental pleasures are
excluded for obvious reasons; pleasures like smell, sight,
and hearing because, even though they pertain to physical
organs, they are used by animals only for functional
purposes and not for enjoyment ( , animals do not
listen to music, smell perfume, or admire works of art).
Page 46
Chapter XI
Self-Control (ii)
Excess in pleasure is known as self-indulgence or
intemperance. It takes many different forms ( , desire
for something which most other men find offensive, desire
to a greater extent than normal for something liked by
other men, desire in the wrong way for something also
desired by other men, and so on). Self-indulgent men
suffer pain when their desires go unfulfilled and they suffer
pain when their appetite arises, even if it is eventually filled.
The vice of insufficient desire for pleasure hardly exists and
has no name. It takes the form either of innate insensitivity
to pleasure or of asceticism, though the first is an inborn
characteristic and not reprehensible.
In all matters pertaining to pleasure the temperate man
observes the mean. He does not enjoy what is most
pleasant to the self-indulgent and feels no pain, or only to
a moderate degree, when his appetites are unfulfilled. He
desires only pleasures that are within his means, compatible
with nobility and which contribute to his health and
Chapter XII
Self-Control (iii)
Self-indulgence is motivated by pleasure while cowardice is
motivated by pain. Pain upsets and destroys the nature of
a man experiencing pain, but pleasure does not, so
self-indulgence is classified as more voluntary than
cowardice and more reprehensible. The acts of a
self-indulgent man are always voluntary. Cowardice is
voluntary also, but there are certain situations in which
specific cowardly acts can be considered as having taken
place under constraint and thus being involuntary. The acts
of a self-indulgent man are due to desire, but no one
desires to be a coward. Besides, resistance to
self-indulgence does not involve danger, while resistance to
cowardice in a fearful situation may be dangerous.
Wanton self-indulgence in adults is similar to the
naughtiness of children. In both instances life is governed
entirely by appetite and desire, unrestrained by a rational
Before giving an account of specific virtues included in the
moral life Aristotle discusses a number of questions having
to do with the nature of a
Page 47
moral act and the degree to which a person is responsible
for what he does. He begins by distinguishing between
actions that are voluntary and those that are involuntary.
Because involuntary actions are those over which man has
no control at all they do not belong in the field of ethics
and man has no moral responsibility with reference to
them. In the case of voluntary actions the situation is
different. When a man chooses a particular course of
action he is responsible not only for the choice he has
made but for the consequences which follow from it. Now
if all actions could be classified as either voluntary or
involuntary the problems would be quite simple. Actually the
situation is very complicated for we are constantly being
faced with problems in which the decisions we make are
neither entirely free nor entirely determined. Our
responsibilities in these matters will vary with the degree of
freedom which we are permitted to have.
It has been stated that a virtuous man is one who makes
the right choice of his own free will between alternative
courses of action. The two main obstacles with reference
to free choice are coercion and ignorance. When coercion
is complete one is not responsible for what he does since
he has no choice in the matter. In many instances,
however, the individual may be subjected to certain
pressures which are designed to influence his choice but
he is not compelled to yield to them. Whether he does so
or not is his own responsibility. Before making his decision
he should anticipate as nearly as he is able the probable
consequences of each course of action and then select
the one which has the greater amount of good and a
lesser amount of evil. Whether one is responsible for
actions that are performed in ignorance will depend on a
number of considerations. One of these is whether he had
an adequate opportunity to become informed but for no
good reason neglected to do so. Another pertains to those
situations in which he did the best he could to become
properly informed but in spite of these efforts he was
mistaken concerning the facts or he was unable to make
correct inferences with reference to them. A man may act
with the very best of intentions but because of faulty
information which has been given to him the consequences
of his action may be harmful to his neighbor. Again, he
may act with evil intentions and because he has been
badly informed the results of his action may be beneficial
to others. While it is true that good intentions are a
necessary prerequisite for good actions we cannot say that
an act is good just because it is performed from the right
motive. Neither can we say that an act is good just
because good consequences follow from it. A good act is
one that proceeds from a good motive, uses good means,
and is followed by good consequences insofar as these
can be determined in advance.
In a further discussion of moral action in general Aristotle
makes some important distinctions between such items as
choice, deliberation,
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and wishful thinking. Although choice is always associated
with voluntary action the two terms are not identical in
meaning. Actions are voluntary when the individual is free
from external coercion, but choice is something that is
initiated by himself. Freedom is a condition which makes it
possible for him to select one course of action rather than
another but the decision is an inward act rather than
something that is governed completely by external factors.
Whether the decision is a wise one is usually determined
by the deliberation which precedes it. Deliberation means a
careful consideration of the implications and consequences
that belong to each of the alternative courses of conduct
that are being contemplated. After this has been done the
choice that is being made can be guided not simply by
one's wishes or desires of the moment but rather by what
reason indicates will be in harmony with the person's long
range interests and the total development of his personality.
In the latter part of Book III Aristotle gives an account of
two specific virtues. They are courage and self-control.
Courage has a very important place in Aristotelian ethics. It
always involves a certain amount of risk or daring on the
part of the individual for it means the giving up of
something that is of value in order to achieve a greater or
more lasting value. There are different kinds of courage
and these are distinguished by the type of sacrifice that is
made for the sake of a greater good. In some instances
the sacrifice may be very slight involving no more than
what would usually be regarded as courtesy with reference
to the happiness of others. At other times it may mean the
giving of one's time or his possessions to provide the
necessary care for those who are in need. In extreme
cases it may mean the giving up of one's own life for the
sake of a cause which is inclusive of the welfare of many
persons. In fact Aristotle tells us that the noblest form of
courage is that which is displayed on the field of battle
since it means the placing of oneself in a situation of
extreme danger which may cost him his life. Courage is
an example of the doctrine of the golden mean since it is
defined as the point which is midway between the
extremes of cowardice and foolhardiness. Just where this
point is to be located in a particular situation must be
determined by the individual in accordance with his rational
nature and in view of all the circumstances that are
The virtue of self-control has to do with the proper
regulation of the so-called animal appetites and desires or
that part of human nature which man has in common with
the lower animals. The specific examples are food, drink,
and sex. With reference to these elements Aristotle is
certainly not an ascetic. He does not condemn any of
these appetites or desires as evil in themselves. Each of
them has a proper function to perform and so long as it
is kept under proper control it makes a valuable
contribution to the good
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life. Because over-indulgence is often pleasurable at the
moment there is a natural tendency to allow them to be
carried to an excess. When this happens we have a vice
instead of a virtue. The same thing occurs when through
some form of asceticism or kindred motivation the appetites
are limited to less than their proper function in relation to
life as a whole.
Book IV

Chapter I
Generosity or liberality is the mean in matters pertaining to
material goods ( , money and everything whose value
is measured in money). The two extremes related to it are
extravagance or prodigality and stinginess. All are
concerned with giving and taking, although to different
degrees. Stinginess is the quality of attaching too much
importance to material things; prodigality is a self-destructive
vice, for wasting one's own material goods is a
self-destructive act.
Wealth is a commodity meant for use, and like any object
can be used well or badly. Just as any particular object is
used best by the man who possesses the virtue
appropriate to that object, wealth is used best by the
generous man. He is characterized by giving or spending
for the right reasons, at the right times, for the right
purposes, and to the right people. The motive for his
generosity is always noble. Generosity must be evaluated in
terms relative to a man's property, for a generous act
depends not only on the amount given but on the motives
and characteristics of the giver. It is often the case that a
man who gives less is more generous than the man who
gives more, because his gift comes from smaller resources.
Extravagance is an excess in giving and spending and a
deficiency in taking. Stinginess is a deficiency in giving and
spending and an excess in taking. Extravagance has more
in common with generosity than does stinginess. Stinginess,
which is further from the mean, is considered the greater
evil because most people are prone to error on the side
of stinginess, not extravagance.
Chapter II
Magnificence is another virtue pertaining to wealth, but
unlike generosity it is confined to expenditures involving the
use of money, and is
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concerned only with spending on a grand scale (as for
civic projects). The scale for judging magnificence is
relative, depending on how much is a suitable outlay
considering the spender, the circumstances in which he
makes the outlay, and the object of his spending. To
clarify the difference between magnificence and generosity,
it should be noted that the magnificent man is always
generous, but the generous man is not always magnificent.
The corresponding extremes are: Deficiency shabbiness or
niggardliness; excess vulgarity and bad taste. Excess may
not be shown in the amount spent, but in the way it is
spent and the purpose for which it is spent. The vulgar
man usually spends more than he should on any given
project and shows off improperly. His motives are ignoble,
and he is often more concerned with making a grand
impression than with the public welfare. The niggardly man
falls short in all areas, cutting corners wherever possible,
hesitating before spending, and grumbling when he finally
does, but his vice does not do any serious harm to his
neighbors. The magnificent man has the capacity to judge
what is needed and suitable, and to spend large sums of
money with good taste.
Chapter III
Magnanimity (also known as high-mindedness or
great-souledness) is the mean between vanity and
small-mindedness or pettiness. It presupposes possession of
all the other virtues, for high-mindedness is the quality of
those who think they deserve great things ( , honor,
public office, respect) and actually do deserve them.
High-mindedness, by definition, implies greatness; it is
knowing that to which you are entitled and insisting on it,
but it also involves maintaining high standards in all things
and setting an example for the community. A man who
falsely claims honor and other great things is vain. A man
who underestimates his own value is small-minded and
Chapter IV
Ambition and Lack of Ambition
Ambition and lack of ambition are the extremes of a
nameless virtue which is related to high-mindedness in the
same way that generosity is related to magnificence. It may
be defined as desiring honor in the right amount, in the
right manner, for the right reason, and at the right time.
The ambitious man strives for more honor in any particular
area than he is entitled to. The unambitious man tries to
avoid honor, even for noble achievements, from a false
sense of modesty or because he does not properly judge
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his own worth. This virtue resembles lack of ambition when
compared to ambition, and ambition when compared to
lack of ambition, but from a distance it can look like both
at once.
Chapter V
Gentleness or good temper is the mean in feelings of
anger. Short temper or irascibility is the excess, the
deficiency has no name but may be called insufficient
anger or apathy. The emotion of anger can be caused by
many different factors, but the good-tempered man is
always angry under the right circumstances, with the right
people, in the right manner and degree, at the right time,
and for the right length of time. Excess can be shown in
too much anger, or unjustified anger, or too lengthly anger,
. Apathy is the vice of those who do not get angry
when anger is justified and who are not affected by things
that should arouse anger; apathetic people often seem to
have no feelings and to be unable to suffer pain for any
Chapter VI
Friendliness is the mean in human relations, which includes
all dealings with our fellow men recreational, business,
political, . The excessive extreme is obsequiousness, the
deficient extreme is grouchiness. This virtue differs from
friendship in that it does not require emotion or affection for
those with whom one is associated. The friendly man acts
toward other people in terms appropriate to their
relationship; he tolerates or does not tolerate the right
things in the right manner, he avoids giving pain whenever
possible, and always tries to do what is beneficial and
Chapter VII
In almost the same sphere as that of friendliness, one
finds another nameless virtue. Its excessive extreme is
boastfulness; its deficient extreme is self-depreciation. This
virtue is concerned with truthfulness in speech, action, and
pretense, especially in regard to describing one's own
abilities, qualities, and attributes.
Chapter VIII
Wittiness and Tact
Because relaxation is an important part of life, good taste
and propriety in one's social relations are a virtue of great
value. Wittiness, the mean in
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this area, pertains to what one says and how one says it,
as well as to how and when one listens. Its essential
attribute is tactfulness, with which it is often identified. The
vice of excess in this area is Buffoonery; that of defect is
Chapter IX
Shame and Modesty
Shame or modesty resembles an emotion more than a
characteristic. It can be defined as fear of disrepute or
disgrace, and is most appropriate to the young.
Shamelessness is unquestionably a vice, but proper shame
is not a virtue in the full sense. If a man committed an
indecent or immoral act and was properly ashamed of
himself afterwards, one could still not call him virtuous.
There are certain things that no decent man ever does,
regardless of circumstances. Nonetheless, proper modesty
is a desirable characteristic at certain stages of life.

