Aristotle, Eudemian Ethics

LCL 285: 190-191

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Eudemian Ethics


I. Place of the Eudemian Ethics in the Aristotelian Corpus

All the extant books attributed to Aristotle (including probably the recently recovered treatise on the Athenian Constitution) belong to the group of his works designated by ancient authorities ἀκροατὶκοὶ λόγοι, ‘lecture-courses.’ These are scientific treatises, in places hardly more than mere outlines, though for the larger part fully written out arguments; presumably they are records of Aristotle’s doctrine made for his pupils, and preserved in the library of the Peripatetic School. The other class of his writings, now lost, were more popular expositions intended for the general reader; some of them were in dialogue form. They were published, and they are alluded to as ἐκδεδομένοι λόγοι.

The former group includes three works on the philosophy of conduct, entitled The Eudemian Ethics, The Nicomachean Ethics and Magna Moralia. The two former are full scientific treatises, in eight and ten Books respectively. Magna Moralia is a smaller work, more discursive in style, of which only two Books survive, the latter part being lost; its contents correspond partly with The Eudemian and partly with The Nicomachean Ethics; it was probably compiled by a Peripatetic of the generation after Aristotle. Eudemus was the pupil of Aristotle who followed his doctrine most closely; Nicomachus was Aristotle’s


Eudemian Ethics

son, who fell in battle when a mere lad. Both may have been the compilers of the treatises that bear their names: Cicero (De Finibus v. 12) says that The Nicomachean Ethics, though attributed to Aristotle himself, can well have been by his son, and Diogenes of Laerte quotes from it as by Nicomachus. But the early commentator Porphyry speaks of both works as ‘dedicated to’ the persons whose names they bear. Whatever the truth may be, The Nicomachean Ethics has always been accepted as the authoritative exposition of Aristotle’s moral science; and it seems probable that The Eudemian, so far as it differs, represents an earlier stage of its development.aThis view is not necessarily precluded by the fact that in some places The Eudemian Ethics is fuller in expression or more discursive than The Nicomachean.

II. The Eudemian–Nicomachean Books

For about one third of the whole the two works overlap, the Eudemian Books IV., V., VI. being identical with the Nicomachean V., VI., VII.; these are given in the mss. and editions of the latter work only. Scholars have debated to which they really belong, some holding that they fit the argument of

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.aristotle-eudemian_ethics.1935