Study Guide

The Nicomachean Ethics Book 9, Chapter 8 (1168a28-1169b1)

By Aristotle

Book 9, Chapter 8 (1168a28-1169b1)

  • Should we love ourselves more than anyone else? Let's face it: this type of person usually gets a bad rap.
  • We know that base people think only of themselves, where the good person's generally selfless and thinks of others.
  • But remember what Aristotle has just said about good people: they're their own best friends. They act toward themselves as they would to a true friend.
  • Friendship, in fact, comes from us. We don't grab it out of thin air.
  • Conclusion: self-love is okay. Love yourself best and first.
  • But he wants to look more closely at both sides of the argument to make sure he's thoroughly right.
  • If we're speaking of "self-lovers" as selfish people who grab far more than their fair share because they think they're the best, then yes: these aren't great people. Don't befriend them.
  • But this isn't how we should understand the term. A person who truly loves himself will cultivate his virtues through just action—precisely because he values himself.
  • He'll also always honor his rational mind and aim for the good because of it.
  • And when he loves his rational mind, he's really loving himself. So there you have it.
  • If we all loved ourselves as we should, then much good would be done and everybody would be happy.
  • A truly good person finds pleasure in sacrificing for others. In living a noble life, sacrifice is pleasant.
  • In doing this, he chooses the best thing for himself (i.e. honor). It's because he cherishes his reason and virtues so much that he does so.
  • Yet he would also give up doing noble things if it would somehow give his friend the chance to do them instead and have the honor. This is because a friend is really a second self.