Context

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Italian poet Dante Alighieri’s description of Aristotle as “the master of those who know” has an appropriate ambiguity: It suggests Aristotle’s mastery of his predecessors’ knowledge and also his influence, paralleled only by Plato’s, on his philosophical descendants. Both aspects of this mastery are prominent in Nicomachean Ethics. It is to Aristotle’s credit that he gives full recognition to the contributions of other philosophers, and it is to his glory that so many basic ethical ideas of later philosophers are found in this great seminal work. Although scholarly explanations of the work differ, it is generally agreed that the work was not intended for publication in its present form; it is a version of Aristotle’s ethics as stated by his son, Nicomachus. The Eudemian Ethics, a record composed by one of Aristotle’s pupils, Eudemus, supplements this work.

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Nicomachean Ethics is part of a vast scientific and philosophical system to which a teleological view of the universe is basic: All things are to be understood in terms of their purposes, the ends toward which they tend and which are inherent in their forms and integral to their natures. Defining the end or good of humanity by reference to its nature, Aristotle’s ethics is a kind of naturalism, but not a reductionism failing to distinguish a higher sense of “nature” from one meaning simply “whatever is or occurs.” It thus suggests (though it does not fully develop) the crucial difference between the factual and the ideal. The normative element, the “oughtness,” of virtue is determined by the end or good by which virtue is understood. There is thus no nonnatural, self-subsistent, or supernatural source of obligation, but this is no loss to an ethics grounded firmly in the Aristotelian psychology and metaphysics.

The Good

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Aristotle’s psychological approach appears when he begins his investigation of the final good by reference to what he regards as a general fact of human and animal behavior. He cites the dictum of a predecessor that the good is “that at which all things aim.” However, there are many aims; some goods are desired for themselves, some for the sake of others. To avoid an infinite regression of goods merely instrumental to others, intrinsic goods must be presupposed; if one good appears to be more ultimate than any other, this will be the chief good. Its criteria will be finality and self-sufficiency—it will be valued for its own sake and its achievement will leave nothing to be desired. Everyone agrees, Aristotle notes, that happiness is thus final and self-sufficient; one desires other goods for the sake of this happiness but never this for the sake of others. However, this general agreement is merely verbal; specific descriptions of happiness are so varied that a detailed inquiry is obviously needed.

Among previous theories of the good is that of Aristotle’s teacher, Plato, who held that good is a self-subsistent essence, a universal form, or idea, in which all particular good things participate, and by which alone they are good. Aristotle objects, however, that if nothing but this form is good intrinsically, the good would be both empty of content and unattainable. In the practice of arts and sciences aiming at their own particular ends, it does not seem that a knowledge of this universal good is prerequisite. Hence Aristotle turns to a search for the specifically human good.

This must be found in humanity’s own form and function qua human. To understand the latter, consider briefly the Aristotelian concept of matter and form, derived but considerably altered from that of Plato. Except for pure matter and pure form, terminal limits posited by the system rather than experienced differences in reality, the matter and form of any given thing are its two aspects of potentiality and actuality, separable only in analysis. Matter is the stuff, form the structure; matter is the thatness, form the whatness, of things. Matter without form is hardly conceivable, and form without matter is empty abstraction. Form is not mere structure, however, for what a thing is or becomes when its potentialities are actualized depends not only on shape or organization but also on function. The traditional illustration here is that of the acorn, which is a potential oak tree. Relative to the tree, the acorn is matter—an unrealized possibility that will eventuate in the actuality or form, oak tree. However, the tree in turn may be matter for a higher form in case, say, it is made into a piece of furniture, and obviously the acorn itself must mature into the form, “oak tree seed,” before it can function as material for the future tree. Thus the end or telos of the acorn is integral to its nature, and its “good” is to fulfill its formal function well—to become a strong, well-shaped tree.

Virtues

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Humanity’s end must likewise be found in form, which is soul. “Soul” here does not have the connotations given it in Christian tradition; it is not an entity but rather a level of function of living bodies. Even plants have the nutritive function or vegetative “soul”; lower animals have this plus a sensory and appetitive or desiderative soul; the human soul has a higher level, the rational. Now the excellence or virtue of each thing, according to the meaning of the Greek aret, lies in the efficiency of its peculiar function; therefore “human good turns out to be activity of soul in accordance with virtue, and if there are more than one virtue, in accordance with the best and most complete.”

