Study Guide

The Nicomachean Ethics Book 2, Chapter 2 (1103b26-1104b4)

By Aristotle

Book 2, Chapter 2 (1103b26-1104b4)

  • Aristotle reminds us that we aren't making this inquiry into happiness/goodness just to think about it—it's meant to help us become good.
  • And because becoming good means that we'll have to act in ways that are just and worthy, he wants to talk about actions.
  • Remember also that our actions determine our characteristics—the virtues that we develop as we practice them.
  • He introduces the idea of acting with "correct reason" (which is sometimes called "right reason" by other translators). Aristotle promises more on this later.
  • He explains that all virtues either thrive or die by excesses or deficiencies.
  • If we fear everything (a deficiency of courage), we become cowards. If we run toward danger (excess) we're reckless.
  • We have to search for the "mean"—the equilibrium between excess and deficiency—to become a good person who acts with virtue.
  • And we can only act virtuously if we cultivate the characteristics associated with each virtue. So if we want to be courageous, we have to learn to behave well in the face of fear.