PHIL-229 Aristotle's Ethics
Spring for 2007-2008
The Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle has been one of the most influential texts in the history of philosophy. It recognizes an objective goal for human life, and its main purpose is to help its readers to live in the best possible way. We will examine this work in detail, giving attention especially to the definition of happiness, the doctrine of virtue as an intermediate state of character, the explanation of akrasia or “weakness of will,” the importance of friendship, the difference between practical and theoretical wisdom, and the question of whether or to what degree Aristotle values the contemplative life over a life of intelligent practical action in society. To gain the necessary background in Aristotelian psychology, we will read a few short excerpts from the De Anima in conjunction with the early books of the Ethics; passages from the Metaphysics and from Plato’s Timaeus will provide comparanda for the treatment of the contemplative life in Book X.
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