Aristotle’s “Nicomachean Ethics” is a foundational text in Western philosophy, especially in the realm of ethics.
Below are it’s five most important concepts, followed by a full chapter-by-chapter summary.
The Concept of Eudaimonia (Happiness or Flourishing):
Aristotle claims that the ultimate end or purpose of human life is to achieve happiness or flourishing (eudaimonia). This is not just a fleeting emotional state but a lifelong pursuit of fulfilling one’s potential and living in accordance with virtue. It’s about living a life that’s worth living.
Central to Aristotle’s ethical framework is the idea of virtue. Virtues are character traits that are the mean or middle paths between deficiency and excess.
For instance, courage is a virtue because it is the middle path between recklessness (excess) and cowardice (deficiency).
By practicing virtues, individuals can achieve a balanced and ethical life. Virtue is cultivated through habit and deliberate practice.
The Role of Reason:
Reason is a defining characteristic of humans, according to Aristotle. The rational part of the soul guides moral virtues and helps individuals discern the right course of action in various situations.
The life of contemplation or the life dedicated to reason is considered the highest form of human activity.
Friendship and Community:
Aristotle dedicates a significant portion of the “Nicomachean Ethics” to the topic of friendship (philia).
He categorizes friendships into three types: those based on utility, pleasure, and virtue.
Friendships based on virtue are the highest form, where both parties appreciate the goodness in each other.
Furthermore, humans are inherently social creatures, and the community plays a crucial role in shaping an individual’s moral character.
The Interplay of Pleasure and Pain:
Pleasure and pain are central to human decision-making. While pleasure in itself isn’t the ultimate good, it’s intertwined with our actions and virtues.
The right pleasures enhance virtuous activities, while inappropriate pleasures can lead individuals astray. It’s essential to discern and pursue the right kind of pleasures in line with a virtuous life.
Book I: Good is the Purpose, but what is “Good”?
Purpose of Actions: Aristotle begins by asserting that every action, art, and inquiry aims at some good. This foundational idea sets the tone for the entire work, emphasizing the inherent purpose behind human actions.
Example: Aristotle mentions various arts and their ends: “the end of the medical art is health, that of shipbuilding a vessel, that of strategy victory, that of economics wealth.” [Page 3]
Hierarchy of Arts and Ends: Aristotle delves into the hierarchy of arts and their respective ends. Some arts are subordinate to others, and their ends are directed towards the ends of the master arts. For example, the art of making a horse saddle is subordinate to the art of riding. Likewise, the art of using a sword is subordinate to the art of war strategy.
The Chief Good: The central theme of BOOK I is the pursuit of the “chief good” or the ultimate end. Aristotle argues that understanding this ultimate end or “good” is crucial as it influences life significantly.
Nature of Good: Aristotle delves into the subjective nature of “good.” He highlights that while everyone agrees that the ultimate good is happiness (“living well and doing well”), there’s disagreement on what constitutes happiness.
Different people equate happiness with different things. According to Aristotle, for some people happiness “is some plain and obvious thing, like pleasure, wealth, or honour.” [Page 4]
Types of Life: Aristotle categorizes life into three types based on the kind of “good” they pursue: the life of pleasure, the political life, and the contemplative life. This classification provides insights into human motivations and the nature of happiness.
Example: Most people, especially those of “vulgar type,” lean towards the life of pleasure, associating good with pleasure. In contrast, people of “superior refinement” often associate happiness with honor, which is the end of the political life. [Page 6-7]
Money-making vs. Good: Aristotle differentiates between the pursuit of wealth and the pursuit of good. He argues that while wealth is pursued out of necessity, it’s merely a means to an end and not the ultimate good.
Example: “The life of money-making is one undertaken under compulsion, and wealth is evidently not the good we are seeking; for it is merely useful and for the sake of something else.” [Page 7]
The Universal Good: Aristotle questions the existence of a universal “good” that applies to all things. He explores whether there’s a single definition of “good” or if its meaning varies based on context.
The Role of First Principles: Aristotle emphasizes the importance of first principles in understanding any subject. These principles are foundational and provide clarity to subsequent discussions.
