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The Nicomachean Ethics
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Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics > Schedule, Translations, and Background

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message 1: by Thomas (last edited Feb 01, 2018 10:54PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Thomas | 4509 comments Our discussion of Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics is scheduled to begin on January 3, 2018, and will proceed at the rate of one book (or chapter) per week for the following ten weeks. Each book is only about 20 to 30 pages, but this is dense and sometimes difficult material.

The Schedule:

Jan 3 : Book One
Jan 10: Book Two
Jan 17: Book Three
Jan 24: Book Four
Jan 31: Book Five

Feb 7: Week off to catch up, digest, and recuperate

Feb 14: Book Six
Feb 21: Book Seven
Feb 28: Book Eight
Mar 7: Book Nine
Mar 14: Book Ten and the Ethics as a whole

Jacob Klein wrote a wonderful introduction to Aristotle, appropriately entitled "Aristotle, An Introduction," published in his Lectures And Essays, in which he says the following:

Many, many years ago, I attended a series of lectures on Aristotle's philosophy. The lecturer began his exposition as follows: "As regards Aristotle himself, as regards the circumstances and course of his life, suffice it to say: Aristotle was born, spent his life in philosophizing, and died." This beginning seemed to me then most appropriate, for Aristotle means to us, indeed, nothing but what we know of him, or fancy we know of him, as a man engaged in that extravagant enterprise which, since Pythagoras (according to the tradition), has borne the name of "Philosophy." There is a difficulty, though. Whenever we try to understand what Aristotle is saying, we stumble on something that we simply can't ignore, and that is that his words bring up the words of another man who was his teacher and bore the name of Plato. There is no alternative; we have to face that peculiar circumstance in Aristotle's life.

I'm not sure that we need more in the way of biographical background than that, but we will certainly benefit from philosophical background. We may need to reference this as we go rather than start with it here, but if useful, feel free to post it in this thread before we get started on Book One.

We have already begun the discussion of translations in the "Planning" thread,
https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/... ...and we can continue that discussion here.

Translation is always a thorny issue, and while we are saved from some of the issues that accompany translations of poetry or literature, we are still dealing with a very old and very dead language in Aristotle. Translators often resort to philosophical jargon to resolve the difficulties that arise when English words are inadequate; some do it better than others, and we will all have our preferences for one reason or another. I expect we will have to pick through the Greek a bit to get closer to the root meanings of some important terms, but if you have a preferred translation, let us know.

(The lecturer Klein references is Martin Heidegger, by the way.)


David | 2695 comments Also free from the University of Adelaide in several formats

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, translated by W.D. Ross


Everyman | 7718 comments Thomas wrote: "Jacob Klein wrote a wonderful introduction to Aristotle..."

I had the great privilege of having Jacob Klein as my seminar tutor my Freshman year at St. John's. He was a superb tutor, very learned in the Greeks, and perhaps the most respected Greek tutor in the college, which is saying something. When he speaks, he's worth listening to.


message 5: by Chris (last edited Dec 28, 2017 09:22AM) (new)

Chris | 385 comments I've requested whatever translation the library has, but am still rooting around in the used book stores. I have just not been able to enjoy e-reading. Haven't done so well with the other philosophy classics in the past other than Cicero, but will give it a try as always!


message 6: by Susan (new) - added it

Susan | 476 comments I’ve opted for paper because of the footnotes and other references. I don’t find flipping back and forth in a text works well for me in the Kindle app even though the functionality is greatly improved from what it was...


message 7: by Shelley (last edited Dec 28, 2017 10:51AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Shelley (omegaxx) | 55 comments I got a Bartlett and Collins translation. We'll see how it goes!

Are there any historical commentaries that are worth digging up? With the rich Hellenistic, Arabic and Medieval Scholastic traditions, I imagine quite a few learned men (or women?) have written some commentaries on Ethics. Are any of them worth digging up? Averroes' does not seem worthwhile based on this reviewer http://booksandjournals.brillonline.c...
Can anyone here comment?


Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 304 comments I'll be reading a translation by Martin Ostwald


Thomas | 4509 comments Everyman wrote: "I had the great privilege of having Jacob Klein as my seminar tutor my Freshman year at St. John's. "

A great privilege indeed. He was a legend when I attended SJC in the 80's. I wish he had written and published more.