Two broad divisions in the human soul are the irrational and the rational; the former includes the vegetative, over which reason has no direct control, and the appetitive, partially amenable to rational guidance. The rational part includes the calculative and scientific functions. Corresponding to each of these are various kinds of excellence ranged under the two main types, moral and intellectual virtues.

To reach a definition of the first type, Aristotle observes that well-being is achieved through a mean between two extremes, either of which destroys it, as the athlete’s fitness is maintained by the proper amount of food, neither too much nor too little. However, this is not an arithmetical mean; the proper amount of food for a wrestler would be too much for a businessperson. Applying this concept to attitudes, emotions, and conduct, Aristotle develops a relational ethics that is not relativistic in the pejorative sense: “Virtue . . . is a state of character concerned with choice, lying in a mean, i.e., the mean relative to us, this being determined by a rational principle . . . by which the man of practical wisdom would determine it. Now it is a mean between two vices, that which depends on excess and that which depends on defect.” (Examples of virtues appropriate to certain activities and attitudes are shown in the accompanying table.)

Virtue lies in feeling or acting rightly in relation to time, objects, people, motives, and manner. Though the mean is variable because some means lie nearer one or the other extreme, there is a mean for most situations—that middle course recognized by the practically wise or good person. Aristotle himself notes, however, that this account of virtue and vice is not exhaustive; there are some acts and passions inherently bad, such as spite or envy, adultery or murder—there are no mean (right) ways of feeling or doing these.

Neither does the theory apply in the same way to a major virtue, justice. As a particular virtue (rather than as the Platonic justice comprehending all other virtues), justice involves the sharing of external goods such as honor or money; and the mean is an intermediate amount, while both extremes are injustice. Distributive justice is a geometrical proportion between persons judged by merit and goods awarded. If A and B are persons and C and D are things, this justice can be formulated thus: A:B :C:D. Equality is thus not between persons or quantities; it lies in proportional relation. Rectificatory justice involves only the righting of wrongs in which the gain of one party equals the loss of the other, and the persons themselves are treated as equals. Because Aristotle disclaims universality for the concept of virtue as a mean, the objection of some critics to the inconsistency of his account or justice seems pointless.

The virtues and vices tend to be self-perpetuating; states of character are both causes and effects of corresponding actions. However, although both acts and character are voluntary, specific choices precede acts, and development of character is gradual and not so obvious. Nevertheless, people are responsible for both; even ignorance of the right is inexcusable if caused by carelessness. The very attractiveness of false goods is due to one’s character, just as that which is not really wholesome may appear so to a diseased person. Herein lies the distinguishing feature of the good person: Although each character has its own concept of the noble and pleasant, the good person sees “the truth in each class of things, being as it were the norm and measure of them.”

Though Aristotle’s ethics is not a deontological system, it clearly was intended to develop “the sort of person that the right rule prescribes.” The temperate person, for example, “craves for the things he ought, as he ought, and when he ought; and this is what rational principle directs.” However, virtuous people are not burdened with a restrictive, puritanical sense of obligation; instead, they enjoy the best life by realizing their highest potentialities as human beings. This is illustrated by Aristotle’s description of properly proud people: Pride, a mean between vanity and humility, “seems to be a sort of crown of the virtues; for it makes them greater, and it is not found without them.” Proud people think themselves to be and are worthy of great things. They are courageous, honorable and honored, noble, disdainful of the petty, liberal, dignified yet unassuming, frank in expressing their loves and hatreds, people of few but great deeds. They are independent and incapable of centering their life in another, except for friends.

Friendship

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Aristotle writes at length of friendship’s necessity to the good life. There are three types: friendships based on utility, those maintained for pleasure alone, and those between similarly virtuous people loved because of their goodness. The last kind is highest, rarest, and most durable.

