Aristotle’s Self-Help Book — The Nichomachean Ethics SUMMARIZED

[500 words]

It’s all about doing your thing (ergon).

And doing it well.

What your thing is depends on what you are.

If you’re an animal, it’s eating enough food to survive, and growing.

If you’re a human, it’s that, plus talking, thinking (…which, annoyingly, involves listening to other people) and… “creative work” is about the best translation we’re gonna get for energeia. Building something — improving on a craft.

So if you like playing the flute, then that’s playing the flute well.
If you like wrestling, then it’s wrestling well.
If you like gaming, it’s pressing the buttons in the right order.
If you’re a “going around having sex with people” kind of person, it’s mostly about avoiding breaking any hearts, OR being very good at running away and integrating yourself into new social groups AND having a good contraceptive strategy.
And if you’re a serious person (spoudaios), it’s about actually having moral character and not being a shameless piece of shit.

And then he talks about the various virtues and voluntary/involuntary acts and praise and blame and yadda yadda whatever.

And then there’s the five dispositions of the mind (hexis)……………. which…. OK, fine. They’re actually really interesting. But they’re pasted in from the Eudemian Ethics, and this was supposed to be a joke post so I could let off steam from the Spinoza, so that’s gonna be my excuse to not talk about them.

So, onto the big point.

How do you do something well?

Well, you know.

Not too hot, not too cold.
Not too hard, not too soft.
You hit the sweet spot.

How do you do that?

Well, if you’re good at it, you just do it.

Otherwise, you practice.
You’ll soon get into the habit.
And you’ll get the hang of it eventually.

OK. So that’s “the good”, for each individual.

Now — what is the “true good”?

The “true good” is building a society in which every individual can find and develop their own kind of flourishing.

And what’s the main way to do that?

Access to education.

In other words… two things.


  • The entire Nichomachean Ethics is just an introduction to the Politics.

And the Nichomachean Ethics… let’s face it… is basically all you need as a guide to life. It’s a little dry, but a human life is not really that complicated, and there’s very little to add on the topic. I reckon Spinoza makes a substantial improvement, but that’s really about it, as far as Western philosophy goes.

Whereas Aristotle’s Politics is a little bit primitive. Good early attempt… but we’ve made some advances on that one in the last 2300 years.

So at some point early next year, I’ll write a little bit about politics, and we’ll all be sorted.

And, secondly:

  • Someone please let me start a school already.
    I’ve even added a brand new reference to 12th Century Neo-Confucianism to sweeten the deal.
    No…? No one?
    ……fine. I’ll finish the book about Spinoza and we’ll take it from there.

FOLLOW: Mailing listFacebookTwitter

SPONSOR: PatreonPaypal

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s