The virtues and vices described above provide an

interesting portrait of what the ancient Greeks considered to
be a good man. While not fundamentally different from
modern conceptions of goodness, the portrait may seem
overly intellectualized and omits certain virtues like piety,
chastity, and humility, which are products of the Christian

In this book Aristotle continues with an account of the

virtues which are exemplified in the good life. It is indeed a
remarkable conception of human character which he
describes and one that presents the Greek ideal at its
very best. The virtues enumerated in this part of the
like the two that were discussed in the previous
book are concrete illustrations of the doctrine of the golden
mean. An important characteristic of the Aristotelian ethics is
the fact that it does not specify a list of activities that are
condemned or approved in any amount or without regard
to the circumstances involved in particular cases. Instead,
the moral quality of actions is relative to the individual and
the situation in which he finds himself. What is proper and
right for one person in a given set of circumstances may
be quite different from what another person should do
even though the circumstances are similar in several
respects. Each case must be decided on its own merits.
This does not mean that Aristotle subscribes to the type of
relativism in which each person is free to decide the issue
that arises in any manner which may suit his fancy at the
moment. There are guide lines
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for each person to follow in order that he may make the
right decision. The choice must be directed by reason
rather than by one's feelings or the desire to obtain that
which is pleasant. The function of reason is to determine
the proper amount which in view of all the circumstances
will promote the most complete and harmonious
development of one's personality.
The good man, according to Aristotle, will be generous. He
will give freely of both his time and his money in order to
help those who are in need. In doing so, however, he will
be careful to avoid both the excess of giving too much
and the deficiency of not giving enough. Generosity is
something that needs to be exercised with discretion if it is
to promote one's own good as well as that of others.
Miserliness is harmful to the soul and the same is true of
dispensing of one's possessions in a thriftless manner. In
meeting the needs of others the amount of one's
generosity should be governed not only by his ability to
give but also by the amount that will be in harmony with
the long range interests of the ones who are being helped.
There are situations of distress in which much help is
needed at once, and there are other situations in which
too much aid will rob the persons of the initiative to help
themselves. Wisdom is needed in these matters and the
good man will follow the guidance of reason.
The good life is characterized still further by what Aristotle
calls magnificence and along with this high-mindedness.
Both of these virtues refer to the attitude which one
displays in the use of his time and his possessions.
Magnificence in one's giving means that one will respond to
needs which are comparatively small and attract little or no
attention as well as donating to public causes which will be
observed by the masses of people. In no case will the
giving be done just for the sake of the honor which
comes from it. The high-minded person will be deserving of
honor and respect but he will avoid vanity and claiming
great things for himself. He will not seek praise and
recognition from others but neither will he accept slander
and defamation without appropriate retaliation. His ambition
will be to examplify the good life in the society of which he
is a part. He will accept honors when they are truly
deserved but he will be concerned to see that they are
bestowed in the right amount.
As a member of society the man who lives up to the
Aristotelian ideal will cultivate a gentle disposition. He will be
kind and considerate in his dealings with others. He will
rejoice in their successes as well as in his own. He will
avoid violent displays of temper even though he will have
occasions to become angry. As a wise and prudent
person he will know when anger is appropriate and he will
always be able to keep it under proper control. He will not
give vent to his feelings just because he encounters
difficulties but
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he will endeavor to meet each new situation with courage
and good judgment. He will place a high value on
friendship knowing that a relationship of this kind will be of
mutual benefit to himself and his friends. Naturally he will
be anxious to cultivate friendship with persons who possess
admirable qualities but the basis of friendship will not be
confined to the advantages which he gains for himself. He
will contribute to others as well as receive from them. He
will not forsake his friends because they are in need. The
only thing that will destroy friendship is that which is
destructive of the proper development of personality. Above
all else the good man will be one who maintains an
attitude of modesty as well as honesty in the matter of his
own achievements. He will be ambitious in the sense that
he makes the best use of his opportunities but he will not
boast of his own goodness nor exaggerate in telling of his
accomplishments. He will endeavor to live in a manner that
will give no cause for him to be ashamed of what he has
done nor to claim for himself more than what rightfully
belongs to him.
Book V

Chapter I
Various Definitions of Justice
The study of justice and injustice has three main elements:
(a) determination of the kind of actions that come within the
scope of each, (b) determination of what kind of mean
justice is, (c) determination of the extremes between which
justice is to be found.
The word justice has two main definitions that which is
lawful and that which is fair and equal. These may be
termed respectively, "universal" justice and "partial" or
''particular" justice. Universal justice is co-extensive with
virtue, in that the virtous man obeys the law, but this
presupposes that the law is based on virtue. Universal
justice is slightly different from virtue, however, in the sense
that it is concerned with relations between people and
institutions and not between people and people. Since it
pertains to the question of social justice, universal justice is
best deferred until we begin our study of politics and
political institutions.
Page 55
Chapter II
Particular Justice Distributive and Remedial
Particular justice is justice as it relates to the individual. In
this sense justice is a part of virtue, and a concept which
must be understood if one is to be virtuous in all areas of
action. Particular injustice is best defined as taking more or
less than one's rightful share of something, and particular
justice as a mean between taking too much and too little.
In practice it often comes slightly nearer to taking too little.
There are two forms of particular justice:
1. Distributive justice; which is concerned with the fair
distribution of honors, public office, material goods, or
anything else that can be divided between members of a
2. Corrective or remedial justice; which has a rectifying
function in private transactions between individuals. The
sphere of corrective justice is itself divided into two parts:
(a) Voluntary transactions; so-called because the initiative of
both parties is voluntary. business deals, buying,
selling, lending, renting, borrowing, (b) Involuntary
transactions; so-called because one party participates
involuntarily. Usually criminal acts, these are divided into two
classes(1) secret, theft, adultery, poisoning, perjury,
etc., and (2) violent, assault, homicide, armed robbery,
slander, etc.
Chapter III
Distributive Justice
Distributive justice always involves two persons and two
things. Its aim is to distribute the things in such a way that
the relative positions of the two persons prior to the
transaction are maintained after the transactions, the
thing is divided proportionally to the merit of the persons
concerned, always remembering that the standard of merit
for individuals varies in different kinds of states in a
democracy it is freedom, in an oligarchy it is wealth, in an
aristocracy it is virtue), and that a distribution can be made
between unequal individuals.
Distributive justice is best viewed as a form of discrete or
geometrical proportion. For example, there are two men, A
and B, and two things, C and D. Assume that A and B
are equal in merit and C and D equal in
Page 56
value. This gives the equation, A : B = C : D. In
accordance with distributive justice, all of C is given to A
and all of D is given to B, and the situation after the
transaction is, A + C : B + D = A : B. That is the
relative positions of A and B are the same before and
after the transaction. In this kind of case justice is a mean
between giving A or B more or less than their rightful
In cases involving distribution, justice is what is proportional
and injustice is violation of proportion. A man who acts
unjustly has more than his share, while a man who is
treated unjustly has less.
Chapter IV
Remedial Justice
Corrective or remedial justice pertains to both voluntary and
involuntary transactions. In cases of the first kind, two
parties voluntarily entered into a contract or relationship and
injury was done to one party. The duty of the judge in
such a case is not to punish, but to remedy, and it is not
relevant whether both or either parties to the case are
good or bad men. The law treats both parties as equals,
determines what damage has been done and to whom,
and tries to restore the equilibrium which existed before the
As in cases pertaining to voluntary justice, the terms "gain"
and "loss" are also used in discussing involuntary
transactions, although they are not always the most
appropriate terms and may at times be misleading. Their
meaning will be illustrated by the following example a brawl
takes place in which one man stabs another, the man
who did the stabbing may be said to have gained while
the man who was wounded has suffered a loss. In cases
involving involuntary transactions the law is still concerned
with restoring a balance, but since most involuntary
transactions are criminal acts, it is necessary to interpret
gain and loss in the broadest sense.
Corrective justice takes the form of an arithmetical
proportion (also known as an arithmetical progression). Let
us say that there are two equal parties, A and B. After a
certain transaction, A has injured B to the extent of C,
and their relation is A + C, B - C. To restore the balance,
the judge takes C from A and gives it to B, creating a
new relationship, A + C - C = B - C + C, an arithmetical
mean between gain and loss in which the relative positions
of the parties is once again the same.
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The Aristotelian concept of corrective justice is illustrated by

the following diagram:

AA' = BB' = CC' AE = DC = CF

A transaction a theft) takes place in which CC"
injuries AA' to the extent or value AE, CC' takes AE
from AA'. After the transaction, the injured party is reduced
to EA' while the injurer is increased by DC (that which he
has taken) to DCC'. The judge keeps in mind the mean
BB' and sees the inequality between EA' and DCC'. He
determines the value of AE (= DC and DF) and gives to
the injured party that which will restore the balance or
mean while taking from the injuring party that which he
has that exceeds the mean.
Chapter V
Reciprocal Justice and the Function of Money
The Pythagoreans define absolute justice as reciprocity,
saying that justice in the unqualified sense is having done
to one what one has done to another an eye for an
eye). The principle of reciprocity as they state it is
oversimplified and does not agree with the ideas of
distributive and remedial justice as we have explained them
above. There are many situations in which reciprocity and
justice are not the same if a magistrate strikes a
man, he should not be struck in return, but if an ordinary
citizen strikes a magistrate, he should not only be struck in
return but punished).
In certain kinds of dealings between men, however (
economic activities and associations based on mutual
exchange), the principle of reciprocity does apply, if it is
defined as proportional reciprocity rather than reciprocity on
the basis of absolute equality.
A state or community is bound together by relations
between its members based on exchange of goods and
services. Since people are not willing to exchange unless
they get as good as they give, a principle or
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proportional reciprocity is necessary for guiding such
relations. Proportional reciprocity takes into account the
comparative skill of both parties and the comparative worth
of their products, and is determined by a diagonal
combination of terms. Here is an example:
A is a builder, B is a shoemaker, C is a house, D is a
shoe. The builder takes the shoemaker's product (a shoe)
from the shoemaker and gives his own product (a house)
in return. The relationship is expressed in the following