The topic of friendship raises questions of the relations between benevolence and self-love, and Aristotle anticipates such later writers as Scottish philosopher David Hume and Bishop Joseph Butler. Our estimate of “self-love,” he points out, requires distinction between higher and lower senses of the term. Selfish concern for wealth or physical pleasure is of course blameworthy, but the true lover of self is one who seeks that most fitting to one’s highest nature—the just, temperate, and noble. If all sought for themselves the highest good, self-love would make for the greatest common welfare. True self-love thus involves beneficence and occasionally sacrifice of wealth or even life itself for the sake of friends and country. Thus the good person needs friends in order to exercise virtue fully.

The Intellectual

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The good person also needs the second major type of virtue, the intellectual, for the moral involves choice, and choice is defined as “either desiderative reason or ratiocinative desire.” Good choice, then, presupposes right desire and true reasoning. The rightness and truth are measured against the right rule by which Aristotle avoids subjectivism: “There is a mark to which the man who has the rule looks . . . there is a standard which determines the mean states which we say are intermediate between excess and defect.” However, pure, contemplative intellect does not directly motivate, its end being truth per se; therefore it is the practical or productive intellect that aims at the truth in harmony with right desire.

Practical wisdom is the intellectual virtue most intimately connected with moral virtue: “It is a true and reasoned state of capacity to act with regard to the things that are good or bad for man.” It is deliberation about the contingent, not the eternal, for its concern is with selecting the best means to the good life; therefore, it is a function of the productive intellect that can command and sometimes control the irrational soul, the feelings and desires. Practical wisdom is thus a virtue of the calculative level, the lower of the two rational parts of the soul. Because it must not only calculate the means but also recognize the ends, “it is not possible to be good in the strict sense without practical wisdom, nor practically wise without moral virtue.” Thus, intellectual virtue is not mere cleverness.

Practical wisdom presupposes intuitive reason, which grasps first principles, universals, and ultimate particulars or specific facts, the raw materials with which practical wisdom does its work. Intuitive reason also furnishes the first principles with which another intellectual virtue, scientific knowledge (logical or mathematical demonstration) operates. This virtue concerns only the eternal, the logically necessary. However, the highest form of wisdom involves not only knowledge of the logical implications of first principles but also comprehension of the principles themselves.

Hence Aristotle, calling philosophic wisdom the combination of scientific knowledge and intuitive reason, specifies that it must be directed to the highest objects and be properly completed. From this it follows that it is not directed toward the highest human good, because “man is not the best thing in the world,” not as divine, for example, as the heavenly bodies. However, though not directed toward the highest human good, it is that good. Should a critic object that philosophic wisdom, being merely contemplative, is thus useless, Aristotle reminds us that it makes humanity happy not as an instrument but as the actualized end, the highest human activity. Practical wisdom’s command of the body is not a mark of superiority to contemplation but rather prepares the way for its coming, as medicine is instrumental to health.

Happiness

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Before one can fully appreciate Aristotle’s concept of happiness, it is necessary to review his treatment of pleasure, regarded by many philosophers as the summum bonum. As usual, Aristotle considers arguments on both sides in some detail. He concludes not only that pleasure is a good but also that there are cogent reasons for thinking it the chief good: Everyone agrees that its opposite, pain, is bad. Both beasts and humans aim at pleasure (and at the start Aristotle had accepted the view that “the good is that at which all things aim”), and because pleasure is a necessary accompaniment of each activity carried to its unimpeded fulfillment, happiness would seem to be the fruition in pleasure of at least some or perhaps all activities.

This latter consideration enters into Aristotle’s final formulation of happiness, but there are compelling reasons for denying that pleasure per se and without qualifications is the chief good. Pleasures differ in kind, just as do activities, and because there is a pleasure proper to each activity, their values are concomitant. Some pleasures complete acts that are vicious, and some hinder the fulfillment of more worthwhile activities. As Plato argued, it appears that the desirability of pleasure can be augmented by addition of other goods, such as that of wisdom, but one criterion of the final good is self-sufficiency. Pleasure, then, is but an ingredient of that good, happiness.

