Aristotelian ethics

Aristotelian ethics

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Ethics
Ethics
Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime, etc.Major branches of ethics include:...

 as a subject begins with the works of Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

. In its original form, this subject is concerned with the question of virtue
Virtue
Virtue is moral excellence. A virtue is a positive trait or quality subjectively deemed to be morally excellent and thus is valued as a foundation of principle and good moral being....

 (Greek aretē
Arete
Areté is the term meaning "virtue" or "excellence", from Greek ἈρετήArete may also be used:*as a given name of persons or things:**Queen Arete , a character in Homer's Odyssey.***197 Arete, an asteroid....

) of character (ēthos), or in other words having excellent and well-chosen habits. The acquisition of an excellent character is in turn aimed at living well and eudaimonia
Eudaimonia
Eudaimonia or eudaemonia , sometimes Anglicized as eudemonia , is a Greek word commonly translated as happiness or welfare; however, "human flourishing" has been proposed as a more accurate translation...

, a Greek word often translated as well-being or happiness
Happiness
Happiness is a mental state of well-being characterized by positive emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. A variety of biological, psychological, religious, and philosophical approaches have striven to define happiness and identify its sources....

. In other words, ethics is a systematic study of how individuals should best live. This study was originally coupled with the closely related study of politics, including law-making. Politics has an effect on how people are brought up, which therefore addresses the same question of how people should live, from the standpoint of the community. The original Aristotelian and Socratic answer to the question of how best to live was to live the life of philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

 and contemplation.

Three ethical treatises


Three Aristotelian ethical works survive today which are considered to be either by Aristotle, or from relatively soon after:
  • Nicomachean Ethics
    Nicomachean Ethics
    The Nicomachean Ethics is the name normally given to Aristotle's best known work on ethics. The English version of the title derives from Greek Ἠθικὰ Νικομάχεια, transliterated Ethika Nikomacheia, which is sometimes also given in the genitive form as Ἠθικῶν Νικομαχείων, Ethikōn Nikomacheiōn...

    , the most popular
  • Eudemian Ethics
    Eudemian Ethics
    The Eudemian Ethics is a work of philosophy by Aristotle. Its primary focus is on Ethics, making it one of the primary sources available for study of Aristotelian Ethics. It is named for Eudemus of Rhodes, a pupil of Aristotle who may also have had a hand in editing the final work...

  • Magna Moralia
    Magna Moralia
    The Magna Moralia is a treatise on ethics traditionally attributed to Aristotle, though the consensus now is that it represents an epitome of his ethical thought by a later, if sympathetic, writer. Several scholars have disagreed with this, taking the Magna Moralia to be an authentic work by...



All three may have been compiled by students of Aristotle, especially the Magna Moralia, but they are all considered to be quite similar in the material covered and the method of covering it. (The Magna Moralia is sometimes considered to be a more summarized format.) The Nicomachean Ethics has received the most scholarly attention, and is the most easily available to the public in many different translations and editions. Some critics consider the Eudemian Ethics to be "less mature," while others, such as Kenny (1978), contend that the Eudemian Ethics is the more mature, and therefore later, work. Books IV-VI of Eudemian Ethics also appear as Books V-VII of Nicomachean Ethics.

Traditionally it was believed that the Nicomachean Ethics and the Eudemian Ethics were either edited by or dedicated to Aristotle's son and pupil Nicomachus
Nicomachus (son of Aristotle)
Nicomachus , lived c. 325 BC, was the son of Aristotle.The Suda states that he was from Stageira, a philosopher, a pupil of Theophrastus, and, according to Aristippus, his lover. He may have written a commentary on his father's lectures in physics...

 and his disciple Eudemus, respectively, although the works themselves do not explain the source of their names. Although Aristotle's father was also called Nicomachus, Aristotle's son was the next leader of Aristotle's school, the Lyceum
Lyceum
The lyceum is a category of educational institution defined within the education system of many countries, mainly in Europe. The definition varies between countries; usually it is a type of secondary school.-History:...

, and in ancient times he was already associated with this work.

A fourth treatise, Aristotle's Politics
Politics (Aristotle)
Aristotle's Politics is a work of political philosophy. The end of the Nicomachean Ethics declared that the inquiry into ethics necessarily follows into politics, and the two works are frequently considered to be parts of a larger treatise, or perhaps connected lectures, dealing with the...

, is often regarded as the sequel to the Ethics; Aristotle's Ethics states that the good of the individual is subordinate to the good of the city-state, or polis.