A fair reciprocal exchange takes place if equality has been

established between the goods.
Simple reciprocity as shown in the above example will not
usually work since the exchanging parties and the value of
the things they offer for exchange must always be taken
into consideration. Many cases are complicated because A
may want B's product while B does not want A's product
in return. Before any fair exchange can take place, it is
necessary to find a standard of value by which all goods
and services can be measured.
This is the function of money, which has been developed
and put into use as a kind of common denominator for
expressing the value of goods and services. It acts as a
sort of middle term in the proportion, telling us, for example,
how many shoes are equal to a house or to a given
amount of food. Money acts as a representative of
demand. Money exists by current convention rather than
by nature, and it is within human power to change or
destroy its value.
Money is subject to fluctuations in value, just like all other
commodities, but it is more stable than goods whose value
is specifically related to the particular demands of individuals
at any given moment. By using money as a measure to
establish proportional value, it is possible to make goods
equal, and this standard, arbitrarily accepted, makes
exchange and community possible. All things, however
different, can be measured in terms of money.
Exchange only takes place when equality between goods
can be established. There can be no real equality without
an idea of proportion.
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While it is impossible for different things really to be equal,
money allows the establishment of an equality adequate for
the needs of daily intercourse. Here is an illustration:
A is a house, B is $10.00, C is a bed. The value of the
house is $5.00 (A=B/2), the value of the bed is $1.00
(C=B/10). This makes it clear how many beds are equal
in value to one house (5) and makes it possible for a fair
exchange to take place.
Prior to the development of money, exchange may have
existed on just this basis as a form of barter, for it makes
little real difference (aside from the convenience) whether
one pays five beds or the value of five beds for one
house. The convenience, however, is a very important
factor, since it makes possible all kinds of transactions, with
the nature and conditions of these transactions not
dependent on the type of goods or service one happens
to produce or the type of goods or service required by
the other party.
In regard to the whole discussion of justice in its different
forms, it can be said that just behavior is a mean between
doing injustice and suffering it. To do injustice is to have
more than one's share and to suffer injustice is to have
Justice can be viewed as a mean, but it is unlike the
other virtues. They are all relative things determined in
regard to certain extremes. Justice is a permanent attitude
of the soul toward the mean ( a disposition by virtue
of which a man always deliberately chooses that which is
just). Injustice is related to vice in the same way. We may
conclude that justice is the objective observation of
proportion in all areas of life based on a subjective
perception of what is proportional.
Chapter VI
Political and Social Justice, Domestic Justice
Besides defining absolute justice, it is also necessary to
determine what form justice takes in social and political
matters. Political justice may be said to exist where men
share a common way of life that enables them to have all
they require for self-sufficient existence as free and equal
members of society, whether viewed in actual (arithmetical)
or proportional terms ( the citizens of an aristocracy
are proportionally equal since their status and rights depend
on individual merit, while the citizens of a democracy are
artithmetically equal since every free citizen has the same
rights and privileges).
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Since it is the function of law to decide between the just
and unjust, there can be no political justice where relations
between men are not governed by law. Laws only exist
because men can be guilty of injustice. Where it is
possible for people to act unjustly among themselves, it is
also possible for them to act unjustly toward each other.
For this reason rule by a single man is bad. Rulers, as
men, tend to consider their own interests before those of
the state, and thus become tyrants. The law is the real
ruler of any just state, since it is the source of its equality,
and the true function of human rulers is to act as
guardians of the law and justice.
There is another form of justice, different from though
analagous to that which we have been discussing. This is
domestic justice, often viewed as justice between father
and child or master and slave. The main distinction
between it and political justice is that the injustice of a ruler
to his subjects is absolute, while that of a man to his
children or slaves is relative. A man's dependent children
or slaves are in a sense part of himself. Since no one
deliberately chooses to injure himself, it is difficult in any
circumstances to say that someone is being unjust to his
children or slaves. Justice between husband and wife is
the only true form of domestic justice, but even this is
different in detail from that which is just in the political or
social spheres.
Chapter VII
Natural and Conventional Justice
Political justice takes two forms natural and conventional.
Natural justice has the same validity everywhere and is
unaffected by the view men take of it at any given time or
place. It is made up of rights and duties that are obligatory
in any society ( strictures against killing).
Conventional justice is composed of the rights and duties
superimposed by the laws of particular states on the laws
of natural justice. Justice is conventional where there is no
special reason why it takes one form or another. The
rules imposed by conventional justice are reached by
common consent, after which they hold good until modified
by consent ( when several states decide that the
ransom for a prisoner of war should be a certain amount,
or when a religious code prescribes that a certain ritual
requires a specifically enumerated number of sacrificial
animals). Rules of justice established by convention on the
grounds of convenience may be compared in some sense
to the standard systems of weights and measures that are
set up by states; they are not the same everywhere since
governments are different, but are adhered to for the sake
of stability.
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Natural justice is absolute and cannot change, although in
day to day affairs the rules under which it is administered
tend to go through modifications and alterations. It is not
always obvious which rules of justice are natural and which
are conventional since variation is possible and both forms
exist side by side.
Chapter VIII
Degrees of Personal Responsibility
Now that justice has been defined and described, it is
necessary to add that a man acts justly or unjustly only
when his acts have been performed voluntarily. Actions can
be just or unjust only when they are voluntary and it is
only in regard to voluntary acts that the moral question
arises. Bad actions which lack the voluntary elements must
be considered acts with an unjust effect but without an
unjust quality.
As has already been shown, a voluntary action is:
1. An act which was in the agent's power to do or not to
2. An act in which the agent performed with full knowledge
of the person affected, the instrument being used, and the
object being sought.
3. An act in which no particular was determined by
accident or under constraint, ( if A takes B's hand
and strikes C, B does not act voluntarily since the act was
not within his power).
An involuntary action is:
1. Performed in ignorance, or 2. performed without ability
on the part of the agent to prevent it, or 3. performed
under compulsion.
Moreover, there is a distinction between an unjust act and
a man who acts unjustly. The motives behind an act can
render the agent unjust even if the act itself is
unexceptionable. ( Before going on a trip, A leaves
some money in the safe keeping of B. When A returns, B
gives the money back, but does so reluctantly and only
because he fears the consequences. It cannot be said
that B is behaving justly; at best he has done the right
thing by accident.).
Men sometimes act voluntarily by deliberate choice and
sometimes not, thus there can be different degrees of
responsibility for just and unjust actions, and in certain
situations man cannot be held fully responsible for actions
with a bad or unjust effect.
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Aside from acts due to compulsion, there are four possible
forms of action and thus four degrees of individual
1. Accidents: a man may act in ignorance and without
malice and inflict an injury which could not reasonably have
been expected in a given situation. In such a case the
agent cannot be held responsible.
2. Negligence a man may act in ignorance and without
malice and inflict an injury which might reasonably have
been expected. Such an act, which is called a mistake, is
one for which the agent may be held responsible, although
it is recognized the there was no malice involved and he
is not treated as a criminal.
3. A man may act with full knowledge but without
deliberation ( as in anger). In such a case the agent
is held responsible because he was wrong and his act
was an offence, but this does not make him an unjust or
wicked man since the harm he did was not premeditated.
4. A man may act from deliberate choice with full
knowledge. In this instance the agent is unjust and his act
unjust, and he bears full responsibility for his wickedness.
The responsibility for this last type of act is most serious
and should be punished and condemned more severely
than the kinds of acts described in 2 and 3 above.
Chapter IX
Additional Discussion of Relation Between Voluntariness and
Just Action
Who is the guilty party when an injustice is done, the
person who receives an unfair proportion of what is
distributed or the person who acts as distributor? The
answer to this is complicated by several factors. Certainly,
whether distributor or recipient, it is possible for a man to
participate in an unjust act by accident and without the
intention of being unjust, and it must be remembered in
this connection that doing an unjust act is not the same
thing as being unjust. By the same token, suffering
something unjust is not the same as receiving unjust
treatment, for it is impossible to receive unjust treatment
unless someone has acted unjustly.
Here are a few examples of particular cases:
When a judge makes a decision in ignorance of some
detail about which he has been misinformed, but his
decision is in accordance with the evidence available and in
terms that the law defines as legal, we say that the
decision is just in the sense that it accords with the law,
but unjust in the real sense because it violates a principle
of universal justice which
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supersedes the conventional justice the judge has adhered
to. The judge is not guilty of injustice though he has
distributed unjustly, and the recipient who got an unfair
share has not really been treated unjustly.
When a judge knows all the facts in a case and makes
his decision for personal reasons favoritism or revenge, for
example he is acting unjustly in terms of the law and in
terms of universal justice. The recipient in this case may
receive an unfair share, but cannot be held responsible for
When a judge takes a bribe to render a certain decision
regardless of the facts or makes an unjust decision
because he has been promised promotion to a higher
office, he acts unjustly. Since his motive is not injustice
itself, however, but something else like greed, the case
is a mixture of voluntary and involuntary.
It is not easy to be just or unjust in the true sense, since
this requires that an agent be so consistently and on
principle, at all times and in all circumstances. As shown in
the above examples, people frequently act justly or unjustly
for indirect reasons and seldom have full knowledge or
pure motives. This is a difficult concept for many people to
accept; they find it hard to believe that a truly just man
can never act unjustly because they do not understand
that he has acquired a basic habit of mind that prevents
him from choosing to do an unjust act.
Chapter X
Equity and Justice
Equity and justice are closely related. While not absolutely
identical, they belong to the same genus and are both
morally good. What is equitable is just, in one sense, but
in another sense it is higher than what is just since equity
is the principle applied to correct justice when it errs.
Laws are expressed in generalized, universal terms, but
there are always particular cases which do not fit into this
abstract framework. Such generalizing, which is based on
the majority of cases, is necessary if the law is to be
functional, but there are occasional errors or oversights.
When a particular case falls outside the scope of the law's
generalized formulae, the shortcomings or omissions in the
law are rectified by the principle of equity in accordance
with what appears to have been the general intent of the
law or legislator. In fact, by applying the principles of equity
in this way, one tries to do what the legislator himself
would do were he present and familiar with the particular
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Equity is correction of the law according to the principles of
universal justice in situations for which the law is too
abstract or generalized. An equitable man is not a stickler
for the letter of law; he will be satisfied with less than his
legal share in certain situations if he feels this is more just.
Chapter XI
Can a Man be Unjust Toward Himself?
Is it possible for a man to act unjustly toward himself (
is the man who commits suicide or mutilates himself
guilty of an injustice to himself)? In their truest senses,
justice and injustice pertain only to social relations and
dealings between men. Someone other than the agent is
required as a subject, and one can only be unjust to
someone other than himself. At most, suicide and related
acts must be viewed as crimes against society or the
There is, however, one sense in which a man may
commit a form of injustice toward himself. In the
Plato drew a distinction between the rational and irrational
parts of the soul. He said that justice of the soul is a
harmony between these parts, in which each performs its
proper function under control of reason. In his view,
injustice of the soul occurs when one part thwarts or
frustrates the legitimate desires of the other part. Thus, in
a metaphorical sense, it is possible to say that a man can
be guilty of injustice toward himself, meaning that he allows
his irrational part to dominate his rational part. But this is
not real injustice; this harmony between a man's inner
elements is analagous to ''justice" between master and
slave or head of household and family, which were
discussed earlier under the heading of "domestic justice."

Aristotle's conception of justice as explained above has had

an immense influence on medieval and modern
jurisprudence. It is important to note, however, that Aristotle
is dealing in Book V with justice in a restricted sense. He
is more concerned with human relations and individual
obligations in the or city-state than with the formulation
of legal codes and the operation of judicial systems. Some
critics have asserted that Aristotle's discussion of justice is
confusing because of his attempt to describe it according
to a mathematical formula.

The meaning of justice constitutes the subject matter of this

book. It is one of the most important topics discussed in
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for justice was often used by the Greeks in a manner that
was practically synonymous with goodness. It will be
recalled that in Plato's the theme of the entire
book was an attempt to find a satisfactory answer to the
question "What is justice?". As the discussion developed it
became clear that the subject was a very complicated one.
It involved consideration of all that constitutes the good life
both for the individual and for the state as a whole. In
general it may be said that Aristotle's conception of justice
was essentially in harmony with what Plato had taught
although his manner of presenting it was more systematic
in form and quite devoid of the charm and literary style
which Plato had used. There is a further difference, too, in
the fact that while Plato was concerned primarily with the
meaning of justice in general, Aristotle gives far more
attention to its meaning in relation to particular instances.
Using the concepts employed in the field of mathematics
Aristotle describes justice in terms of proportion and
equality. It is treating individuals with fairness to all and it is
a matter of distributing goods in their right proportion. The
latter is reminiscent of the doctrine of the golden mean
insofar as it means that persons should not be awarded
too much or too little. But in another sense justice is unlike
the golden mean. It is something for which everyone
should strive and no one can ever have too much of it.
Justice is both an individual virtue and a social one. It
refers to the actions of individuals in their relations with one
another and it has to do with forms of government, the
making of laws, and the system of rewards and
punishment. The discussion of justice especially in relation
to matters of state is developed more fully in the
and for this reason the major emphasis in the is
given to other aspects of the subject.
The full meaning of justice is something more than can be
expressed in any one of the definitions that are given.
According to one of these justice may be said to consist
in conformity to the laws of the land. The idea of equality
is implied in this statement for it means that individuals may
be treated fairly only in a society which is organized and
where government operates according to laws which have
been established for the good of all the people.
Furthermore, these laws must be applied to all citizens
without showing any favoritism to any individuals or groups
of people representing special interests. It is true that the
laws which have been enacted in any given society will
never be more than approximations to justice in its ideal
form. Nevertheless, these laws should be respected and
obeyed so long as they are the recognized laws of the
land for in spite of their imperfections they give to all the
citizens more freedom and protection than they would have
in a state of anarchy. Society should, however, always
strive to make improvements in their system of laws. This
becomes necessary
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whenever the administration of existing laws is obviously in
violation of the spirit of justice in its ideal or universal form.
This is implied in Aristotle's distinction between conventional
justice and natural justice. In an ideal society or one in
which each person voluntarily respects the rights of every
other person there is no need for laws. But societies of
this kind do not actually exist. The tendency to promote
one's own interests even though it is at the expense of
others is so strong in human nature that there is need for
something to counteract it. Besides, there are always those
who do act in a manner that is contrary to the public
interests and society needs to be protected insofar as this
is possible. For these reasons laws are necessary and
penalties are imposed on those who violate them. In a well
ordered society an attempt will be made to have only
those laws which are fair and just to all of the citizens and
the same will be true with reference to the penalties which
are imposed. This is an ideal which can only be
approximated in any given society because of the
differences between individuals and the respective conditions
under which they live. Nevertheless, it is important for the
state to come as close to the ideal as they can under the
existing circumstances.
Justice in regard to punishments may be conceived in two
different ways. One of these is known as retributive justice
and the other one as remedial or corrective justice.
Retributive justice is based on the idea of equality and
means that when one person has injured another he shall
make restitution in an amount which is equal to the injury
he has inflicted. There are some instances in which the
amount can be calculated with a fair degree of accuracy.
This is especially true in those cases where a money
value can be placed on the injury. This cannot always be
done. It then becomes necessary to find some other
means in which one may make atonement for his
misdeeds. In all of these instances care must be exercised
to make sure that the penalty is neither too light nor too
severe. Remedial justice aims not at exacting a penalty
which shall be equal to the crime but rather at restoring
the criminal to the point where he is able to resume a
normal and law abiding place in society. This type of justice
should always take precedence over the retributive form
whenever the circumstances are such that reformation
seems at all likely.
Another important aspect of justice has to do with the
proper distribution of wealth. In Aristotle's conception of the
good life material goods are regarded as only means for
the achievement of spiritual values. The accumulation of
money is not an end in itself. Nevertheless, it is an
important means and one without which the achievement of
many of life's values would be impossible. Hence, the just
state will aim at distributing the wealth in a manner that will
be most conducive to the realization of the
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good life for all of the people. This cannot be done by
giving an equal amount to everyone nor by distributing the
goods of society so as to meet the basic needs of all the
people. In this respect Aristotle would be critical of any
so-called welfare state which divides the wealth on the
basis of needs alone. The trouble with this system is that it
neglects the respective merits of individuals. It treats the
industrious ones and the lazy one alike. This is a violation
of the spirit of justice. People are unequal both in their
abilities and in the efforts which they put forth to use the
abilities they do have. Because of this fact any just
distribution of wealth will be based on merit as well as
need. To treat unequals as though they were equal is
indeed one of the most flagrant forms of inequality.
Book VI

