Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York

Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics - Johnson

Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics


Instructor: Brian Johnson

E-Mail address: [best way to reach me]

Office Phone Number: 212-636-6394




                       Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, translated by David Ross (rev. Urmson and Ackrill)

                       Amêlie Rorty ed., Essays on Aristotle’s Ethics

                       Download Packet of Additional Material


Course Objectives: To learn to read Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics both textually and philosophically. We shall examine Aristotle’s text mostly in the order it is presented while surveying a number of the contemporary debates about this work.


Course Requirements: A Final Paper (15-25 pages) and 1 student presentation on an article from the secondary reading.  Regular class attendance in seminar is required.



Topic 1: The Hierarchy of Ends, Endoxa, and the Criticism of Plato

                       Nicomachean Ethics Book I (nota bene: we will cover I.7 next week)

                       Rorty, 35-54: T. H. Irwin: “The Metaphysical and Psychological Basis of Aristotle’s Ethics”

                       Rorty, 359-376: John McDowell, “The Role of Eudaimonia in Aristotle’s Ethics”

                       Download Packet: Plato’s Republic II, 357b-358b



Topic 2: Aristotle’s Function Argument.  Activity and the Completeness of Happiness

                       Nicomachean Ethics Book I, Chapter 7 and Book X, Chapter 4

                       Download Packet: J. L. Ackrill, “Aristotle’s Distinction Between Energeia and Kinesis” from New Essays on Plato and Aristotle, ed. Bambrough and Renford.

                       Download Packet: Jennifer Whiting, “Aristotle’s Function Argument: A Defense” (Ancient Philosophy, 1988), pp. 33-48.

                       Download Packet: Plato’s Republic I, 352d-354a



Topic 3: Moral Virtue as a Mean State

                       Nicomachean Ethics Book 1, Chapter 13 – Book II, Chapter 9

                       Rorty, 69-92: M. F.  Burnyeat, “Aristotle on Learning to be Good”

                       Rorty, 103-116: L. A. Kosman, “Being Properly Affected: Virtues and Feelings in Aristotle’s Ethics”

                       Rorty, 157-170: Urmson, J. O. “Aristotle’s Doctrine of the Mean”



Topic 4: Virtue and Responsibility

                       Nicomachean Ethics Book III, Chapters 1 – 5

                       Rorty, 93-101: J. L. Ackrill, “Aristotle on Action”

                       Rorty, 117-156: T. H. Irwin, “Reason and Responsibility in Aristotle”


Topic 5: Virtues of Character: Courage and Moderation

                       Nicomachean Ethics Book III, Chapters 6 – 12

                       Rorty, 171-188: David Pears, “Courage as a Mean”



Topic 6: Virtues of Character: Magnificence, Generosity, Magnanimity, & Minor Virtues

                       Nicomachean Ethics Book IV

                       Download Packet: W. F. R. Hardie, “Magnanimity in Aristotle’s Ethics,” Phronesis, 78 (1978), pp. 63-79.

                       Download Packet: Neil Cooper, “Aristotle’s Crowning Virtue,” Apeiron 22 (1989), pp. 191-205.



Topic 7: Virtues of Character: Justice

                       Nicomachean Ethics Book V

                       Rorty, 189-200: Bernard Williams, “Justice as a Virtue”

                       Download Packet: Theodore Scaltsas, “Reciprocal Justice in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics,” Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 77 (1995), pp. 248-62.



Topic 8: Virtues of Intellect

                       Nicomachean Ethics Book VI

                       Rorty, 201-220: Richard Sorabji, “Aristotle on the Role of Intellect in Virtue”

                       Rorty, 221-240: David Wiggins, “Deliberation and Practical Reason”



Topic 9: Weakness of Will (Akrasia)

                       Nicomachean Ethics Book VII, Chapters 1 – 10

                       Rorty, 241-266: David Wiggins, “Weakness of Will, Commensurability, and the Objects of Deliberation and Desire”



Topic 10: Pleasure

                       Nicomachean Ethics Book VII, Chapters 11 – 14 and Book X, Chapters 1 – 5

                       Rorty, 267-284: Amélie Rorty, “Akrasia and Pleasure: Nicomachean Ethics Book 7”

                       Rorty, 285-300: Julia Annas, “Aristotle on Pleasure and Goodness”



Topic 11: Friendship

                       Nicomachean Ethics Books VIII – IX

                       Download Packet: Plato’s Lysis

                       Download Packet: Julia Annas, “Plato and Aristotle on Friendship and Altruism,” Mind 86 (1977), pp. 532-54

                       Rorty, 301-340, John M. Cooper, “Aristotle on Friendship”



Topic 12: The Life of Contemplation and the Unity(?) of the Nicomachean Ethics

                       Nicomachean Ethics Book X, Chapters 6 – 9

                       Rorty, 15-34: J. L. Ackrill, “Aristotle on Eudaimonia

                       Rorty, 341-358: Kathleen Wilkes, “The Good Man and the Good for Man in Aristotle’s Ethics”

                       Rorty, 377-394: Amélie Rorty, “The Place of Contemplation in Aristotle’s Ethics”

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