Aristotle as a Socratic


Aristotle's ethics builds upon earlier Greek thought, particularly that of Aristotle's teacher Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

 and Plato's teacher, Socrates
Socrates
Socrates was a classical Greek Athenian philosopher. Credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, he is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon, and the plays of his contemporary ...

. One important distinction is that Socrates didn't leave any written work, and Plato left only some letters and works written as dialogues (in which Plato himself is never a major character). It is therefore the works of Aristotle which appear at first sight to be easiest to use. The overall direction of each of these philosophers, however, was quite similar, and all three (along with Xenophon
Xenophon
Xenophon , son of Gryllus, of the deme Erchia of Athens, also known as Xenophon of Athens, was a Greek historian, soldier, mercenary, philosopher and a contemporary and admirer of Socrates...

) are generally referred to as "Socratic".

According to Aristotle in his Metaphysics, Socrates was the first Greek philosopher to concentrate on ethics, although he apparently did not give it this name, as a philosophical enquiry concerning how people should best live. Aristotle dealt with this same question but giving it two names, "the political" (or Politics) and "the ethical" (Ethics), both with Politics being the name for the two together as the more important part. The original Socratic questioning on ethics started at least partly as a response to sophism
Sophism
Sophism in the modern definition is a specious argument used for deceiving someone. In ancient Greece, sophists were a category of teachers who specialized in using the tools of philosophy and rhetoric for the purpose of teaching aretê — excellence, or virtue — predominantly to young statesmen and...

, which was a popular style of education and speech at the time. Sophism emphasized rhetoric
Rhetoric
Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the facility of speakers or writers who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the Western...

, and argument, and therefore often involved criticism of traditional Greek religion
Ancient Greek religion
Greek religion encompasses the collection of beliefs and rituals practiced in ancient Greece in the form of both popular public religion and cult practices. These different groups varied enough for it to be possible to speak of Greek religions or "cults" in the plural, though most of them shared...

 and flirtation with moral relativism
Moral relativism
Moral relativism may be any of several descriptive, meta-ethical, or normative positions. Each of them is concerned with the differences in moral judgments across different people and cultures:...

.

Aristotle's ethics, or study of character, is built around the premise that people should achieve an excellent character (a virtuous character, "ethikē aretē" in Greek) as a pre-condition for attaining happiness or well-being (eudaimonia). It is sometimes referred to in comparison to later ethical theories as a "character based ethics". Like Plato and Socrates he emphasized the importance of reason
Reason
Reason is a term that refers to the capacity human beings have to make sense of things, to establish and verify facts, and to change or justify practices, institutions, and beliefs. It is closely associated with such characteristically human activities as philosophy, science, language, ...

 for human happiness, and that there were logical and natural reasons for humans to behave virtuously, and try to become virtuous.

Aristotle's treatment of the subject is distinct in several ways from that found in Plato's Socratic dialogues.
  • Aristotle's presentation is obviously different from Plato's because he does not write in dialogue
    Dialogue
    Dialogue is a literary and theatrical form consisting of a written or spoken conversational exchange between two or more people....

    s, but in treatise
    Treatise
    A treatise is a formal and systematic written discourse on some subject, generally longer and treating it in greater depth than an essay, and more concerned with investigating or exposing the principles of the subject.-Noteworthy treatises:...

    s. Apart from this difference, Aristotle explicitly stated that his presentation was different from Plato's because he started from whatever could be agreed upon by well brought-up gentlemen, and not from any attempt to develop a general theory of what makes anything good. He explained that it was necessary not to aim at too much accuracy at the starting point of any discussion to do with controversial matters such as those concerning what is just or what is beautiful. (From this starting point however, he built up to similar theoretical conclusions concerning the importance of intellectual virtue and a contemplative life.)
  • Rather than discussing only four "cardinal virtues
    Cardinal virtues
    In Christian traditionthere are 4 cardinal virtues:*Prudence - able to judge between actions with regard to appropriate actions at a given time*Justice - proper moderation between self-interest and the rights and needs of others...

    " of Plato (courage
    Courage
    Courage is the ability to confront fear, pain, danger, uncertainty, or intimidation...

    , temperance, justice
    Justice
    Justice is a concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, or equity, along with the punishment of the breach of said ethics; justice is the act of being just and/or fair.-Concept of justice:...

    , and prudence
    Prudence
    Prudence is the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason. It is classically considered to be a virtue, and in particular one of the four Cardinal virtues .The word comes from Old French prudence , from Latin...

