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Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics (Philosophical Library Series) [Paperback]

By Aristotle & Joe Sachs (Editor)
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Pages   215
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 6" Height: 8.75"
Weight:   0.8 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   May 1, 2002
Publisher   Focus Publishing/R. Pullins Company
ISBN  1585100358  
EAN  9781585100354  


Availability  0 units.


Item Description...
Focus Philosophical Library's edition of Aristotle's "Nicomachean Ethics" is a lucid and useful translation of one of Aristotle's major works for the student of undergraduate philosophy, as well as for the general reader interested in the major works of western civilization. This edition includes notes and a glossary, intending to provide the reader with some sense of the terms and the concepts as they were understood by Aristotle's immediate audience.
Focus Philosophical Library books are distinguished by their commitment to faithful, clear, and consistent translations of texts and the rich world part and parcel of those texts.

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More About Aristotle & Joe Sachs

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Joe Sachs taught for thirty years at St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland. In addition to "Nicomachean Ethics," he has translated Aristotle's "Physics, " "Metaphysics," and "On the Soul" and, for the Focus Philosophical Library, Aristotle's "Poetics," and Plato's "Theaetetus" and "Republic."

Joe Sachs was born in 1946.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
We Reach Our Complete Perfection Through Habit  May 10, 2008
I read this book for a graduate seminar on Aristotle. I think Aristotle's ethics is his most seminal work in philosophy. In the early 1960's virtue ethics came to fore. It is a retrieval of Aristotle. It has very close parallels to the ancient Chinese philosophy of Confucius and the modern philosophy espoused in the 1970's called Communitarianism.

For Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics, (EN) is about human life in an embodied state. Area of inquirery for EN is "good" this is his phenomenology. What does "good" mean? He suggests good means "a desired end." Something desirable. Means towards these ends. Such as money is good, so one can buy food to eat because "eating is good." In moral philosophy distinction between "intrinsic good" vs. "instrumental good." Instrumental good towards a desire is "instrumental good" like money. Thus, money is an "instrumental good" for another purpose because it produces something beyond itself. Instrumental good means because it further produces a good, "intrinsic good" is a good for itself, "for the sake of" an object like money. "Intrinsic good" for him is "Eudemonia=happiness." This is what ethics and virtues are for the sake of the organizing principle. Eudemonia=happiness. Today we think of happiness as a feeling. It is not a feeling for Aristotle. Best translation for eudaimonia is "flourishing" or "living well." It is an active term and way of living for him thus, "excellence." Ultimate "intrinsic good" of "for the sake of." Eudaimonia is the last word for Aristotle. Can also mean fulfillment. Idea of nature was thought to be fixed in Greece convention is a variation. What he means is ethics is loose like "wealth is good but some people are ruined by wealth." EN isn't formula but a rough outline. Ethics is not precise; the nature of subject won't allow it. When you become a "good person" you don't think it out, you just do it out of habit!

You can have ethics without religion for Aristotle. Nothing in his EN is about the afterlife. He doesn't believe in the universal good for all people at all times like Plato and Socrates. The way he thought about character of agent, "thinking about the good." In addition, Aristotle talked about character traits. Good qualities of a person who would act well. Difference between benevolent acts and a benevolent person. If you have good character, you don't need to follow rules. Aretç=virtue, in Greek not religious connotation but anything across the board meaning "excellence" high level of functioning, a peak. Like a musical virtuoso. Ethical virtue is ethical excellence, which is the "good like." In Plato, ethics has to do with quality of soul defining what to do instead of body like desires and reason. For Aristotle these are not two separate entities.

To be good is how we live with other people, not just focus on one individual. Virtue can't be a separate or individual trait. Socrates said same the thing. Important concept for Aristotle, good upbringing for children is paramount if you don't have it, you are a lost cause. Being raised well is "good fortune" a child can't choose their upbringing. Happenstance is a matter of chance.

Pleasure cannot be an ultimate good. Part of the "good life" involves external goods like money, one can't attain "good life" if one is poor and always working. Socrates said material goods don't matter, then he always mooched off of his friends! Aristotle surmises that the highest form of happiness is contemplation. In Aristotle's Rhetoric, he lists several ingredients for attaining eudaimonia. Prosperity, self-sufficiency, etc., is important, thus, if you are not subject to other, competing needs. A long interesting list. It is common for the hoi polloi to say pleasure=happiness. Aristotle does not deny pleasure is good; however, it is part of a package of goods. Pleasure is a condition of the soul. In the animal world, biological beings react to pleasure and pain as usual. Humans as reasoning beings must pursue knowledge to fulfill human nature. It must be pleasurable to seek knowledge and other virtues and if it is not there is something wrong according to Aristotle. These are the higher pleasures and so you may have to put off lower pleasures for the sake of attaining "higher pleasures."

