1   Nicomachean Ethics




350 BC


W.D. Ross






What is the purpose of writing a paper? Perhaps to get a good grade. Why get a good grade? Perhaps to make progress toward graduation, to please parents, or perhaps self-respect.


Nicomachean Ethics (pronounced Nico-mo-kayen) ...

A critical period in the history of this work's influence is at the end of the Middle Ages, and beginning of modernity, when several authors such as Niccolo Machiavelli, Francis Bacon and Thomas Hobbes, argued forcefully and largely successfully that the medieval Aristotelian tradition in practical thinking had become a great impediment to practical political thinking in their time.

Connection to doing things to become something (e.g. painting to become a painter) was also noted by `Lao Tzu`_ who observed one must learn to act without acting (`wu wei`_).


2   Book 1: Happiness

2.1   Preface

2.1.1   Goal

The goal of this inquiry is practical, i.e. to become good through action; not theoretical, i.e., to know what the good is.

2.1.2   Motivation

Knowledge of the Good would have a great influence on life since it would allow us to direct our action toward it ("Shall we not, like archers who have a mark to aim at, be more likely to hit upon what is right?"), so it is worthy of pursuit.

2.1.3   Method

The study of the Good is empirical, rather than rational. This means two things. First, judging the arguments requires experience with the subject (as opposed to pure reason). Second, knowledge of the Good is inexact and only probable. (3, 4)

2.1.4   Audience

Since experience is required, this study is only profitable for the mature, in age or character. (Besides, the young and immature act passionately rather than rationally, but this is practical knowledge, so it would be useless.)

2.2   1, 2, 3, 4: The Good is the end of the master art, or politics

Every art and science has a unique end, but we pursue many arts as a means to the end of a master art.

Either all ends are a means to other ends to infinity or there exists some final end which is not a means to another but is a means to itself. Since if the former were true, we would be hopeless and we are not so, there must be some final end, and we call that end the Good.

The Good must belong to some art, and that art must be master of all others. Politics seems to fit, since it decides which arts a state should pursue, and who should pursue them and how much, and because the highly esteemed arts (e.g. strategy, economics, and rhetoric) subordinate to it. And though politics and ethics have the same end, politics is greater because the good of society is greater than the good of the individual.

What is the nature of the Good? People seem to agree it is of living well and acting well, but what this means is disputed. Common people say that the Good is something obvious: pleasure or wealth or honor. But even so, they differ from one another. And often the same person says different things based on his condition: sick people say health and poor people say wealth. We can deduce what people actually think the Good is based on their lifestyles, of which there seems to be only three or four: [*]

  1. The Life of Enjoyment: identifying the Good with pleasure. Most men, men of the most vulgar type, and some wealthy men, live this way.
  2. The Life of Politics: identifying the Good with virtue. Refined men and men of action live this way. (At first it may seem that they seek honor, but in fact they want to be honored for their virtue. Besides, honor can be given and taken away, but the Good cannot. This is still troublesome though because one can possess virtue but not be happy.) (EDIT: Oct 4-- another way to describe this would be to say some people seek recognition.)
  3. The Life of Contemplation: identifying the Good with wisdom. We consider this later.

There is in addition a Life of Money-making. But this must be out of necessity for getting other things, since wealth has instrumental value.

What could the good be? We can better guess if we ascertain its nature:

  • The Good has a different nature in different arts; the good of each art is that which all its activities are done for (e.g. in medicine, health, in strategy, victory, in architecture, a house, etc.). But, if there is some thing that all activities are done for, this is the good of activity itself.
  • The Good is a final end, but it may not be uniquely so. If it is not, we'll define the good as the most final and say that given two things, A and B, A is more final than B if either we pursue A for A but pursue B for -B, or if we never pursue A for -A, but pursue B for A and B. (If both, we'll say that A is final without qualification.)
  • The Good is self-sufficient; when isolated it makes life desirable and lacking in nothing.

By these criteria, happiness seems to be the Good:

  • Happiness is final; it is pursued for itself and never pursued for other things. (On the other hand, honor, pleasure, reason, and virtue for themselves, are pursued for themselves and happiness (judging that by means of them we shall be happy). And we never pursue happiness for the sake of any of these.)
  • Happiness is thought to be self-sufficient. It is both thought to be the most desirable of things and thought to be so complete that it can not be made better by adding more good to it.

Happiness, then, is something is final and self-sufficient, and is the end of all activity.

2.2.1   The function of man

Since the good of functional things resides in their function, we could determine what the Good is if we could determine the function of man. [†]

The function of man must be peculiar to man. Therefore, it is not nutrition or growth, since that is common to plants, nor perception, since that is common to animals. Rather, the function of man seems to be rational activity of the soul, both reasoning and following reason, and the function of a good man to perform these well.

If an action is performed well when it is performed in accordance with its virtue (i.e. appropriate excellence), then human good is activity of the soul in accordance with virtue.

2.3   6: The nature of good

In what sense are different things called good? Some possibilities:

  • Things are called good in virtue of their relation to a single good
  • Things are called in virtue of bearing the same (good) relation to a certain other thing (e.g. health to medicine, victory to strategy)

This question belongs to metaphysics, so Aristotle wants to avoid discussing it.