Example: “Now of first principles we see some by induction, some by perception, some by a certain habituation, and others too in other ways. But each set of principles we must try to investigate in the natural way, and we must take pains to state them definitely, since they have a great influence on what follows. For the beginning is thought to be more than half of the whole, and many of the questions we ask are cleared up by it.” [Page 12]
Division of Goods: Goods are categorized into different classes, and Aristotle mentions that some are external, while others relate to the soul or body. Among these, the goods that relate to the soul are considered the most genuine and true.
Example: “Now goods have been divided into three classes, and some are described as external, others as relating to soul or to body; we call those that relate to soul most properly and truly goods, and psychical actions and activities we class as relating to soul.” [Page 12]
The Role of Pleasure and Pain in Education: Aristotle touches upon the significance of pleasure and pain in the education of the young. These emotions serve as guiding forces, steering individuals towards or away from certain actions.
Example (from a later section, BOOK X): “For it is thought to be most intimately connected with our human nature, which is the reason why in educating the young we steer them by the rudders of pleasure and pain; it is thought, too, that to enjoy the things we ought and to hate the things we ought has the greatest bearing on virtue of character.” [Page 163]
Book II: Forming Virtues Through Habit. Virtues are the Middle Path
Formation of Virtues through Habit: Aristotle posits that virtues are not innate but are acquired through consistent practice and habituation. Just as skills in crafts are developed through repeated action, moral virtues are cultivated through consistent moral actions.
He explains that moral virtue is a result of habit, emphasizing that we become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, and brave by doing brave acts.
“By doing the acts that we do in our transactions with other men we become just or unjust, and 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.” [Page 21]
He further clarifies that it’s not enough to know about virtue, but one must also act in accordance with it. This is similar to the difference between someone who merely knows what they should do to be healthy and someone who actually exercises and eats well.
Virtues are the Middle Path Between Extremes: Aristotle discusses the importance of feeling emotions at the right times, about the right things, towards the right people, for the right end, and in the right way. This is the mean or middle path, and best condition, which is characteristic of virtue.
He points out that this is difficult and that it’s easier to be angry than to be angry in the right way and for the right reasons.
Aristotle acknowledges that it’s challenging to define how we should choose the mean or middle-path between extremes since this doesn’t apply in the same way to all actions or feelings. Some actions, like adultery, theft, and murder, are always wrong, regardless of the circumstances.
He emphasizes that the mean is not a strict middle point but is relative to the individual. For instance, eating 10 pounds of food might be excessive for most people but could be the right amount for an athlete in training.
Importance of Early Habits: The habits formed during one’s youth play a significant role in shaping one’s character in adulthood. Early habits can set the trajectory for one’s moral development.
He also touches upon the importance of upbringing and the role of the state in fostering virtue among its citizens.
Example: “It makes no small difference, then, whether we form habits of one kind or of another from our very youth; it makes a very great difference, or rather all the difference.” [Page 22]
Nature of Virtues: Virtues are states of character that arise from consistent activities. Engaging in virtuous actions leads to the development of virtuous character traits.
Example: “Thus, in one word, states of character arise out of like activities. This is why the activities we exhibit must be of a certain kind; it is because the states of character correspond to the differences between these.” [Page 22]
In summary, Book II of “Nicomachean Ethics” delves deep into the nature of virtue, emphasizing its habitual nature and the importance of finding the mean or middle-path between extremes in our actions and emotions.
Aristotle underscores the significance of upbringing and the role of the state in fostering virtue. He also highlights the challenges in defining and acting upon this mean, noting that it’s relative to the individual and the situation.
Book III: Voluntary vs Involuntary actions
Voluntary vs. Involuntary Actions: Aristotle begins by distinguishing between voluntary and involuntary actions. He emphasizes that moral praise and blame are assigned based on this distinction.
Actions are considered involuntary when they take place under compulsion or owing to ignorance. An action is compulsory if the moving principle (or cause) is outside the individual, and the person contributes nothing to it. For instance, if someone is carried somewhere by a wind or by people who have power over him, such actions are involuntary [Page 33].
Actions done in ignorance are also considered involuntary. However, the ignorance must relate to the circumstances of the action or its end. An act done due to ignorance must be painful and involve repentance for it to be considered involuntary [Page 36].
