An examination of Aristotle's ethics

Abstract

At the beginning of the Nichomachean Ethics , Aristotle announces his intention to discover what is the good, or the chief good (book I, chapter 2). In the rest of the work, however, there follow such a multitude of answers to this question endorsed by Aristotle, that at its conclusion one may understandably wonder what the upshot of Aristotle's ethics was. One might wonder whether the good, as Aristotle saw it, was that at which all things in fact aim (as he says in I.1), or rather that at which all things ought to aim if they can (as seems more commonsensical), or happiness (I.4), or the realization of one's function (I.7), or activity of the soul in accordance with virtue (I.7), or activity in accordance with reason (I.7), or pleasure of some kind (VII.13), or the exercise of our faculties (VII.13), or contemplation (X.7). One might wonder how the good could simultaneously be identical with all of these different things. In this essay, I aim first to explain the general purport of Aristotle's ethics and second to criticize it.

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