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38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Aristotle's Ethics: The Art of Living
I bought this book almost accidentaly, for having nothing better to do one night on a business trip to Pretoria. Being Greek, I have a love-hate relationship with the Ancients: brought up to marvel at their genius, but feeling alienated by an education system that force-fed us with sterile, badly translated texts, which always seemed irrelevant to our lifes. This...
Published on June 19, 2000 by Agis Liberakis

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11 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poor Binding
If you are considering this volume for its parallel Greek and English, then it is your only choice. I am not reviewing the Greek or English, as you know what you're in for with a Loeb. The one star is the result of a poorly produced volume. The newer Loeb volumes are very poorly bound. My copy of Nichomachean Ethics has a number of pages stuck together by binding glue...
Published on May 12, 2008 by T. Warmath


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38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Aristotle's Ethics: The Art of Living, June 19, 2000
By 
I bought this book almost accidentaly, for having nothing better to do one night on a business trip to Pretoria. Being Greek, I have a love-hate relationship with the Ancients: brought up to marvel at their genius, but feeling alienated by an education system that force-fed us with sterile, badly translated texts, which always seemed irrelevant to our lifes. This book opened my eyes to the true meaning of "Philosophy". The translation is in modern English, free from the back-to-front syntax of the Ancient Greek text (which makes it impossible to understand the meaning of a sentence until you reach the end of it!).
The subject matter is "Ethics". However, a modern author may have called it something more akin to "The Meaning of Life" or "The Art of Living". Aristotle proceeds with simple and clear logic, to reveal the objective of human struggle in this life. He demonstrates a deep understanding of the Human Being, what we are and what we are not, what makes us act in one way or another and what makes us feel joy or distress. He addresses anxienties of the modern human, such as the question of nature or nurture, the moral action versus the practical, violence versus non-violence. His recommendations for living this life in a manner that is meaningfull and rewarding are profound yet simple. I found myself shaking my head in recognition at every example or conclusion. I felt a fresh wind in my chest, as if it was I who was discovering this knowledge, not some 2.5 thousand year old man.
I recommend this book to anyone who wants to discover more about how to live this life, but feels foreign to current eastern-derived, philosophical/religious fashions which, even when illuminating, can appear alien to the western way of thinking.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Early work of social science, November 7, 2006
By 
Neutiquam Erro (Isles of Llyonnesse) - See all my reviews
Aristotle's Ethics by Penguin classics looks deceptively like a paperback novel. It is nothing of the kind, being a densely packed philosophical treatise on the nature of humankind and our relationships with others.

The book, a translation of the Nichomachean Ethics and not Aristotle's earlier Eudemian Ethics, may seem slightly mistitled to a modern audience. It deals primarily with analysis of character and what good character is and is not. Discussion of ethical issues and moral judgements of right and wrong are largely missing. The reader is expected to develop their behaviour towards others by perfecting their own character. For example, courage in its various forms is discussed but the practical application of courage is not. Much of Aristotle's thesis appears obvious to our modern minds but it is important to remember that Aristotle was systemetizing his description of human nature in an effort to understand it. Unfortunately this makes for a rather dry read.

The book also contains a lengthy introduction by Jonathan Barnes. While it is acessible to the general audience, a background in philosophy would be useful to really understand the issues he addresses. There is also a preface by Hugh Tredennick who explains why this new translation is needed - primarily for readability. Between J.A.K. Thompson (the translator), Barnes and Treddennick we appear to have the crème de la crème of Cambridge and Oxford Aristotaleans involved in this little book. The introduction has a substantial bibliography in its own right and the book includes 10 brief appendices which provide background on the philosophical ideas in the text. These are critical to understanding the book if you aren't widely read in the early Greek philosophers. A glossary of Greek words and an index of names proceeds a general index. Footnotes are brief and unobtrusive but usually helpful.