Chapter I
Psychological Basis of Intellectual Virtue
There are two reasons for studying intellectual virtue:
1. Because the virtuous man has been defined as one
who acts in accordance with a right rule and this right rule
is arrived at by intellectual processes.
2. Because true happiness has been defined as an activity
of the soul in conformity with virtue, and virtue (excellence)
exists in the intellectual as well as the moral sphere.
As shown in Book I, the soul has two parts the rational
and the irrational. The rational faculty, which processes
information and formulates rules, is itself divided into two
parts. These are:
1. The scientific faculty, by which man is enabled to
comprehend non-contingent objects ( , things whose
fundamental or first principles are not subject to variation).
2. The calculative faculty, by which man is enabled to
deliberate ( , to study things which are capable of
variation and change, also known as contingent things).
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Chapter II
The Elements of Intellectual Virtue
Three elements of the soul control action and the discovery
of truth. These are:
1. Sense perception or sensation.
2. Intelligence or reason.
3. Desire or appetite.
Sense perception, which is shared by the lower animals,
has no part in initiating action and is not relevant to our
discussion. Intelligence and choice (which pertains to items
desired), on the other hand, together control all acts.
Moral virtue is a disposition in regard to choice, and
choice, as has already been shown, is deliberate desire (
, choices involve desire in determining the end and
intelligence in the form of calculative reason or deliberation
in discovering the means to that end). While the object of
reasoning in the scientific faculty is absolute truth, the
object of the calculative faculty is truth in harmony with
right desire ( , the means to satisfying right desire).
Since desire motivates action and reason determines the
right rule for virtuous action, choice is based on a
combination of reason and desire. Reason is the most
important of the two factors, but both are essential. To
choose correctly, one must determine the right rule, which
means that choice is dependent on the intellectual virtues.
The starting point of any action is its source of motion,
and the end of any action is its final cause. In these
terms, choice is a source of motion directed towards a final
Chapter III
The Five Modes of Intellectual Expression; Definition of
There are five faculties or modes which the soul uses to
arrive at truth:
1. Pure science or knowledge, which belongs to the
scientific faculty.
2. Art or applied science, which belongs to the deliberative
(calculative) faculty.
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3. Practical wisdom or prudence, which belongs to the
deliberative faculty.
4. Intuitive wisdom or intelligence, which belongs to the
scientific faculty.
5. Theoretical wisdom, which belongs to the scientific faculty.
In their appropriate spheres these five faculties are all, by
definition, infallible. Conviction and opinion have been omitted
from the list because they can both result in false
Pure science is concerned with things that are necessary
and eternal (facts which cannot be other than they are,
, the laws of physical science). Science pertains to
knowledge that can be taught, either by induction (which
starts from particulars) or syllogism (deduction, which starts
from universals). In this sense scientific knowledge is a
capacity for demonstration and proof. The syllogistic
(deductive) process is the true scientific method, although
the first principles from which syllogism proceeds are
provided by induction. (For an explanation of syllogistic
reasoning, see the section on Aristotle's logical method,
page 9.)
Chapter IV
Art or Applied Science
Another quality is needed to do something ( , to be
active in a certain way or to make something, as distinct
from engaging in the activity of making it). This quality is
art or applied science, which can be defined as the
disposition or characteristic of making things according to
the guidance of true wisdom, and as such is concerned
with the realm of coming-to-be ( , which determining
how something which is capable either of being or not
being may come into existence). Things which exist or
come into being by necessity and things produced by
nature ( , things which contain their own sources of
motion) are not within the sphere of art. It deals with
production not action, and is subordinate to practical
wisdom, which is the guide for using things produced by
art. In the sense intended here, the word "art" pertains to
both aesthetic and utilitarian production.
Chapter V
Practical Wisdom
Practical wisdom or prudence is a true disposition toward
action, by the aid of a right rule with regard to things good
and bad for men ( , it is
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the power of right deliberation about things good for
oneself). Practical wisdom is the quality of seeing what is
good for oneself, or one's group in regard to any question,
but it is not concerned with how particular things are made
or how particular states, like health or strength, are
produced, for these are among the objects of art. Unlike
the scientific disposition, practical wisdom can be influenced
by pleasure and pain. Because it is concerned with things
that can be other than what they are, it has certain
elements in common with opinion. In its particular
manifestations, practical wisdom is the dominant element in
such disciplines as political science, economics and
household management, physical training, .
Chapter VI
Intelligence or intuitive wisdom is that by which we grasp
the ultimate premises from which science takes its start.
Such first principles are grasped by induction, the process
whereby experience of a certain number of particular
instances enables the mind to grasp a universal truth,
which is afterwards seen as self-evident. Intelligence is the
ability to apprehend the fundamental principles that are the
basis of pure science.
Chapter VII
Theoretical Wisdom
Theoretical wisdom, the highest and most noble kind of
wisdom, is a union of intuition (intelligence) and science,
and comprises complete scientific knowledge in combination
with an understanding of the true meaning of what intuition
deduces from first principles. A man with theoretical wisdom
has exact knowledge of all disciplines physical sciences,
metaphysics, mathematics, philosophy, . and an intellect
that grasps the truth of fundamental principles, and employs
this combination in the contemplation of the highest objects,
which can be called ultimate universals. Such disciplines as
political science, . are concerned with limited things and
thus appertain to a lower sphere than theoretical wisdom.
Chapter VIII
Practical Wisdom and Politics
Political wisdom is an aspect of practical wisdom. The two
have many characteristics in common, but their essence
and objects are different. Practical wisdom is concerned
with securing the good of the individual, political wisdom
with securing that of the state. To a certain extent these
goals are the same, since the individual can most easily
achieve his own
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good in a good state, but there are important differences
between the needs of the individual and the group which
cause practical and political wisdom to emphasize varying
approaches and ideas.
Political wisdom has two branches. One, the supreme and
comprehensive form of political wisdom, is concerned with
legislation and the ability to legislate well. The other is
concerned with the details of administration and is itself
divided into two parts, the judicial and decision-making
Chapter IX
Practical Wisdom and Virtue in Deliberation
Practical wisdom is the first principle of good deliberation. It
enables us to evaluate a situation or problem in terms of
its general characteristics and to decide the right way and
time to act. Practical wisdom makes it possible correctly to
assess the means to an end by giving a true conception
of that end and a good standard for judging approaches
to that end.
There is an important difference between good and correct
deliberation. A morally weak or bad man can deliberate
correctly and can attain the goal which he has decided is
right for him even though the goal is bad, but the result of
good deliberation is always a good thing. By the same
token, it is possible to achieve a good goal by the wrong
means through ignorance or bad judgment, but the means
selected by good deliberation are always good.
Chapter X
Practical Wisdom and Understanding
Understanding and practical wisdom, though different things,
operate in the same sphere. Practical wisdom issues
commands, since its aim is to tell us what we ought and
ought not to do, and understanding passes judgment on
these commands. Understanding does not imply either
possession or acquisition of practical wisdom. It is also the
use of one's faculty of opinion in rightly judging statements
made by another person about matters which belong to
the realm of practical wisdom.
Chapter XI
Practical Wisdom and Good Sense
Practical wisdom is the result of experience, but good
sense is an innate characteristic. Just as native intelligence
can develop into theoretical
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wisdom, innate good sense can develop into practical
wisdom. Good sense is the quality we say a man has
when he is able to forgive others ( , he has a
sympathetic understanding and a good judgment of what is
fair and equitable). Good sense, understanding, practical
wisdom, and intelligence, are nearly always found in the
same persons. They all tend toward the same goal and
share a concern with ultimate particular facts.
Chapter XII
The Utility of Theoretical and Practical Wisdom
Practical wisdom contemplates the means by which men
become happy ( , the realm of coming-to-be), while
theoretical wisdom is concerned only with unchangeable
realities, but it is impossible to have theoretical wisdom
without also having practical wisdom ( , one cannot
know what is good unless he is experienced in doing
good). Both forms of wisdom are good in themselves,
apart from their effects, simply because they are virtues. In
addition, since the exercise of wisdom is the essence of
happiness, both kinds of wisdom are formal causes of
happiness. Contemplation and the life of theoretical wisdom
constitute man's highest end, but practical wisdom is an
essential element of that end.
Chapter XIII
Practical Wisdom and Moral Virtue
While virtue makes man choose the right ends, practical
wisdom makes him choose the right means, but practical
wisdom cannot exist independently of virtue. The power to
attain an end, whether good or bad, is mere talent or
cleverness, and is raised above the level of roguery only
by the presence of virtue. Just as practical wisdom implies
moral virtue, moral virtue in the proper sense implies
practical wisdom, and it is impossible to develop moral
virtue without thorough training in practical wisdom.
A man may start life with a natural virtue ( , a
disposition to be just or temperate), but if this is
unaccompanied by knowledge of the effects that various
kinds of action are likely to have, this disposition can never
become genuine moral virtue and remains wasteful or even
dangerous. Thus, in its true sense, virtue cannot be
complete without the possession of practical wisdom.
Socrates was wrong when he said that virtue was only
wisdom, but he was right to see that virtue is a form of
Though the natural virtues can exist in isolation from each
other, the moral virtues are interdependent, for possession
of any moral virtue implies possession of practical wisdom,
and possession of practical wisdom
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implies possession of all the moral virtues. A man with
practical wisdom controls his instinctive tendencies and
directs his own life to the highest goodbalanced
development of his moral character ( , virtue).
As a final point, it may be mentioned that practical wisdom
is subordinate to theoretical wisdom, but since practical
wisdom determines what studies are pursued in any state,
it acts in the interests of theoretical wisdom.
To sum up, practical wisdom or prudence is excellence of
the deliberative faculty of the soul and enables one to
exercise right choice. It enables us to choose the right
means for attaining the right ends as determined by virtue.
While not the same as virtue, practical wisdom makes the
existence of virtue possible. The right rule reached by the
deliberative analysis of a man with practical wisdom tells
him that the end of human life is attained by certain
actions that are intermediate between extremes. Moral virtue
can be defined as obedience to this rule.

In the Aristotelian conception of the good life reason is an

important factor in the achievement of all the virtues. It is
an essential element in the doctrine of the golden mean
which tells us that a virtue is the point which is midway
between the extremes of excess and deficiency. The
determination of this point will vary with individuals and their
respective circumstances for it is not the mathematical
mean but the organic mean "as determined by reason"
that prescribes what each individual ought to do. This is an
important point in Aristotle's ethics for quite in contrast with
what some moralists of the present day are advocating, he
does not believe that the nature of goodness is purely a
matter of satisfying one's desires. To be sure he
recognizes that desires are an important element in the
good life but unless these desires are given guidance and
direction by the reason they may hinder rather than
promote the realization of the good life.
In view of the fact that reason is the guiding element in all
of the virtues it may seem strange that an entire book of
the should be devoted to the intellectual virtues thus
implying a distinction between the intellectual virtues and the
moral virtues. There is a sound basis for this distinction
although it does not mean that the two types of virtues
are entirely separate or that either one functions
independently of the other. The distinction is primarily that of
means and ends. In the moral virtues the emphasis is
placed on the proper control of one's appetites and
desires. This must be
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done as a means toward the achievement of some larger
and more inclusive end. Temperance thus becomes a
means toward the acquisition of good health. Courage
which always involves a risk is a necessary means for the
further development of one's capacities and powers. But
that which is a means must always be a means for
something and somewhere along the line there must be a
final end or goal which has value in itself. This is what
Aristotle finds in the development of man's intellectual
capacities. Wisdom is not only a virtue but it stands highest
among all the virtues. It is the realization of a capacity
which distinguishes man from the lower animals and gives
to him a kind of kinship with the gods. The fact that
wisdom is an end in itself does not mean that it is useless
for anything else. It can be used to direct life's activities
but it also has a positive value in addition to this use, for it
is in contemplation that man finds his greatest happiness
and the fulfillment of that which is unique in his nature.
It is through the development of the intellect that man
acquires knowledge of the sciences. Scientific knowledge
includes two elements. One of these has to do with the
unchanging principles or laws of nature and the other one
deals with the changing or the contingent factors that are
present in the processes of the world. It is through
sensation that we are made aware of that which changes
from time to time but it is only through the intellect that we
gain knowledge of the permanent or unchanging principles
which enable us to make predictions and in the light of
these to organize the world of our experiences. That which
we obtain through the intellect enables us to make
application of our scientific knowledge both in the realm of
the arts and in the pursuit of the various vocations. In the
field of ethics the same as in the area of the natural
sciences it is necessary to have principles and to know
how to apply them to particular cases. It is through the
use of reason that both of these may be accomplished.
The field of ethics is however somewhat different from that
of the natural sciences since its aim is to know what one
ought to do rather than to describe things as they actually
exist. In the sciences one may verify conclusions by
making predictions about what will happen under specified
conditions and then observing to see whether these
predictions have been fulfilled. One cannot do this in the
field of ethics for no amount of information about what is
can ever tell one what ought to be. Nevertheless, it is the
function of ethics to discover the right principles of conduct
and this involves knowledge of the final end or goal of life
as well as the appropriate means for reaching it.
In matters of this kind there is no substitute for sound
judgment or what we are accustomed to speak of as
good common sense. Plato had taught that knowledge of
the good was the most important quest that could ever
occupy the mind of man and Aristotle appears to be in full
accord with
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this view. But how is this knowledge to be obtained?
Obviously it cannot be observed directly and neither is
there any supreme authority from which it can be handed
down to us. It is through a kind of intuitive insight that the
mind grasps the principles of conduct that may point the
way toward the good life. This does not mean that the
ideas which flash into a person's mind are for that reason
infallible. There are false intuitions as well as correct ones
and it is the function of the reason to distinguish between
them. Correct intuitions must be consistent with themselves
and in harmony with all the known facts. Further than this
they must provide an intelligible and meaningful interpretation
of one's experiences. Intuitions of this type do not as a
rule occur to the ignorant or uninformed person or if they
do he probably would not recognize them. For this reason
one should look to those who are highly trained in the field
for guidance and for fruitful suggestion. But their views
need also to be subjected to rational criticism and
accepted only insofar as they appear to meet the criteria
for sound judgment. Obviously one cannot have the same
degree of certainty in the field of ethics that he may have
in the formal and in the natural sciences. Even so, the
decision is not left to blind chance for it is always possible
to select the course of action which in the light of the
information he may have appears to be the most
Book VII

