Study Guide

The Nicomachean Ethics Book 2, Chapter 3 (1104b5-1105a17)

By Aristotle

Book 2, Chapter 3 (1104b5-1105a17)

  • You can tell a person's characteristics by what pleases or pains them, says Aristotle.
  • If they whine and complain about giving up something they like, they're not moderate in pleasure.
  • This is because moral virtues deal in pleasure and pain. Pleasure makes us do some crazy, immoral things. Fear of pain keeps us from being noble.
  • In order to feel pleasure in the right things (and to be pained at the right things), we have to raised well from childhood.
  • Pain can also be a cure for pleasure (i.e. punishment for "loose" behavior), since we're disciplined by suffering the opposite of the thing we sought.
  • So we become better (or worse) by learning what kinds of actions produce pleasure or pain.
  • When we combine these experiences with reason, we should be able to figure out acceptable behaviors.
  • You might see that virtue and vice have some things in common. In both, we're pursuing pleasure and avoiding pain. A right thinking person just finds pleasure in virtue.
  • Pleasure is a very strong motivator and very difficult to ignore—but good things happen when we do something that's hard for us.
  • Aristotle believes that those who can handle the pain/pleasure experience well will be good people.