44 pages 1 hour read


Nicomachean Ethics

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | BCE

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Important Quotes

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“Every craft and every discipline, and likewise action and decision, seems to seek some good—that is why some people were right to describe the good as what everything seeks. But the ends appear to differ; for some are activities, and others are products apart from the activities. And where there are ends apart from the actions, the products are by nature better than the activities.”

(Book 1, Page 1)

Aristotle suggests that good is the action of the soul, and the product of that action is true happiness. In Book 10, he determines that happiness is an activity. Many things can seem like they should be the aim of the individual: wealth, fame, honor, recognition. None of these things is inherently bad; many of them are admirable. However, they do not address the ultimate goal of humans: happiness. Aristotle claims that this happiness comes only through virtue.

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“Indeed, the same person often changes his mind; for when he has fallen ill, he thinks happiness is health, and when he has fallen into poverty, he thinks it is wealth. And when they are conscious of their own ignorance, they admire anyone who speaks of something grand above their heads.”

(Book 1, Page 3)

In the first book, Aristotle explores the slipperiness of some of the definitions of good, virtue, and happiness. Often, the way individuals perceive happiness is wrapped up in what they do not have. It is something always unattainable, just out of reach. Conversely, Aristotle proposes that happiness is a product of the soul through virtue, or good.

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“Now happiness, more than anything else, seems complete without qualification. For this we choose always because of itself, never because of something else. But honour, pleasure, understanding, and every virtue we choose because of themselves also—since we would choose each of them even if it had no further result—but we also choose them for the sake of happiness, supposing that through them we shall be happy.”

(Book 1, Page 9)

Aristotle suggests that human beings need to have function in both their professional and personal lives. In their professional lives, this function is seen through what they produce and do: a carpenter makes furniture, a farmer grows crops, and the like.