Study Guide

The Nicomachean Ethics Book 7, Chapter 12 (1152b25-1153a35)

By Aristotle

Book 7, Chapter 12 (1152b25-1153a35)

  • Are you convinced that pleasure is a bad thing? Good, because neither is Aristotle.
  • He explains that there are two types of good: the unqualified (pleasure in the general sense) and the particular (specific to each person).
  • Things that are processes of coming-into-being—as pleasure is thought to be—also take these two forms.
  • If we call pleasure wicked, it might be so in the particular sense, for a certain type of person at a certain time.
  • Pleasures may be bodily, but they may also be pleasures of intellect, like the pleasure of contemplation.
  • To show that pleasures may be variable and good in different ways, Aristotle explains that we enjoy different things depending on the state of our souls.
  • When we're "restored" we enjoy what is generally pleasant. When we are in the process of restoring our virtues, we take pleasure in specific things.
  • Aristotle argues also that pleasures might be ends in themselves, contrary to popular thought. He sees them as both an activity and an end—and therefore worthy of choice.
  • It's a bad argument to say that pleasures are wicked because wicked things might come of them. That might be true of anything, really.
  • Pleasure isn't necessarily an impediment to virtues (like prudence). Only those pleasures that are explicitly contrary to virtues are problematic.
  • So Aristotle resolves objections against pleasure based on who enjoys and who avoids it.
  • The prudent person avoids pain associated with excessive pleasures; moderate people seek out moderate-person-pleasures. This isn't the same as shunning it all together.