Voluntary actions are those where the moving principle is within the individual, and they are aware of the specific circumstances of the action. This means the person has control over the action and understands the implications [Page 36].
Actions done on the spur of the moment are considered voluntary but not chosen. This distinction emphasizes that while an action might be done without premeditation, it can still be voluntary [Page 36].
Actions driven by appetite or anger are also considered voluntary. Aristotle argues that it would be odd to consider actions driven by these natural human tendencies as involuntary. He further elaborates that actions resulting from anger or appetite are indeed the person’s actions [Page 36].
There are actions that are a mix of voluntary and involuntary. For instance, if someone throws goods overboard during a storm to save the crew, it’s a voluntary action given the circumstances, but in the abstract, no one would willingly throw away their goods. Such actions are more like voluntary actions since they are chosen based on the situation at hand [Page 33-34].
Another example is when someone is forced to do something base (dishonorable) to save their family from a tyrant. Such actions are debated as being either voluntary or involuntary. They are considered more voluntary since they are chosen based on the immediate circumstances [Page 33-34].
The distinction between voluntary and involuntary actions has implications for ethics and law. Voluntary actions, especially those that are wrong, are subject to blame, while involuntary actions can lead to pardon or even pity [Page 33].
Choice and Deliberation: Aristotle introduces the concept of “prohairesis” (often translated as “choice” or “moral purpose”). He argues that choice is deliberate desire, and it’s neither a wish nor an opinion.
Example: People don’t choose things that are impossible, and while we might wish to be immortal, we wouldn’t choose it since it’s not attainable. [Page 28]
Deliberation and its Object: Deliberation is about things that are within our power and can be done. It’s a process of systematic reasoning where one evaluates different means to achieve an end.
As an example, a person doesn’t deliberate about the end goals like happiness or health but rather about the means to achieve these ends. [Page 29]
Virtue and Vice: Aristotle discusses the nature of virtues and vices. He posits that virtues arise in us neither by nature nor against nature but are developed through habituation.
Natural tendencies can be shaped in the right direction through habit and education. Just as a stone, if thrown, will move in a particular direction unless interfered with, humans have natural tendencies that can be guided towards virtue. [Page 30]
Bravery: Aristotle delves into specific virtues, starting with bravery. He describes it as the mean or middle-path between fear and confidence. A brave person fears the right things and for the right reason.
According to Aristotle, “The brave man acts for the sake of the noble, facing dangers because it’s the right thing to do, not just for the absence of fear.” [Page 31]
Temperance: Another virtue Aristotle discusses is temperance, which is a mean concerning pleasures (and occasionally pains). It’s the balanced approach to seeking pleasure, where one neither overindulges nor completely abstains.
“The temperate person desires the right pleasures in the right way and at the right time.” [Page 33]
Book IV: Types of virtues and vices
In BOOK IV, Aristotle delves into various character traits and virtues, examining the balance between excess and deficiency. He emphasizes the importance of finding the mean in these traits, which leads to virtuous behavior. The examples provided offer practical insights into how these philosophical concepts manifest in everyday human interactions and behaviors.
Truthfulness: Aristotle discusses the virtue of truthfulness, which lies between boastfulness and self-deprecation. A truthful person is one who is honest both in word and in deed.
“A person who claims to have abilities they don’t possess is boastful, while one who downplays their abilities is self-deprecating. The truthful person represents themselves accurately.” [Page 35]
Wittiness: Aristotle explores the virtue of wittiness, which is a mean concerning jesting and humor. It lies between buffoonery and boorishness.
“A person who jokes too much and inappropriately is a buffoon, while one who can’t appreciate humor or jest at all is boorish. The witty person knows when and how to jest appropriately.” [Page 36]
Shame: While not a virtue, Aristotle discusses the feeling of shame, which is more of a fear. It’s the fear of dishonor and is felt in response to bad actions that one has committed or contemplates committing.
“Young people, due to their impulsiveness, often need the feeling of shame to restrain them from acting wrongly.” [Page 37]
Just Indignation: This is a mean between envy and malicious joy. It concerns the pain and pleasure felt at the fortunes of our neighbors.
