6 Lessons from Reading Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics
If you’re looking to improve your productivity, self-development, or just learn a little bit more about philosophy, then you should definitely check out Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics.
This book is packed with wisdom and insight that can help you become a better person. In this post, I’ll share 6 of the most important lessons that I learned from reading it. So without further ado, let’s get started!
Here are six things I’ve learned so far from reading this text.
- Virtue Isn’t Easy to Achieve — In Ethics , Aristotle argues that virtues are a kind of moderation between two vices. He says the virtue is found in a ‘mean’ between two extremes. For example, courage can be seen as a mean between cowardliness and foolhardiness. He then goes on to argue that this ‘
- Good is the ultimate end. The ultimate end (telos) of all human actions is the good. What this means is that we should always look at what we’re trying to achieve and ask ourselves if it’s actually good, i.e., virtuous. Which brings me to another point: The difference between a good and bad person is not whether or not they do
- The most excellent actions are the ones that are inherently good and the ones that you find pleasure in doing. This is not a relativist perspective. There is good that is good for all. Opinions are just that, opinions. There is one good. There is one form of universal excellence. In fact, “excellence” does not need the “universal” qualifier. It is implied.
- Good or bad ends are accomplished by voluntary actions. We can’t be good inherently. We must make choices that promote this (good) end. We will make mistakes along the way, but the important thing is that our choices are what count. And they count for a lot. This works for bad ends as well. We make choices voluntarily to promote evil ends. We act by commission or omission. We can decide to act in pursuit of bad ends. We can also decide not to act in pursuit of those same ends. It works for good ends as well.
- Acts by commission and omission can contribute to good. However, an act done on your own (an act by commission) holds more weight when pursuing excellence. Simply letting “good” happen is perfectly fine per se, but when you can, act in accordance with excellence. Be proactive. Not reactive. Sometimes, excellence requires more than simply “not being a jerk.” You must try to do good.
- Do not be agreeable for the sake of being agreeable. This is not virtuous. When we say yes to every little request, we are offering pleasure to others because we believe saying “no” provides them with pain. It bothers us to see others in pain especially when they are right in front of us. This is why “yes” men exist. They cannot bring forth enough fortitude to say “no”- especially to superiors.
There you have it. These are five things, of many, I have learned from reading this book by Aristotle. Do you have any other lessons? If so, don’t be afraid to let me know in the comments section down below!