Phronçsis= "intelligence," really better to say "practical wisdom." The word practical helps here because the word Phronçsis for Aristotle is a term having to do with ethics, the choices that are made for the good. As a human being, you have to face choices about what to do and not to do. Phronçsis is going to be that capacity that power of the soul that when it is operating well will enable us to turn out well and that is why it is called practical wisdom. The practically wise person is somebody who knows how to live in such a way so that their life will turn out well, in a full package of "goods." For Aristotle, Phronçsis is not deductive or inductive knowledge like episteme; Phronçsis is not a kind of rational knowledge where you operate in either deduction or induction, you don't go thru "steps" to arrive at the conclusion. Therefore, Phronçsis is a special kind of capacity that Aristotle thinks operates in ethics. Only if you understand what Aristotle means by phronesis do you get a hold on the concept. My way of organizing it, it is Phronçsis that is a capacity that enables the virtues to manifest themselves.

What are the virtues? Phronçsis is the capacity of the soul that will enable the virtues to fulfill themselves. Virtue ethics is the characteristics of a person that will bring about a certain kind of moral living, and that is exactly what the virtues are. The virtues are capacities of a person to act well. All of the virtues can be organized by way of this basic power of the soul called Phronçsis. There are different virtues, but it is the capacity of Phronçsis that enables these virtues to become activated. Basic issue is to find the "mean" between extremes; this is how Aristotle defines virtues.

Humans are not born with the virtues; we learn them and practice them habitually. "We reach our complete perfection through habit." Aristotle says we have a natural potential to be virtuous and through learning and habit, we attain them. Learn by doing according to Aristotle and John Dewey. Then it becomes habitual like playing a harp. Learning by doing is important for Aristotle. Hexis= "state," "having possession." Theoria= "study." The idea is not to know what virtue is but to become "good." Emphasis on finding the balance of the mean. Each virtue involves four basic points.

1. Action or circumstance. Such as risk of losing one's life.
2. Relevant emotion or capacity. Such as fear and pain.
3. Vices of excess and vices of deficiency in the emotions or the capacities. Such as cowardice is the excess vice of fear, recklessness is the excess deficiency.
4. Virtue as a "mean" between the vices and deficiencies. Such as courage as the "mean."

No formal rule or "mean" it depends on the situation and is different for different people as well. For example--one should eat 3,000 calories a day. Well depends on the health and girth of the person, and what activity they are engaged in. It is relative to us individually.
All Aristotle's qualifications are based on individual situations and done with knowledge of experience. Some things are not able to have a "mean" like murder and adultery because these are not "goods."
Akrasia= "incontinence" really "weakness of the will. Socrates thought that all virtues are instances of intelligence or Phronçsis. Aristotle criticizes Socrates idea of virtue, virtue is not caused by state of knowledge it is more complicated. Aristotle does not think you have to have a reasoned principle in the mind and then do what is right, they go together.

The distinctions between continent and incontinent persons, and moderate (virtue) and immoderate (not virtuous) persons is as follows:

1. Virtue. Truly virtuous people do not struggle to be virtuous, they do it effortlessly, very few people in this category, and most are in #2 and #3.
2. Ethical strength. Continence. We know what is right thing to do but struggle with our desires.
3. Ethical weakness. This is akrasia incontinence. Happens in real life.
4. Vice. The person acts without regret of his bad actions.

What does Aristotle mean by "fully virtuous"? Ethical strength is not virtue in the full sense of the term. Ethical weakness is not a full vice either. This is the critique against Socrates idea that "Knowledge equals virtue." No one can knowingly do the wrong thing. Thus, Socrates denies appetites and desires. Aristotle understands that people do things that they know are wrong, Socrates denies this. Socrates says if you know the right thing you will do it, Aristotle disagrees. The law is the social mechanism for numbers 2, 3, 4. A truly virtuous person is their own moral compass.

I recommend Aristotle's works to anyone interested in obtaining a classical education, and those interested in philosophy. Aristotle is one of the most important philosophers and the standard that all others must be judged by.
 
Unreadable  Nov 26, 2007
Unreadable. A curiosity. A long way from English. The difficult made impossible. Many sentences, long and short, like, "So let these things have been spoken of just this much." Page 9. The footnotes are somewhat clearer than the text.
 
Exceptional translation, excellent introduction  Jun 22, 2006
I've read and taught the Nicomachean Ethics several times in translation, and working through it this time with Joe Sachs' exceptional translation is what for the first time brought the urgency and interest of the text alive for me. I'd always said, in response to student complaints, something like: I know that the book itself, in style, is kind of boring and dry, but the subject matter could not be more important so try and look past that. With this translation, I didn't need to say that. You feel the urgency and importance of the subject in the writing itself. Joe Sachs has done a remarkable thing in bringing this text -- easily one of the most important philosophical works ever written -- to life.

