Nicomachean Ethics is a treatise on ethics that was written by Aristotle around 340 BCE that examines the question of how men should best live their lives. It is one of the most influential philosophical works ever published, with the height of its influence coming in Europe during the Middle Ages when Thomas Aquinas and others merged key ideas from Nicomachean Ethics into core Christian theology. The ten books that comprise the work are believed to be based on lecture notes from lectures given by Aristotle in the Lyceum. The title Nicomachean Ethics stems from the belief that the work was likely either edited by or dedicated to Aristotle’s son, Nicomachus.
Set in ancient Greece, the ethical treatise delves into the concept of virtue and the development of moral character. Aristotle explores the idea of eudaimonia, often translated as “flourishing” or “living well,” as the ultimate aim of human life. He identifies virtues as the means to achieve this goal, emphasizing the importance of moderation and balance in ethical decision-making.
Historical context is crucial to understanding Aristotle’s ethical philosophy. The work reflects the philosophical dialogues of ancient Greece, responding to and building upon the ideas of Plato, Socrates, and other predecessors. Aristotle’s emphasis on virtue ethics contrasts with the more abstract and formal ethical theories of his time. Aristotle’s work figures heavily in the ongoing discussions about virtue ethics, moral character, and the pursuit of a meaningful life. Nicomachean Ethics continues to influence ethical philosophy, providing insights into the complexities of human morality.
Read the overall summary, an explanation of the role of Virtue & Happiness in the work, and explanations of important quotes from Nicomachean Ethics. Or, learn more by studying SparkNotes guides to other works by Aristotle.