The modern reader must be careful not to identify this happiness with euphoria. Aristotle’s happiness is a state of being, not just one of feeling. It is an activity, and since virtuous activity is also desirable for its own sake, happiness is virtuous activity. As the chief good, it involves the highest virtue, which is contemplative. Contemplation is capable of more continuity than other actions; it requires fewer material necessities, and its pleasures are pure and lasting. No immediately practical results follow from it, so again it appears to be loved for itself alone. As the highest human activity, it seems most like that of the gods, and indeed it belongs to the most authoritative element in people:that which is proper to each thing is by nature best and most pleasant for each thing; for man, therefore, the life according to reason is best and pleasantest, since reason more than anything else is man. This life therefore is also the happiest.

Although this may strike the modern reader as an overly rationalistic or perhaps academic conclusion, Aristotle tempers it by adding that such happiness requires a complete life, including the satisfaction of bodily needs. He recognizes that few people have the ability or the opportunity to lead the life of contemplation. He claims that happiness on a secondary level is the morally virtuous life, for the moral virtues, after all, directly concern human nature in its “all too human” aspects because it is a mixture of reason and the irrational appetites. Indeed, most people are incapable of being good through reason and self-discipline alone; they need the aid of legislation. This idea provides the subject of Aristotle’s next work, the Politica (second Athenian period, 335-323 b.c.e.; Politics, 1598).

If Aristotle’s method should appear too speculative for the leading scientists of his day, he reminds his readers that what he has said must be reviewed and tested by reference to the facts, and should it clash with them, it must be considered mere theory. However, should the reader adopt this alternative, it must be with reluctance when the theory is seen as an integral part of Aristotle’s whole system. To find the most distinctive human excellence in reason and yet to allow for the most tonic exercise of the senses and appetites by conceiving both as the full fruition of humanity’s natural potentialities and to see this actualization as part of a universally purposeful process, is to share one of philosophy’s most stirring ethical convictions.

Nicomachean Ethics

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Long after he had studied under Plato and taught Alexander the Great, Aristotle developed the belief that everything has 4 causes: material (physical), formal (design), efficient (maker or ancestor), and final (ultimate goal). Thus, morality has to do with physical and emotional appetites, rationality, the social and political setting, and contemplation of truth.

According to Aristotle, a person is responsible only for voluntary deeds, not for deeds committed in ignorance or when forced. Truly bad acts are performed when irrationality overpowers reason, when persons act impulsively, or when evil is disguised as good.

Virtue, on the other hand, is the midpoint between the extremes of too much and too little. Courage in war is a virtue because it avoids the excess of rashness and the deficiency of cowardice. Likewise, temperance regarding physical desires is a virtue because it avoids the excess of licentiousness and the deficiency of insensibility.

In addition to courage and temperance, Aristotle names the following character traits as moral virtues: liberality and munificence (in regard to wealth), greatness of soul (in regard to social inferiors), gentleness, friendliness, and wittiness. The intellectual qualities of wisdom and prudence are virtues as well because they enable people to put moral principles into practice. An ethical person is one who is in the habit of enacting the virtues and of shunning cruelty and the loss of self-control.

The virtues are character traits, and as such can be acquired only by early training and constant deliberation and choice. Aristotle believed that character was molded by training and by the environment, particularly the legal system, so virtuous statesmanship is integral to moral conduct.

Additional Reading

Ackrill, J. L. Essays on Plato and Aristotle. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. This work contains important and insightful reflections on two of the most influential thinkers in Western philosophy.

Adler, Mortimer J. Aristotle for Everybody: Difficult Thought Made Easy. New York: Scribner’s 1997. A reliable interpreter provides an account that introduces Aristotle’s thought in accessible fashion.

Bar On, Bat-Ami, ed. Engendering Origins: Critical Feminist Readings in Plato and Aristotle. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994. Feminist perspectives are brought to bear on Aristotle’s philosophy in significant ways.

Barnes, Jonathan. Aristotle. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982. A reliable study designed for readers who want an introduction to Aristotle’s thought.

Barnes, Jonathan, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995. An excellent guide to Aristotle’s thought, which features significant essays on major aspects of his work.

Broadie, Sarah. Ethics with Aristotle. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991. This carefully done book concentrates on Aristotle’s ethical theory and its implications.

Brumbaugh, Robert S. The Philosophers of Greece. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1981. An introductory study that discusses Aristotle’s philosophy within the larger context of the Greek world.

