Aristotle-> 2400 years ago.
-Contributed in every field possible. Philosopher and scientist. At age of 17 went to
athens to study with Plato, attented his lectured for 20 years.
•Become tutor to Alexander the Great, founded Lyceum.
•Nicomachean etichs was one of the lectures he taught in the school
He wrote 100s of books, but most are lost. When he died, his documents
remained under the care of his successor, but there are controversies about his
documents, left somewhere and then bought by a rich person. A gap of a couple
of hundred years that didn’t know what happened to these books. Scholars don’t
know what the status of these books are.
•Nicomachean ethics is condensed, compact arguments, technical terms. Some
think that these are not his books, but just his notes.
•As a whole is designed to present his ethical theory, his account of what the good
life is for human beings. How we come to understand and justify our claims about
•The first book lays the groundwork. Gives the basic principles. A sketch of the
•4 main points of the first books:
a. Every action that a person performs aims to a good and the good is either
final or instrumental.
b. If there is no final good , than every activity is going to be futile and
pointless. (empty and vain).
cThe final good is eudaimonia (happiness).
d. We can figure out the nature of eudaimonia by figuring out the function of
A. Section 1 : first lines, we think about anything ppl do there is always some
good they are seeking. His claim is that whatever I do, there should be some point
to it, what I am seeking. There is some goal. Moreover, the goal you're seeking
should be good. The human being has some goal and they think of their thing as
smth that is good(valuable, pleasurable, worthwhile).
•Smth good for me or for others? He is saying that ultimately we're seeking our own
•Section 2: sometimes what we wish from some other things… Sometimes when I
perform the action, I either want the action, or smth that is a step toward. Ex: there's food,
and my goal is to feed my self. The action is eating food. But other actions are part of
longer arranged plans. If we go to dentist, we don’t want the dentist to drill the tooth, but
it's a step toward the healing of myself. If you are doing a depressing job, but your
choosing the sake of money.
•Final: smth you chose for its own sake--> valued or sought for its own sake
•Instrumental: smth that causes pain, not because the activity itself is valued, but it's
valued for the sake of smth else.
A. If there smth not valued for its own sake, all activity is pointless. A lot of what ppl
do, I don’t really want to do that stuff, I just want what comes from that. If nothing comes of
it, and you don’t have the thing that comes from it, things would look vain. What he wonders is what whould happen if every valuable thing, were really just sought as a mean
to smth else.
Suppose that everything achievable …. For if we do …empty and futile…the best good.
--> many of the things that we do, we only do them because they lead to smth else. Ex:
building a ship, we do it because we need it to move people. If everything were like that,
we get an infinite regress of desire. Suppose, we aask a question: Why are you doing A? I
am Aing in order to achieve B. Why do you want B? I want B in order to get C. etc etc
etc…. Ex: why are working at your job? Money, Why do you want money? To pay rent,
why? To get a place to live etc etc…until you go to fundamental reasons.
• If human actions have this structure, it goes on infinitely. If there is never a point where
you say: I want Z, for its own sake. Then everything would be just pointless.
• He thinks that actions end when we seek happiness.
• Happiness is smth that humans want intrinsticly. You are pursuing these things for
• What about other people's happiness? My happiness includes sometimes other's
happiness. Health is included in my happiness.
• What would happen if a person is completely content, who has completely satisfied
everything? According to schopenhauer happiness is not achievable. As a species we tend
• If happiness is so relative, can we consider it as a final end?
• What if we study for exam and we seek good mark
A. There is luckily a final point, and that final point is happiness. What is happiness?
Eudaimonia --> Aristotle says that happiness is not pleasure. "Neither oax nor horse nor
animal can be happy, they can be pleased…" there is difference btw happiness and
pleasure. Even a human child can't be happy, he may be pleased. It's affected (262) by
the death "affects the dead person's happiness. Ex: Hitler's mom's life was less happy
because Hitler became fascist. Aristotle has in mind smth that can occur in loss of
someone. Eudaimonia-favored by the gods.
