Monday, February 28, 2011

Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics

Read Book I and X
text available at:
journals due on Mar. 6.
Guidance questions:
1. what are people pursuing in the end?
2. what are the criteria of happiness?
3. What is the function of man?
4. Why contemplation is the best life?


  1. I believe Aristotle is saying that we a striving for perfection and ultimately happiness which ensues. Though happiness does require more then just simply perfection it also requires luck and good fortune. Also that you cannot be happy if you are ugly or mentally challenged. He also says the function of man by society is to work to his best ability. On the opposite side by nature man has no purpose. If we have no purpose in nature then we make our our own purpose though society. While that is true we work our hardest for society to achieve happiness.

  2. People are looking for happiness by virtuous acts and noble deeds that lead to the goodness of the soul. Most men regard happiness as a form of good that relates to pleasure. The rich identify it with honor and wealth and will perceive anyone not having these to be unhappy. Happiness is self gratification and is never for the happiness of something else.

    There must be some form of activity to get to happiness and that activity must have an end and be final. To have an infinite ending would mean that a person would only be searching for happiness but never find it and the result would be an empty emotion never actually fulfilling the desire of happiness.

    Goods are not one idea but a series of goods that all lead to an end but not all goods lead to a final end which is self-sufficient. Now the function of the man is to be good and noble in performing virtuous acts. These virtuous acts of human good if done whole heartedly and with every good intention will result to be virtuous acts of the soul.

    In the end, the happy man will do well and live well and happiness leads to a good life and good actions. Happiness then can be concluded as the best and pleasant thing in the world. Some people may go through life never experiencing happiness and living in misery but a truly happy man in the face of adversity and hardship will make the best of these circumstances and not allow anything to hinder his happiness.

  3. In the book Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle, the author explains that there are two kinds of virtue: the intellectual and the moral. This second one is based on the result of habit (ethike). So being ethical is a decision in every step in our lives. According to Aristotle, a way to reach virtue is by curving pleasure and find temperance. However, Aristotle suggests that humans should find a way to be balanced. Too much or too little of something (food, respect, sleep, etc)deviate the human being from virtue.
    Ultimately the human being wants to be happy. This happiness will derive from finding rewards in the way we act. Therefore, if I find joy in doing good, I have found my happiness, moreover happiness is a activity on itself and serves as means to itself.
    In regards to contemplation, Aristotle finds the contemplative live as the perfect life. But, he does so because he wants to compare the contemplative life with the one of a god.

  4. In the end, people are pursuing the ultimate good, and thus, people are all pursuing happiness. Aristotle stated there are three types of happiness, those of the soul (the highest form), external (material things), and those of the body. Through Book one, Aristotle discusses these levels in great detail.
    The criteria of happiness, according to Aristotle, consists of a life lived for virtue. He believes happiness is accomplished by a life's work of good actions, such as honor. Then, Aristotle dissects the idea of 'doing good'. And one aspect he discovers, which drives the 'doing good' idea, was that a human being must be self-sufficient first, to be able to 'do good'. I do not know if I completely agree with this idea, I know many people who are not self-sufficient and are always 'doing good'. What about those in the priesthood, or nunnery? THey do not make money, work, but their lives work is all about 'doing good'. And there are plenty of people who are self-sufficient and they do not do anything good for mankind. I suppose then, my question is, What is self-sufficiency? How can one measure it or define it? Is it supported by material objects or is it the stability of the brain and of one's emotions?
    According to Aristotle, the function of man is to 'do good' through actions of the soul, which of course is the "best and most complete principle." But, happiness, is achieved through a lifetime's work of this selflessness.
    Finally, I thought Aristotle's belief that people do the things they do, ie. doing good, because they believe society wants them to 'do good'. Does that mean we as humans do good things only because we think we 'should' or because we 'want' to do so? Do we feel guilt when we are not doing good things because we know society frowns upon it? And in the end, do we really have free will to do whatever we like? Or does society play more of a role in our day to day lives and our actions?