Cooper, John M. Reason and Human Good in Aristotle. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1975. Cooper’s book is a study of the “theoretical backbone” of Aristotle’s moral philosophy—his theories of practical reasoning and of human happiness.

Copleston, Frederick. A History of Philosophy: Greece and Rome. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1962. A leading scholar of Western philosophy discusses Aristotle’s life as well as his logic, metaphysics, ethics, politics, and aesthetics.

Edel, Abraham. Aristotle and His Philosophy. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Books, 1996. A careful and helpful study by a veteran interpreter of Western thought.

Ferguson, John. Aristotle. Boston: Twayne, 1972. Assisting the general reader in the study of Aristotle’s works, this book discusses Aristotle’s life and his views about nature and psychology and also offers perspectives on Aristotle’s lasting influence.

Hughes, Gerard J. Aristotle on Ethics. New York: Routledge, 2001. A fresh introduction to the philosopher, refining the translation of Arstotle’s terms with a sensitivity to context.

Husain, Martha. Ontology and the Art of Tragedy: An Approach to Aristotle’s Poetics. Albany: State University of New York, 2001. An examination of the Poetics using Metaphysics as a touchstone. Husain demonstrates the relationship between the works and how the latter illuminates the former.

Jones, W. T. A History of Western Philosophy: The Classical Mind. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1969. Combines historical interpretation of Aristotle’s far-reaching thought with relevant readings from Aristotle’s writings.

Kenny, Anthony. Aristotle on the Perfect Life. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1980. This work focuses on Aristotle’s views about human nature, ethics, and politics.

Lear, Jonathan. Aristotle and Logical Theory. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1980. A detailed study of Aristotle’s views on logic and their continuing significance for understanding human reasoning.

McLeisch, Kenneth. Aristotle. New York: Routledge, 1999. An excellent biographical introduction to the thoughts of the philosopher, clearly presented and requiring no special background. Bibliography.

Mulgan, R. G. Aristotle’s Political Theory: An Introduction for Students of Political Theory. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977. Seeks to bring the major themes and arguments in Aristotle’s political theory into sharper focus than they appear in the Politics itself.

Randall, John Herman, Jr. Aristotle. New York: Columbia University Press, 1960. An older but reliable survey of Aristotle’s philosophy.

Robinson, Timothy A. Aristotle in Outline. Indianapolis, Ind.: Hackett, 1995. Accessible to beginning students, this clearly written survey covers Aristotle’s full range of thought.

Rorty, Amélie Oksenberg, ed. Essays on Aristotle’s ‘Ethics.’ Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981. An important collection of essays that concentrates on various facets of Aristotle’s influential moral philosophy.

Smith, Thomas W. Revaluing “Ethics”: Aristotle’s Dialectical Pedagogy. Albany: State University of New York, 2001. Smith argues for a reading of Ethics, not as a moral guidebook, but as a pedagogy—course work—for developing a questioning mind.

Strathern, Paul. Aristotle in Ninety Minutes. Chicago: Ivan Dee, 1996. A brief, easily accessible, introductory overview of Aristotle’s philosophy.

George W. Van Devender John K. Roth

Nicomachean Ethics

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The Work

Aristotle assumes that all things, human beings included, have a good, a purpose or end, which it is their nature to fulfill. To understand the virtue of human nature, one must discover the specific good that is its purpose. Human nature, in Aristotle’s analysis, has two levels: the nonrational and the rational. Each level has its good and corresponding virtue.

The virtue of the rational level is to recognize and contemplate truth. This purely intellectual virtue has value in itself but is not sufficient for morality. Morality is only possible when both levels of human nature work together.

The nonrational level of human nature includes vegetative functions, such as biological growth, over which reason has no control, and appetitive functions, such as hunger and sexual desire, which can be guided by reason. The virtue of this level of human nature occurs when the “appetite” comes to desire the good that the intellect discerns. This is moral virtue. It requires not only insight but also practice that cultivates moral behavior into habit.

In most cases, Aristotle says, the good is a mean between two extremes. Courage, for example, is the good that lies between rashness (too much) and cowardice (too little).

