Study Guide

The Nicomachean Ethics Book 3, Chapter 3 (1112a18-1113a14)

By Aristotle

Book 3, Chapter 3 (1112a18-1113a14)

  • Well then: what kinds of things do we deliberate about?
  • Aristotle begins with the stuff that we would never waste time questioning, like math facts or the existence of the cosmos.
  • We also don't deliberate about things that are unpredictable, like weather or finding a trove of treasure. And forget about things that don't concern you directly.
  • In the end, we deliberate about things that concern us and that we can affect in some way. What actions can we take?
  • Aristotle says that we tend to debate more about things in the arts than in the sciences, since there's more interpretation or doubt possible in the arts.
  • Whenever there's something undetermined or unknown, then, more deliberation is necessary and possible.
  • Also, there's usually very little deliberation about ends: we generally know what we aim to do, but not the means to achieve it.
  • So our logic is a kind of backwards or teleological discovery, beginning with the end and working our way back to the first steps that have to be taken to achieve a certain result.
  • When we deliberate in such a way, we're searching sometimes for the tools we need to accomplish something—or how to use what we have to get to our goal.
  • Aristotle claims that deliberation shows how man is the origin of his own actions, since the thing we ponder is how to get something done.
  • We reflect within ourselves how we're going to act to achieve a desired end.
  • The process of deliberation helps us to choose. So choice, then, is the product of deliberated desire—something that we really want and have decided on a way to get it.