Thomas | 4509 comments Shelley wrote: " Are there any historical commentaries that are worth digging up? With the rich Hellenistic, Arabic and Medieval Scholastic traditio..."

The only historical commentary I'm familiar with is St. Thomas. And I'm sure there are commentaries on that commentary... but it is online for those who want to look. If anyone knows anything about the Arabic commentaries I'd love to hear about them.

http://dhspriory.org/thomas/Ethics.htm


message 11: by Christopher (last edited Dec 28, 2017 04:15PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Christopher (Donut) | 531 comments There is a monograph on medieval commentaries on the Ethics:

Virtue Ethics in the Middle Ages: Commentaries on Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, 1200-1500

(if you've got $146 lying around)

eta: make that $164


message 12: by Genni (new) - added it

Genni | 837 comments I'm using a revised Oxford edition of Ross's translation. It has zero bells and whistles save a brief introduction if anyone is considering it. I thought about getting another translation, but this one has all my questions in it from reading it before. I'm loathe to start over...


Thomas | 4509 comments Genni wrote: "I'm using a revised Oxford edition of Ross's translation. It has zero bells and whistles save a brief introduction if anyone is considering it. I thought about getting another translation, but this..."

Questions and notes from a previous reading are worth way more than bells and whistles. Good choice!

I'm reading Joe Sachs again for similar reasons, but I have Bartlett and Collins on the way. I love Sachs's translation, but it is a bit odd at times. It works if you read it with the Greek text in hand. Otherwise, it is rather cumbersome.


message 14: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments Coming in a little late:

Bartlett & Collins (which I have found to be a readable translation with some illuminating commentary) offer a bibliography of commentaries and philological studies, as well as of Editions and Translations (and of "Other Works Consulted").

A couple of the older commentaries they include are available as free PDFs from archive.org (The Internet Archive), which is nice.

Unfortunately, as might be guessed from their categorization, they are aimed mainly at someone studying the text in Greek, and deal with its problems of grammar, vocabulary, etc.

So, for what its worth, they are:

Alexander Grant, The Ethics of Aristotle, 4th edition, two volumes (1885)

J.A. Stewart, Notes on the Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle, two volumes, 1892

The same source also offers two of the editions cited by Bartlett and Collins:

John Burnet, The Ethics of Aristotle, With an Introduction and Notes, (1900),

Ingram Bywater. Ethica Nicomachea (1894)

The bilingual Loeb Classical Library edition by H. Rackham, which I think has been mentioned already, is also available at archive.org as a PDF. I've used it before, and found the translation clear (if not always easy to follow). In accordance with the LCL format there is no commentary, or even much in the way of text-critical notes. It is nice to be able to look across to the Greek and see if one can pick out key words......


Thomas | 4509 comments Ian wrote: "Coming in a little late:

Bartlett & Collins (which I have found to be a readable translation with some illuminating commentary) offer a bibliography of commentaries and philological studies, as we..."


Thanks, Ian. It's very helpful to puzzle through the Greek at times, if only to identify the terms that Aristotle uses in his own peculiar way. (E.g., "Energeia," usually translated as "activity," or sometimes "work," is a word that doesn't appear in Greek texts before Aristotle. )

For those who haven't read Aristotle before, it's good to know what those numbers running down the margin are for -- they're Bekker numbers. They're uniform reference markers which can be very handy to use in a group discussion where people are using different translations.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bekker_...


message 16: by MMR. (new)

MMR. | 3 comments Hello folks, Could someone please post the exact edition with ISBN numbers for the Bartlett and Collins? Or is there only one? I think I got myself a little confused about this. I have the Terence Irwin, 2nd ed. which just arrived. I'd like to get the Bartlett and Collins as well, even if it arrives a few days late.

Thanks


message 18: by Lily (new) - added it

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Christopher wrote: "Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics"

That is the Kindle edition. Here is Amazon's listing for the paperback:

Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; Reprint edition (April 23, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0226026752
ISBN-13: 978-0226026756

And for the hardcover:
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1St Edition edition (June 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0226026744
ISBN-13: 978-0226026749

ISBN numbers confuse me, even though I know they are primal.

