Lecture 8:Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics VIII-IX (8-9)
Aristotle’s Politics Books I-II
Outline of the Lecture
1. Review of the Ethics: What is the relationship between ethics and politics?
2. NE VII and IX: The role of justice/friendship in the happy life; the other
-regarding dimensions of virtue
a) Human being are political animals
b) Friendship is therefore an essential dimension of the happy (eudaimon) life
c) Friendship as a deliberate, conscientious choice, i.e. a form of activity
d) Differences between friendship and citizenship
3. Transition to the Politics: like individuals, the city strives for the good. What is
the good of a city?
4. The (natural) origin and (necessary) evolution of the polis
5. How is the polis connected to the good of individuals? The zoon politikon thesis
6. The question of slavery: is it natural? Are there natural slaves?
7. Aristotle’s critique of the Republic
Ethics and Politics
Aristotle asserts that political wisdom is an aspect of practical wisdom, that political
science is a species of prudence
“Political science… prescribes which of the sciences ought to be studied in cities, and
which ones each class in the city should study and how far” (NE 1.2. 1094b4-6)
• These two goods are connected: jus the way the aim of ethics is to make us happy
so is the aim of political science to make us happy
• The aim of the city should be the moral education of its citizens
• We have to educate our citizens to virtue to ensure the stability and happiness
• If the purpose is to lead to happiness; we need legislators and states men that
recognize virtue as the key to happiness. They know how to structure the laws and
rules so that this can happen.An effective states man combines moral virtue with
practical intelligence, experience with knowledge.
• Virtue doesn’t exist in a vacuum; it is a property of everyday life. We learn to be
virtuous in the context of a community, in our everyday relations. This is why the
laws of the city need to cultivate virtue. There is an essential practical dimension
to this task.
• The happy life (virtuous life) has other essential regarding dimensions. When
Aristotle speaks of virtue, it has a self-regarding quality.
• In Books 8 and 9, virtue comes to have another regarding dimension. It involves
taking an interest in other people.
Justice, Virtue and Friendship
Complete virtue requires concerns for the good of others; friendship is an essential
dimension of eudaimonia and of the eudaimon life (1155a5; see also 1155b34) “Ahuman being is a political animal, tending by nature to live together with others. This
will also be true, then, of the happy person for he has the natural goods, and clearly it is
better to spend his days with decent friends than with strangers of just any character.
Hence the happy person needs friends” (1169b21-23)
• Animals do not have the ability to have reasoning in action
• We have this natural inclination to live with other people. We cant just live in any
community but in a particular one that realizes this natural inclination for living
Different Kinds of Friendship (1136a9-14)
1. Friendship based on utility
• Based on the usefulness of the friends; short termed
2. Friendship based on pleasure
• Based on the experience they offer, not the person
3. Friendship based on virtue
• It is complete because it is based on good
• We will for our friends sake and not for our own
• A’s concern for B’for B’s good sake; care for their essential character
• Each is both good without qualification and advantageous for each other
• Friendship based on virtue is with recognition for the other
• His love for someone else is the love for himself
Only (3) is complete, because it is based on the good not advantage or pleasure: “Each of
them is both good without qualification and good for his friend, since good people are
both good without qualification and advantageous for each other. (1156b13-16; see also
• Friends possess shared experiences; living, activities they regard as essential in
their lives, cooperate in decision making and thinking, share reasons and thought
• Aristotle regards friendship as a necessary part to a complete and happy life
• The full development of human beings requires the good for the other
• Genuine friendships are the rarest kind of friendships. Most are regarded as
utilities (what can I get out from them), pleasure (spending time with the person
makes me happy). He demonstrates the third one where the other person affects
who I am. If they’re happy than I am happy.
• My choice of friends expresses my own kind of character.
• The precondition of happiness forAristotle is having good friends
• Our intimate friendships with our boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands and wives
may be the objection to this. Shared citizenship isn’t based on the good.
Friendship and Citizenship: Fundamental Differences
“People keep company for some advantage and to supply something contributing to their
life. And the political community as well seems both to have been originally formed and
to endure for advantage; for legislators also aim at advantage, and the common advantage
is said to be just” (1159b10-14) “In all friendships of friends with dissimilar aims proportion equalized and preserves the
friendship: in political friendship, for instance, the cobbler receives a worth exchange for
his shoes, and so do the weaver and the others” (1163b34-37; see also 1163a10-12)
• Money solves this apparent dilemma between the inequalities of skill and need. A
doctor would receive gold currency for curing a shoemaker from his illness not
• Aristotle introduces money as a solution to the problem of true friendship.
Political friendship is hardly friendship. We care about our own utility not the
others good. Instrumental securing our own advantage.
• Citizens are susceptible to think of the community as a vehicle for material gain.
We are liable to think of the city as an instrument to satisfy our needs. This
resembles a contract rather than a friendship.
• We are characterized as a love for own. Individuals place a greater value on what
they own, givers assure they give away the most of what they have.
• Citizens bound together fall pray over disputes about just distribution. Recipients
claim they receive less than their fair share.
The Pitfalls of Friendship of Utility
“Base people cannot be in concord, except to a slight degree, just as they be friends only
to a slight degree; for they seek to overreach in benefits (to themselves) and shirk labors
and public services.And since each wishes this for himself, he interrogates and obstructs
his neighbor; for when people do not look out for the common good, it is ruined, The
result is that they are in conflict, trying to compel one another to do what is just but not
wishing to do it themselves. (1167b5-9; see also 1164b19)
• The city as a means of receiving as much as possible.
• This leads to class warfare, isolation that tears the city apart.
• In the politics, he tries to show the city should aim for something higher than
utility. It exists for the sake of living well. The necessities of life bring the city
• The good life is about more than material prosperity.
• The end or function of the polis is to make complete end of human flourishing
possible. We exist for the good life. The good life is only possible in the polis
• We have to transcend relations of utility. The model here is the relationship
between husband and wife. Their friendship has both utility and friendship for
virtue. It begins in utility it can lead to the virtue of partners as a higher end.
Initially citizens come together as origins of the useful but continue towards
partnerships for the sake of the good. This is the task of the legislator.
What is the good for a city?
“Observation shows us that every city (polis) is a species of association, and, secondly,
that all associations come into being for the sake of some good – for all men for all their