7_nichomachean - 24.01 Classics of Western Philosophy Prof...

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24.01 Classics of Western Philosophy Prof. Rae Langton II. Aristotle Lecture 7. Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics Prof. Rae Langton Book I: 1097a-1098a. 1. Aristotle asks: what is the chief good? What is the ultimate end of human life? Aristotle takes these questions to be the same; and he argues that there must be such a chief good, and such an end, on pain of a regress: If… there is some end of the things we do, which we desire for its own sake (everything else being desired for the sake of this), and if we do not choose everything for the sake of something else (for at that rate the process would go on to infinity, so that our desire would be empty and vain), clearly this must be the good, and the chief good. (1094a:20) He gives the answer, ‘Happiness’ or eudaimonia . This answer makes Aristotle a kind of hedonist , albeit rather a distinctive one. Note that ‘happiness’ or eudaimonia is closer to the idea of ‘flourishing’ than the idea of ‘pleasure’: compare it with the flourishing of a plant or an animal. 2. Happiness is the only thing aimed at purely for its own sake. Happiness has a unique status among ends. Happiness is the only thing aimed for purely as an end, and not also as a means or instrument to other things: it is the only ‘complete’ end. Some ends (e.g. wealth, musical instruments) are chosen as means to some other end. Happiness is the one complete end. What of intelligence, honour, pleasure? They too
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7_nichomachean - 24.01 Classics of Western Philosophy Prof...

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