“Feeling pain at another’s undeserved good fortune is envy, while taking pleasure in another’s undeserved misfortune is malicious joy. Just indignation is feeling pain at undeserved misfortune and pleasure at deserved good fortune.” [Page 38]
Other Traits: Aristotle also touches upon various other traits and where they lie on the spectrum of excess, deficiency, and the mean. These include being quarrelsome vs. flattery, being bashful vs. shameless, and being modest vs. being too humble or too vain.
“A person who always seeks conflict is quarrelsome, while one who always agrees to avoid conflict is a flatterer. The mean is to stand one’s ground when necessary but also to yield when appropriate.” [Page 39]
Generosity refers to the giving and taking of wealth, with the generous person being one who gives to the right people, doesn’t take from the wrong sources, and doesn’t waste money. The liberal person avoids both vices of wastefulness and stinginess.
Friendliness: Aristotle touches upon the idea of behaving rightly towards others in social situations, which can be seen as a form of friendliness.
The right behavior in social situations involves neither giving nor taking offense and is related to the virtuous middle path between the vice of being too obedient or eager to please, and the opposite vice of being to quarrelsome and conflictual.
The person who behaves rightly in social situations is concerned with the pleasures and pains of social life and will associate with people in the right way, aiming at what is honorable and necessary.
Book V: Justice
BOOK V of Aristotle’s “Nicomachean Ethics,” revolves around the concept of justice.
Nature of Justice:
Justice is a state of character that makes people inclined to do what is just and desire what is just. In contrast, injustice makes people act unjustly and desire what is unjust [Page 71].
Justice can be seen in two senses: one that pertains to virtue as a whole and another that is a part of virtue. The former is about the exercise of virtue in its entirety, while the latter pertains to specific actions or situations [Page 72-73].
Types of Justice:
Political Justice: This form of justice is divided into natural and legal. Natural justice has the same validity everywhere and doesn’t depend on people’s opinions. In contrast, legal justice can change based on laws and regulations, such as the specifics of a ransom for a prisoner or the details of a sacrifice [Page 82-83].
Justice in Relationships: There’s a metaphorical sense of justice that exists not between one person and another but between different parts of the same person. This is evident in relationships like that of master and servant or husband and wife. These relationships mirror the ratios in which the rational part of the soul relates to the irrational part. Just as there’s perceived mutual justice between a master and servant, there’s a similar dynamic between the rational and irrational parts of an individual [Page 90-91].
Justice as a Mean:
Just action is intermediate between acting unjustly and being unjustly treated. Justice is a kind of mean because it relates to an intermediate amount, while injustice relates to the extremes [Page 81].
In cases of injustice, there’s an inequality. The role of a judge is to restore equality. For instance, if one person has inflicted a wound on another, the action and suffering are unequally distributed. The judge aims to equalize this by imposing a penalty on the wrongdoer [Page 77].
Equity and the Equitable:
Equity and the equitable are related to justice and the just. Sometimes, what is equitable is praised, and at other times, it seems distinct from what is just. This duality indicates that the equitable, while different from the just, is still praiseworthy [Page 88].
Book VI: Types of Wisdom
This Book delves into the nature of practical wisdom, its differences from other types of knowledge, its relationship with virtue, and the importance of experience in achieving it.
Nature of Virtues Concerning Reason: Aristotle begins by emphasizing the importance of the rational part of the soul. He mentions that there are two parts of the soul: one that obeys a rational principle and another that possesses it.
The virtues of these parts are distinct. The part that obeys rational principles is a moral virtue, while the virtue that contains rational principles is intellectual.
Intellectual virtues are developed through teaching, while moral virtues arise from habit.
Both types of virtues are not innate but can be cultivated over time (Page 90).
Scientific Knowledge and Intuition: Aristotle distinguishes between different types of knowledge. He identifies five states by which the soul grasps the truth: art, scientific knowledge, practical wisdom, philosophic wisdom, and intuitive reason.
Scientific knowledge is about things that are necessary and unchangeable. Intuitive reason is the origin of scientific knowledge and deals with the first principles (Page 93).
Practical Wisdom: Practical wisdom is concerned with physical reality, and it is a truth-attaining rational quality related to action.
