Argues that the highest good for human beings is happiness and presents a rich account of what happiness consists in.
Aristotle wrote Nicomachean Ethics in Greece in the fourth century b.c.e., a period of extraordinary all-round intellectual development. He was a student of Plato, who in turn was a student of Socrates. Aristotle went on to teach the warrior and empire builder, Alexander the Great. More than two millennia later, Aristotle’s thorough exploration of virtue, reason, and the ultimate human good still forms the basis of the values that lie at the heart of Western civilization.
According to Aristotle, the ultimate human good is eudaimonia, an ancient Greek word that can be translated as happiness, or flourishing. Eudaimonia comes from a life of virtuous (or good) action. Virtues such as justice, restraint, and practical wisdom cannot simply be taught—they must be developed over time by cultivating virtuous habits. The making of virtuous choices can be developed by using practical wisdom, and by recognizing the desirable middle ground between extremes of human behaviour.
Aristotle was born in 384 B.C.E. in what is present-day Macedonia. At the age of 17 he moved to Athens in Greece to begin an education in philosophy under Plato, one of the founders of European philosophy, at his renowned Academy. On Plato’s death in 347 B.C.E., Aristotle moved back to Macedonia to tutor the young Alexander the Great. But in 335 B.C.E. he returned to Athens and established his own school, the Lyceum. Political unrest forced Aristotle to leave Athens again in 322 B.C.E., and he died shortly afterwards on the island of Euboea.