44 pages 1 hour read


Nicomachean Ethics

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | BCE

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Historical Context: The Legacy of Greek Philosophy

Aristotle’s work is best understood through the historical context of the Greek philosophical tradition. It is impossible to escape the influence of the Greeks on modern philosophical thought. Modern readers of philosophy may be astounded at first to find how often Aristotle’s work, as well as many other Greek philosophers’ contributions, still resonates and impacts the field. Many of the most important questions humans still grapple with were posed by Greek philosophers, including the question that is explored in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics: How should we live?

Understanding historical context for this work and others from the same period allows the reader to consider both how Greek philosophers influenced modern thought and how their thinking was influenced by the experiences of their time. While Aristotle was considering the thoughts presented in Nicomachean Ethics, slavery was prevalent, and Greek society was fundamentally patriarchal. The influence of the moral code of the time and the Greeks’ bias against other cultures can be found in Aristotle’s work in Book 7, in which he describes the vice of bestiality as one that is more common among non-Greek peoples. The philosopher’s work was both advanced, which accounts for its continued influence, and rooted in modes of thinking about society and inclusion that are not accepted in the contemporary era.