2.4   8: Checking the soundness of our theory

If our account of happiness so far is sound, then it should be consistent with what is commonly said about it (and clash otherwise).

  • Our account is consistent with the belief that of the three kinds of goods, (external goods, goods of the soul, and goods of the body) goods of the soul are the most proper and true goods, since psychic activity is classified as pertaining to the soul.
  • It is correct also in that we identify the end with certain actions and activities; for thus it falls among goods of the soul and not among external goods.
  • Our account is consistent with the belief that the happy man lives well and acts well, since we said happiness was a sort of living well and acting well.
  • Also, all the things being pursued pertaining to happiness are included in what we said: in the opinion of some, happiness is virtue; of others, wisdom; of others, pleasure and prosperity. It is probable that none of these are wholly in error, and that they are correct in at least, or even in most respects.
  • Our account is consistent with the identification of happiness with virtue, since we said happiness is virtuous activity, which belongs to virtue.
  • Our account is consistent with the identification of happiness as pleasant, since feeling pleasure is a state of the soul and there is pleasure for each person in connection with whatever he is said to be a lover of. Therefore, virtuous acts are pleasant to the lover of virtue. Now for most men, their pleasures are in conflict with one another because these are not by nature pleasant, but the nature of virtuous men is to find virtuous action pleasurable. (Indeed, the lives of virtuous people no need no additional pleasure since they possess pleasure in itself.)

Happiness is therefore the best, noblest, and most pleasant thing.

2.4.1   Equipment

Nonetheless, happiness depends on external goods, since it's hard to do virtuous acts without the proper equipment. We use friends and wealth and political power as instruments in many actions.

Also, the lack of certain things makes life worse. For instance, lacking beauty, good genes, or good children. This explains why some people identify happiness with good fortune.

2.5   9

Given that happiness depends on external things, is happiness acquired by learning, by divinity, or by chance?

It seems reasonable that happiness would be god given (this question is more appropriate to another inquiry), but even if it were not and we acquired it through virtue, it is among the most divine things.

If it were not god given, we would also expect it to be common, since all may acquire it by study and care.

If it is better to be happy by one's own effort than by chance, it is reasonable that it this how it is, since (1) nature has a tendency to order thing in the best possible way (2) and similarly everything that depends on reason (e.g. art and of intelligence). That happiness would be left to chance seems too contrary to the fitness of things.

We said happiness was a virtuous activity of soul.

2.6   10

[*]It seems reasonable enough that man has a function since each of man's parts do.

2.7   12

Happiness is among the things that are prized and virtue is among the things that praised. We praise thing for their condition relative to something prized.

Happiness is a first principle.

2.8   13

Since happiness is an activity of soul in accordance with perfect virtue, we must consider the nature of virtue; for perhaps we shall thus see better the nature of happiness.

The true student of politics, too, is thought to have studied virtue above all things; for he wishes to make his fellow citizens good and obedient to the laws. And if this inquiry belongs to political science, clearly the pursuit of it will be in accordance with our original plan.

By human virtue, we mean that of the soul, not that of the body. Therefore, the politician must know about the soul just as someone who a doctor must know about the body.

Some point concerning the soul are stated sufficiently in arguments designed for the public, and we ought to make use of them.

The soul consists of a rational part and an irrational part.

The irrational part consists of two parts:

  1. The vegetative part, which causes nutrition and growth. Since it is common to all living things, it is irrelevant to discussion of human virtue.
  2. The impulsive part. This part opposes reason, but is apt to listen to it and obey it (as one does one's father) there must a rational part to it.

The rational part also consists of two parts, one part which is completely rational and the other which is apt to listen to it.

Virtue too is defined in accord with this distinction, for we say that some of the virtues are intellectual (wisdom, comprehension, prudence), others moral (liberality and moderation).

3   Book 2: Moral virtue

There are two kind of virtue: intellectual and moral.

Intellectual virtue owes its birth and its growth to teaching.

Moral virtue comes about as a result of habit (none of the moral virtues are innate, because innate things cannot be changed).

We have a capacity to use our innate qualities before we use them (for example, it was not by seeing often that we got sight; we had sight before seeing). We acquire virtues like skill; through practice and exercise. So by doing just things we become just; moderate things, moderate; courageous things, courageous. (This is confirmed by what happens in states; for lawgivers make the citizens good by forming habits in them.)

Both goods habits and bad habits are made through practice. For instance, by doing the acts that we do in the presence of danger, and being habituated to feel fear or confidence, we become brave or cowardly. (Which is why we need teachers.) Thus, character arises out of activity.

Therefore, it is all-important that we acquire the right habits in our youth.

3.1   2: How virtue is created and destroyed

We assume we must act in accord with correct reason. (What the correct reason is will be discussed later.) Also, recall the this inquiry is fallible (as is health). Also, we are not concerned with particulars.

Moral virtue is destroyed by defect and excess. For example, both excessive and defective exercise destroys the health, and similarly eating too much or too little, while that which is appropriate both creates, preserves, and increases it. (To gain light on things imperceptible we must use the evidence of sensible things.)

Moral virtues are created by performing the actions a virtuous person would. (It is by refraining from sensual pleasure that we become temperate, and it is by being temperate that we become most able to resist pleasure.)