It is different from scientific knowledge, which is theoretical and not concerned with human actions. Practical wisdom requires moral virtue because it is concerned with choosing the right actions for the right reasons.
It is developed through experience and is more valuable than philosophic wisdom in matters of action (Page 93).
Philosophic vs. Practical Wisdom: Philosophic wisdom involves both scientific knowledge (for it knows the outcomes) and intuitive reason (for it knows the first principles). It is both the most exact and the highest form of wisdom.
However, practical wisdom is not subordinate to philosophic wisdom in all respects. While philosophic wisdom is superior in terms of knowledge, practical wisdom is superior in terms of human action and well-being (Page 105).
Relation of Practical Wisdom to Virtue
Virtue makes the goal right, while practical wisdom makes the actions leading to the goal right.
Practical wisdom is not just about knowledge but also involves action and is not possible without virtue.
It is bound up with action and involves both moral virtue and intellect.
Virtue and practical wisdom are concerned with the same things but are not identical. Virtue ensures the right end of our aims, while practical wisdom ensures the right means to that end.
Book VII: Pleasure and Vice
Introduction to Moral States to be Avoided:
Aristotle begins by identifying three kinds of moral states that should be avoided: vice, incontinence, and brutishness.
The opposites of vice and incontinence are virtue and continence, respectively.
Brutishness is contrasted with a superhuman or divine kind of virtue. An example is given from Homer, where Priam speaks of Hector as being more than just a mortal man, suggesting a divine or heroic virtue.
The implication is that extreme virtue can elevate a person to a god-like status.
Distinction Between Incontinence and Vice:
Aristotle delves into the distinction between incontinence (lack of self-control) and vice (moral wickedness).
He argues that incontinence is less blameworthy than vice. While the incontinent person acts against their better judgment due to passion, the vicious person deliberately chooses their actions.
The incontinent person feels regret after acting, while the vicious person does not.
Analysis of Pleasure and Pain:
Aristotle examines the role of pleasure and pain in those who don’t possess self-control.
He suggests that people don’t have self-control because they pursue immediate pleasures without considering the long-term consequences.
The person without self-control is aware of what is right but is overpowered by pleasure, whereas the person who is in control of their actions (continent) resists the lure of immediate pleasure in favor of what is truly good.
Discussion on Desire:
Aristotle discusses the nature of desire and its relation to reason and the irrational part of the soul.
He argues that there are different types of desires: some are noble and aligned with reason, while others are base and contrary to reason.
The incontinent person is swayed by base desires, even when they recognize them as such.
The Nature of Pleasure and Pain. Aristotle begins this section by noting that pleasure is not a always a moral good because not all pleasures are good. He also argues that pleasure is not a process (such as woodworking or sculpting), because it happens all at once. Thus, pleasure is a reward.
The philosopher discusses the nature of pleasure further, suggesting that it completes an activity. He distinguishes between activities that are desirable in themselves and those that are desirable for the sake of something else. Pleasure improves the activities that are desirable in themselves and completes them.
Aristotle examines the argument that pleasures differ in kind, with some being more desirable than others. He suggests that the most desirable pleasures are those that arise from the noblest activities.
The chapter addresses the criticism that pleasure is not the best good because it is not the end of life.
Aristotle argues that life itself is not an end but a means, and thus, pleasure, which completes life’s activities, can be considered among the highest goods.
Aristotle concludes the discussion on pleasure by stating that while pleasure is not the highest good, it accompanies the highest activities, making it intrinsically linked to the good life.
Book VIII: Friendship
The first half of Book VIII delves into the nature, types, and significance of friendship.
Aristotle emphasizes the importance of genuine friendships based on mutual goodness and virtue, distinguishing them from more transient relationships based on utility or pleasure.
He also underscores the role of friendship in maintaining social harmony and community stability.
The Importance of Friendship (Page 127)
Friendship is a virtue or implies virtue and is essential for life.
Even those with wealth, power, and influence need friends. Prosperity without the opportunity for generosity towards friends seems pointless.
In times of poverty and misfortune, friends are seen as the primary refuge.
Friendship aids the young in avoiding mistakes and supports the elderly by catering to their needs and compensating for declining abilities.