For couch philosophers and serious students looking for an inexpensive edition of the Nichomachean ethics, this is definitely the version for you. It has surprisingly good scholarly resources for such a slim volume. If, however, you had heard that Aristotle was Alexander the Great's tutor and are trying to conquer the business world this probably won't give you many pointers.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Helpful Edition of a Classic Work, January 3, 2008
By 
TEK (Lawrence, KS USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Nicomachean Ethics (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
There are a couple of features about this particular edition of Aristotle's "Ethics" (to be clear, I am referring to the 2004 edition published by Penguin Classics) that I think are praiseworthy and worthy of mention. As some of the other reviewers of this edition have pointed out, the introduction by Jonathan Barnes is most helpful in providing the reader with a sturdy foundation on which to stand while reading this work. At roughly 30 pages long, Barnes' introduction is the perfect length. It provides a great foundation without becoming a full exposition itself. Another thing I like about this book is the editing, which utilizes a number of helpful tools to enhance readability. In particular, the editor (Hugh Tredennick) uses plenty of footnotes and inserts into the text itself (demarcated by angled brackets). In a couple of instances Tredennick even changes the order in which the text has traditionally been found; this he does because the logic of Aristotle's argument flows better if slightly re-ordered. In sum, then, the Penguin Classics edition of Aristotle's "Ethics" is very approachable and I highly recommend it for those who are just getting introduced to Aristotle's works.

Aside from reviewing the specific edition here, I would also like to make a couple of critical remarks about the text itself. This is a difficult thing to do with classics such as this because the historical influence and importance of the text renders such remarks not a little superfluous. Nevertheless, a few limited thoughts might be in order.

First, one other reviewer has commented on the relation of the "Ethics" to Christianity. I, too, am a Christian, and I think it is important to offer reviews explicitly informed by my faith. Nevertheless, I think the other Christian reviewer is slightly mistaken. To be sure, he is right when he says that Aristotle, though not a Christian, got a lot right and some things wrong. For we should not expect anyone, established historical icon or no, to be right all the time (except Scripture, of course). However, the one thing I think the other reviewer is mistaken about is that, although Aristotle suggests that the purpose of life is happiness, I don't think this is per se contrary to Christian teaching. The other reviewer is right to say that the purpose of life, from a Christian point of view, is to glorify God. However, is Aristotle's notion of happiness contrary to this purpose? I think that it is not, or at least that it is not clearly contrary to it. Happiness for Aristotle is found in it purest human form in those whose life is characterized by contemplation. This is so because contemplation, among all human activities, is the activity that most approximates the divine. Further, it is contemplation in accordance with virtue that makes a man happy. And further yet, contemplation, according to Aristotle, should lead us to act; that is to live a virtuous life. Thus, I think Aristotle's message is roughly translatable to the Christian message, which is something like: a man is most happy when his life is characterized by contemplation of the things of God, which leads to acting in accordance with God's commands (i.e., glorifying God). But enough about Aristotle in relation to Christianity...

I would like to end this review with two recommendations. First, if you're looking for secondary reading that will illuminate Aristotle's "Ethics", I would recommend The Blackwell Guide to Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics (Blackwell Guides to Great Works), edited by Richard Kraut. That book is a collection of essays exclusively concerning Aristotle's "Ethics", and is very useful for deeper understanding. Second, a lighter and yet broader (topically) read: On the Unseriousness of Human Affairs: Teaching, Writing, Playing, Believing, Lecturing, Philosophizing, Singing, Dancing by James Schall. If you read Schall's book before the "Ethics", I think your motivation to read the "Ethics" will be enhanced. If you read Schall's book after you read the "Ethics", I think you will better see how Aristotle's work has influenced other important writers throughout the ages.

In any event, happy reading!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good edition of the Greek text with a clear and helpful translation by H. Rackham., May 10, 2011
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This is a very good edition of the Nicomachean Ethics translated by H. Rackham. The english text (available at Perseus Digital Library) is intended for those who want to read the greek text and use the english as a support, as the english text will often interpret the text and undo many of the obscurities of the original, preserved in more faithful translations as the one of W.D. Ross. For those working with this text I would recomend both Rackham's and Ross's translations.

The greek text is the one of Bekker, revised with the aid of Susemihl (1880), Bywater (1891) and Alpet (1902), and published notes of other scholars (like H.H. Joachim). (The greek text is also available at Perseus.)

Overall, I found this one to be the best edition for scholarly purposes so that I'm using it to work on my master's project.

As of the book itself - materially - it a is a decent edition. It has a nice binding and a hardcover. The pages are somewhat thin and may get damaged if you just hold the book long enough (especially if you tend to sweat in your hands). The letters are big enough so you can read without difficulty, but you won't have much space in the page to writte comments (unless you can write really small).
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great begining essay to guide a person through the book, September 22, 2009
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This review is from: The Nicomachean Ethics (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
I searched for the best edition of Nicomachean Ethics and wound up selecting this one (Penguin Classics tend to be very good). The beginning essay by Jonathan Barnes was wonderful and worth the price of the book. I felt like I was in an introductory philosophy course with a great instructor. I would highly recommend this edition of Nicomachean Ethics.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Read, Great Translation, October 30, 2009
This review is from: The Nicomachean Ethics (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
"Is it, then, the Good that people love, or only what is good for them?" Ethics VIII. 2

The Nicomachean Ethics presents Aristotle's search for the Good which leads the reader through a detailed analysis of the virtues, justice, pleasure and friendship. The discussion is peppered with insighful observations and sayings and it even includes a short treatise on money and economics.