B. Section 5: "could happiness be pleasure?" a good life cant be one of pleasure, it
would be a life of a beast. Humans are capable of smth more than that. Some other would
want a life of honor and fame, but no that can't be right, it's too superficial, depends on
what other people think about you. Another way it could be a life of contemplation, devoted
to intellection, study. What about wealth? Could the wealthiest life be the best life? No ,
because money is just instrumentally good. We value what we can do with money, not
Section 7: we better come up with some method of finding out what happiness is. Maybe if
we find out what human beings do, what capacities we have, we can figure out what
happiness is. "what's the good of each action or craft?" "Shortly, the good is that for the
sake of which the thing is done, exa: medical is health etc" there is smth that they after
when they are doing something "so, if there is some end of everything achievable in
action, the good will be in end" … The point of individual actions we can think about a goal
of everything that we do. In this way we can find what happiness is.
• Happiness is self-sufficient --> "we regard smth as self-sufficient when in all is life-
worthy" --> if life has just happiness it makes it worth living. For everything other than
happiness you would need to know more.
• What it is that would make a human life to want it and chose it? "just as a flute player or
an artist, the good and the well is thought to resign in the function, the same is for human
being if he has a function"
What we are doing is that we need the function of smth we do. We can think about what a
good ship would be if it functions well. = we can figure out what a good human life is by knowing human function. "just as you can look
at particular human practice, so too you can look at living things" Like a human heart, designed
to circulate blood. Or human eyes, designed to see.
• If we look at a plant or a tree, we know their function to grow. The function of a bird Is to
fly, we know that a good bird will be one which is capable of flying. We can do that for
human beings too. Just as we can look at objects and organs, and think of whether it is
good, we can look to a human life and find if it well fulfilling.
1. A good X is an X that fulfills its function well.
• How would we do that for human beings? How do we figure out what smth's function is?
1. We can determine the function of X by thinking about what distiguishes X from
2. What distinguishes human beings from other living things is rational activity.
• Pg.260: given the second claim that we have to compare living things, human beings
live, they try to survive, but that is shared with all the other living beings. That 's not
distinctive. People are capable of some self- conscious rational activity that no other living
things can do. We have more advanced mental capacity, be more reflective on my
Aristotle's function argument:
1. A good X is an X which fulfills its proper function. Ex; a knife
2. We determine X's function by thinking about what distinguishes it.
3. What's distinctive of human beings is our capacity of rational activity. Ex: human
beings are capable of doing more than other intelligent animals, desires, develop theories.
4. Putting 2 and 3 together: the function of human beings is rational activity.
5. Conclusion: putting 1 and 4 together, therefore a good human being is one that
engages in rational activity.
How is this related to the big picture? We get some clues what happiness for human beings is. A
happy human life is going to require this rational activity.
Why rational activity?
Questions/critics: why think that human beings have a function? It confronts the evolutionary
But in ethics you can't have the precision as in science. Whereas anyone with sufficient
education can understand a math proof, he doesn't think It will be true for ethical proofs.
• Why not start at a particular level? What distinguishes people from each other? What
level of specificity to employ?
• If what's good is what's distinctive of X, then how can there be a bad X?
• Is this type of functional goodness equivalent to moral goodness?
• Topics: virtues, tie virtues to rational activity.
• 4 main points:
a. What is a virtue?
b. How do virtues manifest themselves?
c.How are virtues acquired?
d. What is it to act virtuously? A. Different kinds of virtues. "there's these thing we think as virtues of character,
generosity, temperance and moderation…" we need to think about them, what these traits
of character that we label as good are.
• Aristotle says that virtues are states of character. If sm is generous, or kind we seem to
saying smth about the person's character.
Section 6: Virtues that are concerned with choice and action, and that make a person
choose/ act well. When sm is generous is because he acts like that.
• We can distinguish virtues from feelings and emotions. In part 5, "feelings are things like
appetite, fear, love hate…, in general what implies pleasure and pain" Virtues aren't
feelings, rather "are a kind of state that determines how these feelings are going to be
manifested". Feelings seem appropriate in certain circumstances. Virtues determine how
you stand with relation to these feelings. Ex: anger, we stay negatively to smth which
causes us anger. Question when feelings are warranted and how much should you have
• Vices make you have the wrong feelings. He thinks you are a bad person if you are
• How do identify what the right thing is? Pg.269. "virtue…lying in a mean…determined by
a rational principle…"
• Virtue is lying in a mean/intermediate. Choosing the right thing is choosing the one
in the mean. "equidistant from excess and defect". Ex: we can be afraid or be
confident of have appetite, both too much and too little and in both cases not well….virtue
is a state that decides consisting in a mean… we can define excesses and deficiencies
and we can find the virtues at the center point.