3.2   3: Virtue's relation to pleasure and pain

A person has a virtue iff that person takes pleasure in virtuous action.

Moral virtue is concerned with pleasures and pains:

  • Pleasure and pain often lead people astray.

  • The moral virtues are concerned with actions and passions, and every action and passion is accompanied by pleasure and pain.

  • Punishment successfully cures moral vice with pain (opposing the pleasure one would normally get, and causing one to act the way on should, thus forming the habit)

  • Moral virtue tends to do what is best with regard to pleasure and pain and vice does the contrary.

    That virtue, then, is concerned with pleasures and pains, and that by the acts from which it arises it is both increased and, if they are done differently, destroyed, and that the acts from which it arose are those in which it actualizes itself- let this be taken as said.

3.3   4: Virtuous action vs. Virtuous men

What do we mean by saying that we must become virtuous by doing virtuous acts? For if we do virtuous acts, aren't we already virtuous?

In the arts, if you do something skillful, it doesn't mean that you're skilled; you could have done it by accident. You're only skilled when you actually know how to do what you're doing.

Likewise, if you do something virtuous, it doesn't mean that you're virtuous. To be virtuous, you have to be in a certain state when you act:

  1. You have to know what you're doing, i.e. what is virtuous
  2. You have to choose the acts, and choose them for their own sakes
  3. You have to do so characteristically, i.e. not by whim

When it comes to being virtuous, only the last two criteria count. They can be met by repeatedly doing virtuous acts.

Unfortunately, most people who read philosophy do not actually do virtuous acts. They take refuge in the theory and, like a patient who listens closely to a doctor but does none of things they are ordered to do, they don't improve their character.

3.4   5: The genus of virtue

There exists only three kind of things found in the soul: passions, capacities, and characteristics. So virtue must be one of these.

  • By passion, we mean appetite, anger, fear, confidence, envy, joy, friendliness, hatred, longing, emulation, pity, and in general the feeling that are accompanied by pleasure of pain.
  • By capacity, we mean the things which enable us to feel passion.
  • By characteristic, we mean the things which decide if we stand well or badly with reference to the passions. For example, with reference to anger, we stand badly if we feel it violently or too weakly.

Virtue is not a passion nor capacity, because we are not called good or bad, nor praised nor blamed because of our passion or ability to feel passion, but we are so of our virtues. Therefore, virtue must be a characteristic.

3.5   6: The differentia of virtue

For a given thing, a virtue of that thing brings it into good condition and makes it function well. For example, a virtue of the eye bring it into good condition and enable us to see well. Therefore, a virtue of man is a characteristic which brings him into good condition and makes him function well.

In everything that is continuous and divisible, it is possible to take more or less or an equal amount, either relatively or absolutely.

A master of any art avoid excess and defect, but seeks the intermediate relative to us. For example, we often say of good works of art that it is impossible to either add or remove anything.

If virtue is more exact and better than any art, as nature also is, then moral virtue must have the quality of aiming at the intermediate.

It is in passions and actions that excess, deficiency, and the mean reside. For example, both fear and confidence may be felt both to much and too little, and in both cases not well; but to feel them at the right times, with references to the right objects, towards the right people, with the right motive, and in the right way, is what is both intermediate and best, and this characteristic of virtue. Similarly with regard to actions also there is excess, defect, and the intermediate.

Like hitting a target, there are many ways to fail but only one way to succeed. Thus, men are good in but one way, but bad in many.

Therefore, Virtue is a characteristic marked by choice, residing in the mean relative us, a characteristic defined by reason and as the prudent person would define it. Virtue is a mean with respect to the vices of excess and defect, but with respect to what is best and the doing of something well, it is an extreme.

Virtue is concerned with passions and actions, in which the excess and defect is is blamed, but the mean is praised and guides on correctly, and both praise and correct guidance belong to virtue. Virtue, therefore, is a certain mean, since it is skillful in aiming at the middle term.

Virtue is a characteristic concerned with choice, a mean between two vices relative to us, being determined by a rational principle.

Virtue is a characteristic (of the soul) in which, when it has to choose among actions and feelings, it observes the mean relative to us (this being determined by such a role or principle as would take shape in the mind of a man of sense and practical wisdom).

Not every action nor every passion admits of a mean, for some are always bad. For example, the goodness or badness of murder is not affected by murdering the right person, at the right time, and in the right way-- to murder is to go wrong.

3.6   7: Enumeration of the virtues and the vices

Universal principles about conduct apply widely, but those which are particular possess a higher degree of truth; since conduct has to do with particulars, and our theories must be consistent them.

Aristotle outline nine virtues:

Characteristic Excess Mean Deficiency
Fear & Confidence Rashness Courage Cowardice
Sensual pleasure Licentiousness Temperance Insensibility
Money (minor) Prodigality Liberality Greed
Money (major) Tastelessness Magnificence Pettiness
Honor (minor) Ambition   Lack of ambition
Honor (major) Vanity Magnanimity Humility
Anger Irascibility Gentleness Lack of spirit
Social conduct Flattery Friendliness Quarrelsome
Self-expression Boastfulness Truthfulness Irony
Conversation Buffoonery Wittiness Boorishness

3.6.1   Other means

Characteristic Excess Mean Deficiency
Shame Shyness Modesty Shamelessness
Fortune of others Envy Nemesis Schadenfreude

Aristotle distinguishes the disposition to feel emotions of a certain kind from virtue and vice. [‡] But such emotional dispositions may also lie at a mean between two extremes, and these are also to some extent a result of up-bringing and habituation.