Aristotle can be difficult to read, but this translation is friendly and the text flows well especially from Book V onwards. Hugh Tredennick's footnotes, glossary and appendices are an invaluable aid to understanding, though the introduction is more profitably read after the work. I would advocate forming your own view first and then challenging it against Barnes' stimulating essay.

Aristotle advocates the 'mean' as a practical moral guide (except for wrongs like murder) and he discusses this along with his table of virtues and vices across several chapters. According to Aristotle, "men are bad in countless ways, but good in only one" II. 6, and his virtue ethics aims to help people to achieve the 'Good'. Though Aristotle repeatedly returns to the issue of pleasure and justice, this analysis was the weakest part of the book and his study of intention ultimately yields too much to the passions (c.f. Book V.6).

Aristotle is certainly aware of the problems of hedonism and relativism but his solution of contemplation as happiness and the highest good can come across as too individualistic, elitist and lacking the required authority.

I can only at most half agree with statements such as:
"The study of pleasure and pain is the task of the political philosopher, because he is the master craftsman who decides the end which is the standard by which we call any given thing good or bad without qualification. VII. 6"

This aside, Aristotle's work is highly innovative, thorough and rightly respected as one of the best ethical treatises of all time.

Further Reading
BEFORE:
Aristotle for Everybody Great Introduction to Aristotle by his most passionate and articulate spokesman Mortimer Adler
Aristotle: A Very Short Introduction Written by the author of the introduction Jonathan Barnes

AFTER:
The Politics (Penguin Classics) The natural follow on from the Ethics
The Athenian Constitution (Penguin Classics) Aristotle's treatises applied to reality
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Read, Great Translation, October 30, 2009
This edition is almost identical to newer The Nicomachean Ethics in print from Penguin Classics.

"Is it, then, the Good that people love, or only what is good for them?" Ethics VIII. 2

The Nicomachean Ethics presents Aristotle's search for the Good which leads the reader through a detailed analysis of the virtues, justice, pleasure and friendship. The discussion is peppered with insighful observations and sayings and it even includes a short treatise on money and economics.

Aristotle can be difficult to read, but this translation is friendly and the text flows well especially from Book V onwards. Hugh Tredennick's footnotes, glossary and appendices are an invaluable aid to understanding, though the introduction is more profitably read after the work. I would advocate forming your own view first and then challenging it against Barnes' stimulating essay.

Aristotle advocates the 'mean' as a practical moral guide (except for wrongs like murder) and he discusses this along with his table of virtues and vices across several chapters. According to Aristotle, "men are bad in countless ways, but good in only one" II. 6, and his virtue ethics aims to help people to achieve the 'Good'. Though Aristotle repeatedly returns to the issue of pleasure and justice, this analysis was the weakest part of the book and his study of intention ultimately yields too much to the passions (c.f. Book V.6).

Aristotle is certainly aware of the problems of hedonism and relativism but his solution of contemplation as happiness and the highest good can come across as too individualistic, elitist and lacking the required authority.

I can only at most half agree with statements such as:
"The study of pleasure and pain is the task of the political philosopher, because he is the master craftsman who decides the end which is the standard by which we call any given thing good or bad without qualification. VII. 6"

This aside, Aristotle's work is highly innovative, thorough and rightly respected as one of the best ethical treatises of all time.