Goodreads often links as editions of a book many different translations, et al.

I don't have my library copy downstairs, so am not double checking against that. Sorry.

Good luck!


message 19: by MMR. (new)

MMR. | 3 comments Lily, thanks for the information. Exactly what I needed!


Christopher (Donut) | 531 comments The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and so far, I find the Bartlett-Collins a little stiff.

I do like this outline:

OUTLINE

1. What Is the Highest Human Good or Happiness? (1.1–12)

2. Virtue in General and Moral Virtue in Particular (1.13–3.5)
a. Virtue and Voluntary Action, Choice, Deliberation, Wish (3.1–5)

3. The Eleven Moral Virtues (3.6–5.11)
a. Courage (3.6–9)
b. Moderation (3.10–12)
c. Liberality (4.1)
d. Magnificence (4.2)
e. Greatness of Soul (4.3)
f. Ambition (4.4)
g. Gentleness (4.5)
h. Friendliness (4.6)
i. Truthfulness (4.7)
j. Wittiness (4.8)
k. Justice (5)

4. The Intellectual Virtues and the Problem of Prudence (6)

5. Self-Restraint and Lack of Self-Restraint (7.1–10)

6. Pleasure (7.11–14)

7. Friendship (8–9)

8. Pleasure (10.1–5)

9. Happiness and Contemplation (10.6–8)

10. Transition to the Politics (10.9)


message 21: by Lily (new) - added it

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Christopher wrote: "The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and so far, I find the Bartlett-Collins a little stiff. ..."

{g} How are you doing with Aquinas?

I am feeling caught in teleological tautologies.


message 22: by Ian (last edited Jan 07, 2018 06:37AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments Christopher wrote: "The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and so far, I find the Bartlett-Collins a little stiff.

Yes. Bartlett-Collins aims to be a pretty literal translation, and it shows in places.

It doesn't simplify Aristotle's somewhat convoluted argument, as he grapples with Greek vocabulary and customs, as by using too-modern substitutes, and tries to use one English translation for a given word (although this can't be followed completely).

The "apparatus" to help the reader I find to be very good -- overall the best I can recall. And the Kindle edition works properly. These are two big pluses, from my point of view.

The Broadie and Rowe translation from Oxford is, in my opinion, very good, but one really needs to use a hard copy . The Kindle edition is badly formatted, leaving the Bekker numbers floating in space, and there is no linking of the commentary to the text, which makes finding anything a terrific pain.

I've mentioned some of the other translations before, but I'll go over them here, with some additions. (I had planned to do this last week, at the latest, but I've been fighting the flu....)

I personally find the old, widely-reprinted, W.D. Ross translation (part of an Oxford complete Aristotle, and available in revised and unrevised forms) to be slow going. And he sometimes reduces Aristotle, including some typical Greek locutions, to less interesting modern terms (or so some critics say -- I won't argue the fairly technical points.) There are some free or low-priced Kindle versions of the original, unrevised, version, including one in the Delphi Classics "Complete Works" of Aristotle, which has Greek texts, although these are separated from the English translations: and they may not match the edition from which a given translation was made, although this will mainly be a problem for those with a lot of Greek already.)

The Rackham translation in the Loeb Classical Library, of about the same date, with a Greek text, I found to be a lot easier to read than Ross, but was frustratingly short of additional information (not Rackham's fault -- that is the usual LCL format), so I haven't recommended it. Having a bilingual edition is indeed convenient for those with a little bit of Greek, who want to check what terms Aristotle is using at a given point. There is a PDF version available from archive.org (The Internet Archive), which is free, so someone may feel inspired to give it a try.

The Penguin Classics translation (J.A.K. Thomson, later revised) is smooth, but in accordance with early Penguin practice not always literal: the revision has, I think, taken that into account. I first read it -- slowly -- in high school, and found it challenging, but readable (with determination). The later editions have more to aid the reader, but when I tried it ten years (or so) ago I found it a bit of a patchwork. Someone less familiar with Thomson's original treatment may not notice.

I hope those still looking for a translation find this helpful -- as I said, I had planned to post this a while back.