Additional Reading

Ackrill, J. L. Essays on Plato and Aristotle. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. This work contains important and insightful reflections on two of the most influential thinkers in Western philosophy.

Adler, Mortimer J. Aristotle for Everybody: Difficult Thought Made Easy. New York: Scribner’s 1997. A reliable interpreter provides an account that introduces Aristotle’s thought in accessible fashion.

Bar On, Bat-Ami, ed. Engendering Origins: Critical Feminist Readings in Plato and Aristotle. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994. Feminist perspectives are brought to bear on Aristotle’s philosophy in significant ways.

Barnes, Jonathan. Aristotle. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982. A reliable study designed for readers who want an introduction to Aristotle’s thought.

Barnes, Jonathan, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995. An excellent guide to Aristotle’s thought, which features significant essays on major aspects of his work.

Broadie, Sarah. Ethics with Aristotle. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991. This carefully done book concentrates on Aristotle’s ethical theory and its implications.

Brumbaugh, Robert S. The Philosophers of Greece. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1981. An introductory study that discusses Aristotle’s philosophy within the larger context of the Greek world.

Cooper, John M. Reason and Human Good in Aristotle. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1975. Cooper’s book is a study of the “theoretical backbone” of Aristotle’s moral philosophy—his theories of practical reasoning and of human happiness.

Copleston, Frederick. A History of Philosophy: Greece and Rome. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1962. A leading scholar of Western philosophy discusses Aristotle’s life as well as his logic, metaphysics, ethics, politics, and aesthetics.

Edel, Abraham. Aristotle and His Philosophy. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Books, 1996. A careful and helpful study by a veteran interpreter of Western thought.

Ferguson, John. Aristotle. Boston: Twayne, 1972. Assisting the general reader in the study of Aristotle’s works, this book discusses Aristotle’s life and his views about nature and psychology and also offers perspectives on Aristotle’s lasting influence.

Hughes, Gerard J. Aristotle on Ethics. New York: Routledge, 2001. A fresh introduction to the philosopher, refining the translation of Arstotle’s terms with a sensitivity to context.

Husain, Martha. Ontology and the Art of Tragedy: An Approach to Aristotle’s Poetics. Albany: State University of New York, 2001. An examination of the Poetics using Metaphysics as a touchstone. Husain demonstrates the relationship between the works and how the latter illuminates the former.

Jones, W. T. A History of Western Philosophy: The Classical Mind. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1969. Combines historical interpretation of Aristotle’s far-reaching thought with relevant readings from Aristotle’s writings.

Kenny, Anthony. Aristotle on the Perfect Life. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1980. This work focuses on Aristotle’s views about human nature, ethics, and politics.

Lear, Jonathan. Aristotle and Logical Theory. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1980. A detailed study of Aristotle’s views on logic and their continuing significance for understanding human reasoning.

McLeisch, Kenneth. Aristotle. New York: Routledge, 1999. An excellent biographical introduction to the thoughts of the philosopher, clearly presented and requiring no special background. Bibliography.

Mulgan, R. G. Aristotle’s Political Theory: An Introduction for Students of Political Theory. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977. Seeks to bring the major themes and arguments in Aristotle’s political theory into sharper focus than they appear in the Politics itself.

Randall, John Herman, Jr. Aristotle. New York: Columbia University Press, 1960. An older but reliable survey of Aristotle’s philosophy.

Robinson, Timothy A. Aristotle in Outline. Indianapolis, Ind.: Hackett, 1995. Accessible to beginning students, this clearly written survey covers Aristotle’s full range of thought.

Rorty, Amélie Oksenberg, ed. Essays on Aristotle’s ‘Ethics.’ Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981. An important collection of essays that concentrates on various facets of Aristotle’s influential moral philosophy.

Smith, Thomas W. Revaluing “Ethics”: Aristotle’s Dialectical Pedagogy. Albany: State University of New York, 2001. Smith argues for a reading of Ethics, not as a moral guidebook, but as a pedagogy—course work—for developing a questioning mind.

Strathern, Paul. Aristotle in Ninety Minutes. Chicago: Ivan Dee, 1996. A brief, easily accessible, introductory overview of Aristotle’s philosophy.

