Posts Tagged ‘Nicomachean Ethics’

♠Aristotle´s “Nicomachean Ethics” and “Politics”:

“On The Concept of Justice”:



In Book V of “Nichomachean Ethics”, Aristotle attempted to apply his theory of the mean to define justice.

In this sense, he dissects justice into its smallest components, causing him to postulate three kinds, from two main types.

There are two distinct forms of justice: Universal and Particular.

1) Universal Justice is concerned with obeying laws and with virtue as a whole. (Type: c) Equitable Justice).

2) Particular Justice is seen as one of the virtues and is divided into two types (Types a) Distributive Justice and b) Corrective or Rectificatory Justice)

a) Distributive Justice, which involves distributing honors, money and other assets; and b) Corrective or Rectificatory Justice; which includes: voluntary transactions involving paying debts, buying and selling, and so on; and involuntary transactions involving the giving of just restitution of harms inflicted.  

The Distributive justice reflects our understanding of justice as the mean between two extremes of unfairness. Everyone agrees that justice involves the distribution of things in proportion to merit. The man who acts unjustly gets too much, the victim too little, of what is good. Therefore that which is unjust in the narrow sense defies the proper “geometrical” proportion. 

As for Corrective or Rectificatory Justice, this shows our belief that in any exchange the just is what is fair. Unlike distributive justice, it involves not “geometrical,” but “arithmetical” proportionality, because it doesn’t take into account the parties involved, just the transaction itself. Both parties are treated as equals before the law in the exchange of goods, regardless of their individual merits. The role of the judge, therefore, is to restore the mean between too much and too little: to remedy an inequitable division between two parties by means of some sort o f arithmetical progression. He tries to equalize the inequality of the injustice. 


The Doctrine Of The Mean is related to justice as a mean between two extremes, (vices), deficiency, and excess, or gain and loss.  It is important to stress here that Aristotle intends to define justice as a determinable mean between excesses which he presumes are vices.  

Justice is the intermediate position between doing injustice and suffering it; one has more, the other less, than their share. It is that state of virtue in which the individual is capable of doing just acts from choice and of distributing property, not in a way which gives himself more than his neighbour, but to each in proportionately equal manner. Injustice is choosing excess or deficiency in defiance of proportion. 

c) Equitable Justice is that kind of Universal Justice that Aristotle postulated as being a form of justice superior to legal justice.  Realizing that the “generality” of the law sometimes gave rise to injustices, Aristotle postulated equity, which was to function, though the judge, as a “correction of the law where it is defective owing to its universality”While all laws are stated universally, in some cases such a universal statement is not correct. The law thus states most is mostly right, and in cases where the statement does not apply correctly it is just for the legislator or the judge to correct for the deficiency of the law, as long as what is done is in accordance with the intention of the lawmaker, even if it conflicts with the exact statement. 


►Comparative Graphic: Distributive Justice and Rectificatory or Corrective Justice (Types of Particular Justice):



Aristotle also developed the idea of Justice in the Book III (chapter 12) of “Politics”

There he helds that “The political good is justice, and this is the common advantage”. Justice is considered to be a certain sort of equality, but what remains to be determined is what sort of equality and equality in what things. Persons preeminent in some things may not be preeminent in others, and some things are more of claim to honor and merit than others. 

Aristotle says “The virtue of justice is a feature of a state; for justice is the arrangement of the political association, an a sense of justice decides what is just”.

For him, Justice means giving equal measures to equals and unequal measures to unequals. Aristotle realizes that people are bad judges concerning themselves and that as in oligarchy and democracy they tend to confuse a part of justice with the whole of justice. Justice must be central concern for every city, because the city exists “not only for the sake of living but primarily for the sake of living well.” As a result, “virtue must be a care for every city,” and a city can only foster virtue to the extent that it is just.


