Nicomachean ethics

CH 1




Towards end go actions and products.


All head towards a higher end.The best is political science because it aims at the good of all.

We can only expect as much precision as the topic allows.Political science investigates fin and just actions.There are a variety so must exist only by convention, not by nature.


For politics you must know much.Young men seek action and passion and so aren't good at this.



Political Science aims at the best that is gotten to by action. Is it the form of the good?There are many goods.There is the good of doctors, of carpenters etc.Then is there a good in and of itself?If so it would not be something man could attain, and of no use to a carpenter.


Now all goods aim at something. Happiness is the supreme because it isn't for the sake of something else.


And it must be a full life as one day doesn't make a summer.Also the act v. thought.Thought can be good without producing good.But the action produces good.


Many men find their happiness in conflict because their sources of happiness are not noble.

You need the right equipment to do noble things.Happiness seems to need good fortune.Those wretches and childless and ugly aren't so often happy.


To be happy is to be virtuous as this is the most permanent happiness.It is even more long lasting than the knowledge of the sciences.



Intellectual versus Moral


Happiness is an activity of the soul.Politics must know something of the soul then as a man who is going to heal the eye must know of the whole body.

There is the rational and irrational part of the soul.

One part of the irrational is the nutritive.The irrational that goes with nursing and embryos is powerful.All species have it.


Then there is the part that deals with lack of self-control (incontinence).It is human. it is the part that listens to appetites.It is in part rational as it is warned with reason.''


Virtue also is divided in two.One part is intellectual(philosophic understanding and wisdom).The other is moral (liberality and temperance).


We more often praise a man of being good tempered than understanding



Intellectual v. Moral

Intellectual comes via teaching


Moral comes via habit


From this it can be seen that none of this comes from nature.

Like a stone cannot be habituated to move up hill. The natural needs no training.

As men become lyre players by playing the lyre.

Thus legislatures make good citizens by forming good habits in them.This is the wish of every legislator.

So we need good training.


These things cannot be prescribed exactly, but must avoid excess and defect.

Ex. Exercise, drink food, temperance and courage.


When know you have a virtuous disposition when you take pleasure in doing good.

[So he would respond to utlitarians that pleasure and pain must be in balance, people get pleasure and pain from different things (and all arenít equal).The utilitarian might respond that you can tell what is good and evil via the GHP.]


There are three objects of choice and three of avoidance:

The noble, the advantageous and the pleasant.

The base,††† the injurious,†††† and the painful.


You must not only do acts that are virtuous, but do them with virtuous understanding and intent.

Thought is important, but not enough.Many listen to their doctor's advice.But don't act.



Since there are three things in the soul: passion faculties, states of character, virtue must be one of these.


With all the passions we must find the mean.But neither the virtues or vicesare passion because we are neither praised or blamed for them.

It is a state of character

Good men are good in but one way, but the bad in many.

But not every action admits of a mean: too much/little murder, adultry.

We must drag ourselves away from the tempting extreme.



We are only held responsible for what is chosen and voluntary.

If men endure pain it shows character due to volition.

That which is good is that done by choice.Choice is make by thinking. (One doesn't count following appetites as choice).

Both children and animals have voluntary actions, but not choice.We choose what we believe to be good and possible.Moral

virtue implies we think before choosing.

We don't deliberate on things that that are steady patterns.We deliberate about things that are in our power.Normally we deliberate about means and not ends.Doctors ask how to get health, not if health is good.

A wish is for the end. A good man chooses the right wish.Mostly this is faulted by a confusion with appetite.Virtue is concerned with means, that over which we have power.

Legislators punish the bad and honour the good, unless ignorance is to blame, due to belief in choice.


People who choose the wrong ends don't do so voluntarily as it is their best guess, ignorance and character.This wans't their character early on.But now it is.[ Seeing different ends and different characters that incline a person towards those ends he is desparate to save ethics and choice.]


SEveral virtues.

Courage is a means to an end of less fear.

The end of every activity is corresponding to a state of character. Courage comes from a sense of honor/nobility.It doesn't come from passion or thought (that is used to diminish the fear, to approach it rationally, but it is still there) or from being sanguine (that is borne of not expecting a bad outcome).



The lover of learning and honor is concerned not just with what he loves , but how he loves (like a lover).THey nor gossips are temerant.


Temperance is in relation tobodily pleasures that other animals share in; touch and taste.

Not with odour, cdolor or vision.


In food it isn't the pleasure of taste (like wine tasters), but in eating.It is not refined.The same goes for sex.


BOOK 5 - (required)

Justice: Its sphere and outer nature:in what sense it is a mean

All men mean by justice that kind of a character which makes peole disposed to do what is just, act justly and wish for what is just.


The just are lawful and fair (because the opposite arent')

The law, rightly-framed is for justice, and therefor, being lawful is being just.

