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[Aristotle,_Roger_Crisp]_Nicomachean_Ethics_(Cambr(BookFi)

Introduction

Introduction publication, consisting rather in a full set of lecture notes, on which Aristotle would doubtless have expanded. NE is the ethical work of Aristotle's which dominated later discussion. It had a great in¯uence on the schools of thought that developed soon after his death, Stoicism and Epicureanism in particular. It was the subject of scholarly commentaries throughout the early middle ages, and was widely read in the West from the twelfth century. As Jonathan Barnes has put it, `An account of Aristotle's intellectual afterlife would be little less than a history of European thought.' 1 His in¯uence on contemporary moral philosophy remains signi®cant, and I shall say a little more about this below. The audience for Aristotle's lectures would have consisted primarily of young men, though not so young that their attendance would have been fruitless (see, e.g., I.3, 1095a). Most of them would have been of less than humble origin, and might have hoped to make their way in a career in public life. They were people who could have made a difference, and Aristotle is insistent that his lectures are practical in intent (e.g., II.2, 1103b). It is sometimes said that Aristotle's ethical views are mere Athenian common sense dressed in philosophical garb. Certainly, some of Aristotle's views, as one would expect, are unre¯ectively adopted from the culture in which he lived, and at times, as in his discussion of `greatness of soul' in IV.3, he can seem the outsider concerned to demonstrate that he is more establishment than the establishment. But Aristotle, like Socrates and Plato before him, believed that certain aspects of the morality of Athens were deeply mistaken, and sought to persuade his audience of that, and to live their lives accordingly. Socrates had died in 399, when Plato was twenty-nine. Most of what we know of Socrates comes from Plato's dialogues. A central Socratic tenet was that moral virtue consists in knowledge, so that one who acts wrongly or viciously acts from ignorance. The Socratic conception of happiness linked it closely with virtue and knowledge. When Socrates is condemned to death, he chooses to remain in Athens, thinking virtue to be `the most valuable human possession'. 2 Plato continued the Socratic tradition, identifying moral virtue with an ordering of the soul in which reason governs the emotions and appetites to the advantage of the virtuous person. Aristotle can be seen as following the same agenda, 1 J. Barnes, Aristotle (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982), p. 86. 2 Plato, Crito 53c7. viii

Introduction asking the same sorts of ethical questions and using the same concepts, though he does also employ philosophical apparatus developed in other areas of his thought (e.g., the activity/process distinction put to use in his analysis of pleasure). Arguably (a word always to be assumed when an interpretation of Aristotle is asserted), two aspects of Aristotle's ethics set him apart from Socrates and Plato: an emphasis on virtuous activity as opposed, on the one hand, to merely possessing the virtue, and, on the other, to other candidates as components of happiness, such as pleasure. For Aristotle, happiness consists in, and only in, virtuous activity. Aristotle's method also contrasts with those of Socrates and Plato. The Socratic method consisted in the asking of questions of the `What is X?' variety. De®nitions of virtue, justice, courage, or whatever, would then be subjected to criticism by Socrates, ending in a state of puzzlement, which is at least one step further on from false belief. Socrates' own views are stated through indirection, embedded in his questions and his often ironic responses to proffered answers. In his earlier dialogues, Plato follows the same method vicariously, in his portrayals of the relentlessly interrogative Socrates. He later developed sophisticated and radical metaphysical and moral views, but we are still distanced from their author through his continued use of the dialogue form. One dif®cult question any student of ancient philosophy must face is that of the relation between the real Socrates, Socrates the character in Plato's dialogues, and Plato himself. Aristotle, however, says straightforwardly what he thinks. He saw himself as working within a philosophical tradition, the views of the other participants in which are to be taken very seriously. Given the propensity of all human beings to seek understanding, the views of common sense are also worth considering. Aristotle suggests four stages in dealing with a philosophical problem (VII.1, 1145b; cf. X.8, 1179a). First, decide on the area of inquiry (e.g., incontinence). Secondly, set out the views of the many and the wise (e.g., the ordinary view that incontinence is common, and the Socratic view that it is impossible for knowledge to be overcome). Thirdly, note any puzzles that arise, such as the con¯ict between the ordinary and the Socratic views. Finally, resolve these as best one can (e.g. there is such a thing as incontinence, but only perceptual knowledge, not knowledge of any ethical universal, is overcome (VII.3, 1147b)). ix