►Video: “On Aristotle´s Idea of Justice and The Theory of Golden Mean”:

Click on the image above to watch the video at YouTube.-

Click on the image above to watch the video at YouTube.-


►”Nicomachean Ethics” by Aristotle:


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►”Politics” by Aristotle:


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♠Aristotle’s Three Types of Knowledge in The Nichomachean Ethics: “Techné, Episteme and Phronesis”:

Eudaimonia (Ancient Greek: εὐδαιμονία)  is a central concept in Aristotelian ethics, translated as happiness, welfare or "human flourishing".-

Eudaimonia (Ancient Greek: εὐδαιμονία) is a central concept in Aristotelian ethics, translated as happiness, welfare or “human flourishing”.-


In The Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle (384 /322) describes three approaches to knowledge. In Greek, the three are episteme, techné and phronesis

Whereas episteme concerns theoretical know why and techné denotes technical know how, phronesis emphasizes practical knowledge and practical ethics.

Aristotle classified knowledge in three different types Episteme (Scientific Knoledge), Techné (Skill and crafts) and Phronesis (Wisdom).

1.►Episteme: It means “to know” in Greek. It is related to scientific knowledge. Attributes: Universal, invariable, context-independent.  Based on general analytical rationality. Epistemology, the study of knowledge, is derived from episteme. 

Episteme was viewed by the Greeks as a partner to techné. Plato used episteme to denote ‘justified true belief”, in contrast to doxa, common belief or opinion.

2.►TechnéThe greek word translates to craftsmanship, craft, or art.

In the Dictionary of Philosophy,  it is defined as: “The set of principles, or rational method, involved in the production of an object or the accomplishment of an end; the knowledge of such principles or method; art. Techne resembles episteme in implying knowledge of principles, but differs in that its aim is making or doing, not disinterested understanding”. 

Characteristics: Pragmatic, variable, context-dependent. Oriented toward production. Based on practical instrumental rationality governed by a conscious goal. The original concept appears today in terms such as “technique” and “technology.” 

For the ancient Greeks, when techné appears as art, it is most often viewed negatively, whereas when used as a craft it is viewed positively because a craft is the practical application of an art, rather than art as an end in itself. In “The Republic”, written by Plato, the knowledge of forms is the indispensable basis for the philosophers craft of ruling in the city.

Aristotle viewed techné as an imperfect human representation of nature. Socrates and Plato also used the word, and distinguished craftsmanship (which they viewed in a positive light) from art (which they viewed in a negative light). 

3.►Phronesis It means Practical wisdom. It is related to the following main ideas: Ethics.  Deliberation about values with reference to praxis.  Pragmatic, variable, context dependent.  Oriented toward action.  Based on practical value-rationality.

Aristotle distinguished between Sophia and Phronesis in the following manner. Sophia involves reasoning concerning universal truths, while Phronesis includes a capability of rational thinking. 

In order to practice phronesis, Aristotle felt that political abilities were required, as well as thinking abilities. Aristotle categorized there elements of character (ethos) in the following manner: 1) phronesis (how to act in particular situations), 2) areté (virtue) and 3) eunoia (goodwill).-




♠Quotes From Aristotle´s “Nicomachean Ethics”

“Techné, Episteme and Phronesis”:

Aristotle (384 /322) .

Aristotle (384 /322) .-

“What science [episteme] is…will be clear from the following argument.  We all assume that what we know cannot be otherwise than it is, whereas in the case of things that may be otherwise, when they have passed out of our view we can no longer tell whether they exist or not.  Therefore, the object of scientific knowledge is of necessity.  Therefore it is eternal…  Induction introduces us to first principles and universals, while deduction starts from universals… Thus scientific knowledge is a demonstrative state, (i.e., a state of mind capable of demonstrating what it known)…i.e., a person has scientific knowledge when his belief is conditioned in a certain way, and the first principles are known to him;  because if they are not better known to him than the conclusion drawn from them, he will have knowledge only incidentally”. [N.E. 1139b18-36].
“Since building is an art [techné] and is essentially a reasoned productive state, and since there is no art that is not a state of this kind, and no state of this kind that is not an art, it follows that art is the same as a productive state that is truly reasoned.  Every art is concerned with bringing something into being, and the practice of an art is the study of how to bring into being something that is capable either of being or of not being…For it is not with things that are or come to be of necessity that art is concerned [this is the domain of episteme] nor with natural objects (because these have their origin in themselves)…Art…operates in the sphere of the variable”.  [N.E. 1140a1-23].
“We may grasp the nature of prudence [phronesis] if we consider what sort of people we call prudent.  Well, it is thought to be the mark of a prudent man to be able to deliberate rightly about what is good and advantageous…But nobody deliberates about things that are invariable…So…prudence cannot be science or art;  not science [episteme] because what can be done is a variable (it may be done in different ways, or not done at all), and not an art [techne] because action and production are generically different.  For production aims at an end other than itself;  but this is impossible in the case of action, because the end is merely doing well.  What remains, then is that it is a true state, reasoned, and capable of action with regard to things that are good or bad for man.  We consider that this quality belongs to those who understand the management of households or states”.  [N.E. 1140a24-1140b12].