    ), all three of the ethical works, starts with courage and temperance as the two typical moral virtues which can be described as a mean, then discusses a whole range of minor virtues and vices which can be described as a mean, and only then discusses justice and the intellectual virtues. Aristotle places prudence (phronēsis, often translated as practical wisdom) amongst these intellectual virtues. (Nevertheless, like Plato he eventually says that all the highest forms of the moral virtues require each other, and all require intellectual virtue, and in effect that the happiest and most virtuous life is that of a philosopher.)
  • Aristotle emphasizes throughout all his analyses of virtues that they aim at what is beautiful (kalos), effectively equating the good, at least for humans, with the beautiful (to kalon).
  • Aristotle's analysis of ethics makes use of his metaphysical theory of potentiality and actuality
    Potentiality and actuality
    In philosophy, Potentiality and Actuality are principles of a dichotomy which Aristotle used throughout his philosophical works to analyze motion, causality, ethics, and physiology in his Physics, Metaphysics, Ethics and De Anima .The concept of potentiality, in this context, generally refers to...

    . He defines happiness in terms of this theory as an actuality (energeia); the virtues which allow happiness (and enjoyment of the best and most constant pleasures) are dynamic-but-stable dispositions (hexeis) which are developed through habituation; and this pleasure in turn is another actuality that compliments the actuality of happy living.

Practical ethics


Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

 believed that ethical knowledge is not only a theoretical
Theory
The English word theory was derived from a technical term in Ancient Greek philosophy. The word theoria, , meant "a looking at, viewing, beholding", and referring to contemplation or speculation, as opposed to action...

 knowledge, but rather that a person must have "experience of the actions in life" and have been "brought up in fine habits" to become good (NE 1095a3 and b5). For a person to become virtuous, he can't simply study what virtue is, but must actually do virtuous things.

Aristotle's starting point


As mentioned above, the Aristotelian Ethics all explicitly aim to begin with approximate but uncontroversial starting points. Aristotle's starting point is that everything humans do is aimed at some good, with some good higher than others. The highest human good that people aim at, he said, is generally referred to as happiness (Gk. eudaimonia
Eudaimonia
Eudaimonia or eudaemonia , sometimes Anglicized as eudemonia , is a Greek word commonly translated as happiness or welfare; however, "human flourishing" has been proposed as a more accurate translation...

- sometimes translated as "living well").

Aristotle asserted that popular accounts about what life would be happy divide into three most common types: a life dedicated to vulgar pleasure; a life dedicated to fame and honor; or a life dedicated to contemplation. To judge these, Aristotle uses his method of trying to define the natural function of a human in action. A human's function must include the ability to use reason or logos, because this is an essential attribute of being human. A person that does this is the happiest because he is fulfilling his purpose or nature as found in the rational soul.

The question of how to be happy therefore becomes a question of which activities of the human soul represent the highest excellence in using reason.

Aristotle proposed that we could accept it when people say that the soul can be divided into three parts: the Nutritive Soul (plants, animals and humans), the Perceptive Soul (animals and humans) and the Rational Soul (humans only).

Moral virtue


Moral virtue, or excellence of character, concerns what we do voluntarily, and not what we do because we are forced to do so. The traditional word for the opposite of virtue is vice.

Aristotle believed that every ethical virtue or positive character trait can be described as a pleasant intermediate activity, between a painful excess
Excess
Excess may refer to:* Angle excess, in spherical trigonometry, quantity, used to calculate the area of polygon on a sphere* Excess, in insurance, similar to deductible* Excess, in chemistry, describing any reagent that is not the limiting reagent...

 and a painful deficiency
Deficiency
A deficiency is generally a lack of something. It may also refer to:*A deficient number, in mathematics, a number n for which σ A deficiency is generally a lack of something. It may also refer to:...

. But seeing what is most pleasant and most painful in truth is not something everyone can easily do, especially if they are badly brought up and not experienced. Another way Aristotle describes each of the moral virtues is as a correct aiming at what is beautiful (kalos).

For example, courageous (or literally manly) action is a mean between the painful activities of fear and rash overconfidence. Too much fear or too little confidence leads to cowardice, and too little fear or too much confidence can lead to rash, foolish choices. (Such philosophies of aiming at a middle ground are often referred to as The Golden Mean
Golden mean (philosophy)
In philosophy, especially that of Aristotle, the golden mean is the desirable middle between two extremes, one of excess and the other of deficiency. For example courage, a virtue, if taken to excess would manifest as recklessness and if deficient as cowardice....