As if that weren't enough, he has also written an excellent and very short introduction to the text that goes a long way towards overcoming many of the commmon misunderstandings of Aristotle's ethics, especially misconceptions tied to the Latin influences on translations of the text. Without any effort to give a "definitive" and inevitably partial account of the text as a whole, he confines himself to addressing three central concepts -- habit, the mean, and the noble -- shows how these have led many readers of the text astray, and points readers towards the passages in Aristotle that can overcome or resolve some of the basic misunderstandings (incidentally, one of these misunderstandings is evident in another review of this translation by FrKurt Mesick, and I can only assume he either didn't read the intro, or he disagreed with it in favor of more standard "textbook" interpretations of Aristotle, or that he is commenting on another translation and just happened to include his review under this one). Along the way, Sachs shows that the common reading of Aristotle as a kind of reformed or anti-Platonist is just false -- and that Aristotle's ethics is richer and more compelling than is usually thought precisely because of the elements of Platonism that Aristotle wisely retains.
 
Doing the right thing...  Oct 10, 2005
Aristotle was a philosopher in search of the chief good for human beings. This chief good is eudaimonia, which is often translated as 'happiness' (but can also be translated as 'thriving' or 'flourishing'). Aristotle sees pleasure, honour and virtue as significant 'wants' for people, and then argues that virtue is the most important of these.

In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle makes the claim that happiness is something which is both precious and final. This seems to be so because it is a first principle or ultimate starting point. For, it is for the sake of happiness that we do everything else, and we regard the cause of all good things to be precious and divine. Moreover, since happiness is an activity of the soul in accordance with complete and perfect virtue, it is necessary to consider virtue, as this will be the best way of studying happiness.

How many of us today speak of happiness and virtue in the same breath? Aristotle's work in the Nicomachean Ethics is considered one of his greatest achievements, and by extension, one of the greatest pieces of philosophy from the ancient world. When the framers of the American Declaration of Independence were thinking of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, there is little doubt they had an acquaintance with Aristotle's work connecting happiness, virtue, and ethics together.

When one thinks of ethical ideas such as an avoidance of extremes, of taking the tolerant or middle ground, or of taking all things in moderation, one is tapping into Aristotle's ideas. It is in the Nicomachean Ethics that Aristotle proposes the Doctrine of the Mean - he states that virtue is a 'mean state', that is, it aims for the mean or middle ground. However, Aristotle is often misquoted and misinterpreted here, for he very quickly in the text disallows the idea of the mean to be applied in all cases. There are things, actions and emotions, that do not allow the mean state. Thus, Aristotle tends to view virtue as a relative state, making the analogy with food - for some, two pounds of meat might be too much food, but for others, it might be too little. The mean exists between the state of deficiency, too little, and excessiveness, too much.

Aristotle proposes many different examples of virtues and vices, together with their mean states. With regard to money, being stingy and being illiberal with generosity are the extremes, the one deficient and the other excessive. The mean state here would be liberality and generosity, a willingness to buy and to give, but not to extremes. Anger, too, is highlighted as having a deficient state (too much passivity), an excessive state (too much passion) and a mean state (a gentleness but firmness with regard to emotions).

Aristotle states that one of the difficulties with leading a virtuous life is that it takes a person of science to find the mean between the extremes (or, in some cases, Aristotle uses the image of a circle, the scientist finding the centre). Many of us, being imperfect humans, err on one side or the other, choosing in Aristotle's words, the lesser of two evils. Aristotle's wording here, that a scientist is the only one fully capable of virtue, has a different meaning for scientist - this is a pre-modern, pre-Enlightenment view; for Aristotle, the person of science is one who is capable of observation and calculation, and this can take many different forms.

Aristotle uses different kinds of argumentation in the Nicomachean Ethics. He uses a dialectical method, as well as a functional method. In the dialectical method, there are opposing ideas held in tension, whose interactions against each other yield a result - this is often how the mean between extremes is derived. However, there are other times that Aristotle seems to prefer a more direct, functional approach. Both of these methods lead to the same understanding for Aristotle's sense of the rational - that humanity's highest or final good is happiness.

There is a discussion of the human soul (for this is where virtue and happiness reside). Aristotle argues that virtue is not a natural state; we are not born with nor do we acquire through any natural processes virtue, but rather through 'habitation', an embedding process or enculturation that makes these a part of our soul. However, it is not sufficient for Aristotle's virtue that one merely function as a virtuous person or that virtuous things be done. This is not a skill, but rather an art, and to be virtuous, one must live virtuously and act virtuously with intention as well as form.