 Aristotle (384 /322) .-

Aristotle (384 /322) .-


♠Attached Notes: “Techné, Episteme in Plato´s Republic“:

platoPlato’s uses the notion of techné as a way of explicating central themes, such as virtue, ruling, and the creation of the cosmos. First of all, a craft has a function (ergon); this is what it characteristically does or what it characteristically accomplishes. In fact, he highlights that crafts are differentiated by their specific functions (erga) (Rep. 346a). 

While the ergon of a craft is its goal, the goal is frequently identified with a result separate from the activity of the craft. Whereas techné is associated with knowing how to do (epistasthai) certain activities, episteme sometimes indicates a theoretical component of techné, associated then with understanding (gnôsis).

For Plato, Knowledge (episeême) is the ability to know the real as it is (Rep 477b). Knowledge, in the sense of episteme, will be deductive and logical, like mathematics; unlike mathematics, its deductions will be based on foundations that need no further justification. In part it will be something like mathematical deduction based in fundamental reality. When using mathematical thinking as an analogue for dialectic, Platon  is still relying on the notion of technê since both geometry and calculation are technai. So even though he distinguishes between techné and episteme, their relation is more of a tension than a divorce.





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♠Aristotle´s Ethical Theory:

“On the Concepts of Virtue and Golden Mean”:



The concept of Aristotle’s theory of golden mean is represented in his work called “Nicomachean Ethics”, in which Aristotle explains the origin, nature and development of virtues which are essential for achieving the ultimate goal, happiness (Greek: eudaimonia), which must be desired for itself.

The virtue (areté ) or excellence of a thing causes that thing both to be itself in good condition and to perform its function well. Virtue, then, is a kind of moderation as it aims at the mean or moderate amount.

Aristotle’s ethics is strongly teleological, practical, which means that it should be the action that leads to the realization of the good of the human being as well as the whole. This end is realized through continuous acting in accordance with virtues which, like happiness, must be desired for themselves, not for the short term pleasures that can be derived from them. This is not to say that happiness is void of pleasures, but that pleasures are a natural effect, not the purpose. In order to act virtuously, we must first acquire virtues, by parental upbringing, experience and reason.

For Aristotle, virtue is an all-or-nothing affair. We cannot pick and choose our virtues: we cannot decide that we will be courageous and temperate but choose not to be magnificent. Nor can we call people properly virtuous if they fail to exhibit all of the virtues.

Though Aristotle lists a number of virtues, he sees them all as coming from the same source. A virtuous person is someone who is naturally disposed to exhibit all the virtues, and a naturally virtuous disposition exhibits all the virtues equally.

The word ethics descends from the Greek word ethos, which means  that is used to describe the guiding beliefs or ideals that characterize a community, nation, or ideology. Aristotle’s concern is then, is what constitutes a good character. All the virtues spring from a unified character, so no good person can exhibit some virtues without exhibiting them all. Aristotle describes ethical virtue as a “hexis” (“state” “condition” “disposition”)—a tendency or disposition, induced by our habits, to have appropriate feelings (Nicomachean Ethics. 1105b25–6).

