Nikomaha ētika

by Aristotelis

Other authorsVilnis Zariņš (Foreword), Ināra Ķemere (Translator)
Hardcover, 1985



Call number



Rīga : Zvaigzne, 1985.


"Happiness, then, is the best, noblest, and most pleasant thing in the world.' In the Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle's guiding question is: what is the best thing for a human being? His answer is happiness, but he means, not something we feel, but rather a specially good kind of life. Happiness is made up of activities in which we use the best human capacities, both ones that contribute to our flourishing as members of a community, and ones that allow us to engage in god-like contemplation. Contemporary ethical writings on the role and importance ofthe moral virtues such as courage and justice have drawn inspiration from this work, which also contains important discussions on responsibility for actions, on the nature of practical reasoning, and on friendship and its role in the best life. This new edition retains and lightly revises David Ross's justly admired translation. It also includes a valuable introduction to this seminal work, and notes designed to elucidate Aristotle's arguments"--Provided by publisher.… (more)

Media reviews

The volume before us is much more than a translation. The translators, Robert C. Bartlett, who teaches Hellenic politics at Boston College, and Susan D. Collins, a political scientist at the University of Houston, have provided helpful aids. ... Together these bring the original text within the compass of every intelligent reader.

User reviews

LibraryThing member booksontrial
Aristotle vs. Plato

Having just finished and enjoyed Plato's complete works, I find this book a bit annoying and uninspiring in comparison. Aristotle seems to take every opportunity to "correct" Plato, when in fact he is only attacking a strawman. His arguments, sometimes self-contradictory, often support and clarify Plato's ideas, albeit using his own terminology.

Aristotle seems to have great difficulty appreciating or understanding Plato’s abstractions (from species to genus, from the individual instances to the common patterns, i.e. Idea or Form). This is the cause of the majority of his attacks against Plato, as “piety requires us to honour truth above our friends.” How very noble of him!

I don't know whether the Academy and Aristotle's Lyceum charged their students fees. If not, there were no financial incentives in disparaging their rival. If it was purely intellectual rivalry, using straw man is often a sign of an inferior intellect or character. Since both Plato and Aristotle believed that the intellect was the best part of man or the true man, to attack and destroy another's ideas would be equivalent to murder (or Freudian parricide).

However, it could also be true that Aristotle was formulating his own philosophy through engagement with Plato's ideas, and intellectual competitions and debates help facilitate the development of sound ideas. Since this is the first book by Aristotle that I've read, it's very likely that I'm not giving him his due here. It may take some time to switch from Plato to Aristotle's way of thinking.

A Champion of Mediocrity

Aristotle's definitions of good, virtue and happiness are unsatisfactory to me. Good is "that at which all things aim". All people aim at happiness (or pleasure), therefore happiness is the supreme good. But, what exactly is happiness or pleasure? How can one hit his aim if he can't discern what he is aiming at? If virtue is "the mean between deficiency and excess", what is the difference between virtue and mediocrity?

"Pleasure perfects activity not as the formed state that issues in that activity perfects it, by being immanent in it, but as a sort of supervening [culminating] perfection, like the bloom that graces the flower of youth." How can a fleeting thing that lacks permanence be the object of a lifelong pursuit?

In the end, Aristotle agrees with Plato, perhaps begrudgingly as it was dictated by reason, that happiness is contemplation of the divine, which is pleasant, self-sufficient and continuous. He insists on making a distinction between activity and state, but in this instance the distinction is unclear to me.

An Acute Observer of Human Nature

There are a few things I do appreciate in this book. Aristotle's joie de vivre (his delight in learning, being alive and active), his insights into human nature, his clear and penetrating psychological portrayal of various character traits and the dynamic relationships or transactions between human beings. He also introduced me to Pythagorean's fascinating mathematical representation of equality, A:B = B:C and A-M = M -C.
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LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
Plato and Aristotle between them not only laid the foundations for Western philosophy, many would argue they divided it neatly between them: Plato the one who with his "Allegory of the Cave" gave birth to the idea of an existence beyond our senses, giving a rational gloss to mysticism. Aristotle, the father of logic and a scientist, with a this-world orientation. There's a famous fresco by Raphael, "The School of Athens," where that's illustrated, where the figure meant to be Plato points to the sky--the heavens--while Aristotle points to the ground--to this Earth. If you're going to ask me which school I belong to--at least as so categorized, Aristotle wins, hands down. Yet if you ask me which philosopher I found a joy to read, which a slog--well, Plato wins.

