Study Guide

The Nicomachean Ethics Book 6, Chapter 2 (1139a18-1139b13)

By Aristotle

Book 6, Chapter 2 (1139a18-1139b13)

  • Aristotle proposes three things that the soul uses to control action and discern truth: 1) sense perception; 2) intellect; 3) longing or desire.
  • Longing starts the cognitive process that ends (hopefully) in making a good choice.
  • If a person longs for the right things and uses sound reasoning to think about how to fulfill desire, then he'll make a morally virtuous and conscious choice to act well.
  • Aristotle distinguishes between contemplative thinking (which aims to figure out what is true or false, no actions necessary) and practical thinking, which moves truth and desire into action.
  • The chain of action looks like this: choice motivates action; longing prompts choice. Reason encourages all this by helping us to see clearly why we're acting.
  • No choices can be made without thought or moral character. We act well or badly based on our intellectual and moral capacities.
  • Thinking isn't an action…but it can be the springboard for it.
  • Choice is the product, then, of longing and intellect mixing it up.
  • The intellectual bits of the soul are preoccupied with finding the truth. Each part of the soul uses its characteristics (or virtues) to get at the truth.