Study Guide

The Nicomachean Ethics Writing Style

By Aristotle

Writing Style

Analytical, Considered and Precise

Because Aristotle deals in concepts, he's often given to meta-discourse that can make our eyes glaze over. His writing can feel abstract or fuzzy when this happens—what he's talking about becomes too big to comprehend, and we start itching to eat a Hot Pocket or watch some Netflix.

However, because Aristotle is a pro and knew how to give a good lecture, those moments are always reeled in at just the right moment—right before we've gotten up from our desk to grab those Hot Pockets.

Consider this very self-aware opening to Book 6:

But speaking in this way is, though truthful, not at all clear. For in all the other concerns too about which a science exists, it is true to say that one ought not to strain or slacken either too much or too little, but as accords with the mean and as correct reason states. (6.1.1138b25-28)

He wants to give us the conceptual and practical in his discussion of the virtues, which means that he'll speak in general (universal) and specific terms in equal measure. And generally, those "general" terms are a little more ephemeral and headdesk-inducing, and the "specific" terms are way easier to understand and digest.

When Aristotle's talking about balance, his prose reads like a technical manual for the soul—he searches out the origins for every action and traces down the smallest consequences.

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