44 pages 1 hour read


Nicomachean Ethics

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | BCE

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The Meanings of Good and Happiness

Aristotle begins by establishing happiness as the ultimate goal of life. He suggests that happiness is the perfect and complete form of good. Humans engage in various activities to find good, or the best way to live. All humans seek happiness. This idea comes from the Greek eudaimonia, which translates as “good spirits.” Traditional views about what it means to live a good life relate to pleasure, politics, and virtue. Aristotle proposes that all these things play a role in happiness, but none of them alone is the pathway. Pleasure has a tendency for seek extremes, and it does not explore the depth and heart of life. The political life, which many believe to be about honor, does not engage the other virtues necessary for the aim. Virtue is good, but it is not the complete picture of happiness. Aristotle suggests that a person could be entirely virtuous through non-action. If one never acts, one never engages with vice. A mixture of these things, however, contributes to overall happiness. This hints at his thesis, developed later in the collection, that complete happiness is achieved through virtues of thought.