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Aristotle and the best kind of life in society

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Aristotle's definition of the purpose of the human being as an excellence.
  3. Virtue.
    1. Excellence by itself.
    2. Excesses and deficiencies.
  4. Aristotle being considered in opposition with Plato.
  5. Habits and the nature of virtue.
  6. The importance given by Aristotle to the study of friendship, pleasure and amusement.
  7. Conclusion.
  8. Bibliography.

Nicomachean Ethics (NE) is generally considered, not without any reason, as one of the main books in the history of the ethics. Indeed, Aristotle describes and constructs in his book major concepts, like virtue or happiness that have been used for a long time, from Kant to Arendt and that do not lose their modernity, judging by the number of commentaries about this book. However, many imprecision's remain, especially around the question of the good life. As A. MacC. Armstrong (1958) picks out, the notion of Good and Goodness can be confusing and lead to some interrogations or mistakes. Moreover, different interpretations of the best kind of life can seem to be in opposition. Thus, some see in the Greek philosopher's thought two inconsistent teachings (Clark, 1975) when others see only one (Cooper, 1975). In other words, the debate shows a tension between the Book I and the Book X of NE, which allows two visions of the good life; the second one excluding ?any concern for familial, social or political life, except insofar as they provide the conditions for a life of theoretical activity? (Tessitore, 1992, p.199).

[...] Aristotle is often considered in opposition with Plato because of their different points of view about the ideal, and ideas in general. Nevertheless, there are absolutes for Aristotle. Thus, the happiness, or eudaimonia, is the highest good for man, and we aim at exercising the highest virtue. Humankind is therefore trying to reach Sophia, this wisdom of morality. There is then as an objective and ideal of the life a purpose of contemplation, of reasoning about things unchanging. Aristotle actually comes back to something of divine which would be close to Plato's ideal. [...]


[...] The comprehension of the good life in NE therefore raises some questions. As often, the comprehension of Aristotle is submitted to an intellectual effort and some controversies generally appear. Further, the problems of translation and of restitution of the manuscripts do not help us[3]. So, finally we ask ourselves ?what is the good life for Aristotle?? Is it this intellectualist extreme of the contemplation of truth or rather a practical habit? Our point will be in this work to try to approach this complexity of Aristotle and to understand several different faces of his philosophy. [...]


[...] Hardie, ?Aristotle on the Best Life for a Philosophy Charles Hummel, Aristote Perspectives : revue trimestrielle d'éducation comparée, (Paris, UNESCO : Bureau international d'éducation), vol. XXIII, p. 37-50 Felix C. Robb, ?Aristotle and Education? Peabody Journal of Education, Vol No (Jan., 1943), pp. 202-213. Léon Robin, Aristote, PUF Paris 1944 Aristide Tessitore, Political Reading of Aristotle's Treatment of Pleasure in the Nicomachean Ethics?, Political Theory, Vol No (May, 1989), pp. 247-265. Aristide Tessitore, ?Aristotle's Ambiguous Account of the Best Polity, Vol No (Winter, 1992), pp. [...]

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