There are also middle states in the passion and those thing that have to do with them. Shame is not a virtue, but we praise the modest person. For in these matter one is said to have the mean, but another is said to exceed it by being bashful, that is, a fool who blushes at everything. The one who is deficient and ashamed at nothing is called shameless, and the intermediate person, modest. - 2.7

It has already become clear that in virtues that occur either in the passions or in actions there are praiseworthy middle states and that the extremes are blameworthy. Now Aristotle shows that these occur in the passions themselves, which are not in virtues; in these also the mean is praised and the extremes are blamed.

We praise modesty, which is a mean; yet it is not a virtue, since people come by it naturally and sometimes without willing it. For modesty is pain or fear regarding honor that is imminent or into which we have fallen. One could object that passions are not praised or blamed, since they natural; how, then, is modesty praised and its extremes condemned? I answer that one does not praise or blame the passion as such, but rather modes of that passion. For we praise when it is moderate and blame when it is extreme. One find an extreme in modesty, too.

Two examples of such dispositions would be modesty, or a tendency to feel shame, which Aristotle discusses in NE IV.9; and righteous indignation (nemesis), which is a balanced feeling of sympathetic pain concerning the undeserved pleasures and pains of others. Exactly which habitual dispositions are virtues or vices and which only concern emotions, differs between the different works which have survived, but the basic examples are consistent, as is the basis for distinguishing them in principle.


3.7   8: One vice may be more opposed to virtue than the other

There are three kinds of disposition: two vices and one virtue. Each is opposed to the others.

In some cases, the deficiency is more opposed to the mean than the excess as cowardice is to bravery and sometimes vice-versa as self-indulgence to temperance. This happens for two reasons-- sometimes because the one extreme is nearer to the mean, and sometimes because our bodies are inclined to seek pleasure and avoid pain (so it's easier to be self-indulgent than insensible).

3.8   9: Practical advice

It is not easy task to be good, for in everything it is no easy to ask to find the middle. Therefore, goodness is both rare, laudable, and noble.

He who aims at the mean must first depart from what is the more contrary to it, since to hit the mean is hard, we must as a second best take the least of evils.

4   Book 3


Book 3 consists of 12 chapters.

Chapter 1 distinguishes actions which are chosen as the ones relevant to virtue, and whether actions are to be blamed, forgiven or even pitied.

Chapters 6-9 deal with courage.

Chapters 10-12 deal with temperance.

4.1   1: Responsibility

Since virtue is concerned with actions and passion, and voluntary actions and passions are praised and blamed, and involuntary actions pardoned, we need to distinguishes between voluntary and involuntary action.

Involuntary action takes place under compulsion or owning to ignorance.

Action which takes place under compulsion owes its cause to something external, where nothing is contributed by the agent.

It is debatable whether actions done under threat of force are voluntary or involuntary. Such actions are mixed, but are more like voluntary, since they are chosen at the time when they are done, and the cause of his action is in him. But abstractly, they are involuntary, since no would choose such act in itself. Such actions are typically pardoned. But since actions are particulars, we call this voluntary.

But if someone were to say that pleasant and noble objects have a compelling power, forcing us from without, all acts would be compulsory.

Actions done in ignorance are not voluntary; do not feel pain nor they have not acted voluntarily, since they did not know what they were doing.

4.2   2: What is choice (or decision)?

All choice are voluntary, but not all voluntary actions are choice, for children and animals share in voluntary action, but not in choice, and whims we describe as voluntary, but not as chosen.

Making a decision is neither appetite, nor emotion, nor wish, nor opinion.

  • Not appetite nor emotion, since these are common to beasts, but choice is not
  • Not wish, for choice cannot relate to impossibles. And wish may relate to things that could in no way way be brought about by one's own effort, such as wishing for an athlete to win a competition. Wish relates to the end, choice to the means. For instance, we wish to be healthy, but we choose the acts which will make us healthy. In general, choice seems to relate to the things that are in our own power.
  • Not opinion, because opinion is distinguished by its truth or falsity, not by its goodness or badness, but choice is distinguished by these

Choice seems to be an action that has been decided on by previous deliberation; it is involves a rational principle and thought.

4.3   3: What do we deliberate on?

Not all subjects are fit for deliberation:

  • We do not deliberate about things that outside of our power; so not nature, necessity, nor chance. Sometimes we deliberate about something that is impossible, but as soon as we realize it is, we stop.
  • We do not deliberate about things that have known solutions, like how to write letters which is always done the same way.
  • We do not deliberate about ends, unless they are means to others ends. Rather, we assume an end and deliberate on the means.

So it seems, we deliberate about the best possible means to ends when they are non-trivial, e.g. questions of medical treatment or money-making.

4.4   4: Do we wish for the good or for the apparent good?

We already said wish is for the end, but it is disputed whether wish is for the Good or for what appears good.

If we say that the object of wish is the Good, then we must admit that when a man wishes for something bad, he is not really wishing.

If we say that object of wish is apparent good, then we must admit there is no natural object of wish since different things appear good to different people, and even contrary things.

