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. 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. [...]
[...] Moreover, we said that this best kind of life for human is activity of the soul according to the virtue” (1198 a 18). And as notices Léon Robin (1944, p.247), the essence of virtues for Aristotle is ethics, or at least it must be considered as a non negligible part of them. When we consider the latter, we start with the question of what is the Nature of virtue. By elimination, it can be answered that it is a habit. [...]
[...] The latter would be more practical and also more appropriate as far as the educator is able to “become a lawgiver” himself (1180b25). There is always in NE this temptation for an absolute, corrected by an empirical and practical vision. Consequently, education can realise the best kind of life for an individual in the society. If we cannot reach a definite agreement on what is best, we are however sure that it must be through a process of improving, that takes time. [...]
[...] We would forget that, when defining the best life for an individual, Aristotle brilliantly considers humans with their reality, their feelings, their life in society, but also gives to mankind a high moral objective and an ambitious life. We must be intellectual, and we must act. Undoubtedly, a fine analysis of Aristotle's thought retains a deep sense even today. Let us remind ourselves that, the Aristotelian doctrine of the Good is a moral empiricism. Bibliography J. L. Ackrill, “Aristotle on Eudaimonia”, in Essays on Aristotle's Ethics, pp. [...]
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