Further Reading
BEFORE:
Aristotle for Everybody Great Introduction to Aristotle by his most passionate and articulate spokesman Mortimer Adler
Aristotle: A Very Short Introduction Written by the author of the introduction Jonathan Barnes

AFTER:
The Politics (Penguin Classics) The natural follow on from the Ethics
The Athenian Constitution (Penguin Classics) Aristotle's treatises applied to reality
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Headwaters of Virtue Ethics. A true Golden Oldie, October 19, 2009
This review is from: The Nicomachean Ethics (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, translated by J. A. K. Thomson (London, Penguin Classics, 2003) or
Aristotle XIX, Nichomachean Ethics, translated by H. Rackham (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, Loeb Classical Library, 1934)

I offer references to both a very modern, inexpensive, easily available edition, and to a scholarly edition with Greek and the English translation on facing pages. This is a testament to the importance of this ancient work. Among Greco-Roman philosophy, it is probably in the same league as Plato's Republic, since they arrive at the same main conclusion, albeit from very different routes.
After I left the study of professional philosophy and went off to earn a living, something very odd happened back in academia. The philosophical theories dominated by Kant's Categorical Imperative, Hobbes' social contract', and John Stuart Mill's `greatest good for the greatest number' all seemed to be reawakened to the value of `virtue ethics', of which Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics is the earliest, and still one of the best presentations. These theories from the first half of the 20th century all seemed to forget about the individual and concentrate on rules operating between people and `collective good'. There was some, but not much, talk of personal goods and virtues. The apotheosis of the 'modern' ethics, Kurt Baier's book The Moral Point of View, published in 1958 says nothing about virtues and only the thinnest section on 'Duties to Oneself'. But the tide started shifting in that very same year with the publication of G.E.M. Anscombe's journal article, `Modern Moral Philosophy', which questioned how well we really knew the meaning of psychological terms thrown around in the debates on moral theories.
I also have a suspicion that virtues staged a comeback with the great interest in modern biomedical ethics, where the relative roles of patients and health care professionals are so dramatically skewed, that normal rules of behavior between equals simply don't work. And if you consult modern texts on Biomedical Ethics, it is precisely the Nicomachean Ethics which they cite as their inspiration.
The less encouraging picture is that virtue ethics may be experiencing a comeback as a theory one can justify without any reference to the Judeo-Christian God. Aristotle may or may not have been devoted to the Olympian gods of Homer, Hesiod, and the playwrights, but I suspect he didn't take them too, too seriously, and he certainly did not even know of the Hebrew god. Thus, his ethical theories contain no divine underpinning, such as you find in Kant's ethics. The irony is that virtue ethics actually fits Christian theology better than an ethics based on moral rules (See this week's readings on Romans (Monday) and John (Wednesday).
Aristotle's theory, on the face of it, seems very similar to recent Utilitarianism (greatest good for the greatest number), but Aristotle is far more concerned with the kind of happiness which develops out of intellectual pleasures. In fact, an important statement of Christian virtue, the sixth beatitude (Matthew 5:8, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.") is very close to Aristotle's highest ideal of contemplation: "...if happiness consists in activity in accordance with virtue, it is reasonable that it should be activity in accordance with the highest virtue; and this will be the virtue of the best part of us....it is the activity of this part of us in accordance with the virtue proper to it that will constitute perfect happiness, and it has been stated already that the activity is the activity of contemplation, because the intellect is the highest faculty in us..."
One of Aristotle's great contributions was in the addition of `intellectual' virtues such as prudence to the traditional `moral' virtues. While those who dwell on moral rules may be inclined to push them a bit too far, Aristotle calls on prudence to attend to the details of the situation.
In reading Aristotle, I'm constantly impressed by the level of `common sense' he exhibits, as when he says that morality is all about doing and not purely an `intellectual exercise'. Just as one gets good at evaluating wines by tasting them and good at appreciating graphic art by looking at a lot of pictures, one improves one's virtue by consistently exercising your moral sensibilities. Intellectual virtues are developed by instruction, but moral virtues are the product of habit and practice, they are not `natural' abilities, present at birth, like the ability to see. The aim of legislation is to train citizens in right action.
Just as the aim of the church is to train our young in the best virtues.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Neither a Rule nor Relativist Book!, August 28, 2003
By 
Randy Herring (Spokane, Washington United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Like laws, rules are general. However, particular cases will arise in which it is unclear how the law or rule is to be applied and unclear what justice demands in a given case. If no ethical formula exists to act right then we must on occasions act "according to right reason" (Ethics, 1138b25). To judge "according to right reason" is to judge more or less by putting to use Aristotle's notion of a 'Mean' and general characterization of the virtues (courage, restraint, truthfulness, patience, friendliness, etc., among some of Aristotle's "mean" virtues) and act accordingly.
An enriching classical "guidebook" that appropriates itself TODAY as it did and has throughout history. Our humanness and relationships, contacts, political associations or whatever else you may call "interaction" with fellow human beings will always exist and pose situations in how to 'act right'. When one has consideration of others one will desire to think and act in a way of securing the happiness of self and others. Achieving the highest human good is becoming good men and women. That good is happiness.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Doing the right thing, August 22, 2005
This review is from: The Nicomachean Ethics (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Aristotle was a philosopher in search of the chief good for human beings. This chief good is eudaimonia, which is often translated as 'happiness' (but can also be translated as 'thriving' or 'flourishing'). Aristotle sees pleasure, honour and virtue as significant 'wants' for people, and then argues that virtue is the most important of these.

