Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

2.1.1 Introduction

In contrast to the Ethic of Ideals that Plato represents, his student Aristotle represents an Ethic of the “Humane.” He wrote the first systematically developed ethic that we know of, the Nicomachean Ethics. Aristotle, rendering a very pragmatic approach to ethics mixed with a good portion of behavioral psychology, did not demand perfection from people but rather ethical behavior in everyday life. This latter goal is also equivalent with “the good,” αγαθον, according to Aristotle (Nicomachean Ethics 1.1). So like Plato, Aristotle holds that there is a “highest good;” however unlike in Plato’s philosophy, this is not reached by striving ever higher, but by a prudent balance between extremes. 

Virtues for Aristotle are “praiseworthy behaviors” (Nicomanchean Ethics, 1.13)

Plato’s third cardinal virtue, prudence, becomes the most important for Aristotle. αριστον μετρον: Moderation is best.  

Example: Neatness is the balance between a chaotic mess and obsessive cleaning compulsions. 

Example: Generosity is the balance between stinginess and wastefulness. 

As a consequence, Aristotle would decline music lessons to the point of virtuosity. 

The mission statement is ευδαιμονια, which is not attained by infantile pursuit of our desires but rather by sublimating your desires by serving your community. 


Aristotelean ethics can be seen as the first humanistic ethics. It is able to stand independent of any ties to religion but is also open to religion and spirituality. Unlike many contemporary humanistic ethics it does not seek to replace religious ideas but simply seeks to complement them. Thus it came to be that the early Eastern church absorbed many of these principles. It was in this way that Aristotelean ethics exerted an immense influence over the medieval church. 


2.1.2 Source

Nicomanchean Ethics


2.1.3. Application and Discussion

Tendency to mediocrity and the desire to generalize