.) But courage is also described as an ability to rationally choose the beautiful, which in some cases can be a beautiful death.

Aristotle distinguishes virtue and vice in their true sense as stable dispositions (hexeis) about what they would consciously choose between perceived pleasant and painful options. Dispositions to feel emotions are distinguished by Aristotle as something other than virtues or vices, although they can also be seen as a mean between two extremes, and these are also to some extent a result of up-bringing and habituation. Two examples of such dispositions would be modesty, or a tendency to feel shame, which Aristotle discusses in NE IV.9; and righteous indignation (nemesis), which is a balanced feeling of sympathetic pain concerning the undeserved pleasures and pains of others. Exactly which habitual dispositions are virtues or vices and which only concern emotions, differs between the different works which have survived, but the basic examples are consistent, as is the basis for distinguishing them in principle.

Some people, despite their perceptions and habits concerning what they think is beautiful and pleasant, act on the basis of emotions, even though it is not what they choose. This is not vice according to Aristotle's definition, but "akrasia", sometimes called weakness of will or lack of self-mastery in English translations. In English, the person who would choose the virtuous option but does not, is sometimes translated as "incontinent" in opposition to having vice or being "vicious".

One apparent emotion is separated from the others and not treated as an emotion by Aristotle, and this is "thumos", the spiritedness which is the cause of anger. Aristotle, like Plato in his Socratic dialogues, treats thumos as an important and positive part of the human soul, which helps a well brought-up young person become virtuous. Thumos is not an emotion (pathos) according to Aristotle because it tries to follow the leadership of the rational part of the soul which makes conscious decisions. The true emotions on the other hand, are able to distort rational thinking and dominate it.

Aristotle's described how people become virtuous by performing virtuous actions, which they might not have chosen themselves when young. They must develop proper habits during childhood and this usually requires help from teachers, parents, and law-makers. A good community is normally required for the development of good people.

Virtue in the highest sense, in an adult who has been brought up well, will not just involve good personal habits such as courage and temperance, but also friendship and justice and intellectual virtue.

Justice


Aristotle also wrote about his thoughts on the concept of justice in the Nicomachean Ethics. In these chapters, Aristotle defined justice in two parts, general justice and particular justice. General justice is Aristotle’s form of universal justice that can only exist in a perfect society. Particular justice is where punishment is given out for a particular crime or act of injustice. This is where Aristotle says an educated judge is needed to apply just decisions regarding any particular case. This is where we get the concept of the scales of justice, the blindfolded judge symbolizing blind justice, balancing the scales, weighing all the evidence and deliberating each particular case individually. Homonymy is an important theme in Aristotle’s justice because one form of justice can apply to one, while another would be best suited for a different person/case.
Aristotle says that developing good habits can make a good human being and that practicing the use of The Golden Mean when applicable to virtues will allow a human being to live a healthy, happy life.

The highest good


In his ethical works, Aristotle describes several apparently different kinds of virtuous person as necessarily having all the moral virtues, excellences of character.
  • Being of "great soul" (magnanimity), the virtue where someone would be truly deserving of the highest praise and have a correct attitude towards the honor this may involve. This is the first such case mentioned in the Nicomachean Ethics.
  • Being just in the true sense. This is the type of justice or fairness of a good ruler in a good community.
  • Phronesis
    Phronesis
    Phronēsis is an Ancient Greek word for wisdom or intelligence which is a common topic of discussion in philosophy. In Aristotelian Ethics, for example in the Nicomachean Ethics it is distinguished from other words for wisdom as the virtue of practical thought, and is usually translated "practical...

    or practical wisdom, as shown by good leaders.
  • The virtue of being a truly good friend.
  • Having the nobility kalokagathia of a gentleman.


Aristotle also says, for example in NE Book VI, that such a complete virtue requires intellectual virtue, not only practical virtue, but also theoretical wisdom. Such a virtuous person, if they can come into being, will choose the most pleasant and happy life of all, which is the philosophical life of contemplation and speculation.