Different Types of Friendship (Page 127)
There are three kinds of friendship: based on utility, pleasure, and goodness.
Friendships of utility are formed without affection and are based on mutual benefit. Such friendships are common among older individuals because at this stage in life, people tend to prioritize what is advantageous. These friendships are also common among those who are in business or politics. They are temporary, as they last only as long as the utility remains.
Friendships of pleasure are based on feelings and mutual enjoyment. These are common among the young, as they are guided by their feelings and primarily seek what is pleasurable. Such friendships change quickly. However, those who love for the sake of pleasure do so for the sake of what is pleasant to themselves, not for the other person.
Friendships based on virtue are the best kind. In this type, both friends wish good for the other in the same way, for the sake of the other. These friendships are long-lasting, as virtue is stable. Such friendships require time and familiarity. One cannot simply become close friends with another in a short span of time.
In friendships based on virtue, quarrels rarely occur. This is because such friends desire the good of the other and have shared values and virtues. In other types of friendships (utility or pleasure), quarrels are more frequent.
The Number of Friends. While one can have many friends based on utility or pleasure, it’s hard to have many friends based on virtue. This is because it’s rare to find someone of good character and it takes time to establish such a deep friendship.
Transient Nature of Certain Friendships
Friendships based on utility or pleasure are often short-lived.
As needs and pleasures change, these friendships dissolve.
However, friendships based on goodness are more enduring since they involve the whole person and are based on mutual respect and admiration.
Friendship and Love
Love and goodwill are related but distinct.
Goodwill is a form of friendliness without the intensity or intimacy of friendship or love.
Goodwill can be instantaneous, while friendship requires time and familiarity.
Friendship and Community
Friendship is essential for community and plays a role in justice.
A community’s stability depends on the friendship of its members. All communities aim at some good. The most significant community is the polis or city, which aims at the highest good.
People in conflict and enmity destabilize communities.
Friendships between parents and children are also based on a community. The relationship between a mother and her child is closer than that of a father and child, due to the deeper connection and care the mother provides from birth.
Book IX: Forging and Maintaining Friendships
Friendships of Dissimilars:
In friendships between dissimilar individuals, proportion equalizes the parties and preserves the friendship. For instance, in a political form of friendship, a shoemaker gets a return for his shoes in proportion to their worth, and the same applies to other craftsmen.
A common measure, such as money, is often used to determine this proportion. However, in romantic relationships, sometimes the lover may feel he loves more than he is loved in return, leading to complaints.
The lover may wish to be loved for who he is, not for any quality he possesses. If he is loved for his qualities, he fears that if they fade, so will the love.
The lover often loves not only for the sake of return but wishes to be loved uniquely for himself.
This type of friendship is similar to that of parent and child.
Friendship of Utility:
Friendships of utility are based on the benefit that friends derive from each other. For example, older people often pursue utility friendships because they need assistance, while younger people often seek pleasure.
These friendships are easily dissolved if the parties no longer derive benefits from each other.
People wish to be loved for themselves, not for their utility or pleasure. This is evident in the fact that we wish our friends to care for us without expecting anything in return.
The perfect form of friendship is that of good men who are alike in virtue. They wish good for each other in the same way and are good in themselves.
However, such friendships are rare because such men are few. They require time and familiarity to form. Once established, these friendships are stable.
In these friendships, the other benefits (pleasure and utility) are also present, making them the most desirable friendships.
Friendship and Time:
People cannot become friends until they have “eaten salt together,” meaning they’ve spent enough time to truly know each other.
They must also wish each other’s good in the same way. However, people who quickly show the signs of friendship to each other may wish to be friends, but they cannot truly be friends without spending the necessary time together.
Desire for friendship comes quickly, but friendship itself does not.
Friendship and Shared Activities:
Living together and sharing activities is a significant aspect of friendship. Friends must engage in shared activities.
Those who are friends for utility’s sake are in need of each other for some purpose, while those who are friends for pleasure’s sake engage with each other based on their shared interests.
Perfect friends, however, share more profound activities and discussions, as these are more proper to their character and help in improving their virtue and wisdom.