It seems then that we must say that the good man wishes for things which are truly good, and that the bad man may wish for good or bad things.

4.5   5: We are responsible for our virtues and vices

Given that the ends are what we wish for and the mean are what we deliberate and choose, actions concerning means but be according to choice and therefore voluntary.

The exercise of the virtues is concerned with means. Therefore, virtue is in our power, and so too vice, for where it is in our power to act it is also in our power not to act. And, if it is possible to act virtuously, then not acting so is vicious. So it is in our power to be virtuous or vicious; we are responsible for all our virtues and vices.

It is in the power of men not to be ignorant, so we punish a man for his very ignorance if he is voluntarily so. (Penalties are doubled in the case of drunkenness.)

Now not to know that it is from the exercise of activities on particular objects that states of character are produced is the mark of a thoroughly senseless person.


But if without being ignorant a man does the things which will make him unjust, he will be unjust voluntarily. Yet it does not follow that if he wishes he will cease to be unjust and will be just. For neither does the man who is ill become well on those terms. We may suppose a case in which he is ill voluntarily, through living incontinently and disobeying his doctors. In that case it was then open to him not to be ill, but not now, when he has thrown away his chance, just as when you have let a stone go it is too late to recover it; but yet it was in your power to throw it, since the moving principle was in you. So, too, to the unjust and to the self-indulgent man it was open at the beginning not to become men of this kind, and so they are unjust and selfindulgent voluntarily; but now that they have become so it is not possible for them not to be so.


But not only are the vices of the soul voluntary, but those of the body also for some men, whom we accordingly blame; while no one blames those who are ugly by nature, we blame those who are so owing to want of exercise and care. Of vices of the body, then, those in our own power are blamed, those not in our power are not. And if this be so, in the other cases also the vices that are blamed must be in our own power.

Now some one may say that all men desire the apparent good, but have no control over the appearance, but the end appears to each man in a form answering to his character. We reply that if each man is somehow responsible for his state of mind, he will also be himself somehow responsible for the appearance;


With regard to the virtues in general we have stated their genus in outline, viz. that they are means and that they are states of character, and that they tend, and by their own nature, to the doing of the acts by which they are produced, and that they are in our power and voluntary, and act as the right rule prescribes. But actions and states of character are not voluntary in the same way; for we are masters of our actions from the beginning right to the end, if we know the particular facts, but though we control the beginning of our states of character the gradual progress is not obvious any more than it is in illnesses; because it was in our power, however, to act in this way or not in this way, therefore the states are voluntary.

4.6   6, 7, 8: Courage

Courage is a mean of fear and confidence.

Fear is the expectation of (unqualified) evil, e.g. disgrace, poverty, disease, friendlessness, death.

Courage is not concerned with all fears:

  • We don't call someone courageous for fearing things he should, e.g. disgrace, punishment.
  • We don't call someone courageous for not fearing things he shouldn't, namely those things out of his control (assuming he doesn't act viciously) e.g. poverty and disease.
  • We don't call someone courageous for not fearing a dishonorable death, e.g. when sick or at sea.

Properly then, we call someone courageous for not fearing an honorable death, i.e. in battle.

Some evil things are feared by all men, some feared by only some (e.g. battle or losing money), and some things which are not evil are also feared by some.

The frightening things within what we can bear have different magnitudes, and similarly the things which inspire confidence.

The courageous man fears evil things, but he endures them in the way the ought and as reason command, for the sake of honor.

We call someone courageous iff he both fears and faces the right things, for the right reason, in the right way and at the right time, etc.

Now the end of every activity is conformity to the corresponding state of character. This is true, therefore, of the brave man as well as of others. But courage is noble. Therefore the end also is noble; for each thing is defined by its end. Therefore it is for a noble end that the brave man endures and acts as courage directs.

The courageous man endures for the sake of honor or to avoid dishonor. (To die to escape poverty or love or anything painful is the mark of a coward; for it is easy to escape from what is troublesome.)

On the vices:

  • The reckless are actually cowards who wish to appear courageous, and therefore overcompensate. They wish for danger, but draw back when they are in them.
  • The cowards fear everything, and tend to be a despairing sort of person.

The courageous tends to be hopeful.

Courageous men are keen in danger, but quiet beforehand. (Do not wish for it?)

Kind of courage and apparent courage:

  1. The courage of militia, citizens defending their home
  2. The courage of experience with regard to particular facts, e.g. mercenaries
  3. Passion is also thought to be courage, e.g. beasts rushing at those who have wounded them, because courageous men are also though to be passionate. Courageous men act for honor's sake, but passion aids them; while beats act under the influence of pain, because they have been wounded and are afraid. Hungry animals will not be driven away by blows, and lust makes cheaters do many daring things. This is the most natural kind, and if the end is right it is true courage. Certainly, men suffer pain when they are angry and are pleased when they exact their revenge, but men who fight on account of these (and not honor) are not courageous, but they are in possession of something similar.
  4. Sanguine (optimistic in a bad situation; those of good hope; optimistic) people, who are confident because they have conquered many foes. Like courageous men, they are confident, but they are so because they don't believe they are in danger, e.g. like drunk men. However, when they realize they are in danger they behave like cowards, so this is only apparent courage. In this sense, it seems to be more courageous to fearless and calm amid unforeseen dangers than amid those that are clear beforehand; the former depends more on one's characteristic, since in the latter one makes his choice based on reason, but in the former with characteristic.
  5. People who are ignorant of danger appear brave.

