Study Guide

The Nicomachean Ethics Book 1, Chapter 5 (1095b15-35, 1096a1-10)

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Book 1, Chapter 5 (1095b15-35, 1096a1-10)

  • Aristotle wants to go back and speak again of "good" and "happiness."
  • The majority of people believe that a happy life is one of pleasure. And he totally gets that. Everyone likes to have fun.
  • He outlines three types of lives: a life of pleasure, a political one, and the contemplative life.
  • Those who live for pleasure are slaves to the senses; the political aim for honor.
  • But even that seems superficial, since they're seeking the approval of their virtue in other people.
  • Virtue is good, but it seems incomplete—you could be virtuous without trying (i.e. while sleeping) or when bad things happen to you.
  • But does this really make you happy?
  • So much for the political life. Aristotle promises us to talk about the contemplative life later.
  • He adds a little postscript to talk about making money.
  • Money is a good that's being sought for other purposes. It isn't an end in itself.
  • But neither are the other things he's discussed in this chapter, though both lives of pleasure and civic-mindedness seem to be complete, ends in themselves.
  • But don't be fooled.

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