  5. What are people pursuing in the end according to nicomachean ethics book 1 is happiness. He believe in doing well to others, and that what everyone should aim for. To decide what happiness is, it is necessary to determine what the function of man is, because excellence consists in performing one's function well. Man's function is that which sets him apart from all others, it also action that can be done by all human beings. Some contemplation is the best for life is about being Happy, which all good comes from. Good virtue, prudence, wisdom, pleasure, Noble is some of the criteria of happiness. Which can be shown by what ones dose, it has every little to do with the inside.

  6. We as humans always have a need or a want that is never really fully satisfied because deep down our main goal is to achieve a happiness that we have transformed or believed to be goodness. Men think that because they are able to work to the best of their ability that they are superior to other inferior men and there for they have achieved happiness (which in our society we have defined as success). Yet, in order to really be happy we have to fulfill all aspects of our life as a whole. If we only nourish or focus in one aspect of our life and leave the others unattended then we wouldn’t really be finding fulfillment but simply success. However, according to Aristotle, both success and self fulfillment are most closely related to happiness followed by a series of good deeds that are believed and acted upon to enrich the soul. There for I would say that happiness is an ideal state of mind in which our main desires have been satisfied in order to reach an optimum state of life as a whole.

  7. Tawnya Ridi

    I often wonder what are all the components I must have in my life to have a fulfilling contented life. I found Nicomachaen to be an interesting read. Subjects of justice are of course necessary in life to ponder, but being educated on happiness can be the key to life. The criteria of happiness can vary according to the definition of good. I found the easiest interoperation of good in section 8 book 1, in which Aristotle states that"Now goods have been divided into three classes, and some are describes as external, others as relating to soul or to body; we call those that relate to soul most properly and truly goods, and psychical actions and activities we class to relate to the soul.” It is true that good can have more than one meaning. But how does this relate to happiness?

    In being good in our lives (as in attaining one’s own moral code). We can be satisfied knowing that we tried in our lives, whether that be from being honorable and good natured or keen on achievements. According to the mass population whom believe pleasure, wealth, or honor to be happiness, but happiness is in the eye of the beholder and different to everybody. It can be health when one is ill, or wealth when one is poor. On the other hand, If happiness is doing good and being good (by means of one’s soul actions) how can aesthetics and carnal pleasures be a part of happiness (and I must admit I often think that having more money will lead to more happiness in my life)?

    I very much relate to a quote that is in Book 1. This quote helped me put the feeling and reason behind me pursuing my education (besides getting a better job) is “for it is the mark of an educated man to look for precision in each class of thing just so far as the natural the subject admits; it is evidently equally foolish to accept probable reasoning from a mathematician and to demand from a rhetorician scientific proof. I do not want to be left a fool in my life! I want to be an educated person that makes reasonable subjunctive decisions, questions the facts and the fact makers, and practices everything in my life with exactitude and accuracy. With this acclamation I pursue my education.

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  9. BOOK I
    The very idea of living well might seem a bit odd as Aristotle formulates it. In particular, he talks about living well as performing the function of “being human” well, analogous to the good flutist performing the function of playing the flute well. It may seem that Aristotle has confused the practical and the moral: being a good flutist is a practical matter of study and talent, while no such analogy holds for morality. Being a good person surely is not a skill one develops in the same manner as flute playing. But this objection rests on a misunderstanding due to a difficulty in translation. The Greek word ethos translates as “character,” and the concerns of the Ethics are not with determining what is right and wrong, but with how to live a virtuous and happy life.
    We all strive to be happy. that may however differ from one person to the other, some may find happiness in money, or cars, or love, or even food! but we all strive to one think and that in someway makes us all the same buy yet different


  10. What are people pursuing in the end? According to the reading there are many different types of good but when examined independently they are not adequate in themselves to be and the ultimate good. The reading shows that we all as humans are always pursuing something which we think is good, which is true but ultimately whatever we are pursuing we hope to find enjoyment, fulfillment or just in one word happiness within it. It says that the supreme good is happiness but “happiness” is an individual definition that varies in all humans. Therefore, as the reading quotes “Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and pursuit, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim. But a certain difference is found among ends”. So if you ask me what I think people are pursuing in the end my answer will be ‘people are pursuing happiness’.

