Great Books I   Fall 2019

The Nicomachean Ethics

"How does one achieve happiness?"

Reading Schedule



Paper #2 November 9

October 21

Book I, II

  1. Why is man’s chief good to be found in politics?

  2. What sort of background do you need to be Aristotle’s ideal student?

  3. Would Aristotle buy Plato’s concept of the Good?

  4. Why would legislators have a responsibility for morals?

  5. Aristotle defines excellence or virtue as a “mean”, but says it is not a mathematical mean? What is it?  Why is the true mean often criticized as an extreme?

  6. Why does understanding the mean require experience? What sort of experience do you think would be required?



October 24

Books III-V

  1. Explain Aristotle’s distinctions among these terms:  voluntary, involuntary, non-voluntary.  Provide an example of each.  Which ones might be punishable?

  2. Would Aristotle be inclined to be lenient with a criminal offender who came from a culturally deprived background?

  3. Does the pursuit of excellence entail pain?  Does the avoidance of excellence ensure no pain?

  4. How would Aristotle agree with Plato’s concept of justice?

  5. How would Aristotle analyze a case of an abused wife who kills her husband?

  6. Would Aristotle say that a man should be punished for attempting suicide?


October 28

Books V-VI

  1. Why is justice not an intellectual virtue?

  2. Why is justice the sum of all virtues?
  3. What kind of truth does each mode of thought derive?
  4. How does Aristotle define truth? How does he differ with Plato on the nature of truth?
  5. Bring your own questions.

    October 31


  1. Can friendships cause pain? suffering?

    What makes friendships end? What makes them last?

  2. Is marriage a friendship? What would Aristotle say about divorce?

  3. In view of Aristotle’s statement:  “between friends, there is no need for justice”, what is the connection between friendship and the tripartite soul?

  4. How does friendship produce happiness? love? virtue?

  5. Can we, as student and teacher be friends?

  6. Can you be friends with your parents?

  7. Which people can never be friends?

November 4

Books IX, X


  1. Should we break off friendships when the other party has changed?

  2. Would Plato agree with Aristotle’s definition of a good man’s friendship?

  3.  Is it better to love yourself or others more?

  4.  Does a happy man need friends?

  5. Should you make as many friends as possible?

  6. Is pleasure good?

  7. Why can we not feel pleasure continuously?

  8. Are some pleasures better or higher than others?

  9. Can we pass laws to make men happy?

  10. Immanuel Kant writes:  Now I say: man and generally any rational being exists as an end in himself, not merely as a means to be arbitrarily used by this or that will, but in all his actions, whether they concern himself or other rational beings, must be always regarded at the same time as an end.  What about Aristotle? Does he say that man is an end or is he a means?