(2) Experience with regards to particular was why Socrates thought courage to be knowledge [§]. People exhibit this quality in various dangers, knowing when to avoid empty alarms. Therefore, they seem courageous because others do not know the nature of the facts. They're courage is only apparent though, since they turn cowards at signs of real danger.

[‡]See Protagoras by Plato.

4.7   9

Courage is more concerned with the things that inspire fear than confidence since it is harder to overcome fear than

for he who is undisturbed in face of these and bears himself as he should towards these is more truly brave than the man who does so towards the things that inspire confidence. It is for facing what is painful, then, as has been said, that men are called brave. Hence also courage involves pain, and is justly praised; for it is harder to face what is painful than to abstain from what is pleasant.

Yet the end which courage sets before it would seem to be pleasant, but to be concealed by the attending circumstances, as happens also in athletic contests; for the end at which boxers aim is pleasant- the crown and the honours- but the blows they take are distressing to flesh and blood, and painful, and so is their whole exertion

4.8   10: Temperance

Temperance is a man with regard to pleasure.

We may assume the distinction between bodily pleasures and those of the soul, such as love of honor and love of learning; for the lover of each of these delights in that of which he is a lover, the body being in no way affected, but rather the mind; but men who are concerned with such pleasures are called neither temperate nor self-indulgent.

Temperance must be concerned with bodily pleasures, but not all even of those; not object of vision nor objects of hearing nor objects of smell nor objects of taste.

Temperance is concerned with the kind of pleasures that beasts share in; touch, e.g. food, drink, and sex.

(Taste is harder to see; it is the actual contact of food with our mouth.)

4.9   11

Some appetites are common and others are individual.

Appetite for food and drink and love is natural, although there is variation in exactly which things.

Different things are pleasant to different kinds of people.

A man is temperate if he is not pained at the absent of what is pleasant and at his abstinence from it.

The self-indulgent man craves for all pleasant things or those that are most pleasant and is led by his appetite to choose these at the cost of everything else; he is pained both when he fails to get them and when is merely craving for them (for appetite involves pain); but it seems absurd to be pained for the sake of pleasure.

5   Book 4

5.1   1: Liberality

This virtue seems to be the observance of the mean in relation to wealth.

Meanness is always applied to those who care more than is proper about wealth.

Prodigality is sometimes used with a wider connotation. For our purposes, it denotes the possessor of one particular vice, that of wasting one's substance; for he who is ruined by his own agency is a hopeless case indeed,3 and to waste one's substance seems to be in a way to ruin oneself, inasmuch as wealth is the means of life. This then is the sense in which the term Prodigality is here understood.

Now riches are an article of use; but articles of use can be used either well or ill, and he who uses a thing best is he who possesses the virtue related to that thing.

The liberal man use riches best, which seems to consist in spending and in giving; getting wealth and keeping it are modes of acquisition rather than of use.

Acts of virtue are noble, and are performed for the sake of their nobility; the liberal man therefore will give for the nobility of giving.

The liberal man is certainly prone to go to excess in giving, so as to leave himself the smaller share; for it is a mark of a liberal nature to be regardless of self.

In crediting people with Liberality their resources must be taken into account; for the liberality of a gift does not depend on its amount, but on the disposition of the giver, and a liberal disposition gives according to its substance.7 It is therefore possible that the smaller giver may be the more liberal, if he give from smaller means.

Men who have inherited a fortune are reputed to be more liberal than those who have made one, since they have never known what it is to want; moreover everybody is specially fond of a thing that is his own creation: parents and poets show this.

The liberal man is one who spends in proportion to his means as well as on the right objects; while he that exceeds his means is prodigal. This is why we do not call the lavishness of princes Prodigality; because we feel that however much they spend and give away they can hardly exceed the limit of their resources.

5.3   3, 4: Pride

Pride is concerned with honor on the grand scale.

5.4   5: Good Temper (Anger)

The deficiency, whether it is a sort of 'inirascibility' or whatever it is, is blamed. For those who are not angry at the things they should be angry at are thought to be fools, and so are those who are not angry in the right way, at the right time, or with the right persons; for such a man is thought not to feel things nor to be pained by them, and, since he does not get angry, he is thought unlikely to defend himself; and to endure being insulted and put up with insult to one's friends is slavish.

5.5   6: Social conduct (Friendliness)

One who exceeds the mean is called obsequious if he is overly pleasant for no reason, and a flatter if he does so for personal gain.

Obsequious are obliging to all and never reproach another person's vice or use any kind of severity.

The defect is a called contentious.

6   Book 5: Justice

What sort of actions are concerned with justice and injustice?

What sort of mean is justice? Of what thing is the just a middle term?

By justice, everybody means the moral disposition which (1) renders men apt to do just things (2) causes them to act justly and (3) to wish for what is just.

7   Book 6: Intellectual virtue

7.1   1: How do we recognize the mean?

Since we have previously said that one ought to choose that which is intermediate, not the excess nor the defect, and that the intermediate is determined by the dictates of the right reason, let us discuss the nature of these dictates.