Justice is measured best in relation to our neighbor..


The worst sort of man is bad to himself and his neighbor.The best goodto both, the middlin'

Virtue is a state without qualification.Justice in relation to neighbor.


The unjust man is grasping for goods.Goods, like prosperity, are good in the universal sense, but bad for some individuals.The unjust man may grasp at the bad and think it good (as the lesser of two evils).

To have sex for money is grasping.But to do it for lust is self-indulgent. Only the former is against the law.So there is a difference between what is unjust and what is unlawful.Also, there is particular justice, which is concerned for what the good man wants, and universal, which is unlawful, disgraceful and now what here concerns him.


There is the law concern: injustice.And the virtue concern: unjust.

All that is unjust is unlawful, but not all that is unlawful is unjust. (110)


Two kinds of justice division starts: distributive and retributive.Either can be voluntary or involuntary.



This must be equal.People quarrel over what they deserve.Each should get what he merits.

Democrats say merit is being free.Oligarchs see it as wealth and Aristocracy supporters with excellence.


What is just is proportional.Evil is one who has too much or too little.



Here the merits are only relative to the injury.They are not relative to the merits of the individuals. The judge returns the unjutly got gains.When noone has such gains, each has their own.


This is not reciprocity.If an official is hurt then another shouldn't be hurt in exchange.If men return evil for evil the city cannot hold together.People that exchange goods are inequal (doctor and farmer).Yet the exchanged must somehow be comparable.Money smooths this and keeps exchange possible and society together.


The just is the intermediate between acting unjustly and bieng unjustly treated.

The goal is not to give all equally, but what is their proportion.


A man may act unjustly though he didn't mean to.I didn't know you were married.


Justice only exists between political men who are self sufficient and governed by law.For law exists for the unjust only.

We don't allow a man to rule, but rational principle because a man behaves in his own interest and becomes a tyrant.Justice mostly exists between eqals.



Natural: that which exists everywhere and not by people's thinking.

Legal, that which was originally indifferent, but when laid down is not indifferent (what a ransom is , or how many goats should be sacrificed). Fire burns both here and in persia.Laws are different.Measurement is a good example.



To the extent that people do things involuntarily they recieve no blame and aren't injust.Returning money due to fear, or not returning it due to inability are ony just or unjust incidentally.


Injury without meaning to is a mistake

Injury by action that went awry is mis adventure

Injury by volition without deliberation is an act of injustice

Injury with forethought is done by an unjust and vicious man.

When men fight they are not in full charge as they are enraged.They don't dispute the fight, but the blame.


If a man accepts a bad business deal, or is drunk do we say he was treated unustly voluntarily? No, being unjustly treated in not voluntary.

People that take the bad side of a deal due to modesty chose that and werent treated unjustly.


We can commit acts of injustice, but to do them as a result of a certain state of character is neither easy nor in our power.


There are differnet levels of injustice relative to your character.Good men cannot act very unjustly.

Are equity and just the same. Equity is superior to legal justice. The legal deals with universsals which don't apply to any particular situation.The judge shoots for equity, but is hampered by not knowing all the facts.He does a good approximation. This is also his guid in matters in which there is as of yet no law.

And the good man is not "stickler for his rights in a bad sense but tends to take less than his share though he has the law on his side, is equitable, and this state of character is equity

The equal maybe more fair than the legal.It is a corrective to the legal.



Can a man treat himself unjustly?If you stab yourself in anger, This is unjust to you, but you were acted against unjustly voluntarily.Then you act against whom unjustly?The state.


No one can commit adultery with his own wife or burglarize their own home.


Metaphorically there is a justice between pats of a man himself.††† Mutual justice as between the ruler and ruled.




We divided virtues of the soul between those of the intellect and those of character.

The rational part of the soul includes the contemplative and the calculative.


The object of contemplation is truth ,k that of calculation is truth corresponding with right desire.


There are three things in the soul which control action and truth Ė sensation reason and desire. Sensation is with the lower animals also. What affirmation and negation are in thinking, pursuit and avoidance are in desire.Virtue is a state of character concerned with choice and choice is deliberate desire, therefore, both the reasoning must be true and the desire right.


The efficient, not final cause of right action, is choice.

The chief intellectual virtues


There are five:

1)       Scientific knowledge.It is of what is necessary and therefore eternal.

Induction is the starting-point which knowledge of the universal presupposes, while syllogisms proceed from universals.There are starting points from which syllogisms proceed that arenít syllogisms.


2)       Art: art is identical with a state of capacity to make, involving a true course of reasoning.All art is concerned with coming into being.

3)       Practical wisdom: The knowledge of how to secure the ends of human life.

It is a mark of practical wisdom to be able to do univeral philosophical wisdom.This is a part of practical means wisdom.It is different from art as art has something other than itself as an end.Good action is an end in itself.