Aristotle claims that a human's highest functioning must include reasoning, being good at what sets humans apart from everything else. Or, as Aristotle explains it, "The function of man is activity of soul in accordance with reason, or at least not without reason." He identifies two different ways in which the soul can engage: reasoning (both practical and theoretical) and following reasoning. A person that does this is the happiest because they are fulfilling their purpose or nature as found in the rational soul.
be more than human. A man will not live like that by virtue of his humanness, but by virtue of some divine thing within him. His activity is as superior to the activity of the other virtues as this divine thing is to his composite character. Now if mind is divine in comparison with man, the life of the mind is divine in comparison with mere human life. We should not follow popular advice and, being human, have only mortal thoughts, but should become immortal and do everything toward living the best in us. (NE 10.7)

In other words, the thinker is not only the 'best' person, but is also most like God.

Influence on later thinkers



Aristotle's writings were taught in the Academy in Athens until 529 CE when the Byzantine Emperor
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 Justinian I
Justinian I
Justinian I ; , ; 483– 13 or 14 November 565), commonly known as Justinian the Great, was Byzantine Emperor from 527 to 565. During his reign, Justinian sought to revive the Empire's greatness and reconquer the lost western half of the classical Roman Empire.One of the most important figures of...

 closed down non-Christian schools of philosophy.

Aristotle's work however continued to be taught as a part of secular education. Aristotle's teachings spread through the Mediterranean and the Middle East, where some early Islamic regimes allowed rational philosophical descriptions of the natural world. Alfarabi was a major influence in all medieval philosophy and wrote many works which included attempts to reconcile the ethical and political writings of Plato and Aristotle. Later Avicenna
Avicenna
Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥusayn ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn Sīnā , commonly known as Ibn Sīnā or by his Latinized name Avicenna, was a Persian polymath, who wrote almost 450 treatises on a wide range of subjects, of which around 240 have survived...

, and later still Averroes
Averroes
' , better known just as Ibn Rushd , and in European literature as Averroes , was a Muslim polymath; a master of Aristotelian philosophy, Islamic philosophy, Islamic theology, Maliki law and jurisprudence, logic, psychology, politics, Arabic music theory, and the sciences of medicine, astronomy,...

, were Islamic philosophers who commented on Aristotle as well as writing their own philosophy in Arabic. Averroes, a European Muslim, was particularly influential in turn upon European Christian philosophers, theologians and political thinkers. Jewish philosophers such Maimonidies helped to develop these thoughts and also to transmit them around the Mediterranean.

In the twelfth century, Latin translations of Aristotle's works were made, enabling the Dominican
Dominican Order
The Order of Preachers , after the 15th century more commonly known as the Dominican Order or Dominicans, is a Catholic religious order founded by Saint Dominic and approved by Pope Honorius III on 22 December 1216 in France...

 priest Albert the Great
Albertus Magnus
Albertus Magnus, O.P. , also known as Albert the Great and Albert of Cologne, is a Catholic saint. He was a German Dominican friar and a bishop, who achieved fame for his comprehensive knowledge of and advocacy for the peaceful coexistence of science and religion. Those such as James A. Weisheipl...

 and his pupil Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas, O.P. , also Thomas of Aquin or Aquino, was an Italian Dominican priest of the Catholic Church, and an immensely influential philosopher and theologian in the tradition of scholasticism, known as Doctor Angelicus, Doctor Communis, or Doctor Universalis...

 to combine Aristotle's philosophy with Christian theology. Later medieval church scholasticism
Scholasticism
Scholasticism is a method of critical thought which dominated teaching by the academics of medieval universities in Europe from about 1100–1500, and a program of employing that method in articulating and defending orthodoxy in an increasingly pluralistic context...

 in Western Europe insisted on Thomist views and suppressed non-Aristotelian metaphysics. Aquinas wrote detailed commentaries of Aristotle, including his Nicomachean Ethics, and his most well-known work, the Summa Theologiae
Summa Theologica
The Summa Theologiæ is the best-known work of Thomas Aquinas , and although unfinished, "one of the classics of the history of philosophy and one of the most influential works of Western literature." It is intended as a manual for beginners in theology and a compendium of all of the main...

 contained fifteen volumes which were concerned with ethics. It argued that a rational foundation for ethics was compatible with Christianity, enabling it to borrow many ideas from the Nicomachean Ethics. Eudaimonia or human flourishing was held to be a temporary goal for this life, but perfect happiness as the ultimate goal could only be attained in the next life by the virtuous. New theological virtues were added to the system: faith, hope and charity. Supernatural assistance was also allowed, helping people to be virtuous. Many important parts of Aristotle's ethics were retained however. Thomism
Thomism
Thomism is the philosophical school that arose as a legacy of the work and thought of St. Thomas Aquinas, philosopher, theologian, and Doctor of the Church. In philosophy, his commentaries on Aristotle are his most lasting contribution...