Of course, one of the implications here is that virtue is a quantifiable thing, that periodically resurfaces in later philosophies. How do we calculate virtue?

This is a difficult question, and not one that Aristotle answers in any definitive way. However, more important than this is the key difference that Aristotle displayed setting himself apart from his tutor Plato; rather than seeing the possession of 'the good' or 'virtue' as the highest ideal, Aristotle is concerned with the practical aspects, the ethics of this. Based on Aristotle's lectures in Athens in the fourth century BCE, this remains one of the most important works on ethical and moral philosophy in history.

 
Doing the right thing  Sep 19, 2005
Aristotle was a philosopher in search of the chief good for human beings. This chief good is eudaimonia, which is often translated as 'happiness' (but can also be translated as 'thriving' or 'flourishing'). Aristotle sees pleasure, honour and virtue as significant 'wants' for people, and then argues that virtue is the most important of these.

In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle makes the claim that happiness is something which is both precious and final. This seems to be so because it is a first principle or ultimate starting point. For, it is for the sake of happiness that we do everything else, and we regard the cause of all good things to be precious and divine. Moreover, since happiness is an activity of the soul in accordance with complete and perfect virtue, it is necessary to consider virtue, as this will be the best way of studying happiness.

How many of us today speak of happiness and virtue in the same breath? Aristotle's work in the Nicomachean Ethics is considered one of his greatest achievements, and by extension, one of the greatest pieces of philosophy from the ancient world. When the framers of the American Declaration of Independence were thinking of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, there is little doubt they had an acquaintance with Aristotle's work connecting happiness, virtue, and ethics together.

When one thinks of ethical ideas such as an avoidance of extremes, of taking the tolerant or middle ground, or of taking all things in moderation, one is tapping into Aristotle's ideas. It is in the Nicomachean Ethics that Aristotle proposes the Doctrine of the Mean - he states that virtue is a 'mean state', that is, it aims for the mean or middle ground. However, Aristotle is often misquoted and misinterpreted here, for he very quickly in the text disallows the idea of the mean to be applied in all cases. There are things, actions and emotions, that do not allow the mean state. Thus, Aristotle tends to view virtue as a relative state, making the analogy with food - for some, two pounds of meat might be too much food, but for others, it might be too little. The mean exists between the state of deficiency, too little, and excessiveness, too much.

Aristotle proposes many different examples of virtues and vices, together with their mean states. With regard to money, being stingy and being illiberal with generosity are the extremes, the one deficient and the other excessive. The mean state here would be liberality and generosity, a willingness to buy and to give, but not to extremes. Anger, too, is highlighted as having a deficient state (too much passivity), an excessive state (too much passion) and a mean state (a gentleness but firmness with regard to emotions).

Aristotle states that one of the difficulties with leading a virtuous life is that it takes a person of science to find the mean between the extremes (or, in some cases, Aristotle uses the image of a circle, the scientist finding the centre). Many of us, being imperfect humans, err on one side or the other, choosing in Aristotle's words, the lesser of two evils. Aristotle's wording here, that a scientist is the only one fully capable of virtue, has a different meaning for scientist - this is a pre-modern, pre-Enlightenment view; for Aristotle, the person of science is one who is capable of observation and calculation, and this can take many different forms.

Aristotle uses different kinds of argumentation in the Nicomachean Ethics. He uses a dialectical method, as well as a functional method. In the dialectical method, there are opposing ideas held in tension, whose interactions against each other yield a result - this is often how the mean between extremes is derived. However, there are other times that Aristotle seems to prefer a more direct, functional approach. Both of these methods lead to the same understanding for Aristotle's sense of the rational - that humanity's highest or final good is happiness.

There is a discussion of the human soul (for this is where virtue and happiness reside). Aristotle argues that virtue is not a natural state; we are not born with nor do we acquire through any natural processes virtue, but rather through 'habitation', an embedding process or enculturation that makes these a part of our soul. However, it is not sufficient for Aristotle's virtue that one merely function as a virtuous person or that virtuous things be done. This is not a skill, but rather an art, and to be virtuous, one must live virtuously and act virtuously with intention as well as form.

Of course, one of the implications here is that virtue is a quantifiable thing, that periodically resurfaces in later philosophies. How do we calculate virtue?

This is a difficult question, and not one that Aristotle answers in any definitive way. However, more important than this is the key difference that Aristotle displayed setting himself apart from his tutor Plato; rather than seeing the possession of 'the good' or 'virtue' as the highest ideal, Aristotle is concerned with the practical aspects, the ethics of this. Based on Aristotle's lectures in Athens in the fourth century BCE, this remains one of the most important works on ethical and moral philosophy in history.
 

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