August 21, 2020 in Literature
Aristotle’s Ethics


The notion of happiness was always an object of philosophical investigations, as people tried to find and conclude general ingredients of it. The most significant and famous work dedicated to this question belong to Aristotle’s philosophical inheritance. However, there are many contradictions and doubts in this fundamental works. Aristotle regards happiness as a virtuous activity of a human soul. He tries to combine all essential aspects of human life and explain it from the perspective of the eudemonia theory. The interpretation of the ancient philosophy concerns the most important element of life – happiness, friendship reflected in the theory of virtues. Aristotle’s interpretations seem to be logical but it is not ordinary for the contemporary conceptions. He identifies the notions of happiness and ethics. Nevertheless, some aspects of his philosophy are reflected in the contemporary doctrines. Although, the ethical philosophy of Aristotle seems to be a set of moral and ethical rules, it explains the sense of life from the perspective of sociopolitical life and gives the possibility to compare it with the modern society.

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Nicomachen Ethics

The history cannot make fundamental conclusions concerning the origin of this work. The title of the Nicomachean Ethics provokes some misunderstandings, and makes people believe that the author could be a different person. The historians assume that the son or a father of a famous ancient philosopher could be a possible author of a fundamental treatise. Nevertheless, the origin and details of the Ethics do not reduce its historical importance and philosophic value. Plutarch characterizes Aristotle as the most learned and the most celebrated philosopher. Thus, his philosophy was famous even at the ancient times. The structure of the work seems to be quite simple and consists of ten books. The reader can easily navigate the books, since every part dedicated to a separate virtue. Virtues are the complicated Aristotle’s categories, which conclude the notion of happiness. The philosopher identifies happiness as Eudemonia. Thus, all the ancient doctrines were closely related to this notion. Actually, Aristotle gives details and instruction for achievement of happiness as the highest bliss. The Aristotle’s eudemonism combines several important aspects of human life and reveals the sense of life through the essential categories. Aristotle combines happiness and virtues into one notion of ethics and explains their necessity from the perspective of the sense of life and the highest goal of human existence. However, the modern philosophers can completely reject Aristotle’s ideas, as they consider the happiness to be a terminal state of psychic having no connection to the moral code. The traditions of virtues were quite normal for the ancient Greek society, because the philosophers describe it in the aspect of legislative doctrine. Those social relations had many limitations and the notion of freedom was not only distant form the notion of happiness, but also could provoke some opposite issues. The Greek society regards happiness only in the aspect social and political relations. Thus, socio-political virtues were the essential units for the achievement of happiness.


The Book II is completely dedicated to the nature of virtues and their peculiarities. Virtues are certain aspects of human life, achieved in the process of self-improvement and some habits of life. The purpose is lead honest life in order to get some habits and transform them into virtues. Thus, these are certain human activity or work which does not demand some positive results but only habits. The goal of the Aristotle’s ethics demands not only the knowledge about virtuous life but also instructions for attaining essential habits. Aristotle concludes that “the virtues come to be present neither by nature nor contrary to nature, but in us who are of such a nature as to take them on, and to be brought to completion in them by means of habit”. The entire work is dedicated to the virtue and the philosopher tries to give some definitions to the notion, enriching it with some additional characteristics. The philosopher is sure that the virtues are essential bases for the soul development. The ancient emperor and philosopher of Rome is also sure that the virtue should rule a human sole as Providence rules universe. Moreover, Plutarch gives some characteristics and detailed definitions of virtues in his “Greek and Roman Lives”. However, every person has some passions and it is quite hard to control them all. The virtue is a particular characteristic which can estimate the possibility of people to control the passions, and achieve some spiritual and moral development. Aristotle gives detailed descriptions to the virtues and explains the most famous his theory – the doctrine of mean. It is some kind of a golden middle when a person should feel the precise balance between two extremities. The extremities threaten the possibility of virtues in the human soul, because only the golden middle or mean can create a habit and transform it into virtue. The ancient society had some specific ideas concerning the virtues and those views were closely related to their understanding of the life sense.

