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is both the highest form of activity (since the intellect is the
highest thing in us, and the objects that it apprehends are the
highest things that can be known), and also it is the most continuous,
because we are more capable of continuous contemplation than we
are of any practical activity.
Near the end of the Ethics, in
Book X, Chapter 7, Aristotle concludes that
contemplation is the highest human good. Aristotle distinguishes
rationality, and the intellect in particular, as the highest human
functions, since these are the functions that distinguish us from
other animals. It is also through the intellect that we can think about
philosophy, God, and nature, which Aristotle considers to be far
more noble objects of thought than the daily matters of human society.
Consequently, he reasons that a life of continuous contemplation
is the best possible human life. Of course, life cannot consist solely
of contemplation, since practical matters always need dealing with,
but in Aristotle’s view, the more contemplation the better. Practical
wisdom and the moral virtues are noble and essential to securing
the good life, but the good life itself consists foremost of contemplation.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Nicomachean Ethics!