• Ex: Chart
Excess Mean Deficiency Emotion/feeling
cowardice courage rashness Fear
irascibility mildness Inirascibility Anger
buffoonh Wittiness boorish Humor
Vanity Magnanimity pusillanimity Honor
boastfulness Truthfulness Self-effacing Self-regard
Virtue is characteristic of this person which determines how a person acts in accord to
• Answer to A: a character trait that motivates us to aim at or choose the mean.
• Honore de balzack " Xha gorioi" ekstremet kthehen ne pasione.
He offers definitions and the definition shows complexities that are to be defined.
He talks about practical wisdom (prudence). Sect. 5 : "you're prudent if you are able to
deliberate finally…what's sorts of things provide living well in general" (phranesis)
• Doesn’t deliberate one thing, but much more general : living well in general.
• "prudence is grasping truth, involving reason…human beings" it doesn’t consist following
• When you learn to ride a bike, you try and get better, it looks like knowledge not related
to knowledge of principles (like laws of physics). You have to apply skills.
• Prudent person doesn’t have the knowledge that mathematicians have, rather he has
skills at living. He is the person who can do that in respect to life in general.
• Practical wisdom is that knowledge of skills, and he makes an analogy: Section 8
"practical wisdom is not scientific knowledge, it concerns the ultimate particular..for
understanding is about the first term. Not the perception of special objects…" • Prudence is about practical things. The prudent person might be the one who knows
how to help, the right things to say. Is about particular, not a knowledge how to help ppl in
general, they know in particular cases what the right thing to do is. Scientific knowledge is
knowledge of generality, it has principles, formulas that you apply.
• Prudent person identifies the right actions in particular circumstances. What we can say
about the mean point is the point that the prudent feels. The midpoint is chosen by the
prudent person. It is not supposed to be the 50th percentile, but the point chosen by the
• Phranesis: capacity to identify the correct action or to have the correct emotion in a
• A prudent person is supposed to have life experience. It would be acquired in a
progressive way throughout the life. You have to expose yourself to situations to see the
way you act.
• What would the prudent person be? How would we identify him?
• If we were to identify him, what we should do is look for a person who has all of the
virtues and has them all completely. When we identify a person living well it wont be
enough to identify the corageous person if he is not witty or if they have anger in
appropriate circumstances, if sm only has one virtue, then this is not the prudent person.
What you need to do is identify the person who has all of the virtue, the right emotional
responses in right circumstances and this would be the prudent person.
• What if we have different opinions of what a prudent person is like? If a person lacks one
virtue, then he is not fully prudent.
• The mean of the virtues will be shifted varying from the circumstances of the actions. We
have to take in account the reason for the action, not the place, time and number of
• The objectivity doesn’t consist in finding a only-way formula, we can argue about this.
But there is a rational process of each action. This objectivity available in ethics that is not
the same in science, not arbitrary and neither scientific objectivity.
• We have some idea of what It is to be prudent and then we have also some idea that
with any kind of emotion we can have some character trait that enables us figure out the
correct action. These terms interact with each other. What it is to have all virtues-->being
prudent.. What is being prudent--> have all virtues. Is it always so??
• How do we get prudence?
• If you don’t learn to read corageous by reading a book, or by studying theory, then how
we do it? Book 2, Section 1,2
• Virtue arises from heaven.. Pg 266: we become builders by building…we become just by
doing just action….brave by doing courageous actions.
• If you are not coregous we don’t know what courage is. Acquiring a virtue is like
acquiring a skill. You have to practice them
• Strength arises from eating a lot and with much hard labor. And most strongest is
capable….bravery or courage, habituation and disdain from situations…threatening
• That is why soldiers are trained by other soldiers, because you need to be guided from
someone else to learn the virtues and what to do in a situation.
• Emphasizes that it's gonna be crucial to pay attention to the way people are raised.