Chapter I
Continence and Incontinence
In analyzing the relationship between intellect (reason) and
desire, it is possible to distinguish three states of badness
incontinence (weakness of will), vice, and bestiality and
three corresponding states of goodness continence
(strength of will), virtue and superhuman virtue (saintliness).
Bestiality is found chiefly among barbarians, although it may
occasionally be produced among civilized men by disease
or mutilation, and saintliness is extremely rare, so neither of
these states will have significant place in our discussion.
Incontinence can be defined as acting from passion despite
knowledge that one's acts are bad, and continence
consists of knowing that one's appetites can be bad and
resisting them in obedience to a rule. Since virtue and vice
had already been treated at length, we will concentrate on
continence and incontinence in hope of determing the
nature and causes of moral weakness.
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Chapter II
Commonly Held Beliefs about Continence and Incontinence

This chapter contains a discussion of popularly held ideas

on continence and incontinence current in Aristotle's time.
None are relevant to the main argument of Book VII, and
Aristotle demonstrates that all these ideas are either
contradictory or inconsistent with each other or with
conclusions already reached in earlier books.
Chapter III
Incontinence and Knowledge
There are three main problems to be solved in any
analysis of incontinence:
1. Do incontinent people act with knowledge of the
wrongness of their actions, and if so, in what sense?
2. What is the sphere of incontinence, that of pleasure and
pain in general, or only in some particular form?
3. Is a continent man the same as a tenacious one and
is an incontinent man the same as a profligate one?
The first question is the most important. There are several
approaches to answering it:
1. Some have contended that the actions of a morally
weak man violate opinion rather than knowledge. This has
no bearing since opinion can be accompanied by as great
a feeling of certainty as knowledge.
2. There are two kinds of premise, universal and particular.
It is possible for a man to know both the major and minor
premise of a practical syllogism pertaining to a certain kind
of action and still to act wrongly because the minor
premise he uses is universal rather than particular, and he
cannot apply his knowledge to the action he is about to
perform because the action is a particular ( , a man
knows the major premise, ''X food is good for a man,"
and a minor premise with personal application, "I am a
man," and perhaps an even more specific minor premise,
"food of a certain kind is X," but if he does not know the
final minor premise, "this food here is X," he can act
incontinently despite his knowledge).
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3. There is a distinction between potentiality and actuality in
knowledge. Knowledge is potential rather than actual if it
has been learned once and is forgotten or at the back of
one's mind at a particular moment and cannot be called
on in a given situation. Thus it is possible to act wrongly
when one's knowledge is in a potential state, even if one
would never act wrongly in that way if the knowledge were
actual. When a man is asleep, drunk, or mad, the
knowledge he has may be even further removed from
actuality, because first he must wake up, become sober,
or become sane and then he must pass from potential to
actual before he can apply his knowledge in a given
situation. Since passion changes the physical state just as
madness, sleep, or drunkenness do, this is a very close
analogy to the condition of the incontinent man and helps
explain why he can commit wrong acts despite having the
knowledge that they are wrong.
4. Another cause of moral weakness despite knowledge is
that when both premises of a practical syllogism are
present, one must do the act to which the syllogism leads.
There are certain instances in which a syllogism that is
theoretically correct can lead one to commit an incontinent
act, and in such a situation one would have acted with
knowledge and according to a rule, and yet would still be
guilty of a wrong act.
To a certain extent all this supports Socrates' view that
one cannot act against knowledge, since it means that
when a man does wrong he does not, at that moment,
know that he is doing wrong. Moral weakness cannot
occur in the presence of knowledge in the strict sense, but
it is possible for sensory knowledge or ability to reason to
be affected by emotion and this means that a man can
act incontinently despite knowing in a certain way that his
act is wrong.
Chapter IV
The Sphere of Incontinence
There are three categories of things which give pleasure
and arouse desire:
1. Pleasures which are not necessary, but which are in
themselves worth choosing even though they admit of
excess ( , honor, wealth, victory).
2. Things which are in themselves worthy of avoidance.
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3. Things neutral in themselves, but necessary for life and
health ( , nutrition, sexual activity).
Incontinence in the strict sense is concerned only with
things in the last category, which is also the sphere of
profligacy. The incontinent man differs from the profligate
man, however, in that the latter always acts from choice, in
the belief that he must pursue all pleasures, while the
former knows better but does so anyway. To a certain
extent incontinence may also be exhibited in regard to
pleasures of the first category, but in that area it is usually
considered less reprehensible since the objects of desire
are worthy in themselves.
Chapter V
Incontinence and Pathological Forms of Desire
Some things are not pleasant by nature, but can become
pleasant as a result of physical disability, habit, or innate
depravity. These include the items listed in the second
category in the preceding chapter. Such forms of bestiality
as cannabalism and such forms of morbidity as pederasty
can be called incontinence in a qualified sense, but since
these "pleasures" are subhuman and the term "moral
weakness' refers only to human self-indulgence, they do
not really belong in a discussion of incontinence. There is
no question, however, that they are wicked.
Chapter VI
Incontinence in Anger
Incontinence in anger is less reprehensible than
incontinence in desire for pleasure. In fact, incontinent
desire is so bad that it can be equated with vice without
making any qualification. The reasons for this distinction
1. Up to a certain point anger is amenable to reason, but
excessive desire is not.
2. Anger and bad temper are more common human
frailties than desire for excessive and unnecessary
3. Anger is open and above board, but desire is crafty
and secret, and craftiness is usually considered a very bad
4. A man always experiences painful emotions when he is
angry, but does not suffer any pain when he acts
incontinently. Moreover, if the wrongness of an act is
measured by the degree of righteous
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indignation felt by its victim, incontinent desire is worse than
anger since the victim of anger does not have to endure
brutish treatment.
Chapter VII
Continence and Tenacity, Incontinence and Softness
Tenacity is the power of resisting the pain arising from
desires for certain pleasures; softness is the inability to
resist such pains. While pleasures are the sphere of
continence and incontinence, the experience of pain does
not enter into determining whether or not a man will
commit an incontinent act.
Two forms of incontinence can be distinguished impetuosity
and weakness. Weak people deliberate before acting, but
are not strong enough to adhere to the results of their
deliberation if it conflicts with their desires or emotional
mood. Impetuous people act emotionally in haste without
bothering to deliberate.
Chapter VIII
Incontinence and Self-Indulgence
A self-indulgent or intemperate man feels no compunction
about his acts since he is abiding by a choice he has
made. A morally weak person always regrets what he has
done. Incontinence is intermittent while intemperance is
chronic, therefore incontinence is more curable than
intemperance and deliberate vice. Intemperance becomes
ingrained in the character and destroys man's most
important motive for virtuous conduct a true conception of
the end of human life. Since the incontinent man has
knowledge and may repent his acts, it is possible for him
to reform.
Of the two kinds of incontinent people, the impetuous are
not as bad as the weak since the acts of the impetuous
man are caused by violent and unexpected temptations
while the weak man has a rational principle but fails to
abide by it. Moral weakness in either form is not a vice in
the strict sense, since it is a violation of choice while vice
is action in accordance with choice, but incontinence and
vice both lead to similar actions.
Chapter IX
[Discussion of relationship between steadiness and
continence or incontinence, and conditions under which
flexibility or constancy are acceptable and unacceptable.]
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Chapter X
[Discussion of incontinence and practical wisdom and a few
other fine points.]
Chapter XI
Current Views on Pleasure
Since pleasure and pain are in some way the causes of
virtue and vice, it is necessary to determine the nature of
pleasure. There are three popular views on the subject:
1. That all pleasures are bad, either in themselves or
incidentally, and that pleasure and the good by definition
cannot be identical.
2. That some pleasures are good, but most are bad (a
view expressed by Plato in the ).
3. That even if all pleasures are good, it is impossible for
pleasure to be the highest good (another view expressed
by Plato in the ).
Chapter XII
Is Pleasure a Good Thing? (1)
After exploring various considerations pertaining to the first
view, we can conclude that those pleasures generally
considered disgraceful or harmful are not really pleasures
at all, and that while pleasure may not itself be the highest
good, it is certainly a contributing part of the highest good.
The basis of this view is the observation that pleasure is
not a process but an activity.
Chapter XIII
Is Pleasure the Highest Good? (2)
Happiness, the end of human life, has been defined as
the functioning of all one's powers in conformity with their
proper virtue. Since pleasure is a form of activity, this
implies that the highest good must be some kind of
pleasure. No activity is perfect if interrupted. Happiness is
thought to be perfect and complete activity and pleasure is
also considered to be unimpeded activity. Finally, no matter
what their particular object at a given time, all living beings
pursue pleasure. This makes it possible to say that
pleasure is the highest good.
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Chapter XIV
Are most Pleasures Bad? (3)
No pleasure is absolutely bad, although it is possible for it
to be bad in relation to a given thing or circumstance.
Most people identify bodily pleasure with pleasure as a
whole. Bodily pleasures are good in a sense since they
are the opposites of pains which are unquestionably bad,
but things which satisfy a desire or ease an imperfection
are pleasant only in an indirect sense. Real pleasure
comes from the activity of what is healthy in us, and things
that are naturally pleasant are those which stimulate positive
activity. Anything in which we are capable of excess or
deficiency cannot be a real pleasure, in the truest sense of
the word.
Human nature is made up of two elements, one intellectual
and the other material, and these two elements always act
in opposition to each other. When these two elements are
in a state of balance, the acts one performs seem neither
pleasant nor painful. If human nature were simple and not
subject to the pull of these opposites, it would be possible
to find pleasure in a single unchanging activity while in a
state of rest, what might be called an activity of immobility (
, an activity that attains its end at every moment of its
existence), so that the truest pleasure would consist of rest
rather than motion. To human beings, change always
seems pleasant because of the material element within us,
but the most perfect nature would be that which never
needs to change.

The whole question of how it is possible for a man to

have knowledge of right and wrong and to know what is
good or best for himself and still to chronically act against
this knowledge was a source of great concern for Greek
thinkers. Aristotle's effort to explain this seeming paradox is
original and interesting, but this element of human nature
can only be understood adequately in terms of the findings
of modern behavioral sciences.