In all characteristics, there is reference to which the man who has the reason looks and heightens or relaxes his activity accordingly.

Hence, it is necessary with regard to characteristics to say what is the right rule and what is the standard that fixes it.

We before that there are two parts of the soul - that which graps a rule or rational principle, and the irrational.

And let it be assumed that there are two parts which grasp a rational principle-one by which we contemplate the kind of things whose originative causes are invariable, and one by which we contemplate variable things; for where objects differ in kind the part of the soul answering to each of the two is different in kind, since it is in virtue of a certain likeness and kinship with their objects that they have the knowledge they have.

The two parts re:

  1. The scientific (dealing with a priori truth)
  2. The calculative (deliberative) (dealing with facts)

We must learn what the best characteristic of each of these two parts; for that is the virtue of each.

7.2   2

The virtue of a thing is relative to its proper work.

There are three thing in the soul which control action and truth:

  1. Sensation
  2. Reason
  3. Desire

Sensation is not the cause of any action; this is clear from the fact that lower animals have sensation, but do not share in action.

What affirmation and negation are in thinking, pursuit and avoidance are in desire. So, since since moral virtue is a characteristic marked by choice, and choice is desire marked by deliberation, if the choice is a serious, then the reasoning involved must be true and the desire correct and desire must pursue what reason asserts. This, kind of truth and kind of thing is practical; concerned with action.

In contemplative thinking, which is neither practical nor productive, the good and bad state are truth and false respectively. In practical thinking, the good state is truth in agreement with the right desire.

The cause of action is choice (that from which the motion arises, but not the end), and the cause of choice is desire and reasoning with a view to an end.

Contemplative thinking is not the cause of any action.

The function of both the intellectual parts is truth. Therefore the states that aid reaching truth the most are the virtues of the two parts.

7.3   3: Scientific knowledge (Episteme)

Let's assume that there are five states by which the souls reaches truth:

  1. Art
  2. Scientific knowledge
  3. Practical wisdom
  4. Philosophic wisdom
  5. Intuitive reason

Scientific knowledge is of necessity. Therefore it is eternal. Capable of being taught and learned.

7.4   4: Art (Techne)

In reality, there are things made and things done. Making and acting are distinct, for neither making is acting nor acting is making.

Art is the rational capacity to make. All art is concerned with realization.

Concerned with intermediate ends.

7.5   5: Practical wisdom (Phronesis)

We can determine what practical wisdom is by figuring out who we say has it.

  • A man with practical wisdom can deliberate well about what is good and expedient for himself, not in some particular respect, e.g. about what sorts of things conduce to heal or to strength, but about what sorts of thing conduce to the good life in general.
  • Practical wisdom is not scientific knowledge, since it is concerned with deliberation, but we do not deliberate about truth, and scientific knowledge is just that.
  • Practical wisdom is not art, because art is concerned with making, not action.

Practical wisdom is a true and reasoned state of capacity to act with regard to the things that are good or bad for man. While making has an end other than itself, action cannot; for good action itself is its end.

Men with practical wisdom can see what is good for themselves and what is good for men in general; we consider those that can do this are good at managing houeshold or states.

Pleasure and pain do not pervert every judgment, e.g. whether a triangle has its angles equal to two right angles, but only judgments about actions.

Practical wisdom then must be a reasoned and true stat of capacity to act with regard to human goods.

While there is such a thing as excellence in art, there is no such things as excellence in practical wisdom. Practical wisdom then is a virtue and not an art. And it must the virtue of one of two parts of the soul that we describe, i.e. the part which forms opinions; for opinion is about the variable and so is practical wisdom.

7.6   6: Intuition

Scientific knowledge is judgment about things that universal and necessary, and the conclusions of demonstration, and all scientific knowledge follows from first principles.

The first principle from which what is scientifically known follows cannot be an object of scientific knowledge, of art, or of practical wisdom; for that which can be scientifically known can be demonstrated, and art and practical wisdom deal with things that are variable. Nor are these first principles the object of philosophic wisdom, for we recognize philosophers to have demonstrations about some things.

It first principles are not grasped by any of these four, it must be intuition that grasps them.

7.7   7: Philosophic wisdom

Wisdom must be the most finished form of knowledge. The wise man not only know whats follows from the first first principles, bust also truth about the first principles. Therefore, wisdom must be intuition combined with scientific knowledge -- scientific knowledge of the highest objects which has received as it were the proper completion.

Of the highest objects we say; for it would be strange to think the art of politics, or practical wisdom, is the best knowledge, since man is not the best thing in the world.

Now if what is healthy or good is different for men and for fishes, but what is white or straight is always the same, any one would say that what is wise is the same but what is practically wise is different

Philosophic wisdom is scientific knowledge, combined with intuitive reason, of the things that are highest by nature. This is why we say Anaxagoras, Thales, and men like them have philosophic but not practical wisdom, when we see them ignorant of what is to their own advantage, and why we say that they know things that are remarkable, admirable, difficult, and divine, but useless; viz. because it is not human goods that they seek.

