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4.6 out of 5 stars
Nicomachean Ethics
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66 of 71 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2006
I would not hesitate to recommend Irwin's Hackett edition to anyone who wants to undertake the real work of understanding Aristotle's "Nicomachean Ethics."

The translation & the interpretation underlying it are not perfect. Other translations may in some (even many) cases be based on interpretations I would prefer. So why is Irwin better? Because his is the only version that lets the reader see the nuts and bolts--that is, just how trickily ambiguous Aristotle's text so often is, and just what the translator has done to interpret it and make sense of it. Only with this extra apparatus can a Greekless reader have some confidence in forming his or her own understanding. And even most of us who know Greek are dependent on commentaries and interpretations like Irwin's to force ourselves to confront real issues and possibilities of meaning that we might clumsily miss as we read the Greek.

Since the strength of Irwin's translation is its clearly labelled interpretative moves, I think it is worth considering looking for the out-of-print FIRST edition (ISBN 0915145669). In the first edition, Irwin intrudes his own section headings at the rate of at least ten per Bekker page. These help you know exactly how Irwin is taking the argument (and again, even if you disagree, the value of a translation lies in offering an interpretation that makes some sense). For example, at 1143b6 and following, Irwin's headings say of understanding "It seems to grow naturally..." and then later "...But in fact it requires experience." NO ONE reading the Greek out of context could possibly come up with this contrast, which basically assumes that Aristotle's Greek is misleadingly written (really straining the idea of a result clause, in this instance) in order to make Aristotle make more consistent sense.

Irwin's notes are great. He offers TONS of cross references. It reminds me of a really good study Bible, with zillions of references to other passages packed in along the margins. (In Irwin, these notes are in the back.) Aristotle is a systematic thinker, even if he looks at things from different angles at different times. The kind of comparative reading encouraged by these references is the only way to understand Aristotle.

In short, this is a great edition that lets an English-language reader get into the "laboratory" of interpreting Aristotle. It's not polished, but neither is Aristotle. If you're sentenced to a lengthy jail term, you could take this volume, read and reread it with all Irwin's glossary-essays and cross-refs., and really start to understand how Aristotle thinks. If you were smart, you would end up disagreeing with some of Irwin's translations and interpretations. But it's a tremendous testimony to his interpretative labor that you could disagree in this way. (But if it's a general handle on Aristotle, as opposed to the Ethics, you want, you should really start with Irwin and Fine's Hackett "Selections"--NOT their "Introductory Readings" which deprives you of the glossary-and-notes apparatus really needed to get it.)
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on February 14, 2012
After talking to the publisher about my concerns, which are outlined in my original review below, they have now produced a new version of the kindle edition of this book, thus the edit of this review, and its change from 1 star to 5 stars. The publishers have now put in the hyperlinks between text and note, wherever there is one, and a simple click on the note will take you back to the main text. It works really nicely. They have also included in the text the Bekker numbers in the form [1095a] - so if you need to do a lookup by Bekker, you can get as close as the section, and then the lines are listed in the text in groups of 10 - "[10]" - easy to see when scanning down from the section heading. The table to contents has also been updated to include all the Medieval Chapter headings under each book, so if you prefer to jump to a section via that means, this is also open to you.

All in all with this new edition of the kindebook, if you are studying this work, the kindle edition, I feel, surpasses the paperback in utility in almost every way. I also cannot credit the publishers enough for taking the criticism with good grace, responding to it and going far beyond the few criticisms originally made, and producing something which is vastly superior to what was produced before and possibly one of the best academic book transfers to kindle that I've seen.

_____________ORIGINAL REVIEW_______________
This is a review specifically of the Kindle edition of this book.

I will start by saying that the contents of the book - the sensitive translation, the excellent notes etc are all absolutely top notch - and for these the book has the star I gave it.

My issue is that the Kindle transfer is lazy on the part of the publisher. The book is, in volume, about 40% the work itself, and 60% explanatory notes and commentary. The notes are 'end-note' style, marked by asterisks in the text.

There is no hyperlink or link of any kind in the kindle transfer to be able to get to a note, when you find a passage you want explanation on. Other books I have found (such as the Grube/Reeve translation of Plato's republic) all have the notes hyperlinked - so you can quickly get from text to note, and back to text. This edition has absolutely no way to find the note for a given section. The table of contents also just has a single item "Notes" to describe, what in the paperback is pages 172-314 - not very useful.