Relation of Virtues to Human Purpose of Life

Aristotle’s ideas were perfect as for the antique society. His doctrines coincide with the general ancient comprehension of life. People were oriented to the aspect of submission. This issue is a key message of all the ancient philosophies in general. It was represented as the submission to gods, to the authority to the politics and of course to the society. A noble man could do something as a sacrifice in order the social prosperity. The Aristotle’s notion of happiness cannot be comparable with the contemporary ideas concerning it, since he explains eudemonism as a purpose or obligation rather than a desire. The philosopher concludes that the purpose of life envelopes some devoted service to the society and other people without the possibility to be free. Although, the ethical doctrines of Aristotle seem to be a set of moral rules or a code for social behavior, it contains deep explanation for the sense of life from the perspective of the ancient society. Besides, the philosopher is sure that life can be characterized as the pleasurable political, social and intellectual excellence. Therefore, the notion of virtues is closely related to the notion of purpose of life. The Aristotle’s instruction forms certain ideal habits, which help to established essential virtues. This algorithm explains the purpose of life during the ancient times. Moreover, it helps to understand the main differences between the modern and archaic understandings of life sense. Aristotle’s statement concerns the idea of pleasure form philosophical life and establishes certain rules, which can bring a person to this highest moral status. Thus, the philosophy of virtues explains a sense and purpose of life during the ancient times. Moreover, he underlines the most essential virtues of human life, which not only make a person happy but also demonstrates the highest purpose of life.

Aristotle’s Ideas about Friendship

Aristotle considers that the purpose of life can be expressed in the virtuous relation in the society. This idea is closely related to notion of friendship, as the philosopher dedicates to the virtue of friendship the entire book of his fundamental work. The book gives the detailed description of friendship and regards it as a separate virtue and non-comparable with the others. Friendship seemed to be present by nature in some kind of relationships. The place of friendship in the Nickomahean Ethics has quite a remarkable place, as it is a unique possibility of all the living creatures, and all the people on the Earth feel urgent necessity of it. Moreover, it is a single human virtue, which has born, natural possibilities. Even a new born children need friendship, though they do not have achieved habits for this virtue. It leads to the real feeling of pleasure and it does not depend on financial possibilities of the person. The philosopher does not make a conclusion but his statements are quite close to identification of the virtue of friendship as the highest purpose of life. However, real friendship can exist only in the aspect of the doctrine of mean. It is an ideal state of social relations, as it denotes total equality and similarity, when the virtuous people are constant and stay constant toward another one. Thus, the Nicomachean Ethics describes the most essential virtues from the perspective of the ancient society, makes the reader to think about the purpose of life, and orients people to the direction of socio political relations. Aristotle thinks like all the ancient people, and considers the political and social aspect of life to be the central purpose for existence. The Roman philosopher values friendship as the highest virtue and blames perfidious relations. Plutarch compares the notion of friendship with fame. Therefore, the virtue of friendship seems to be one of the most important and closely related to the sense of life. Nevertheless, these doctrines are almost incomparable with the modern philosophy.

Comparison of the Aristotle’s Ethics with the Contemporary Ideas

The Nicomachean Ethics is a valuable historic source, since it contains the details of the ancient society life. All the archeological findings or archaic texts are important, since they give essential understanding of the ancient life style. However, the Aristotle’s ethics is priceless, as it describes the philosophy, values, habits and views of people living thousand years ago in Greece. Moreover, it gives a perfect opportunity to compare that peculiarities with the modern philosophy. It is necessary to admit, that the biggest difference is the understanding of a moral rules. The contemporary people do not identify ethics as a way to happiness through some virtues. Ethics is a certain moral code now, and it has no relations with happiness. Moreover, it has no connection with the notion of virtues. The contemporary society became more egoistic, since the people consider happiness to be a state of a sole and it does not depend on some sacrifices, social relations or politics. Happiness is the deepest feeling of a sole. It is possible to assume that freedom associates with it most of all. The longtime of historic changes made humanity percept this notion more independently. It is necessary to admit that the biggest similarity between the modern and ancient views is the concept of friendship, since the people understand that loneliness cannot make a person happy. Thus, the contemporary and archaic understandings of purpose of life are related, though have many disparities. Nevertheless, the general value of Nicomachean Ethics proves that the ancient philosophy can exist in the contemporary society. However, it may seem more utopic rather than possible.

The Nicomachean Ethics is a fundamental philosophical work of Aristotle. It describes the peculiarities of ancient ethical and moral culture. It is closely related to the social and political rules performed due to virtues. Virtue is a key word of all the Aristotle doctrine, since it expresses the sense of philosophy. Virtue is a certain activity of a human soul directed to the achievement of happiness. However, the notion of happiness concerns more social advantages than personal needs. Nevertheless, the ancient society understand happiness as a virtuous life toward the society and in the aspect of political life. The work illustrates not only Aristotle’s personal ideas but also views of all the citizens in Greece. It is important ancient moral code. Besides, Nicomachean Ethics explains the sense of human life in the aspect of social and political relations.


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