Two topics are discussed in this book. They are

incontinence and pleasure. By incontinence is meant lack of
proper self-control. It lies somewhere between the virtue of
temperance and the vice of intemperance. It indicates a
lesser amount of self-control than temperance but more
than belongs to intemperance. Pleasure is discussed in
several parts of the and in this
particular book attention is directed to the specific ways in
which pleasure may influence the course of human
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The discussion concerning incontinence which occupies the
greater portion of this book brings to light an important
characteristic of Greek ethics and one that stands in sharp
contrast with the views presented in the Judeo-Christian
tradition. It has to do with the relationship between
knowledge and the performance of good acts. Among the
Greeks it appears to have been taken for granted that
knowledge of what is good would necessarily be followed
by right conduct. They believed it was only ignorance of
what was really good for a person that would ever cause
him to choose that which was bad. This was the view that
had been proclaimed by Socrates and it occurs throughout
the writings of Plato. Aristotle is in essential agreement with
this view but he finds that it is necessary to place certain
qualifications on the doctrine in order to bring it into
harmony with the observed facts of experience. From all
appearances it does seem to be true that people often do
act in a manner that is contrary to that which they know
they ought to do. In the Judeo-Christian tradition this is
explained by saying that both man's will and his intellect
have been corrupted by the Fall through which original sin
was introduced into the world. There is nothing comparable
to this among the Greek philosophers. They regarded
reason as divine and hence the rational element in human
beings was always on the side of the good. It was
through the influence of the physical body that ignorance
and its accompanying evil came to have a place in human
Apparently Plato was to some extent aware of the problem
involved in making knowledge equivalent to virtue for he
offers an explanation to show how it is possible for one to
know something in one sense of the word and yet to act
contrary to it. He uses the analogy of birds in an aviary.
The keeper of the aviary owns all the birds that are kept
within the enclosure but he does not have all of them in
his hand at any one time. Thus it can be said of a
particular bird that he both has it and that he doesn't have
it. This is like the multitude of ideas which one may have
in his possession but they are not all at the centre of his
consciousness at a particular moment. Since only those
ideas of which one is fully conscious at the moment can
be designated as real knowledge, it is quite possible for
him to act contrary to those ideas of which he has been
conscious at some other time. This seems to imply that
there are degrees of knowledge and the truth of the
doctrine that knowledge is virtue belongs only to the
highest or at any rate to the higher degrees.
While Aristotle is somewhat critical of the way in which the
doctrine has been stated by both Socrates and Plato he is
in full sympathy with the main core of their teaching and
he defends at some length the main premise on which it
is based. The substance of his argument consists in
pointing out several ways in which it may appear that one
is acting contrary to his
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knowledge when in fact he is not doing so at all. For
example, he says that a person may know something in
the sense that he is in possession of the information and
yet at the particular moment his mind may be occupied
with something else and he pays no attention to it. This is
similar to Plato's reference to the birds in the aviary. Again,
Aristotle tells us that a man may know the general rules
concerning good conduct but fail to see that the particular
case in question is one that is covered by the rule.
Furthermore, one may have knowledge of what is good
but be so worked on by his passions and desires that it
ceases to have a definite meaning for him.
Because pleasures and pain are so closely related to what
is regarded as good and evil it is necessary to raise
certain questions concerning them. We need to know
whether pleasure is always good and whether pain is
always evil. In case these two questions are answered in
the negative we need to know under what conditions either
of them contributes toward good or evil. In the first place it
must be recognized that pleasure is not something that
exists apart from some activity. It may accompany actions
which are beneficial to the individual and to society but it
may also accompany activities which are harmful. Pleasures
are associated both with bodily activities and also with the
processes of the mind. Pleasures are not always good
since they may make that which is harmful in the long run
seem attractive at the moment. Neither can we say that
pleasures are necessarily bad for that which accompanies
actions that are truly harmful should not be designated as
true pleasures. The good life is one that finds pleasures in
those activities which contribute toward the development of
personality rather than in those that tend to destroy or
hinder its development. Viewed in this way no pleasure can
be regarded as absolutely bad in itself and pleasures
which are associated with the right kind of activities make
an important contribution to the values of life.

Chapter I
Reasons for Studying Friendship
Friendship is a form of virtue, or at the very least implies
the existence of virtue, and in addition is indispensable for
human life since man is a social being. Friendship in the
fullest sense of the word includes justice, concord,
benevolent love, and nobility. It is an important element in
all personal and institutional relations between men.
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Chapter II
The Three Objects of Affection, Definition of Friendship
Human beings feel affection for that which is lovable, and
this can be defined as that which is good, pleasant, or
useful. These three feelings are the basis of any friendship,
but friendship only exists where such feelings are
reciprocal. When both parties do not have the same
feelings for each other, it can only be said that one party
is well disposed toward the other.
The following conditions must be fulfilled for friendship to
exist between two people:
1. There must be mutual goodwill ( , each party wishes
the good of the other).
2. Each party must be aware of the other's feelings in this
3. This mutual goodwill must originate in one of the causes
mentioned above.

, the Greek word usually translated as "friendship"

has a much more comprehensive meaning than its English
equivalent, as will be seen in the discussion which follows
in Books VIII and IX. is the emotional bond between
human beings which provides the basis for all forms of
social organization, common effort, and personal
relationships between people. Obviously there can be a
very wide variation in its intensity, ranging from the feelings
experienced in a warm and intimate friendship between two
individuals to those in such human associations as political
states, social clubs, and commercial enterprises. Love in the
sexual sense was considered by the Greeks to be a
biological phenomenon like hunger or thirst and does not
enter into the discussion of .
Chapter III
The Three Kinds of Friendship
There are three varieties of friendship, corresponding to the
three objects of affection. The varieties of friendship can be
distinguished by determining what kind of good is the
object of both parties.
1. Friendships based on mutual utility ( , two men are
friendly because each can be useful to the other in some
way). This kind of friendship tends to be short-lived and is
easily dissolved when the abilities or needs of one or both
parties change.
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2. Friendships based on mutual pleasure ( , two people
are friendly not for what either is or what either can do,
but because of the pleasure which each provides the
other, , witty conversation). This kind of friendship is
also easily dissolved and is most common in general social
relationships and among the young.
3. Friendship between good men of similar virtue or
excellence who possess intrinsic rather than incidental
goodness and who wish the good of each other for the
other's sake and not for any lesser motive. The attitudes
of each party in such a relationship are determined by
what the other party is and not by any incidental
consideration. This is the most perfect and stable kind of
friendship, and may be considered friendship in the truest
sense of the word. It includes the other kinds, since both
parties, by being good in themselves, are also good for
each other, and provide each other with that which is both
useful and pleasant. Such friendships are beneficial to both
parties, but are extremely rare. For such a friendship to
develop, much time and intimacy are required as well as
personal goodness, for it is easy to desire friendship but
difficult to build or deserve a solid relationship of this kind.
Chapter IV
Comparison of Perfect and Imperfect Friendship
The two inferior kinds of friendship described in Chapter III
are less permanent than perfect friendship for many
reasons, all of which depend on the kinds of utility or
pleasure which provide their basis. Perfect friendship can
only exist between good men, but the inferior kinds can
exist between bad men, good and bad men, or between
men who are neither good nor bad. Only true friendship is
proof against gossip, slander, and all the other things which
can break up or impede friendships of the lesser kind.
In fact, in the truest sense of the word, the inferior kinds
are not really friendships at all, and are only called so by
analogy or metaphor, which is justified by the fact that
there is some good in the best of them, derived from the
kind of goodness which can be found in pleasure or
genuine utility.
Chapter V
Friendship as a Characteristic and an Activity
Friendship is a permanent disposition expressed or realized
in friendly activities. Affection can be felt even for inanimate
objects, but the reciprocal affection which is the basis of
friendship involves deliberate choice, and
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such choice involves the action of a disposition. Affection is
an emotion, but friendship is a characteristic or lasting
attitude. In wishing the good of their friends for the sake of
those friends, men are influenced not by emotion but by
this disposition.
To love one's friends is to love one's own good, for the
good man by the very act of befriending another becomes
that other's good. Each friend loves his own good and
makes the balance equal by wishing the good of the
other. In this sense friendship is an equality. This is
particularly evident in true friendship between good men.
Chapter VI
Additional Observations on Friendship
[Brief discussion of a few particular situations to illustrate
the general points already made about friendship. These
and all the remarks in the above chapters pertain only to
friendships formed on a basis of equality.]
Chapter VII
Friendship Between Unequals
There is another kind of friendship in which the parties are
unequal ( , friendship between father and son, older
and younger person, husband and wife, ruler and subject).
These relationships vary depending on the differences
between the parties ( , the relationship between parents
and children is not the same as that between ruler and
subject). In such relationships each party has his own
distinct excellence and function, and has his own reasons
for feeling affection. Both parties do not, and ought not,
expect to receive identical benefits from the relationships (
, the duty of children to parents is not the same as
the obligations of parents to their offspring).
In all friendships where the parties are unequal, the feeling
of affection between them must be equalized according to
a ratio or proportion ( , the more virtuous or useful of
the two, in general whichever party is superior, should
receive more affection than he gives). Equality is the
essence of friendship, but it can only exist when the
superiority of one party is balanced by an equivalent
amount of affection from the other party.
Equality in justice is that which is proportionate in a
qualitative sense, but in friendship it must be determined on
a quantitative basis. The reason for this is illustrated by the
fact that friends tend to drift apart when there are great
differences between them in virtue, vice, wealth, status, or
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anything else. Thus, friends do not really wish the greatest
of goods for each other, since the fulfilment of the wish
would cause them to cease being friends. True friends are
content to wish for each other the greatest goods
appropriate to a human being in their particular
circumstances, and perhaps not even all of these.
Chapter VIII
Giving and Receiving Affection
Most people prefer receiving to giving affection, and equate
receiving affection and having many friends with honor or
prestige. The essence of friendship, however, is giving
affection. The relationship of mothers and children is a
good example of this. It is typical of mothers to give more
affection than they receive, and they seem to find all the
pleasure they require in seeing their children happy and
prosperous, even if they do not receive what might be
considered their due in respect and affection.
Of course friendship is reciprocal and requires two parties.
If giving affection is the essence of friendship and the
proper virtue of friends, then both parties must give
affection to each other. It is this which ensures the
strength and stability of friendships. The exchange of
affection provides the basis for friendships between
unequals, since equality can be established by a proportion
between the amount of affection each party gives the
Unequal or opposite partners are most often found in
friendships of utility, where each partner gives the other
something he lacks and receives in return something he
himself does not have. This kind of relationship is a union
of opposites, perhaps due to some natural human urge to
try to strike a balance or mean between opposing things
or states.
Chapter IX
Friendship and Justice in the State
Friendship and justice deal with things and persons in the
same way. Every community or association requires a
conception of what is just between people and also
involves some degree of mutual friendship, both conceived
on the level that is required for people to live or work
together in the way required by the particular kind of
Friendship is the true expression of community, though
what is right and proper in one kind of friendship may not
be appropriate in another. Intensification of the degree of
friendship results in a concomitant intensification in degree in
feelings of obligation between friends. Obligations in
friendship are co-extensive with obligations in justice.
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All associations between men are part of the larger
association known as the political community or state. Just
as men combine or associate while travelling or farming for
the sake of securing some advantage such as safety or
the necessities of life, the political community originally came
into being and has continued in existence to secure the
advantage of its members. This is the goal toward which
legislators aim, and for this reason justice is popularly
defined as ''the common interest."
Chapter X
Political Systems
There are three true forms of political constitution and a
corresponding number of corrupted forms:
1. Monarchy, the best of the true constitutions, turns into
tyranny when it is perverted. Both are rule by one man,
but a king is concerned with the good of his subjects while
a tyrant only looks out for his own good. Wicked kings
invariably turn into tyrants.
2. Aristocracy (rule by the best) turns into oligarchy (rule
by the wealthy) when it is corrupted. The best and most
honest men have power in an aristocratic state and all
goods are distributed on the basis of merit. In an oligarchy
a few rich men have power as a result of their wealth
and nothing else.
3. Timocracy is the system where political power is based
on property qualifications and is considered government in
the interests of the people since all who meet the
qualifications are held to be equal. It easily deteriorates into
democracy (rule by the people) since both tend to be
government by the majority. Democracy is the least bad of
the perverted constitutions since it deviates least from its
corresponding true form.
There are many resemblances and analogies to all these
constitutions in the realm of household and family, and
these may have been the original models used by
legislators when states first came into being and
constitutions were devised ( , the true relation between
a father and his sons corresponds to monarchy, the
association of a master and his slaves corresponds to
tyranny, etc.).
Chapter XI
Friendship and Justice Under Different Constitutions
Each governmental form exhibits a form of friendship
co-extensive with its conception of justice. Under perverted
constitutions, the role of
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mutual friendship decreases in the same degree as that of
justice. For example, the friendship of a king for his
subjects expresses itself in his unselfish benevolence
toward them, while under a tyranny there is little or no
friendliness between ruler and subjects since they have little
in common and there is no kindness in their relationship.
Friendship and justice on a basis of complete equality are
most fully realized in a democracy, because all citizens are
equal and they share many things in common.
Chapter XII
Friendship Within the Family
All friendship requires some degree of association or
community. Associations between fellow-citizens,
fellow-voyagers, fellow-workers, fellow-tribesmen, , are
usually built on some kind of agreement or mutual
understanding pertaining to aims and duties, but friendship
or love between members of a family falls into a special
category and is itself divisible into several varieties, which
are all ultimately developments of parental love. [There
follows a discussion of the types of relationship that exist
between kinsmen, brothers, parents and children,
husbands and wives, which examines the origins,
requirements, and obligations of these states.]
Chapter XIII
The Mutual Obligations of Equal Friends
As already stated, there are three forms of friendship, each
of which is divided into two kinds, that between equals and
that between unequals. In equal friendships based on utility
or pleasure there is a moral obligation on each party to
provide the other with equivalent service or pleasure in
compensation for what he has received. There may or
may not be prear-ranged conditions in such relationships
and often the thing exchanged is intangible, but in cases
where one or both parties feel there has not been an
equivalent exchange it is likely that the friendship will break
up. Needless to say, an element of good will should enter
into any evaluation of equivalence.
In true friendship between good men, complaints on this
basis are rare. The moral intention of the giver serves as
a standard for measuring equivalence since the decisive
factor in virtue and character is moral choice. In true
friendship the giver actually receives better than he gives,
since, as a virtuous man, his end is to achieve the good
and he is helped in the fulfilment of this aspiration by his
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Chapter XIV
The Mutual Obligations of Unequal Friends
There are often mutual recriminations in unequal friendships
because each party thinks he is entitled to more than he
has and such a state of affairs often leads to a break-up.
The superior partner may claim that more is due him on
principle and the inferior partner that he is entitled to a
return in proportion to the effort he has put into building
the friendship. In such disputes, it is possible that both
claims may be partly right. Each partner really is entitled to
a larger share and the difficulty is due to mutual
misunderstanding of what is properly due to each. Perhaps
the superior partner is entitled to a greater share of honor
and the inferior to more of the profit. There is no hard
rule for solving this kind of problem and no friendship can
ask what is impossible ( to demand full value on an
absolute scale). The basis for relations between unequals
should be that whoever gets more of one benefit should
compensate the other by allowing him more of the
remaining benefits.