George W. Van Devender John K. Roth

Bibliography

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 683

Additional Reading

Ackrill, J. L. Essays on Plato and Aristotle. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. This work contains important and insightful reflections on two of the most influential thinkers in Western philosophy.

Adler, Mortimer J. Aristotle for Everybody: Difficult Thought Made Easy. New York: Scribner’s 1997. A reliable interpreter provides an account that introduces Aristotle’s thought in accessible fashion.

Bar On, Bat-Ami, ed. Engendering Origins: Critical Feminist Readings in Plato and Aristotle. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994. Feminist perspectives are brought to bear on Aristotle’s philosophy in significant ways.

Barnes, Jonathan. Aristotle. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982. A reliable study designed for readers who want an introduction to Aristotle’s thought.

Barnes, Jonathan, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995. An excellent guide to Aristotle’s thought, which features significant essays on major aspects of his work.

Broadie, Sarah. Ethics with Aristotle. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991. This carefully done book concentrates on Aristotle’s ethical theory and its implications.

Brumbaugh, Robert S. The Philosophers of Greece. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1981. An introductory study that discusses Aristotle’s philosophy within the larger context of the Greek world.

Cooper, John M. Reason and Human Good in Aristotle. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1975. Cooper’s book is a study of the “theoretical backbone” of Aristotle’s moral philosophy—his theories of practical reasoning and of human happiness.

Copleston, Frederick. A History of Philosophy: Greece and Rome. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1962. A leading scholar of Western philosophy discusses Aristotle’s life as well as his logic, metaphysics, ethics, politics, and aesthetics.

Edel, Abraham. Aristotle and His Philosophy. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Books, 1996. A careful and helpful study by a veteran interpreter of Western thought.

Ferguson, John. Aristotle. Boston: Twayne, 1972. Assisting the general reader in the study of Aristotle’s works, this book discusses Aristotle’s life and his views about nature and psychology and also offers perspectives on Aristotle’s lasting influence.

Hughes, Gerard J. Aristotle on Ethics. New York: Routledge, 2001. A fresh introduction to the philosopher, refining the translation of Arstotle’s terms with a sensitivity to context.

Husain, Martha. Ontology and the Art of Tragedy: An Approach to Aristotle’s Poetics. Albany: State University of New York, 2001. An examination of the Poetics using Metaphysics as a touchstone. Husain demonstrates the relationship between the works and how the latter illuminates the former.

Jones, W. T. A History of Western Philosophy: The Classical Mind. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1969. Combines historical interpretation of Aristotle’s far-reaching thought with relevant readings from Aristotle’s writings.

Kenny, Anthony. Aristotle on the Perfect Life. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1980. This work focuses on Aristotle’s views about human nature, ethics, and politics.

Lear, Jonathan. Aristotle and Logical Theory. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1980. A detailed study of Aristotle’s views on logic and their continuing significance for understanding human reasoning.

McLeisch, Kenneth. Aristotle. New York: Routledge, 1999. An excellent biographical introduction to the thoughts of the philosopher, clearly presented and requiring no special background. Bibliography.

Mulgan, R. G. Aristotle’s Political Theory: An Introduction for Students of Political Theory. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977. Seeks to bring the major themes and arguments in Aristotle’s political theory into sharper focus than they appear in the Politics itself.

Randall, John Herman, Jr. Aristotle. New York: Columbia University Press, 1960. An older but reliable survey of Aristotle’s philosophy.

Robinson, Timothy A. Aristotle in Outline. Indianapolis, Ind.: Hackett, 1995. Accessible to beginning students, this clearly written survey covers Aristotle’s full range of thought.

Rorty, Amélie Oksenberg, ed. Essays on Aristotle’s ‘Ethics.’ Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981. An important collection of essays that concentrates on various facets of Aristotle’s influential moral philosophy.

Smith, Thomas W. Revaluing “Ethics”: Aristotle’s Dialectical Pedagogy. Albany: State University of New York, 2001. Smith argues for a reading of Ethics, not as a moral guidebook, but as a pedagogy—course work—for developing a questioning mind.

Strathern, Paul. Aristotle in Ninety Minutes. Chicago: Ivan Dee, 1996. A brief, easily accessible, introductory overview of Aristotle’s philosophy.

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