Nicomachean Ethics Characters

This Study Guide consists of approximately 42 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Nicomachean Ethics.
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The Virtuous Man

The virtuous man aims for moderation in all traits of his character, being careful not to have to much or too little. Aristotle calls this moderate state the "mean." The virtuous man is not expected to walk this fine line precisely, but will sometimes be on one side of it or the other. He should be able to recognize his course and correct it toward the center when necessary.

This mean is not the same for all men, however, and the virtuous man must have the ability to know the best course for himself. This ability Aristotle calls prudence. Prudence relies on reason and understanding, and for this reason, the virtuous man must have these traits.

The virtuous man must also have a good character, which will allow him to properly apply reason to determine the prudent path for his life. Character is developed from a young age, Aristotle recognizes, and so proper education must start early to develop it, however all people are responsible for their own character he claims. The virtuous man must decide to be virtuous, and must be driven by the proper reasons or he is not truly virtuous.

Above all, Aristotle suggests, the virtuous man will be happy, which is the goal of all humans. He will find happiness in the practice of virtue, and will find the greatest happiness in the virtue of thought and study, for these things inform his decisions and allow him to lead the virtuous life.

Plato

Plato is a former colleague of Aristotle's who formed an academy where Aristotle once taught. Plato is one of the most influential thinkers of Aristotle's time, and has addressed many of the metaphysical ideas that Aristotle takes up in his work. In many of these ideas, Aristotle agrees with Plato, but in some he departs significantly, as in his definition of good. Plato is well known for his idea that each thing we recognize in the world, such as goodness, has a metaphysical ideal, or "form," which can never be achieved or grasped, but to which what we can see can be compared. Aristotle specifically disputes this idea of "good" having such a form.

Throughout Aristotle's book, he refers to the practical aspects of his conclusions by addressing how they are demonstrated in the real world. He concludes the book by suggesting that the next step is to design a political system that will create the kind of conditions he has determines will lead to a virtuous, happy community of virtuous, happy citizens. This is also the goal of Plato's major work The Republic, and Aristotle's conclusion that men of reason devoted to study are the best situated to create this kind of society is parallel to Plato's conclusion that the ideal republic would be led by a class of philosophers who apply reason to guide the society.

Children

Aristotle mentions children several times in the work, usually in conjunction with animals. In his view, children do not yet have reason, and so are not considered to be fully human in a way. Nevertheless, Aristotle realizes that proper education in good character must begin while a person is still a child.

Youth

Youth are older than children, but not yet full adults. Aristotle does not define when a child becomes a youth or when a youth becomes an adult, but he mentions that youth are guided by their feelings in all things.

Women

Women are assumed by Aristotle to have capacities different than men, and are expected to play the role in the family and society that best suits these capacities. Aristotle does not enumerate these capacities, but it seems probable that he holds a traditional view of women as wives, mothers and housekeepers.

The Gods

Aristotle seems to recognize some kind of divine beings who live separately from men, but he does not describe them as humans with super abilities. They are beyond human, and are complete beings who are entirely self-sufficient. As a result, they have no virtue or vice.

Socrates

Socrates was a Greek philosopher whose ideas are known mainly through the writings of Plato. Aristotle mentions Socrates and refers to his philosophy in the Nichomachean Ethics. He rejects the idea that he attributes to Socrates that virtue alone leads to happiness.

The Sophists

The sophists were philosophers who also addressed education of individuals in public life. Aristotle mentions them from time to time in his work, sometimes negatively. The word also refers to people who offer false arguments that seem valid, but are not, and Aristotle uses it in this sense.

Protagoras

Protagoras was a leading sophist thinker who holds that appearance is reality. In other words, he believes that what is actually good is what appears to an individual to be good. Aristotle rejects this idea.

Eudoxus

Eudoxus was a philosopher who believed that all pleasure is good. Aristotle refutes this idea by concluding that pleasure comes in different forms, and that what corrupted people think is pleasant is actually not.

Pythagorus

Pythagorus was the founder of a school of thought that used mathematics and geometry to describe reality. Aristotle makes reference to the Pythagoreans in his work.

Speusippus

Speusippus was a philosopher who led Plato's academy after Plato's death. Speusippus also addressed the subject of pleasure, which Aristotle refers to.

Homer

Homer was an ancient Greek poet, author of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Homer's works are well-known to Aristotle and his audience, and he refers to them several times to illustrate his points.

This section contains 893 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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