Nicomachean Ethics Setting & Symbolism

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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Virtues of Character

Aristotle names several specific virtues of character including bravery, friendliness, generosity, magnanimity, and magnificence. Each of these is a mean between to extremes, one an excess of the virtue and one a deficiency in it. They are all specific to a certain character trait, but are all alike in that they are the same kind of intermediate state.

Friendship

Friendship is an equal relationship between two virtuous people who wish well for the other for that other person's sake alone. Friendship can exist between unequal people, but it must be balanced by the amount of love passed between the two. A king and his subject can have friendship, but the king must receive more love than he gives for the friendship to be balanced. Some relationships that are called friendship are actually based on usefulness or pleasure, Aristotle says, and are not truly friendships. Unlike true friendship, these relationships do not last.

Justice

Justice is a kind of virtue, according to Aristotle. He defines two kinds of justice, one being general justice, which is the kind that is the concern of laws that govern all people in a community. This is too broad a definition to be considered an individual virtue, so he also defines a type of partial justice which applies in specific situations.

Prudence

Prudence is the ability of a person to recognize his own character traits and to determine and decide upon the course of action that is most appropriate. To be prudent, a person must also possess proper reason and understanding.

Pleasure

Pleasure is defined by Aristotle as a good, but not the ultimate good as some others claim. True pleasure is only found in virtuous things, Aristotle claims. What corrupted people might find pleasant is not truly pleasant, he states.

State

A state is a condition of being. It is not a process or an action, but is an ongoing condition. The virtues of character are states.

Temperance

Temperance in Aristotle's definition is moderation of the desires of the body, particularly those related to the senses of touch and taste. Intemperance is a lack of control of these appetites. The intemperate person does not realize what a proper, moderate level of fulfillment is, Aristotle claims.

Continence

Continence is like temperance, but it stems from a rational decision. Unlike an intemperate person, an incontinent person recognizes his appetites and knows where the point of moderation is, but chooses not to be guided by it. This makes it worse than intemperance in Aristotle's mind.

Political Science

In Aristotle's definition, political science is not a science in the strictest sense, but is the study of how a state can provide for the happiness of its citizens. Thus, the Nichomachean Ethics is a work of political science.

The Iliad

The Iliad is the poetic story of the Trojan War attributed to Homer. The Iliad would have been a well-known work to Aristotle's audience, and he makes reference to it to illustrate various points of his argument.

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