Unfortunately, much of Aristotle's works were lost, and what remains I've seen described as not his polished material, but "lecture notes." Plato's dialogues are like little plays, and reading them often are, I daresay, fun. Yes, really. So it was disappointing not to find Aristotle as lively a read. This is dry stuff. But then there are the ideas, which fully earn the five stars. Back when I was introduced to ethics in school, about the only two choices we were given was Utilitarianism--the "greatest good for the greatest number" or Kant and his "categorical imperative" with examples contrasting them such as, under Utilitarianism, if torture leads to good for the greatest number, then by all means, let the water boarding begin! Under the categorical imperative, on the other hand, rules... well, rule. It doesn't matter if there's a ticking atomic bomb, you don't use torture. You're not supposed to care about practical consequences, to yourself or others. What's left out of both philosophies is the individual and his or her happiness. But that's not left out with Aristotle. For him ethics is practical and about the pursuit of happiness. It's for that and from that virtues flow. It's in our personal interest to be virtuous, to practice habits of character that lead to a good life for a human being. Those ethics that appeal and resonate to me come from this school of thought. It's philosophy for human beings, on a human level. So, Plato for style--Aristotle for substance. For me, anyway.
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LibraryThing member Pepperwings
The metaphors and language of this were difficult and if I hadn't been assigned this, I probably would not have slogged through it, but I'm glad I did. After parsing through and re-reading this, it's really quite brilliant, and simple. Of course I can't blame Aristotle too harshly, this is a transcription of student lecture notes, and then probably several translations later, it's what we read in English class, so the message does get through, it just takes a labyrinthine path to get there.… (more)
LibraryThing member Audacity88
One of the most accessible works of Aristotle or ancient philosophy in general, but also one of the most practical, because its subject is ethics, or how to live one's life.
LibraryThing member jpsnow
So simple, so straightforward, so much sense. Quoting the translator's comments [unfortunately, name or edition unknown]: "Happiness for Aristotle is the activity of the soul in accordance with virtue. Virtue is shown in the deliberate choice of actions as part of a worked-out plan of life, a plan which takes a middle course between excess and deficiency. This is the famous doctrine of the golden mean -- courage, for example, is a mean between cowardice and rashness, and justice between a man's getting more or less than his due. The supreme happiness, according to Aristotle, is to be found in a life of philosophical contemplation; but this is only possible for the few, and a secondary kind of happiness is available in a virtuous life of political activity." From introduction: "One is that it is the life of pleasure; but the life which aims at pleasure, regardless of the source from which it is derived, is worthy of beasts rather than of men. The political life aims at honour, but honour depends more on him who gives it than on him who gets it. The life of money-making cannot be regarded as an end in itself. There remains a fourth life, the contemplative life; and here he sounds the note which resounds in the final book." It really is in the last part of the last Book X that he brings this point out, but the rest of the work is a logical build-up toward that.… (more)
LibraryThing member pharmakos555
with an approach to ethics that regards virtue/excellence as knowledge of the means between two extremes and the will to act on that knowledge (e.g., courage lies between cowardice and foolhardiness), I'm interested in getting deeper into Aristotle's ethical system as an alternative to absolutist approaches to virtue. Also, of course, interested in the extensive discussion of friendship and the types of reltionships one can cultivate (friends of utility, friends of shared interests, and friends of virtue).… (more)
LibraryThing member prudent
Shows almost all types of human character.
LibraryThing member neurodrew
I read the Nichomachean Ethics portion of the book
I spent a long time with this book, and consulted the Masterpieces of World Philosophy, and another book by Johnathan Lear on the issue, to come to some understanding. The project of grounding ethics in a rational pursuit of the greatest happiness is much more attractive than obtaining moral authority from revelation. Aristotle advances the idea that the good is that at which all things aim, and for man the good is happiness. Happiness is defined as the realization of man's essential nature, that is, rational thought, since that is man's differentiating feature from animals. The good for man is the activity of the soul in accord with reason. To act in accord with reason is generally to choose the mean between extremes of conduct; to be courageous is neither to be rash or cowardly. Some acts, however, are absolutely bad, such as murder. The good life involves friendship, preferably of the kind that is the mutual association of free souls without regard to usefulness or pleasure. The highest good, however, because it needs the fewest external goods and most resembles the state of the gods, is contemplation

Aristotle is difficult going in translation, and not all of the book, especially about continence and incontinence, made sense to me. I was pleased by the rational development of arguments, and the patient consideration of all alternatives.
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LibraryThing member Neutiquam_Erro
Aristotle's Ethics by Penguin classics looks deceptively like a paperback novel. It is nothing of the kind, being a densely packed philosophical treatise on the nature of humankind and our relationships with others.

The book, a translation of the Nichomachean Ethics and not Aristotle's earlier Eudemian Ethics, may seem slightly mistitled to a modern audience. It deals primarily with analysis of character and what good character is and is not. Discussion of ethical issues and moral judgments of right and wrong are largely missing. The reader is expected to develop their behaviour towards others by perfecting their own character. For example, courage in its various forms is discussed but the practical application of courage is not. Much of Aristotle's thesis appears obvious to our modern minds but it is important to remember that Aristotle was systematizing his description of human nature in an effort to understand it. Unfortunately this makes for a rather dry read.

The book also contains a lengthy introduction by Jonathan Barnes. While it is accessible to the general audience, a background in philosophy would be useful to really understand the issues he addresses. There is also a preface by Hugh Tredennick who explains why this new translation is needed - primarily for readability. Between J.A.K. Thompson (the translator), Barnes and Treddennick we appear to have the crème de la crème of Cambridge and Oxford Aristotaleans involved in this little book. The introduction has a substantial bibliography in its own right and the book includes 10 brief appendices which provide background on the philosophical ideas in the text. These are critical to understanding the book if you aren't widely read in the early Greek philosophers. A glossary of Greek words and an index of names proceeds a general index. Footnotes are brief and unobtrusive but usually helpful.

For couch philosophers and serious students looking for an inexpensive edition of the Nichomachean ethics, this is definitely the version for you. It has surprisingly good scholarly resources for such a slim volume. If, however, you had heard that Aristotle was Alexander the Great's tutor and are trying to conquer the business world this probably won't give you many pointers.
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LibraryThing member Aerow
Middle-of-the-road ethics by a guy who didn't want to offend ANYONE.
LibraryThing member Layabout
Bourgeois before the bourgeoisie.
LibraryThing member ElTomaso
This is a hard slog but rewarding to the serious thinker.
LibraryThing member dhoe
A true revelation for me. I've never read anything from Aristotle before, and I spent quite a lot of time reading papers and websites about the book to better understand it. I guess in a way I always thought about virtues as something boring conservatives talk about, so Aristotles perspective was really new and exciting for me.

Also interesting to read in the context of gender (what Aristotle thinks a real man (tm) should be like).
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Original language

Greek (Ancient)

Original publication date

350 BCE (ca.)



Local notes

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