  11. BOOK X
    If learning about happiness were sufficient to leading a good life, discourses in philosophy would be far more valuable than they are. Words alone cannot convince people to be good: this requires practice and habituation, and can take seed only in a person of good character.

    also,People are unlikely to be naturally virtuous, so the state is responsible for establishing laws to ensure that the young are educated in the right way and that adults do not become bad. In the absence of good laws, people must take responsibility for their children and friends. Parental supervision is in many ways preferable to laws, since it allows for more particularized attention.


  12. Aristotle seems to state several different things that people are in pursuit of. From the text, I perceived that he is speaking of happiness, but also the sense of gaining “goodness”. He makes mention that people’s individual actions and pursuits are intended so that they may receive the benefits of their actions. Such is the case with a doctor because the end result is good health and in the case of an economist is wealth.

    The criteria of happiness included basic qualities that must be in place. He mentions that a man should be self-sufficient and be able to achieve whatever he is aiming for. Aristotle also mentions completion and excellence as a means to happiness. Ultimately, Happiness is something that is final and it is supposed to be the end result of our actions.

    The function of man is supposed to be the activity of the soul. Aristotle mentions that a man can be a musician or a “good” musician. Of course he used the term lyre-player but I choose this example in order to understand the text better. The major difference between these two men would be his virtue. Aristotle mentions that there are sever components that make up virtue and why men do the things that they do, but the major difference is their virtue.

    Contemplation is said to be the highest of the intrinsic goods. Of course, other goods can be added, but accordingly, contemplation is supposed to be above all, the most important.

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  14. I remember hearing that discussing philosophy was not about proving what is wrong, or what is right. I have to say that this believe is wrong in it's self. There are a few things with in this text that are wrong in nature and I feel, needs to be stated so that people do not go on with their life thinking these same things. And is this not the best way to create an argument about what is being discussed? How are we to find the closest bit of truth about life if we do not point out, or even question, the wrongs within a belief (a philosophical belief at that) that society follows?
    The two statements that Aristotle had made, comes from Book X. The first being, "that the other animals have no share in happiness, being completely deprived of such activity." Then, "none of the other animals is happy, since they in no way share in contemplation."
    How can such a statement be made, when you can sit and watch any animal or group of animals playing with either, each other, or with, just you, and not show happiness? We can see happiness in the animals by the way they move, by the way they sound, even by the way they look. We can also tell when an animal is unhappy and this is by the way they walk with their tail between their legs, or their head keep low and their eyes looking up sad like, when walking around. And for those of you with pets know what I am talking about. So saying that animals are deprived of such activity, is ignorant and, just plain wrong. As for animals not sharing in contemplation. I find this to be wrong as well. Sure, the animal cannot mentally contemplate many of the choices that are facing us, but to say that an animal does not contemplate it's own actions is insulting to the animal itself. How many times have we watched and animal contemplate on whether it was going to go one way or another? Or, if they were going to walk over something or not? How about if they are going to eat something or not. Animals contemplate on many choices as well as we humans do. They just happen to be different in nature. And if you want to go another route, animals do share in contemplation when coming to making choices, especially when the animal happens to a pet. The contemplation a person makes has to have the animal in mind as well, because the choice is going to affect them as well. And what ever the choice is, will determent on whether the animal is going to be happy or not. Plus, what ever the choice is, it will affect the person and however it affects the person will also show through the animal since animals are affected by our energy.
    These two statements need to be pointed out to show that they are wrong in what they claim.
    If I am wrong, please let someone correct me. Because I do not want to miss lead anyone either.