4)       Intuitive reason:This is what grasps the first principles.Science demonstrates, but not the 1st principle.This is assumed.

5)       Wisdom:Wisdom is the most finished of the forms of knowledge.Lower animals have practical wisdom.This is different than practical, which is different for each individual.Philosophical wisdom is particular to each species.

Practical wisdom is concerned with things that are possible to effect and possible.Practical wisdom is concerned with implementation of philosophical wisdom.Therefore, men should have both.

A boy may become a mathematician, but not a philosopher.



Excellence in deliberation is neither of knowledge or opinion; for there is no such thing as correctness of knowledge (since there is no such thing as error that is knowledge) and correctness of opinion is truth.

Excellence in deliberation involves reasoning.The incontinent man will be clever and practical but do evil.


It is possible to attain even good by a false syllogism.It is possible to attain it by long deliberation while another man attains it quickly.Excellence in deliberation must be in relation to a particular end.


The place of intuition:

Judgement is the right discrimination of the equitable: the place of intuition in morals.

The equitable man is a man of sympathetic judgment.

Judgement comes by nature.This is shown by each time of life having its own kind.



What are the uses of these qualities of mind?

1)       first they are good in and of themselves as they are virtues of the two parts of the soul.

2)       They produce not a thng apart from themselves , but virtue.

3)       Virtue makes us aim at the right mark, and practical wisdom makes us take the right means.

4)       Some people who do just acts arenít just.Just afraid of being busted.

A good one must act as a result of choice and for the act itself.There is natural and strict/real virtue.

One may be brave by birth, but it must be aimed at good ends.

Whereas Socrates thought good comes from rationality, Aristotle says it involves rationality.




The three kinds of vice to be avoided are vice, incontinence and brutishness.

Men become gods by excess of the opposite of brutishness.


Continence and endurance are good.Incontinence and softness bad.The incontinent man, knowing that what he does is bad, does it as a result of passion, while the continent man avoids them due to intellect.


It is odd that a man with right judgment can be dragged around by passions as a slave.So Socrates said men are incontinent by ignorance.But this view contradicts plain facts.


It is not lack of practical wisdom that makes a man incontinent.In fact, he may be better at it.


If your desires are weak then there is no virtue in resisting them.Incontinence, furthermore, cannot be in regard to any object.It would be better to be one who does what is pleasurable cause you think it good, than to be wise and incontinent.For he is easier to cure cause, you can change his mind.




There are three kinds ofmoral states to be avoided:vice, incontinence, and brutishness.


Men become gods by excess of virtue. As a brute has no virtue or vice, neither does a God.


The continent man is ready to abide by his calculations.The incontinent the opposite.


What of the incontinent man?Socrates thought it strange that when one had knowledge passion could drag it around like a slave.Hence, soc. Said there was no incontinence, only ignorance.He imagined people to have an iron will.

The plainly contradicts apparent facts.

Rescuing soc. Many say that the man who acts incontinently hasnít knowledge, but opinion.

Some men are practically wise, but incontinent, but donít act to their ruin.


Funnily, the definition of continence involves having bad desires.And one who does something mindlessly, wouldnít be better than someone who does something against better knowledge.So is ignorance better then?


Solutions to difficulties

Strong, continent men arenít as likely to behave badly as noncommittal persons.

A person may just act on opinion (not knowledge) for universal knowledge is not particular.

Particular is active and can be swayed.

Those who have just begun to learn a science can string together its phrases, but do not yet know it:for it has to become part of themselves and that takes time.

Incontinent persons are like the asleep, mad or drunk.

For it is not in the presence of what is thought to be knowledge proper that the passion occurs.


Some pleasures are necessary, but admit of excess.


Bodily v. Others

Some things are worthy of choice in themselves (e.g. victory, honor, wealth and good and pleasant things of this sort) but admit of excess.No one blames a man of excess honor or wealth.†† One who is excessive is said to be incontinent in regards to one of these only.He is not generally incontinent.


There is a brutish state as in the case of the females that rip open pregnant women and devour infants.They are not incontinent.They are unconsciously brutish (not in contrary to principles). They have no better part.

Others are just resulting from custom or habit.We would not call one raised with too much sex, and into it via habit incontinent.


Money, gain, honor and such are really not really incontinence, but only called so by metaphor.


Incontinence in respect to anger is less disgraceful as you havenít as much control and it can be just and is done quickly without reflection.Appetite is a conscious slow violation.



Those relating to pleasures are incontinence.Those relating to pains softness and endurance.

The self-indulgent man is worse than the incontinent.The incontinent man knows heís done wrong.


Endurance consists in resisting pain, while continence consists in conquering.It is as not being beaten is different from winning.So continence is more worthy a choice than endurance.