In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle makes the claim that happiness is something which is both precious and final. This seems to be so because it is a first principle or ultimate starting point. For, it is for the sake of happiness that we do everything else, and we regard the cause of all good things to be precious and divine. Moreover, since happiness is an activity of the soul in accordance with complete and perfect virtue, it is necessary to consider virtue, as this will be the best way of studying happiness.

How many of us today speak of happiness and virtue in the same breath? Aristotle's work in the Nicomachean Ethics is considered one of his greatest achievements, and by extension, one of the greatest pieces of philosophy from the ancient world. When the framers of the American Declaration of Independence were thinking of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, there is little doubt they had an acquaintance with Aristotle's work connecting happiness, virtue, and ethics together.

When one thinks of ethical ideas such as an avoidance of extremes, of taking the tolerant or middle ground, or of taking all things in moderation, one is tapping into Aristotle's ideas. It is in the Nicomachean Ethics that Aristotle proposes the Doctrine of the Mean - he states that virtue is a 'mean state', that is, it aims for the mean or middle ground. However, Aristotle is often misquoted and misinterpreted here, for he very quickly in the text disallows the idea of the mean to be applied in all cases. There are things, actions and emotions, that do not allow the mean state. Thus, Aristotle tends to view virtue as a relative state, making the analogy with food - for some, two pounds of meat might be too much food, but for others, it might be too little. The mean exists between the state of deficiency, too little, and excessiveness, too much.

Aristotle proposes many different examples of virtues and vices, together with their mean states. With regard to money, being stingy and being illiberal with generosity are the extremes, the one deficient and the other excessive. The mean state here would be liberality and generosity, a willingness to buy and to give, but not to extremes. Anger, too, is highlighted as having a deficient state (too much passivity), an excessive state (too much passion) and a mean state (a gentleness but firmness with regard to emotions).

Aristotle states that one of the difficulties with leading a virtuous life is that it takes a person of science to find the mean between the extremes (or, in some cases, Aristotle uses the image of a circle, the scientist finding the centre). Many of us, being imperfect humans, err on one side or the other, choosing in Aristotle's words, the lesser of two evils. Aristotle's wording here, that a scientist is the only one fully capable of virtue, has a different meaning for scientist - this is a pre-modern, pre-Enlightenment view; for Aristotle, the person of science is one who is capable of observation and calculation, and this can take many different forms.

Aristotle uses different kinds of argumentation in the Nicomachean Ethics. He uses a dialectical method, as well as a functional method. In the dialectical method, there are opposing ideas held in tension, whose interactions against each other yield a result - this is often how the mean between extremes is derived. However, there are other times that Aristotle seems to prefer a more direct, functional approach. Both of these methods lead to the same understanding for Aristotle's sense of the rational - that humanity's highest or final good is happiness.

There is a discussion of the human soul (for this is where virtue and happiness reside). Aristotle argues that virtue is not a natural state; we are not born with nor do we acquire through any natural processes virtue, but rather through 'habitation', an embedding process or enculturation that makes these a part of our soul. However, it is not sufficient for Aristotle's virtue that one merely function as a virtuous person or that virtuous things be done. This is not a skill, but rather an art, and to be virtuous, one must live virtuously and act virtuously with intention as well as form.

Of course, one of the implications here is that virtue is a quantifiable thing, that periodically resurfaces in later philosophies. How do we calculate virtue?

This is a difficult question, and not one that Aristotle answers in any definitive way. However, more important than this is the key difference that Aristotle displayed setting himself apart from his tutor Plato; rather than seeing the possession of 'the good' or 'virtue' as the highest ideal, Aristotle is concerned with the practical aspects, the ethics of this. Based on Aristotle's lectures in Athens in the fourth century BCE, this remains one of the most important works on ethical and moral philosophy in history.
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The Nicomachean Ethics (Penguin Classics)
The Nicomachean Ethics (Penguin Classics) by Aristotle (Paperback - March 30, 2004)
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