  15. In the end,Aristotle even stated about how the whole point was advancing human excellence. Aristotle goes about this whole inquiry of human good and human happiness in hopes of finding common ground in good in all its tenses and as he talks about good he,comes to the conclusion that happiness is worthy of pursuit.Its end result is more final than any other good because its strived for not because it guarantees some later benefit,but because it is a benefit.He describes happiness ,when isolated,as making life self sufficient and how it makes life desirable and lacking in nothing.He also says that living well and acting well is happiness but how it also varies between people. He understands that people don't come up to the same conclusions because of the different lifestyles.What comes to mind is how he refers to the Common people and how they have tendency to relate it more to what they lack rather than a pursuit of unity and excellence. He doesn't stretch his boundaries of what he knows but
    Throughout Book I, he dissects the many senses of "Good". He questions the idea of "Universal Good".He came up to a very interesting notion and I quote:
    " It is surely not like the things that only chance to have the same name"

    Which I found interesting and poetic.He then questions the function of man and he compares it to how specific body parts work together but compared that to how its applicable to all of life and he deduced that its mans ability to reason with the soul that separates us from animals. Its interesting because he explained it in such a way were he distinguishes that animals have a sense of being but not quite the ability to rationalize like we do. With that said Aristotle concluded , human good as the soul being preoccupied with virtue and depending of the type of virtue he says that our function is to seek out and fulfill that virtue to the best of our abilities.
    Contemplation is the basis of keeping a soul harmonized i suppose. Contemplating I would say is the basis for anything that involves reasoning and I don't really understand the root of your question but It seems to imply that there is a reason as to why its good to "contemplate". It serves our function according to Aristotle?


  16. The particularities of chance can too be described as irrational elements within a man's life which may help or hinder his happiness. It is by chance a man is born with wealth, or bestowed good children, and by chance he and his friends suffer yet a man of virtue cannot be forever broken by unhappiness because regardless he will continue activities which better him and others. However, irrationalities can be reigned in by the persuasion of rational principles by the most virtuous of humans. By promoting virtuous acts and goodness among friends and citizens by law and advice, a person lives a happy life and subdues irrationalities and random occurrences which otherwise would bring about suffering to many.

  17. People seek happiness, but their definition of happiness differs. Some think happiness comes with wealth, honour, or love. Happiness does not depend on any of these things. Wealth is an end and desire upon desire can only lead to an empty life. Happiness is more substantial as it resides within. It is not an end in itself, but it is reliant on the means, or course of action.

    A poor man can live without food or water, but we can only say he is deprived of "ends." A soul does not need food or water, but it does need nourishment through virtuous activity. It is rejoyceful with the actions it induces which are good for goodness sake and as such we see that good can only propogate. It does not seek malice or to do harm. It is centered on that which is good. Happiness is a reward, a level of satisfaction with oneself.

    It comes from lifelong virtuous learning. Life can bring loss and death and other greivances to the table, but the way the man of wisdom handles these events is a trial of his self-proclaimed righteousness. If he withdraws from disagreeable relationshis he does so with contentment and no feeling of apathy towards the situations life brings at that moment and thereon.

    A person can be virtuous and not necessarily happy. Lets say this person has a desire that hasn't been fulffilled and it is not until the person realizes that desire is an end, that whatever desire it is will be of less extent, and only then can they begin to be happy again.

    Happiness centers not around fulfillment of "wordly desires" but the desire to be, and do that which is good. It stems from virtue, which is a state of mind in what you do.

  18. people are pursuing happieness in the end. the criteria of happieness varries from person to person but i believe happieness lies in a person in there virtue there intelect and how they treat the company they keep. i believe that the true function of people is for everyones to truely focus on the greater good of everyone not just the greater good of themself. i believe if everyone tried to make others lives better as well as increasing there intelect then i believe the whole community can be happy. contemplation is good because it leads you to understanding what the greater good is for the person who is focusing on it. contemplating is good because it leads you to a greater understanding of the world it increases your intelect.