The self indulgent man is incurable, the incontinent man curable.Incontinence is not a vice.For incontinence is contrary to choice, while vice is in accordance with choice.


Incontinent people are not criminals, but can do criminal acts.

For virtue and vice respectively preserve and destroy the first principle [what is his first principle? [179)]


Some refuse to yield to appetite, they are continent. Some refuse to yield to arguments.They are obstinate.


There is a type that takes less pleasure in bodily things than he should, but this is rare.

A man has practical wisdom not by knowing only, but knowing how to act.So those with practical wisdom arenít incontinent, but the clever often are.


Views hostile to pleasure and the arguments for them

Pleasure and good are different by definition.Pleasure is a hindrance to thought. Children and brutes pursue pleasure.There are pleasures that are base and objects of reproach. Pleasure cannot be the best thing, because it is not an end, but a process.



Some things are good and some good only for a particular person.There are actuall pleasures that involve no pain or appetite (contemplation). When healthy or sick men take pleasure in different things.


The only pleasures with an end different than themselves are those where we are perfecting our nature.


The view that pleasures are bad because some are unhealthy is like saying healthy things are bad cause they are bad for money making.


Pleasurefacilitates learning and practical wisdom.


All men think the happy life is pleasant and weave it into their life plansPeople who say those on the rack for good are still happy are nuts.We need fortune (though it can be a problem in excess).


Bodily pleasures are likely to be abused because all men share in them and some think there are no others.Pleasure is wrong when it is seen as an escape from pain.Especially the pain of not having pleasure.††† This leads to torment.But natural pleasantness that leads to action of a healthy nature is not bad.





So basic to us that our definition of education has to do with the steering of the rudders of pain and pleasure.To make them enjoy the things we ought and hate what we ought has the greatest bearing of virtue of character.


Some say facts instruct best, others that we are slaves of pleasures.True arguments need to be useful in life as well as true.


But is pleasure a good?

Some say it is evil.What we desire is good, however, due to us all pursuing it.

Does pleasure have proportions and movement?It does, but can still be a good.Even the heavens, be they still, move in relation to something.


And pleasures of learning and smell and sight do not presuppose pain.


Pleasures derived from noble sources are different from those derived from base sources,you cannot get the pleasure of the just man without being just.So there are degrees.We would not seek the childís pleasure (though it had no pain).


And weíd like many things even without pleasure (seeing , remembering).


Neither is the pleasure good or all pleasure desirable.


Definition of pleasure

Seeing is complete and lacks nothing.We donít add to it.

Senses are active in relation to an object and a sense which is in good condition acts perfectly in relation to the most beautiful of its objects.

This activity will be the most completely and pleasant.


Certain human things are not doable continuously.

Do we seek life for the sake of pleasure or pleasure for the sake of life?


Some things delight some and pain others.But all that seems good to a good man should seem so. If he finds some things tiring that others value, they donít know what is good.


Now those activities are desirable in themselves from which nothing is sought beyond the activity.And of this nature virtuous actions are thought to beí for to do noble and good deeds is a thing desirable for its own sake.


People put amusement in such a category.But it would seems strange if we were to take the trouble of life and suffer hardships just to amuse oneself.


Pleasant amusements are not of this nature. They are to relax to recharge so that we can get back to work.Besides serious things are better than laughable things.



Happiness = contemplation

Happiness that is highest is in accordance with the highest virtue.Contemplation is the most complete and knowablehappiness.

Complete means self sufficient. The just man needs someone to be just to.††† Philosophers do it alone!


We do what we do for the sake of leisure, wars are for peace.When in peace/leisure we think.All else is work and a means towards leisure.


God must be a thinker, more than body, this is because he isnít temporal and part of particular times or places.When we think, we are communing with what is immortal and divine in us.We should seek our highest potential.Reason is, more than anything else, man.Gods are blessed with no need and what do they do?Think.


Morals need passion.They arenít complete.Liberal men need means to do liberal deeds.


Animals, canít contemplate and so canít truly be happy (via reflection).

But you also need external support.But donít do that in excess.


Do arguments work?

Some think we are good by nature, others habituation others teaching.

If arguments worked, they would work.But most go by, not shame, but fear.

Passions seem to yield to force, more than arguments.The character must be taught to have pleasure in whatís good and revulsion in the bad.

Things are not painful when customary.

Good men are corrected by arguments, bad men by pain.

But to live temperately and heartily is not pleasant to most people (the young especially).They should , therefore, have their nurture and occupations fixed by law.Therefore, no democracy?????

There should be public care for such things, but if not, parents should.

We must make ourselves, therefore, capable of legislating.

Private school teaches best as it is more specialized to the individual needs.

Expert teachers can deduce what a student needs via repeated experience.

Ultimately, however, legislation requires experience.Sophists teach, but donít do.Politicians canít teach their kids this skill or they would have.Experience is what is needed.