Practical wisdom on the other hand is concerned with things human and things about which it is possible to deliberate; for we say this is above all the work of the man of practical wisdom, to deliberate well, but no one deliberates about things invariable, nor about things which have not an end, and that a good that can be brought about by action. The man who is without qualification good at deliberating is the man who is capable of aiming in accordance with calculation at the best for man of things attainable by action. Nor is practical wisdom concerned with universals only-it must also recognize the particulars; for it is practical, and practice is concerned with particulars

7.8   8

Political wisdom and practical wisdom are the same state of mind, but their essence is not the same.

What has been said is confirmed by the fact that while young men become geometricians and mathematicians and wise in matters like these, it is thought that a young man of practical wisdom cannot be found. The cause is that such wisdom is concerned not only with universals but with particulars, which become familiar from experience, but a young man has no experience, for it is length of time that gives experience;

Further, error in deliberation may be either about the universal or about the particular; we may fall to know either that all water that weighs heavy is bad, or that this particular water weighs heavy.

8   Book 7: Impediments to virtue

9   Book 8, 9: Friendship and partnership

10   Book 10: Pleasure, happiness, and up-bringing

11   Notes

[§]The doctrine of the three Lives go back to Pythagoras, who compared the three kinds of men to the three classes of strangers who went to the Games: traders competitors, and spectators


What makes things good or bad?

What makes people happy? Family, friends, health (food/sleep), success, leisure, weather, love, entertainment. (Interesting note-- we like to watch people do extraordinary things, as in sports or in movies) Many of these are subsumed under pleasure.

The distinction Aristotle makes in pleasure and honor/reputation/attention/success/admiration seems to be work/life balance thing. (Honor might be to please good parents, which seems to leads to an unhappy life.) We want to admired, not just to be admired, but for something.

What do you think a happy life includes? Wealth (money/home/capital), traveling

// I guess the above are means to the above in some degree.

People pursue a lot of things which don't seem to lead to happiness, e.g attentions, drugs, acceptance from the wrong crowd (e.g. drinking).

We hang out with only some friends over break. We ask who is actually worth being around, or virtuous people.

The last one is knowledge.

All of these three things are pursued because we think they will lead to happiness.

The latter two (honor, knowledge) are more distinctively human.

Happiness is a life of virtuous activity, with sufficient wealth. If you're dirt poor, or lack friends or family, you can be really a good person, but you're going to have a bad life. Family and friends and wealth are requisites, but not enough.

Advertising/commercials tells us what we need to be happy. (Usually appealing to one of these things we mentioned already.) e.g. ax commericals, which sell a fantasy of women chasing a man.

Book 2

What are you good at? How did you become good and stay good? How could you make someone else good?

Desires can be too strong or too weak.

We often say we don't judge people's feeling, but just their actions. If they feel angry, it's okay as long as they don't act. But some feelings are unhealthy, or ugly, or damaging (e.g. pedophilia, losing one's temper, holding grudges).

Would you trust your money to anyone? Are there some people that you know that you should not trust with money? What is it just a single action? (could be) More often, it's just a pattern of behavior.

unrelated, form -> formation instead of production

What's the most important thing in a good action? Is it consequence? Intention/reason? (e.g. maybe I tell a girl she is beautiful because I want her to go home with me) The kind of action?

It's not just knowledge that lets us form character. (Many of us know our vices.)

Think about how we get good at writing. Write a lot, read other, get critiqued, write many different kinds of things. I guess the essential thing is doing the thing we want to do, and the rest are catalysts. There is an analog in strength.

We learn through (role) models. We can tell someone actually has one of these good traits because they actually feel pleasure in doing these things. (These feel pleasure in being courageous, or just; they do not feel pain doing so.)

Nobility = beautiful = excellent = fine = honorable, not just in a right or wrong sense, but in a pleasant sense. Some people disgust us. The opposite is nobility. Sort of like admiration.

Interaction with the other people.

The value Lewis can add to another person's life in one hour is more than he is capable of adding an hour to his life. This seems to just satisfy a human need. Are all


How much would I have to receive to give up an hour of my life?

Is happiness is the feeling one has when all needs are satisfied?

Why do we bother with anything else if it's just life?

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." - Aristotle

Aristotle believed that man’s purpose was to take actions guided by rational thought that would lead to excellence in every aspect of his life. Thus, manliness meant being the best man you can be.

For the ancient Romans, manliness meant living a life of virtue. In fact, the English word “virtue” comes from the Latin word virtus, which meant manliness or masculine strength. The Romans believed that to be manly, a man had to cultivate virtues like courage, temperance, industry, and dutifulness. Thus for the ancient Romans, manliness meant living a life of virtue.

We know well enough that societies can motivate people very powerfully through honour: soldiers will perform extraordinary feats on the battlefield in return for the highest gratitude from their countries (they don’t even ask to be paid very much – paid to die…). Scientists will labour in poverty for decades in the hope of winning a Nobel Prize. Yet as societies, we are only just beginning to explore what good can come out of vanity in the realm of business. In the commercial world, there are at present no systematic, fail-safe methods for gaining status in return for doing what society desperately needs capitalists to do: treat their workers well and produce useful, safe, environmentally-sound goods and services.

Thinking about this a little more, I guess Aristotle argued that there were actually three paths for life:

  1. Pursuit of pleasure
  2. Pursuit of social status
  3. Pursuit of wisdom (the contemplative life; philosophy)