Aristotle, Eudemian Ethics

LCL 285: 192-193

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Eudemian Ethics

the Eudemian and that the corresponding parts of the Nicomachean have been lost, others the opposite. But all Aristotle’s treatises are so loosely put together that the arguments for neither view are convincing. It is more probable that the three common Books represent his final doctrine, except in so far as they are modified by other parts of his works—thus the excursus on the ethical value of pleasure in E.E. VI. = N.E. VII. was doubtless superseded by the more accurate treatment of the topic at the beginning of N.E. X.

III. The Eudemian Ethics: Outline of Contents and Comparison with the Nicomachean

Book I. introduces the subject—the nature of Happiness or Well-being, the supreme End or Aim of human conduct. This is a practical study: knowledge of the good is an aid to its ttainment. The different views that prevail are crystallized in three typical Lives, the philosopher’s life of thought, the statesman’s life of action, the voluptuary’s life of pleasure. The Platonic theory of an Absolute Good is of questionable philosophic validity, and in any case has no bearing on practical life.

Book II. c. i. defines Happiness as consisting in the right exercise of the functions of man’s nature moral and intellectual. The contents of E.E. so far correspond with those of N.E. Book I.; the remainder of Book II. with N.E. II. and III. i.–v. It examines the nature of Moral Goodness, Goodness of Character, Virtue, which is denned as a fixed disposition that in action or emotion steers a middle course between too much and too little. The various virtues are


Eudemian Ethics

tabulated, with the vices of excess and defect that correspond to each. The problem of the Freedom of the Will is studied in the light of the psychology of Volition and Purpose.

Book III. discusses the Virtues and some minor Graces of Character seriatim, each with its corresponding pair of Vices. The list tallies with that in N.E. III., vi. ff. and IV., except that it inserts the virtue of Mildness between Temperance and Liberality, and adds to the minor Graces of Character Nemesis (righteous indignation at another’s undeserved good or bad fortune), Friendliness and Dignity, while it omits Gentleness and Agreeableness (N.E. IV., v., vi.).

(Books IV., V., VI. are omitted in mss. and editions of the Eudemian Ethics, as they are the same as Books V., VI., VII. of the Nicomachean; the first of these three Books deals with Justice, thus completing the examination of the Moral Virtues; the second treats the Intellectual Virtues of Prudence or Practical Wisdom and Theoria or Speculative Wisdom; the third forms an appendix to the section on Moral Virtue—it examines Weakness of Will and studies the psychology of Pleasure—a subject again treated differently and more accurately in N.E. X. init.)

The subject of Book VII. is Friendship. The term includes all forms of friendly mutual regard, whether between equals or superior and inferior, relatives or other associates, and whether based on the motive of utility or the pleasure of society or respect for worth. The psychology of friendship is analysed in relation to that of self-love.

In N.E. VIII. and IX. Friendship is discussed at greater length with fuller detail; the arrangement

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.aristotle-eudemian_ethics.1935