Study Guide

The Nicomachean Ethics Book 1, Chapter 2 (1094a20-1094b11)

By Aristotle

Book 1, Chapter 2 (1094a20-1094b11)

  • Aristotle's interested in finding out what the highest human good might be, so he sets about trying to describe the general characteristics of this good.
  • The truly best good would be something that we work and wish for as an end in itself…not part of an unending cycle of desire and attainment.
  • Knowing this much is a good start, but Aristotle wants to make sure that we don't waste any time on our quest for happiness—so he'll continue outlining what this "best good" is.
  • By his own definition, the best good would have to be the most architectonic: whatever it is that governs all knowledge and provides a way of thinking about all things.
  • Aristotle says that the "political art" is just the science (or branch of knowledge) that fits the bill.
  • Politics is the overriding category of knowledge that rules everything: it determines what citizens must and must not do, and it decides what people have to learn and do.
  • Also, it encompasses all the other noble arts, including things like generalship and household management (his two prime examples from Chapter 1).
  • Since the ends of the political art include the ends of these other communal roles, it must be the highest human good.
  • He introduces the concept of a city and its sovereignty: while the individual is important, the city (and the nation) is so much more worthy.
  • Aristotle tells us that this inquiry into what brings happiness to human beings is essentially a political inquiry.