Aristotle notes that people wish for unity with their friends, but complete unity is neither attainable nor desirable.
If two people became completely one, there would no longer be any friendship since there would be no distinct individuals. Friendship requires some degree of separateness.
Impediments to Friendship:
It’s challenging for wicked men to be friends. They can only be friends in a shared pursuit of some utility or pleasure.
Good men can be friends to each other because of their own nature and because of the good they find in each other.
It’s better to be friends with the good than with the pleasant, just as it’s better to be pleased with the good than with the pleasant.
Lastly, Aristotle touches upon the topic of disagreements between friends. Disagreements about matters of belief can strain or even end friendships. It’s essential for friends to be in harmony, much like a musical ensemble, where each individual contributes to the overall harmony.
Friendship and Self-love:
People often accuse those who love themselves of being self-centered since they grant themselves the largest share of wealth, honors, or pleasures.
However, it’s a virtue for a man to love himself in the right manner. A good man should love himself, as doing virtuous acts benefits both himself and others. The virtuous man wishes good things for himself in the same way he wishes them for his friend, since a friend is another self.
A wicked man seeks his own benefit in terms of pleasure or utility, while a good man seeks it in terms of the noble.
A good man should be a friend to himself, as he can both do noble acts and benefit from them.
If being a good man means having virtuous thoughts and actions, then a good man should love himself, as this is beneficial for both him and others.
A good man will also be a friend to others, and by being a friend to himself, he can also be a friend to another.
Goodwill is not friendship:
Aristotle touches on the topic of goodwill, which he distinguishes from both friendship and love.
Goodwill is the kind of affection we might feel for someone we admire, even if we don’t know them well. It arises quickly and can also fade quickly. It’s not as deep or enduring as friendship but is more of a spontaneous feeling of warmth or approval.
Book X: The Nature of Pleasure
Book X delves deeply into the nature of pleasure, its relationship with human activities, and its moral implications.
Aristotle emphasizes the idea that not all pleasures are equal, and their value is often determined by the nature of the activities they accompany.
Discussion on Pleasure:
Pleasure is closely linked to human nature. It’s essential in guiding the young through the dual forces of pleasure and pain.
Pleasure and pain play a significant role throughout life, influencing both virtue and the pursuit of a happy life.
There’s a debate about the nature of pleasure. Some argue that pleasure is the ultimate good, while others believe it’s inherently bad.
Some hold these views genuinely, while others adopt them because they believe it’s beneficial to portray pleasure negatively.
Pleasure is neither unconditionally good nor bad. It’s the nature and source of the pleasure that determines its moral value.
Pleasure and Activity:
Pleasure completes the activities, but it’s not a process of maturation like other forms of completion. Instead, it accompanies activities and enhances them.
Activities are made more perfect by pleasure, and the absence of pain in activities can lead to pleasure.
Different activities have different associated pleasures. The pleasure that perfects an activity is the one that’s most suited to it.
Pleasures can be judged by the activities they complete. Noble activities have noble pleasures, while base activities have base pleasures.
Pleasure’s Nature and Its Types:
Pleasure is a whole and doesn’t come into being through a process of development. It’s immediate and doesn’t have a duration where one can measure more or less pleasure.
There are different kinds of pleasures corresponding to different senses (e.g., pleasures of sight, hearing, smell).
Intellectual pleasures (e.g., learning) are different from bodily pleasures and are often considered superior because they pertain to the higher part of the soul.
Pleasures derived from contemplation, learning, or thinking are pure and unadulterated, unlike many bodily pleasures which can often be excessive or deficient.
Pleasure and Desire:
Pleasure and desire are distinct, though related. While pleasure is associated with the actuality of a sense or state, desire pertains to the potentiality or lack.
The two can exist independently. For instance, one might desire something without finding it pleasurable, and vice versa.
Pleasures intensify desires, but the desires for different pleasures can be in conflict with each other.
The final chapter of the book returns to the topic of happiness. Aristotle reiterates that happiness is the highest good and is achieved through virtuous activities.
He emphasizes that the contemplative life, dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom, is the highest form of human activity and thus the happiest.
This life of contemplation is akin to the divine, as the gods are thought to be constantly engaged in the highest form of thought.