The good life as it has been described in the earlier

books of the finds its culmination in the virtue of
friendship. It is here that one's activities are characterized
not by mere obedience to the laws of duty but by a
certain spontaneity which is the expression of one's desires
and which finds fulfillment in a mutual sharing with others of
the best things in life. The basis of friendship is found in
the natural instinct of kinship which is present at least to
some extent even in the lower animals where a kind of
mutual attachment exists between parents and their
offspring. On the human level it can be seen in the
attraction which members of the opposite sex have for one
another and in the attitude which people have toward their
own relatives in contrast to their behavior toward strangers.
Plato had taught that all men have a natural desire for
immortality and this finds expression in doing those things
that will cause them to be remembered with favor by
succeeding generations.
Aristotle's high regard for friendship can be seen in the
way he guards against that type of relationship which is
based on selfish and ignoble motives. He is especially
critical of the Epicurean types of friendship in which one's
interest in the friend is the pleasure or economic gain he
can get out of it for himself. This, according to Aristotle, is
quite unworthy of the good man. He did not mean there is
anything wrong about deriving pleasure or other
advantages from one's association with others but he did
insist that
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no true friendship could be based alone or even primarily
on this type of motivation. To be sure this kind of so-called
friendship based on selfish motives is quite common. Man
is a social animal and he is so constituted that he enjoys
association with others and as a rule he derives many
advantages from it. But friendships based primarily on
these considerations are likely to be of short duration. As
soon as one ceases to derive these benefits to himself the
friendship will be broken.
In contrast with these Epicurean types Aristotle advances a
conception of friendship based on a higher motive. While
pleasure and other advantages are not necessarily
excluded it is not for their sake that the friendships are
formed. Rather it is the worth of the individuals who are
involved that constitutes the basis on which these
friendships are formed and maintained. It is derived from
the reciprocal recognition by two persons of this worth in
each other and leads to mutual love and devotion. The
personal worth of an individual consists in the development
within him of the spiritual qualities of wisdom, efficiency, and
refinement. It consists in the use of his natural abilities as
instruments for the realization of truth, beauty and
goodness. These are qualities which transcend the temporal
affairs of everyday life and give to one's existence
something of eternal significance. When one sees these
values in another he is drawn to that person by something
that has lasting value and hence the friendship will not
cease when hardship or misfortune should occur. In other
words the friend is an end in himself and not primarily a
means for the enrichment of the other person's life.
Friendships of this type may occur under a wide variety of
circumstances. When this relationship exists between
husband and wife it becomes the basis of an ideal
marriage. Between parents and their children where the
achievements are of unequal proportion the giving and the
receiving will be of different amounts and in a ratio that is
directed toward equality. Friendship is also the basis for an
ideal community life in which each member of the society
is making a contribution toward the welfare of the group
and in turn finds his own life enriched through participation
in the achievements of others.
Book IX

Chapter I
Measuring the Mutual Obligations of Friends
Where the parties are unequal, friendship is preserved by
establishing a proportion that restores equality. In friendships
between fellow-citizens
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( commercial relations), money is used as a common
standard for determining the value of different kinds of
products and services so that a balance can be achieved.
It is impossible to apply this kind of common standard to
some other kinds of friendly relations ( between
lovers). Since people differ, the qualifications and
contributions of each party tend to differ in most friendships.
There is only one fair way to determine the amount and
kind of service one friend owes another in payment for
some thing or service receivedthat is, to use the value of
the service or thing in the eyes of the recipient as a
standard. This is because donors tend to overvalue that
which they have done or given, but by the same token,
the standard should be the value set by the recipient
before he got the thing or service, and not afterwards,
when his attitude about it may change.
Chapter II
Conflicting Obligations
Many problems are encountered when assessing the
claims for payment of different friends. There are no exact
rules for such matters since the nature of claims and
relationships vary. In general, though, every claim must be
evaluated in its own right according to its merits and one's
obligations to the claimant, in accordance with the principles
of equity already discussed. No one, even a kinsman, has
the right to claim absolute preference.
Chapter III
Dissolution of Friendships
Friendships break up when one partner does not remain
what he was initially or when both parties discover that the
basis of their friendship is not what they had assumed it to
be. Former friends are always entitled to more
consideration than people who have never been one's
friends, provided that the relationship did not end because
of wickedness on the part of the former friend.
Chapter IV
The Basis of Friendship is Self-Love
The most important elements in one's friendship for others
and the characteristics which distinguish the various forms
of friendship in which he engages, are derived from the
feelings with which one regards himself. There are five
definitions of a friend:
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1. One who desires and performs the good, or what
appears to him as the good, of another person for the
sake of that person.
2. One who desires the existence and life of another
person for that person's sake.
3. One who spends all his time in the company of another
4. One who shares the same ideals and desires as
another person.
5. One who shares all the joys and sorrows of another
These same feelings all appear in the attitude that a good
man has toward himself.
1. A good man desires and does what is good for
2. He desires his own life and safety.
3. He spends his time with himself and is happy while
doing so.
4. He remains consistent in his judgment, for there is no
conflict between his mind and the rest of his nature, and
he desires the same objects with all parts of his soul.
5. He has a complete and undivided consciousness of his
own pleasures and sorrows.
The two most essential characteristics of friendship are
fairness and sympathetic interest, the very same features
that are typical of a good man's relation with himself. A
good man wishes and does what is best for the intellectual
element in him (that which is most truly himself) without
ever ignoring his material and irrational elements, and he is
in harmony with himself at any given moment. It is not
difficult to think of a good man as feeling friendship for
himself if we conceive of him as a dual or composite
being, and recognize that the statement, "feeling friendship
for himself," is meant as an analogy or metaphor. In this
sense we may say that a man can have good relations
with others only when he is reasonably happy and well
balanced, that his friend becomes to him like another self,
and that devoted attachment to someone else comes to
resemble love for himself in its intensity and unselfishness.
To some extent most people share the attributes of good
men as outlined above, and this is what enables them to
engage in friendly relations
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with other people. Studies of the behavior of criminals and
other degraded types support this view by showing that
bad people are unable to form permanent relationships with
others and seem to manifest self-hatred in many of their
Chapter V
Friendship and Goodwill
Goodwill resembles friendship, but it is not the same thing
since it is possible to feel goodwill toward strangers or
people who are unaware of one's feelings, while friendship
would be impossible in such circumstances. Goodwill also
differs from affection because it does not have the same
intensity and can arise on the spur of the moment.
Generally speaking, goodwill can be defined as an inactive
or potential form of friendship. It can develop into actual
friendship after a period of time in which familiarity between
the parties increases. As a rule goodwill is created by
admiration of some fine quality in the person toward whom
it is felt.
Chapter VI
Friendship and Concord
Unanimity or concord is another feeling similar to friendship.
It exists when interested parties, whether they be an entire
population or only two individuals agree about their
common interests, have a practical and important end in
view, unanimously adopt a policy for attaining this end, and
carry it out harmoniously. On a personal level this
conception of concord is most often realized among good
men, for they are in harmony with themselves and each
Chapter VII
Good Deeds
It is a common observation that a benefactor has friendlier
feelings toward the beneficiary of his kindness than the
beneficiary has toward his benefactor. The usual
explanation for this apparent paradox is that the parties are
related to each other as creditor and debtor, but this is
false because benefactors and recipients, as friends, are
united by mutual affection, but there is no affection in the
commercial relations between debtor and creditor.
There are several reasons for the difference in feelings
between benefactor and beneficiary:
Page 95
1. A man who creates something lives partly through the
object of his activity, and in a sense a benefactor is the
creator of some aspect of his beneficiary's life or character.
2. As a man who has done something fine and noble, a
benefactor is proud of his deed. A beneficiary cannot feel
that there is anything noble about his relationship with his
benefactor; at best he has profited from it, but things that
are profitable are thought of with less pleasure than things
that are noble.
3. Memory of something noble does not pass away easily,
so the benefactor, as the doer of a noble deed, tends to
remember his act for a long time. Utility is transient and
soon forgotten by the beneficiary.
4. Loving is an active experience and being loved is
passive. It is natural that the beneficiary, as the active
partner, should have the stronger and more affectionate
Chapter VIII
There are good and bad forms of self-love, depending on
what sort of self it is that one loves. Lustful and greedy
men, whose life is given over to the satisfaction of passion
and desire ( , the irrational parts of their souls) are
self-lovers in the bad sense. To be accurate, one might
say that they do not really love themselves at all. The
good man loves himself in the best and most virtuous way.
Since his aspirations are noble and virtuous, his actions,
though motivated by self-love, are often unselfish and
self-sacrificing. The aim of the good man is to achieve the
good and this usually involves the good of his community
and those around him also.
Chapter IX
Friendship and Happiness
Friendship is essential for happiness and the good life
because friends give a good man the opportunity to do
generous and virtuous deeds. Friendship also helps a man
to develop his own moral character by his relationship with
other good men, for a good man can be truly good only
in the company of other good men. A final point man is a
social animal; he requires the companionship of other men
and cannot find happiness if he leads the life of a recluse.
Obviously it is better to associate with friends than with
Page 96
Chapter X
Should One Limit the Number of his Friends?
While friendship is necessary for the attainment of
happiness, it is superfluous and harmful to have more
friends than are required to give proper scope to one's life.
The ideal number of friends cannot be fixed abstractly, but
in general it should be the largest number with whom one
can be intimate, because intimacy is the surest guarantee
of true friendship. True friendship is only possible with a
small number of people since it is impossible to sympathize
with the joys and sorrows of more than a few people, and
affection and warmth are feelings that are too intense to
be held toward more than a few. Friendships should be
formed on the basis of character, virtue, and conduct, and
one should make sure that his friends are all friendly with
each other.
Chapter XI
Friends in Times of Adversity and Prosperity
The company of friends is desirable in all circumstances. In
time of bad fortune one needs friends to help him; in time
of good fortune one needs friends with whom to share his
Chapter XII
The Value and Influence of Friendship
Friendship is a community or partnership in the search for
truth and the good. Every good man wishes to share with
his friends that which forms the essence and goal of his
life, and stands in the same relation to his friend as he
does to himself. Through friendship with each other, good
men find a source of pleasure and increase in goodness.

In this book we have a continuation of the discussion

concerning friendship which occupied the greater portion of
Book VIII. Friendship was, in Aristotle's opinion, one of the
most important achievements in the lives of good people.
Its benefits were not confined to the individuals between
whom the friendships were formed but they extended to
the whole of society. It was therefore important for the
student of ethics to understand the true nature of friendship
and to see how it is related to the many activities that are
carried on by the members of any given society. This was
undoubtedly the reason he found it necessary to devote
so much time and
Page 97
space to a consideration of the many questions that arise
in connection with it.
Because friendship at its best is a kind of spontaneous
activity in which one's motives with reference to the welfare
of the other person is a predominant factor it is impossible
to prescribe a definite set of rules which friends must follow
under any and all circumstances. A true friend will
understand the particular situation in which he needs to act
and he will do that which he believes to be appropriate for
promoting the best interests of the one he wishes to
befriend. But important as the motive is in matters
pertaining to friendship there are certain guide lines which
ought to be observed and although these are necessarily
of a general nature they will help one to determine the
appropriate thing to do in the particular instances which
arise. It was for the purpose of setting forth these guide
lines that the instruction recorded in this book was given.
For example, there are certain considerations which one
should have in mind for determining the extent to which
friends are obligated toward one another. The obligation will
of course vary according to the nature of that which one
does for the sake of his friend. The effect which the
matter of giving produces both upon the giver and the
recipient must also be taken into account for there is a
strong tendency for one to overestimate the value of his
own good deeds while they do not appear in the same
light to the person for whom they were done. Again, there
are situations in which the obligations which one recognizes
appear to be in conflict with one another, and it is
necessary to establish the order of preference which
should be followed. Further considerations need to be given
for determining the qualities which make for lasting
friendships as well as the factors which tend to destroy it.
On all of these points Aristotle indicates in a general way
the principles which should be followed but it remains for
the individual to determine for himself the precise method in
which they are applied in particular instances.
One of the most important problems discussed in this book
is the extent to which one should pursue his own individual
interests and when, if ever, he should sacrifice his own
interests in order to promote the welfare of other persons.
This has always been a controversial issue throughout the
history of ethics. The view that man is essentially a selfish
creature and whatever he does is an expression of this
motive was a fairly common one among the ancient
Greeks. Many of the characters in Plato's dialogues
represent this position. On the other hand Socrates and
several of his followers taught that man lives at his best
only when he subordinates his own private interest to the
welfare of the society in which he lives. However, the
question still remains as to whether one works for the
interests of others merely as a means for promoting his
own welfare or whether he does it
Page 98
purely for the sake of the other person regardless of any
benefits which may be derived from it for himself. It is a
difficult question and one that can be resolved only through
a clarification of the terms that are used. If selfishness is to
be condemned one must know precisely what it means to
be selfish and if altruism is to be approved one must be
able to distinguish between actions which are selfish and
the ones which are altruistic. Whether the same action can
be both selfish and altruistic at the same time must also
be considered. In other words, is it possible to harmonize
self-love and love of others?
Aristotle's treatment of this topic consists in his attempt to
combine in a harmonious manner the truth that is included
in each of the apparently opposing views. He recognized
that there is a sense in which it is true that each person
not only does pursue his own interest but he ought to do
so. At the same time it is also true that one ought to
pursue the best interests of others even though this may
require that he sacrifice his own interests in order to reach
this objective. The solution to this apparent paradox is
found by making a distinction between two kinds of self
interest. There is the kind of self-love which excludes the
welfare of others and there is the kind the is inclusive of it.
The former is the type of selfishness which should be
condemned and the latter one should be approved. In fact
it is the latter type which coincides with what is usually
meant by altruism. When one identifies his own interests
with the welfare of others he is realizing a larger and more
inclusive self and it is this type of selfhood which
constitutes his real self or what is commonly known as
one's ideal self.
Book X