This means that unless you want to *just* read a translation, with no thought to what might have affected the translator's judgement in picking a particular word, or explanation of what difficult passages actually mean - in other words if you are buying this with a view to studying the text, pass over this and get the paperback instead.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Aristotle's ethics is a theory of excellence so it definitely spoke to me as a individual. He starts with the claim that the end of all human action is happiness and he claims that happiness requires virtue. He goes on to look at several different types of virtues and he believes they can be perfected through practice. One is to practice at finding the golden mean between excess and deficiency. To use an example from Aristotle to illustrate, one is to act courageously, but it is rash to act with too much courage and it is cowardice to not act with enough courage. Therefore, he supports finding the mean in all human action and this is to lead to happiness. Books 8 and 9 give the best treatise on friendship that I have ever found so I recommend those two books above all of the rest. Overall the whole book is worth ones time though. Aristotle's ethics is a simple and a commonsensical approach to ethics so nobody should be put off from reading this book due to its difficulty.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 10, 2012
In spite of my usual reservations about Aristotle, I found myself really liking this. The style is straight forward, his arguments are succinct and to the point, unlike the uber-dense abstractions in the Physics. And Unlike certain greek philosophers (cough, Plato, cough), his analysis manages to be upbeat and actually contains a shred of practicality. I don't see how it could work in the non-classical world, but it's such an enthusiastic piece of writing, so confident that it can pin down what it is that makes people tick, that I found myself not really caring. If you've never read Aristotle before and suddenly feel compelled to do so, the Ethics is a good starting point.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
After I read Terence's translation, I found it is much better than Ross one. Note and glossary are especially helpful to those cannot read original greek.
I recommend it!
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on December 2, 2004
Irwin's translation is extremely readable for any individual and I urge any individual to read "Nicomachean Ethics". It is not necessary to have a formal background in philosophy to read and appreciate the concepts developed by Aristotle in "Nicomachean Ethics". It is in my personal opinion that Aristotle was a remarkably gifted individual whose ideas seem to emanate from a divine truth. I can not imagine any individual with a mind open to new ideas who would not benefit greatly from reading this book; especially, those who require a reaffirmation of their own truth developed through the course of their own life, such as: the concept of genuine happiness and a parallel one could draw with regards to the sanctification of human activity/ human life/ human spirit.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 2008
I write this to convince anyone who, like me, lived a good chunk of their life without investigating this book, that it's time to get a copy and carve out a few hours. Civilizations have ordered themselves around concepts like the "Golden Mean," that every ethical virtue involves finding a balance between excess and deficiency, or that virtue is an end in itself--one that can only be lived and not merely talked about. I personally like the idea that many of the cultures of the world were tutored by the thinking of the man who wrote: "We are not studying in order to know what virtue is, but to become good, for otherwise there would be no profit in it." (NE 2.2)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 4, 2015
Not all of us are fortunate enough to be born to a father whose wisdom is revered through the ages. Aristotle has left his son (and us) with a handbook for an excellent life. This book is all about getting your head on straight. Life is far simpler when you learn how to identify things, know what they're good at, how good they are at it, and what to expect of them. This systematic approach undoes the perpetual ambiguity this world tries to drown you with. Take the advise of a father far wiser than yours. The world won't change to fit your perspective, you have to learn to see the world how it really is, and make your choices accordingly.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 19, 2012
Do not make the mistake of dismissing Aristotle because he is 'just another dead guy.' In this classic text, Aristotle teases out a variety of virtues valued by the ancient Greeks and their world. Within, Aristotle gives the reader a schema for understanding both ancient and transhistorical ideas on virtue and relating well to others. His vocabulary and concepts regularly pop up in other works, up to contemporary times; thus, grappling with Nicomachean Ethics makes those other works more understandable. Standing alongside and thinking with Aristotle increases one's ability to discern and decide on right action. As with other philosophical works, be ready to accept befuddlement from time to time, and talk with others about your gleanings as you read (and read again). Also, it is not necessary to agree with all of his conclusions to be aided by his exposition; you may find that you comprehend humans quite a bit better. If you are not reading this as an assignment, take your time; if you are hurrying because you must, keep the text as a reference.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 24, 2008
Anybody who wants to know more about ethical theory should definitely read Nicomachean Ethics, as well as the Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals by Immanuel Kant and Utilitarianism by John Stewart Mill. This is a good translation and part of a good series of books on ethics. The binding is solid and, of course, the work within is great.
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