What you are doing when you train a child, is that you are trying to install these things in
this person. He is concerned wit the way we bring people up. If you don’t, than we end up
destroying that person. • Part 2 book 2: acting out of the coordance of virtue, than it destroys him. It will instill vice
instead of virtue.
• You wont really know what a corageous person is if you don’t possess those virtues. A
person brought up wrongly wont be able to understand the Aristotelian theory.
• What it is to act virtuously?
• We know what it is to be a virtuous person, but what would it be to act virtously? What if
you see what is the right thing but you just don’t do it?
• There is distinction btwn being able to identify the right and actually performing the right
• Book 2 section 4: "it's possible to produce an apparently virtuous action randomly" ex:
suppose we have two people, a cowardly and a corageous soldiers and the right thing to
do is to stand against the enemies. They both do that, but the cowardly person only does it
because he is confused in some way, he does that by accident. Although they're both
doing the right thing, the accident one is different. Ex: suppose we have two people
making comments on another person. One is praising and one is insulting. They're doing
the same things but in different intention. There is an distinction, one is doing right thing,
one is doing the wrong thing. Actions that look the same from outside, might be done for
different reasons and might have a different ethical status.
• Pg. 268- distinction btwn acts that are in accordance with virtues and acts done from
virtue. "it doesn’t suffice th….the agent might be in the right state, he must decide on them,
for themselves…firm and unchanging state"- we can draw distincition btwn genuinly
virtous acts by asking three questions:
1. She has to know that this is the virtuous thing to do. (knowledge)
2. Must choose the act because it's right/virtous = > not for some other reason (like
praise or reward)
3. Must spring from a virtue -> you don’t count as performing a good action, unless
what causes you to do that action is a virtue. Suppose despite being a coward we know
what the right thing to do is, we choose to do the right thing so we fullfil the first 2 ones, but
we don’t fulfill it because I don’t have the virtue of courage.
• To be at the height, you have to be a person who has all kinds of control of other
• The perfectly virtuously act comes from the perfectly virtuously agent.
• He doesn’t think that it's gonna be possible for people to be perfectly virtuous. Noone
except for a divine being will have this character. They can just be better.
• You can have the virtue to some extend to act virtously but it's not a clear end.
• What the happy life is?
How do all these pieces come together?
• What the good life for a human being is?
1. Some things that we desire, isnt desired for its own sake but it is for something
2. Unless there is something that we desire for its own sake, then all of our desire
would be futile.
3. This thing is eudaimonia (constitutes a good human life). What is it?
4. Its not honor, pleasure, wealth.
5. Aristotle function argument : the function of human being . We can figure out
what a good thing is by figuring out what its function is
6. The function of human being is rational activity. That introduces what rational
activity is supposed to be. 7. The life of virtue is the life of rationality. What it is to live a life in accordance with
reason, it is to live a life of virtues.
* Desired for its own sake = euidamonia = life of rational activity= virtuous life
By understanding the whole list of virtues we should understand happiness.
• He starts with what euidamonia and why the above equation is true.
• In two parts: section 1-5 is focused on pleasure, 6-7-8 analysis of happiness and how
distinguishes from pleasure
• Section 3: asks a peculiar question whether pleasure is a state or an activity?
• "somethings are processes or activities and some things are states"
• Process/activity vs state --> "pleasure can't be a process, it's a state. Quickness and
slowness…" for everything that you are doing (activity) you can talk bout whether it is
going quickly or slowly. But for pleasure you cant say that. it is a state of being that you
occupy, rather than a thing you do.
• "pleasure seems to be just a state rather than a process" - Happiness though is going to
be an activity rather than a state.
• Ex: imagine a sensation of pleasure after eating a meal, or a physical pleasure. These
• Happiness is different, if you ask someone if they're happy, the way I answer, it wouldn’t
be charting how many pleasures and pains I have and the state I am right now. Happiness
is a continuous activity. Ex: if you run you can be very happy. But you cant describe it as
smth pleasant. Happiness accompanies activity rather than the state you are. You can
have different sensations and still be happy. Ex: if you are hanging out with friends, that
doesn’t only count pleasures, but with the kind of activity, like conversation or watching a
movie, or reading.
