Aristotle of Stagira
... Squashed down to read in about 60 minutes
"If it is in our power to act nobly, it is also in our power to do evil."
Wikipedia - Full Text - Print Edition: ISBN 0140449493
| INTRODUCTION TO Nicomachean Ethics |
Aristotle, son of a physician, was born in Stagira and sent as a teenager to seek an education in Athens. There he studied underPlato, and, after twenty years at the school of Academe, by way of a spell as tutor to the future Alexander the Great, he returned to Athens to found his own school of philosophy at the Lyceum, whose colonnades, the 'peripatos' gave Aristotle's followers their name of the 'Peripatetics'.
Although deeply influenced by Plato, Aristotle is far from uncritical. He abandons his mentors' concept thatabsolute truth is 'out there' in the shape of 'The Forms of Reality' in favour of a much more down-to-earth approach to understanding based on observation more than on reasoning. This empirical rather than idealist approach runs through all his huge output of works on logic, politics, biology, physics, medicine, and, here in one of his most famous works, the Ethics.
There is little of Plato'sprecise step-by-step reasoning here, but rather an attempt at precise observation of the human condition with the entirely practical hope of making that condition better. Aristotle's approach is clear and it is straightforward. He does not so much open the world up to investigation as say 'this is the way things are'. No wonder the medieval church took Aristotle to their hearts as The philosopher, thefount and the measure of all knowledge about the universe for the Christian West. No wonder, equally, that Francis Bacon, that founder of modern science, called him both 'negligent' and a 'dictator'.
| ABOUT THIS SQUASHED EDITION |
This text is largely based on WD Ross's translation of 1908 and DP Chase's of 1911. The original is a rather rambling, repetitive text which may well constitutelecture notes rather than a coherent essay. Tidying it up has shrunk the book from 85,000 to 9,500 words, but may give the impression of greater coherence than is actually present in the original. The section numbers are no part of Aristotle's work, but the addition of later editors; I've followed the system of Hugh Tredennick's 1976 revision of the Thompson translation, but corrected a minormisnumbering in book four.
Much of the traditional analysis of Aristotle's ethics centres on the subtleties of the language he uses, made more complex by the fact that many of the central concepts simply cannot readily be expressed by a single English word
Akrasia: Weakness of will, lack of self-control. Incontinence.
Eudaimonia: Literally 'having good demons'.Translated here as 'happiness', but often thought closer to the English 'flourishing'.
'Golden Mean': Aristotle's doctrine that right action lies in the middle position between the extremes of excess and deficit.
Phronimos: The good man of practical wisdom and virtue.
| No Time? Read THE VERY, VERY SQUASHED VERSION...Aristotle of Stagira, c310BC
"If it is in our power to actnobly, it is also in our power to do evil."
ONE: Every art or enquiry aims at achieving some good, but what 'good' is we cannot know with precision. Happiness is an activity of the soul according to virtue.
TWO: For every virtue there is a vice, so we can say that virtue is a state of character, gained by rational choice, lying in a middle way relative to the man. Confidence is the mean betweenrashness and cowardice. Liberality lies between prodigality and meanness, honour between vanity and undue humility.
THREE: Only voluntary actions are praised or blamed, involuntary actions receive pardon or pity. Decision making relates to the ends, choice to the means.
FOUR: Proper pride is praiseworthy, but he who claims greatness, being unworthy, is vain. Good temper is the mean with...
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