, the name given to the beliefs of Thomas Aquinas, is particularly influential: it has been a part of official Catholic doctrine since the time of Pope Leo XIII
Pope Leo XIII
Pope Leo XIII , born Vincenzo Gioacchino Raffaele Luigi Pecci to an Italian comital family, was the 256th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, reigning from 1878 to 1903...

 (1878–1903).

In the early 16th century, Niccolò Machiavelli
Niccolò Machiavelli
Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli was an Italian historian, philosopher, humanist, and writer based in Florence during the Renaissance. He is one of the main founders of modern political science. He was a diplomat, political philosopher, playwright, and a civil servant of the Florentine Republic...

, while heavily influenced by writers who had been in turn influenced by Plato and Aristotle, such as Polybius
Polybius
Polybius , Greek ) was a Greek historian of the Hellenistic Period noted for his work, The Histories, which covered the period of 220–146 BC in detail. The work describes in part the rise of the Roman Republic and its gradual domination over Greece...

 and Plutarch
Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

, argued for a realism in political and ethical thinking which was not compatible with the Socratic approach of taking bearings from non-existent ideal cities and ideal types of human behaviour. This criticism spread to the physical sciences. The empiricism
Empiricism
Empiricism is a theory of knowledge that asserts that knowledge comes only or primarily via sensory experience. One of several views of epistemology, the study of human knowledge, along with rationalism, idealism and historicism, empiricism emphasizes the role of experience and evidence,...

 of early modern science challenged Aristotle's physics
Physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

 and metaphysics
Metaphysics
Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world, although the term is not easily defined. Traditionally, metaphysics attempts to answer two basic questions in the broadest possible terms:...

 so successfully that doubt was cast on the rest of his philosophy too. The Nicomachean Ethics nevertheless continues to be treated as a relevant work for philosophers today. Although Aristotle's ethics was integrated with an Aristotelian metaphysical understanding of reality which is no longer commonly accepted in science, it is not universally accepted that this makes his ethics wrong.

Recent and contemporary moral philosophers influenced by Aristotle include Bernard Williams
Bernard Williams
Sir Bernard Arthur Owen Williams was an English moral philosopher, described by The Times as the most brilliant and most important British moral philosopher of his time. His publications include Problems of the Self , Moral Luck , Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy , and Truth and Truthfulness...

, Philippa Foot
Philippa Foot
Philippa Ruth Foot was a British philosopher, most notable for her works in ethics. She was one of the founders of contemporary virtue ethics...

, Martha Nussbaum
Martha Nussbaum
Martha Nussbaum , is an American philosopher with a particular interest in ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, political philosophy and ethics....

, John McDowell
John McDowell
John Henry McDowell is a South African philosopher, formerly a fellow of University College, Oxford and now University Professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Although he has written extensively on metaphysics, epistemology, ancient philosophy, and meta-ethics, McDowell's most influential work...

 and Rosalind Hursthouse
Rosalind Hursthouse
-Biography:Hursthouse spent her childhood in New Zealand and taught for many years at the Open University in England. She was head of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Auckland from 2002 to 2005...

, and those who fully continue the tradition of Aristotelianism
Aristotelianism
Aristotelianism is a tradition of philosophy that takes its defining inspiration from the work of Aristotle. The works of Aristotle were initially defended by the members of the Peripatetic school, and, later on, by the Neoplatonists, who produced many commentaries on Aristotle's writings...

 include Alasdair MacIntyre
Alasdair MacIntyre
Alasdair Chalmers MacIntyre is a British philosopher primarily known for his contribution to moral and political philosophy but known also for his work in history of philosophy and theology...

. Oxford professor Bent Flyvbjerg
Bent Flyvbjerg
Bent Flyvbjerg is the first Chair and BT Professor of Major Programme Management at Oxford University's Saïd Business School and is Founding Director of the University's BT Centre for Major Programme Management. He was previously Professor of Planning at Aalborg University, Denmark and Chair of...

 has developed phronetic social science
Phronetic social science
Phronetic social science is an approach to the study of social – including political and economic – phenomena based on a contemporary interpretation of the Aristotelian concept phronesis, variously translated as practical judgment, common sense, or prudence. Phronesis is the intellectual virtue...

 based on Aristotle's ethics.

Translations

. Re-issued 1980, revised by J. L. Ackrill and J. O. Urmson.. Re-issued 1976, revised by Hugh Tredennick.

External links