• Section 6-7-8: "Happiness is not a state, as we've seen way back in book 1 that
happiness is chosen for its own sake" -> everything else like health money, honor,
pleasure we only want them to go to happiness. Nothing else is like that, except
happiness. Every particular thing that we choose other than happiness is a mean to and
step to happiness.
• Happiness is choiceworthy for its own sake.
• Pg 354 " Eudaimon life is a life in accord with virtue" why is that?
a. "a final good, chosen for its own sake"- virtue seems to be the same kind of
thing, virtue is activity seems to be something chosen for its own sake.
b. The only thing that happiness could turn out to be is virtuous activity, since it
chosen for its own sake. So they coincide. The happiest life would be the one completely
virtuous, where you have to the fullest extend every virtue.
c.Since only one thing should be for its own sake, then happiness and virtue are the same
d. If happiness is in accord with virtue, then it will be in accord with the supreme
e. Happiness isnt necessarily the easiest, less painful life.
No one is going to be completely happy
• His theory is that this life is unaccessible to people.
• Wealth is going to be a prerequisite of virtue
• Working for money makes people vicous.
• To go further up to the completely virtous life, you should be lucky to be born in a
completed family of wealth and virtues. *******************************************************************************
Section 7: if happiness is in accord with virtue, it should be in accord with the supreme virtue,…
if these things come in degrees, they go parallely
355: the best thing is understanding, ruler and leader… --> what's the most virtuous thing? The
natural ruler of us, the thing by which we direct our life. That seems to be understanding.
"Hence, complete happiness will be the activity of understanding" The happiest activity would be
engaged with highest virtue, so it would be to be engaged in the activity of understanding.
Understanding is a continuous activity. Pg 355: understanding is the thing that you can do most
independently and has no goal appart from itself. We study for the sake of studying. Happiness
seems to be found in leisure. Understanding would be the most complete form of happiness.
"Hence the human complete…." "But such a life would be superior for humans, it would fit the
The best life would be to try to understand the world. but he says that it is not possible, because
you have to do a lot of things (eat, drink, interact with people). It wouldn’t be possible to attain
complete happiness because you cant do that for your whole life. But we have to strive for that
in our whole life.
• Lived after Aristotle 341-271 BCE. He produced a huge number of books, 41 vast books.
Almost everything is lost.
• Epicurus is trying to develop an ethical theory concerned with producing pain and
maximizing pleasure. The way is by doing two things: by attaining knowledge and
reorienting our desires.
• If I attain a knowledge and reshape our live accordingly.
• He's agreeing with Aristotle that there is a higher good, Epicurus says it is pleasure,
Aristotle says it's eudaimonia.
• Epicurus in this letter says that his philosophy is designed to produce a piece of soul-
one must practice the things that produce happiness. His teachings are going to provide a
path to happiness. If we follow him, we will attain it.
• 7 main points:
1. Pleasure/absence of pain is the only intrinsic good- the only thing that we
seek for its own sake.
• Distinction btw smth valuable that you desire for smth else and something that you want
for its own sake. Ex: Medicine- value because it produces health, money etc. But both of
them think that there is one thing is desirable for its own sake.
1. Pleasure is the starting goal…..our starting point for every choice and
• We can see that this Is true, because if we look at our choices, what we do is a though
about how much pleasure it will bring us.
1. Not every pleasure should be sought- not every pleasure is worth pursuing.
Ex: doctrine nr 8: No p leasure is a bad thing in itself, but the things which produce
certain pleasures bring troubles bigger than the pleasures. - they have too many negative
• "Every pleasure is a good thing, but not everyone is to be chosen"- it matters what is
going to be in the long term, how long will it last.
• Although pleasure is valuable, there are many pleasures that are not worth getting into
trouble for. There are different kinds of things that produce pleasure, that people living well
• Ex: taking heroine, traveling to dangerous regions.
1. We need pleasure only when we are in pain. Necessary connection between
pleasure and pain, where it turns out that pleasure is necessarily accompanied by pain, because it depends on the lack of pain. --> Pleasure is necessary
accompanied by pain, because pleasure depends on there being an unfulfilled lack
of that's experienced as painful.
" we need pleasure only when we're in pain, and not in pain we don’t need