Aristotle 384–322 B.C. Athens and Mytilene
Questions of Virtue and Seeking the Good
What makes a human life good -- what makes it worth living and what must
we do, not just merely to live, but to live well?
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy- Aristotle's Ethics
Ziniewicz on Aristotle:
Ethics I-II Commentary by
"Moral Knowledge and the Acquisition of Virtue in Aristotle's Nicomachean
and Eudemian Ethics."
The Review of Metaphysics 54; 3: 500-53, by Alex John London (Download
Notes on language
Ethics (Greek and English) from Perseus Project
Virtues and Vices.
from Perseus Project
Geographical and Historical Situation
Biography from Bjorn's Guide to Philosophy
Born at Stagira in Macedonia, the son of Nicomachus, Aristotle was together
with Plato the most influential philosopher of the western tradition. At age 17 he entered Plato's
academy in Athens, and remained there until Plato's death. Aristotle then accepted the invitation
of Hermias to reside at Assos. Upon the death of Hermias (whose niece, Pythias, he married) in
345, Aristotle went to Mytilene on the island of Lesbos. Between 343/2 and 340 he acted as the
tutor to the young Alexander the Great. In 335 he returned to Athens where he founded a school,
the Lyceum. Here he organized and conducted research on many subjects, and built the first great
library of antiquity. After the death of Pythias he lived with Herpyllis, by whom he had a son,
Nicomachus. On the death of Alexander in 325 anti-Macedonian feeling in Athens caused Aristotle to
retire to Chalcis where he died in 322.
Peters, F. E. Greek Philosophical Terms: A Historical Lexicon. New
York University, 1967.
General works on Aristotle include
- Sir David Ross’s Aristotle
- W. K. C. Guthrie’s section on Aristotle in his A History
of Greek Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
Works specifically on his ethics include
- Nancy Sherman’s The Fabric of Character: Aristotle’s
Theory of Virtue (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989);
- John Cooper’s Reason and Human Good in Aristotle
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1975);
- W. F. R. Hardie’s Aristotle’s Ethical Theory (Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1980);
- Richard Kraut's Aristotle on the Human Good (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1989);
- Troels Engberg-Pedersen’s Aristotle’s Theory of Moral
- Sarah Broadie’s Ethics with Aristotle (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1991);
- Julia Annas, The Morality of Happiness (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1993).
Two excellent anthologies of articles on Aristotle’s ethics
- Amélie Rorty’s Essays on Aristotle’s Ethics
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980)
- Barnes, Schofield, and Sorabji’s Articles on Aristotle: 2;
Ethics and Politics (New York: St. Martin’s, 1977) contains an excellent bibliography.
One of the most fascinating treatments of Aristotle’s ethics is
to be found in
- Part Three of Martha Nussbaum’s The Fragility of Goodness:
Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986);
- Martha Nussbaum's The Therapy of Desire: Theory and Practice
in Hellenistic Ethics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994).
For a perceptive discussion and evaluation of Aristotle’s ethics in light of current work in
feminist ethics, see
- Marcia Homiak, "Feminism and Aristotle’s Rational
Ideal," in A Mind of One’s Own: Feminist Essays on Reason and Objectivity
(Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1993), pp. 1-18.
Contemporary Virtue Theory
- The contemporary resurgence of interest in the virtues
Philippa Foot’s "Virtues and Vices" in her Virtues and Vices and Other Essays In
Moral Philosophy (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1978), pp. 1-18
- Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue, 2nd edition (Notre
Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984).
Several reviews of the recent literature are noteworthy:
- Arthur Fleming’s "Reviewing the Virtues," Ethics,
Vol. 90 (1980), pp. 587-95;
- Gregory Pence’s "Recent Work on the Virtues," American
Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 21, No. 4 (October, 1984), pp. 281-97 and his
- "Virtue Theory," A Companion to Ethics, edited
by Peter Singer (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1991), pp. 249-58;
- Marcia Baron’s "Varieties of Ethics of Virtue," American
Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 22 (January, 1985), 47-53;
- Gregory Trianosky’s "What Is Virtue Ethics All
About?" American Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 27, No. 4 (October, 1990), pp.
- Phillip Montague, "Virtue Ethics: A Qualified Success
Story," American Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 1 (January, 1992), pp. 53-61.
For an insightful analysis into historical views of
- Richard White, "Historical Perspectives on the Morality of
Virtue," The Journal of Value Inquiry, Vol. 25 (1991), pp. 217-31.
- Also see the excellent bibliography in The Virtues,
edited by Robert B. Kruschwitz and Robert C. Roberts (Belmont, California: Wadsworth, 1987).
Other collections of contemporary articles on virtues and vices
- Sommers and Sommers, Vice and Virtue in Everyday Life, 3rd
Edition (San Diego: Harcourt, Brace and Jovanovich, 1992);
- Vol. XIII of Midwest Studies in Philosophy (1988) on
virtue theory; the special double issue on the virtues in Philosophia, Vol. 20 (1990);
- Flanagan and Rorty’s Identity, Character, and Morality
(Cambridge: MIT Press, 1990);
- Halberstam’s Virtues and Values (Englewood Cliffs:
- Virtue, edited by
John W. Chapman and William A. Galston (New York: New York University Press, 1992) and
- John Deigh’s Ethics and Personality: Essays in Moral
Psychology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992).
On the more popular front, see
- William Bennett, The Book of Virtues (New York: Simon
& Schuster, 1993).
- Joel Kupperman’s Character (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1991) presents a character-based ethical theory that places the discussion of
particular virtues and vices within the context of the individual’s character.
For a utilitarian approach to virtue, see John Kilcullen,
"Utilitarianism and Virtue," Ethics, Vol. 93, No. 3 (April, 1983), pp. 451-66.