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    Book I life into his old age and di

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    Book I contrary to what people thin

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    Book I indeed, in that political sc

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    Book II Chapter 1 Virtue, then, is

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    Book II start, the accounts we dema

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    Book II choice, because what is nob

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    Book II feelings (the person who is

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    Book II For good people are just go

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    Book II honour, sometimes the one w

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    Book II osity. The greatest dissimi

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    Book III Chapter 1 Since virtue is

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    Book III pleasant or noble do so wi

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    Book III closely tied to virtue, an

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    Book III do; this is what remains.

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    Book III the individual it is the a

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    Book III the start it was open to t

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    Book III money in good heart. Nor i

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    Book III of a coward; for it is sof

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    Book III and to be courage if it is

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    Book III A distinction should be dr

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    Book III enjoy things more than mos

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    Book III harmony with reason; for t

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    Book IV giving, while taking and ke

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    Book IV he can be cheated, since he

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    Book IV Both, then, because they wi

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    Book IV weddings and suchlike; and

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    Book IV goes to excess in relation

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    Book IV towards people at the middl

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    Book IV nameless, it seems as if th

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    Book IV serious, and very much so i

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    Book IV while the dissemblers are b

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    Book IV make himself. He will not,

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    Book V Chapter 1 We must consider j

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    Book V Justice in this sense, then,

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    Book V and similarly what is just a

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    Book V part. But this proportion is

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    Book V party with more, and add to

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    Book V from the fact that whenever

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    Book V namely, honour and privilege

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    Book V one of the people present, a

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    Book V involuntary, as acting unjus

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    Book V that justice is an easy matt

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    Book V the equitable person is. He

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    Book VI Chapter 1 Since we have alr

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    Book VI practical. Such thought gov

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    Book VI and its contrary, lack of s

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    Book VI some people we think are wi

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    Book VI science, the latter being s

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    Book VI must ®rst inquire into the

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    Book VI the last. The intellect rel

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    Book VI Practical wisdom is not the

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    Book VII Chapter 1 Next we must mak

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    Book VII on the supposition that he

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    Book VII the same or different? Sim

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    Book VII The explanation of how the

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    Book VII children or parents; for t

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    Book VII with the same things as in

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    Book VII to those that most people

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    Book VII thus like a disease such a

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    Book VII who does something for the

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    Book VII happiness involves pleasur

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    Book VII The fact that no pleasure

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    Book VII states and processes, ther

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    Book VIII Chapter 1 After this, the

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    Book VIII Chapter 2 Perhaps the mat

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    Book VIII another's company, since

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    Book VIII true friendship that they

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    Book VIII since one ®nds more of a

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    Book VIII goods, though presumably

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    Book VIII differs as well, and the

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    Book VIII superior. Sometimes, howe

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    Book VIII or to a lesser degree. Pa

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    Book VIII Nor are complaints genera

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    Book VIII thinking it is characteri

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    Book IX wished, then that would hav

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    Book IX when he lent to you as some

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    Book IX Chapter 4 The origin of rel

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    Book IX Chapter 5 Goodwill seems to

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    Book IX Chapter 7 Benefactors seem

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    Book IX all to a person's relation

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    Book IX being self-suf®cient, need

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    Book IX or think); and if perceivin

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    Book IX But it is nobler in good fo

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    Book X Chapter 1 After this our nex

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    Book X choice with the addition of

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    Book X Against those who bring up d

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    Book X be so described, but only wh

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    Book X This is even more evident fr

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    Book X Chapter 6 Now that we have d

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    Book X and its objects are the high

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    Book X practical wisdom, since the

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    Book X done what he regarded as the

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    Book X heed necessity rather than a

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    Book X cians? For we did think that

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    Glossary Many of the English words

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    Glossary kalos noble. Alternative t

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    Index activity, 206 distinct from c

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    Index between master and slave, 158

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    Index Scythians, 42, 132 self-love,

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    Malebranche The Search after Truth

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