Aristotle says that when the good person chooses to act virtuously, he does so for the sake of the “kalon”—a word that can mean “beautiful,” “noble,” or “fine.”. This term indicates that Aristotle sees in ethical activity an attraction that is comparable to the beauty of well-crafted artifacts, including such artifacts as poetry, music, and drama. He draws this analogy in his discussion of the mean, when he says that every craft tries to produce a work from which nothing should be taken away and to which nothing further should be added (Nicomachean Ethics. 1106b5–14).

Aristotle develops the doctrine of the mean in the course of his discussion of aretê, excellence or virtue, in Book II of the Nicomachean. There he writes that: “all excellence makes what has it good, and also enables it to perform its function well. For instance, the excellence of an eye makes the eye good and enables it to function well as an eye; having good eyes means being able to see well. Likewise, the excellence of a horse makes it a good horse, and so good at galloping, carrying its rider, and facing the enemy. If this is true in all cases, then, the excellence of a human being will be that disposition which makes him a good human being and which enables him to perform his function well”. (1106a16-25. Source: History of Philosophy Quarterly 4/3, July 1987.)

In “The virtue of Aristotle’s ethics “, Gottlieb (1) identifies the three core aspects of the doctrine of the mean. First, virtue, like health, is produced and preserved by avoiding extremes. Second, virtue is a mean relative to us. Third, each virtue is a mean between two vices, one of excess and one of deficiency.

It is no easy matter to hit the mean but Aristotle has some general advice to offer those who are aiming at, trying to observe, the mean: “What is necessary first in aiming at the mean is to avoid that extreme which is the more opposed to the mean. Since of the two extremes one is a more serious error than the other, and since hitting the mean accurately is hard, the second-best thing… is to take the lesser of the evils” (Source: History of Philosophy Quarterly 4/3, July 1987).

The golden mean represents a balance between extremes or vices. For example, courage is the middle between one extreme of deficiency (cowardness) and the other extreme of excess (recklessness).

The mean as concerns fear and confidence is courage: those that exceed in fearlessness are foolhardy, while those who exceed in fear are cowardly.

The mean in respect to certain pleasures and pains is called temperance, while the excess is called profligacy. Deficiency in this matter is never found, so this sort of person does not have a name .

In the matter of giving and earning money, the mean is liberality, excess and deficiency are prodigality and miserliness. But both vices exceed and fall short in giving and earning in contrary ways: the prodigal exceeds in spending, but falls short in earning; the miser exceeds in earning, but falls short in spending.

With respect to honor and disgrace, the mean is “high-mindedness,” the excess might be called vanity, and the deficiency might be called humility or small-mindedness. . .

The importance of the golden mean is that it re-affirms the balance needed in life. It remains puzzling how this ancient wisdom, known before Aristotle re-introduced it, (it is present in the myth of Icarus, in a Doryc saying carved in the front of the temple at Delphi: “Nothing in Excess,” in the teachings of Pythagoras, Socrates and Plato) can be so forgotten and neglected in the modern society.




Aristotle (384-322).-

Aristotle (384-322).-




♠Read Aristotle´s Nicomachean Ethics (Full PDF Version):

Topics of this post correspond to Pages 22 /33 (Book I) & 34/53 (Book II): 

Click o the cover book to read "Nicomachean Ethics" by Aristotle.-

Click on the cover book to read “Nicomachean Ethics” by Aristotle.-


♠Nota a los lectores en castellano:

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Como autora del blog me reservo el derecho que me asiste discrecionalmente y me lleva a optar por el idioma inglés para publicar artículos, en este caso de filosofía. Tiene que ver con un interés absolutamente personal y con una comunidad de lectores asiduos y activos del blog cuyo idioma nativo es el inglés. También con una mayor vastedad de los temas en idioma inglés, cuando el blog ya cuenta con un considerable número de entradas en castellano, cuyos temas ya han sido abarcados en mayor o menor medida. Esto no implica que no se publiquen artículos en castellano. Los temas también definen el idioma en el que se publica.

Atentamente saludos, Aquileana.-



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