Book 1

Aristotle begins Nicomachean Ethics by suggesting that the ultimate pursuit of life is the attainment of the supreme Good, the supreme Good, for Aristotle, is equated to happiness. Aristotle goes on to discuss what people consider to be happiness and explores what makes a person “good.” Finally, Aristotle explores the soul as separated between an irrational and a rational part.

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Book 2

In Book 2, Aristotle concerns himself with the topic of virtue, exploring the intellectual and moral aspects of virtue and explains how one acts in relation to virtue and circumstances. In this regard, Aristotle interrogates the relationship between moral virtue and pleasure and pain and proceeds to list the three ways to distinguish virtue as inherent in people versus people who act in a virtuous way due to circumstance. Virtue is integral to the achievement of happiness and thus Aristotle puts forth three practical rules of conduct when it comes to living a virtuous life.

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Book 3

Aristotle suggests that a person’s actions can be separated into voluntary, involuntary, or nonvoluntary, he then goes on to give examples of each, before going on to analyze how the choices we make or don’t make affect our actions. Aristotle then discusses temperance and explores the idea of the temperate person.

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Book 4

Aristotle investigates various virtues and vices, including liberality, illiberality, prodigality, magnanimity, amiability, sincerity and wit, as well as truthfulness and modesty.

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Book 5

The topic of justice is Aristotle’s main concern in Book 5 as he examines the difference between justice and virtue, the two types of justice (distributive and rectificatory), as well as the difference between political and domestic justice.

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Book 6

The difference between the rational and irrational parts of the soul are studied in further depth, along with the five intellectual virtues that the soul can arrive at truth. The importance of prudence in relation to intellectual virtues is also of utmost concern in Book 6.

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Book 7

Aristotle’s exploration into moral character shifts to focusing on the idea of incontinence and the incontinent person as it relates to desire and the question of feeling good, as well as examining pleasure in this regard.

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Book 8

Friendship as a theme takes centerstage, as well as what Aristotle considers the three types of friendships, friendships based on utility, pleasure, and goodness. A discussion of justice and friendship follows, before Aristotle shifts to mentioning monarchy, aristocracy, and timocracy. Finally, the issues that arise in friendships centered around utility are investigated.

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Book 9

In this Book, Aristotle interrogates deeper the nature of friendship and friendships based on utility, in particular he pays attention to the concept of self-love and the idea of the good person.

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Book 10

As opposed to happiness being the end goal of the supreme good, Eudoxus (a member of  Plato’s Academy) puts forth pleasure as the supreme good. Plato argues against this and shows how pleasure is not the instinctive goal for which people strive. Instead, Plato suggests that contemplation is the highest form of happiness.

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