Chapter I
The Importance of Pleasure
Love of pleasure is one of the most fundamental human
instincts. Since the essential feature of good moral
character is liking and disliking the right things, pleasure
and pain are important tools in education. Pleasure and
pain continue to act on a man throughout his life and can
have a decisive influence on whether or not he achieves
happiness and the good.
There are two schools of thought in regard to pleasure
that it is the supreme good and that it is absolutely bad.
Neither view is correct, for reasons that will be shown
Page 99
Chapter II
The Doctrine that Pleasure is the Good
[Analysis of the view that pleasure is the supreme good
and refutation of its main points.]
Chapter III
The Doctrine that Pleasure is Evil
[Analysis of this view and refutation of its main points.]
Chapter IV
The True Nature of Pleasure
A process is a kind of transitional movement all processes
take time, aim at a certain end, and are complete only
when that end is attained. Any given part of a process is
incomplete and different in kind from the other parts and
from the whole. Pleasure, like the acts of seeing and
hearing, is something complete ( , perfect) at any given
moment of its existence; it cannot be improved by duration
and is an end in itself. This shows that pleasure cannot
be a process or the end of a process. Like sense
perception or thought, it is a perfect, indivisible, and
self-contained activity.
Chapter V
The Value and Function of Pleasure
When a man's senses or faculties are in a healthy state
and perform activity upon their proper objects ( ,
objects which are goods of their kind), we may say that
the activity of those senses is complete and pleasant.
Pleasure is a distinguishable but inseparable concomitant of
activity, the perfection of any activity that it accompanies.
Without activity there can be no pleasure, for pleasure
cannot exist except as the completion of an activity. While
it is impossible to feel pleasure continuously because
human beings are incapable of continuous activity, pleasure,
by perfecting all human activity, must be considered
perfection of human life.
While always in itself a good, Pleasure exists in relation to
activities which differ in kind and thus there can be different
kinds or degrees of pleasure. Any given activity can only
be completed by its proper pleasure, just as it can be
performed only by its proper organ. It is possible for
activities to vary in goodness and desirability, and so do
their accompanying pleasures. The true human pleasures,
those peculiar to the human species, are those which
complete the function or functions proper to man ( ,
Page 100
virtuous acts). Pleasure is not the highest good because it
does not exist independently, but it is an essential
component of the good since the good can only be
attained by action and perfect action must be completed
and accompanied by pleasure.
Chapter VI
Happiness or well-being is a self-sufficient activity desirable
for its own sake. One seeks nothing from happiness
beyond the actual experience or performance of it as an
activity. As already stated, activities that are desirable in
themselves are activities in conformity with virtue and
indicates that the greatest happiness must be activity in
conformity with the highest virtue. It is wrong to confuse
happiness with various kinds of amusements involving bodily
pleasures, as many people do. Such amusements are
neither virtuous nor ends in themselves, but are merely
relaxing diversions in which one occasionally engages for
the sake of future activity.
Chapter VII
The Contemplative Life is the Highest Happiness
The greatest happiness is activity in conformity with the
highest virtue, ( , with that which is the virtue of the
best part of man). Intelligence is man's highest possession
and the objects of intelligence are the highest objects within
his grasp, thus it is clear that the life of contemplation and
theoretical wisdom must be the greatest of human virtues
and the highest form of happiness.
Chapter VIII
Advantages of the Contemplative Life
The objects of the contemplative life are the unchangeable
and eternal verities that underlie and govern the universe.
From contemplation of these truths the soul derives a
feeling of purity and stability. Contemplative happiness is not
dependent on other men, it can be engaged in almost
continuously, and is the kind of life that must be ascribed
to the gods. It is the form of life in which human beings
come most nearly to being divine.
There is another kind of happiness, based on moral virtue
and practical wisdom, which is concerned with feelings that
spring from man's bodily nature. It can be defined as the
harmonious coordination of all parts of man's composite
being. This kind of happiness is not as exalted as the
contemplative, but it helps prepare us for the higher
happiness and, since
Page 101
man is not all mind and reason, gives us something to fall
back upon when we are unable to remain continuously at
the higher level.

Aristotle's conception of supreme happiness has been

criticized on three grounds:
1. Because its relation to the lower form of happiness in
practical life is obscure.
2. Because its realization is possible only for a gifted few
and only in the most exceptional circumstances.
3. Because it seems to over-intellectualize man's inner
nature and has an unnecessarily limited scope.
There is a further criticism which attempts to refute
Aristotle's whole moral systemit can be said, briefly, that
Aristotle works on the basis of assumptions that what is
natural is moral (in the sense that one attains the good by
fulfilling that which is the essential element of his nature),
that it is possible to define the nature of something by
determining its end, and, since man differs from all other
animals in his possession of intelligence, that the fulfillment
of human life ( happiness) must be the exercise of his
intelligence in a certain way.
Some critics assert that a major flaw in this system is the
difficulty or even impossibility of determining what is natural.
They say that it cannot cope with such propositions as, for
instance, that human beings differ from other animals
primarily because of man's unique ability to wage war or
be lazy, and that happiness and the good, as fulfillment of
man's special end, must really be extreme expressions of
these human attributes. These critics add that Aristotle
called intelligence the outstanding element of human nature
because he considered intelligence the most admirable
human characteristic, and actually was motivated as much
by wishful thinking as by objective analysis. It has also
been pointed out that Aristotle's system contains no
imperative to guarantee that man will act always according
to its principles, and that a moral system which lacks this
is inadequate, even if its fundamental assumptions are
Other scholars have said that the Aristotelian moral system
and its definition of happiness is a noble and idealistic
exaltation of the finest elements of the human spirit. They
praise Aristotle's avoidance of absolute definitions and his
emphasis on the practice rather than the theory of ethics,
Page 102
and state that one of the most valuable and ''modern"
features of his ethical system is its psychological basis.
Chapter IX
Ethics and Politics
As in all subjects, there is a distinction in ethics between
theory and practice. To be a virtuous man, it is not
enough to know about goodness and ethical conduct; one
must also possess and practice goodness and must seek
in every way to become a good man himself.
The mass of men are motivated by fear and bodily
pleasure. Even when they perform deeds that have good
effects, one might not consider them virtuous if he
examined their motives or purposes. To develop true virtue,
men must have an innate disposition in that direction, but
they must also be educated in good habits and
characteristics. A good state has laws to insure that men
remain good when their education is completed, and it is
only in such an environment that human beings can attain
virtue and happiness.
Moral education is best left in the hands of the state since
it has the power of constraint that makes good habits
permanent. Of course moral education becomes the
responsibility of parents and private citizens if the state fails
in its duty. Individualized methods and instruction are best
in moral education because the tendencies and abilities of
every student are different, but the teacher must always
retain a firm grasp on the appropriate universal principles.
Ethics and politics are closely related and may be
considered branches of the same discipline. A good state
is one governed by a constitution based on sound ethical
principles that has been devised and administered by
experienced and moral statesmen, and not by the Sophists
who usually teach political science, despite having no real
acquaintance with political problems. In our next work, the
we will study the various kinds of constitutions and
try to determine what is the best kind of society, the
society in which man can most easily develop virtue and
good moral character, thus attaining happiness.

It seems appropriate that the closing book of the

should be devoted to a discussion of pleasure and its
place in the good life. As we
Page 103
have noticed before reference to this topic has been made
in some of the earlier books but there were questions
which still remained and it was for the purpose of clarifying
them that he returned to the same subject. That pleasure
had a very important place in Aristotle's conception of the
good life can be seen in the fact that it is always
associated with the achievement of virtue. In fact he holds
that one has not achieved excellence in the matter of
character building until he has arrived at the place where
he genuinely enjoys those activities which enable him to
live at his best. It is true that one does not reach this
point all at once for it requires a long period of discipline in
which one trains himself to subordinate the pleasures of
the moment in order to achieve the more lasting ones
which have to do with life as a whole. During this
disciplinary period one may be making progress toward the
good life but he has not fully arrived until he enjoys most
of all those goods which are most enduring.
Whether pleasure is something that is always good was a
disputed question in Aristotle's day. There were those who
held that pleasure is not only a good in itself but that it is
the norm or standard by which the goodness of anything
else could be determined. According to this view the good
life is the pleasant life and for one to live at his best he
must strive for the maximum amount of pleasure that can
be obtained in life as a whole. At the same time there
were others who held an opposite view. They regarded
pleasures as evil and condemned those who made of it
an end in itself insisting that they were living like the lower
animals rather than as human beings. Aristotle does not
support either of these views. He shows that both of them
are based on a confused notion concerning the real
nature of pleasure. His discussion of pleasure as a
completed activity brings to light the important fact that
pleasure is not a substance which exists by itself
independent of activities. On the contrary it is an attribute
rather than a thing. It is something that may or may not
accompany activities but it is not to be identified with any
activity itself. The activities in which one may be engaged
can be either good or bad. If pleasure accompanies these
activities it will naturally make them more attractive and this
means that pleasure can contribute to either good or bad
ends. It is only in this sense that we are justified in calling
pleasures good or bad. Actually it is not the pleasure
which is either good or bad but the various things with
which it is associated. It is true that pleasure can enhance
the values of activities which are good and it is in this
sense that pleasure may rightly be regarded as good.
Further clarification concerning Aristotle's position in regard
to pleasure is made when he distinguishes between
pleasure and happiness. Although these terms have
sometimes been used interchangeably it helps to avoid
confusion if one uses the term happiness to refer to those
Page 104
enjoyments that are associated with virtue and which
accompany those processes that make for the harmonious
development of one's entire personality. Pleasure can then
refer to those amusements and activities that are more
directly concerned with the physical aspect of one's being.
When the terms are used in this way it is happiness
rather than pleasure that can always be regarded as
good. It is in this connection that Aristotle refers to
contemplation as the activity which can furnish the highest
degree of happiness. The reason for this is that the mind
is directed toward that which is eternal whereas in other
activities it is centered on that which is temporal.
The book closes with some references concerning the
relation between ethics and politics. Aristotle's view can be
summarized in the brief statement that "political society
exists for the sake of the good life."
Allan, D. J. New York: Oxford
University Press, 1952.

Cornford, F. M. New York:

Cambridge University Press, 1962 (paperback).

Durant, Will. New York: Pocket

Books, 1954 (paperback).

Guthrie, W. K. C.
New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1960

Jaeger, Werner.
New York: Oxford University Press, 1962

Mure, G. R. G. New York: Galaxy Books, 1960


Randall, J. H. New York: Columbia University

Press, 1962 (paperback).
Ross, W. D. . New York: Barnes & Noble, 1964

Taylor, A. E. New York: Dover Publications, 1956


Woodbridge, F. J. E. New
York: Columbia University Press, 1965.

Zeller, Edward.
New York: Meridian Books, 1962 (paperback).
Page 105
Works By Aristotle Available In Paperback Editions

(modern reconstruction of a lost early work).

Review Questions
1. What are two fundamental assumptions of Aristotle's
approach to ethics that are typical of most ancient Greek
2. According to Aristotle, what is the relationship of politics
and ethics, and what is the purpose of studying ethics?
What limitations are there on the methodology of such a
3. What was Plato's view of the good? Does Aristotle
4. How does Aristotle define a final end? What is his
conception of happiness?
5. How does Aristotle define virtue? What is the difference
between moral and intellectual virtue? What role do
pleasure and pain play in testing virtue?
6. What is the doctrine of the mean? Give examples of
the mean and extremes in regard to several particular
virtues? What are some criticisms that have been made of
the doctrine of the mean?
7. On the basis of Aristotle's discussion of virtue, what
appears to be the Greek conception of the good man?
How does this differ from the Christian conception of the
good man?
8. What is the difference between voluntary and involuntary
action? What bearing does this have on personal moral
9. Explain Aristotle's conceptions of: universal and particular
justice, natural and conventional justice, domestic and
political justice.