Christopher (Donut) | 531 comments Lily wrote: "

{g} How are you doing with Aquinas? "


If this is a question to me, I will have to demur. I marked the Commentary as "currently reading," but that is a bit of wishful thinking. Unlike Kindle books, which I can carry around with me, this big ol' book is by my bed, and I can only read it at night.

(although I may take advantage of the online version from time to time)


message 24: by Lily (new) - added it

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments I have been wondering what has happened to the thought of Aristotle in the millennia since he wrote. One of the places I went was to explore who are the contemporary voices in the world dealing with issues of ethics. That search took me here and I have just spent a fascinating hour scanning these 50 profiles:
https://thebestschools.org/features/m...

I will probably pull a few names or comments as we discuss Aristotle, like from Allan Gebbard's profile: "...ethical sentences cannot be true or false because they do not express propositions...." Or John Haldane, "...most notable for his work on Thomas Aquinas." Or... One or two, I may even seek out some of their work.

For all that, somehow this list strikes me as globally biased...?


message 25: by Lily (new) - added it

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Okay, a simplification, but I found this useful:

http://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/...


David | 2695 comments Lily wrote: "Okay, a simplification, but I found this useful:

http://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/..."


I hated going to that link but it clarified things quite a bit starting with the very first line:
Every human activity aims at some end that we consider good.
There is a world of difference between what is good and what we consider good and we avoid getting bogged down in a discussion that includes good vs. good intentions or even doing something society may consider evil for your own good.


Thomas | 4509 comments It's not a bad restatement, but it doesn't resolve the basic difficulty: what is the difference between the conventional good (what Aristotle says we call the good) and what truly is good. We only start our investigation with the conventional good, i.e., what we consider to be the good. We have to keep investigating to reveal what is truly good.

Personally, I think Aristotle is clearer on this point than the restatement....


message 28: by Lily (last edited Jan 07, 2018 06:17AM) (new) - added it

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Thomas wrote: "Personally, I think Aristotle is clearer on this point than the restatement....

Either sends me in circles! I guess I'm just dense when it comes to what seem to me to be questions of to what does language (a word) apply.

It too easily becomes the old "I'll know it when I see it" argument?


message 29: by Lily (new) - added it

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/06/op...

One of the articles that reminds me of some of the differences between the world into which Aristotle wrote and the one into which we read him.


message 30: by Thomas (last edited Jan 07, 2018 08:44PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Thomas | 4509 comments Lily wrote: "Thomas wrote: "Personally, I think Aristotle is clearer on this point than the restatement....

Either sends me in circles! I guess I'm just dense when it comes to what seem to me to be questions ..."


Aristotle says in his Metaphysics that philosophy begins in wonder. Philosophers are the people who never stop asking why, not because we have to know for practical reasons, but because we are simply curious. We're willing to work through the frustration of not understanding in exchange for the occasional epiphany.

It is through wonder that men now begin and originally began to philosophize; wondering in the first place at obvious perplexities, and then by gradual progression raising questions about the greater matters too, e.g. about the changes of the moon and of the sun, about the stars and about the origin of the universe.

Now he who wonders and is perplexed feels that he is ignorant (thus the myth-lover is in a sense a philosopher, since myths are composed of wonders); [20] therefore if it was to escape ignorance that men studied philosophy, it is obvious that they pursued science for the sake of knowledge, and not for any practical utility.


Metaphysics, 982b


message 31: by Lily (last edited Jan 08, 2018 08:30AM) (new) - added it

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Thomas wrote (quoting Metaphysics): "... it is obvious that they pursued science for the sake of knowledge, and not for any practical utility."

I doubt Aristotle would write those words today, given the vast gifts science has given and continues to give humankind.

As for the rest of what you say, it sounds like encouragement to keep struggling with A. et al. (I smile a bit over the phrase "...and about the origin of the universe.") Thanks!


Christopher (Donut) | 531 comments Thomas wrote: "The only historical commentary I'm familiar with is St. Thomas. And I'm sure there are commentaries on that commentary... but it is online for those who want to look..."

Thomas, let me just say thank you for this link. I actually read more of the commentary off the web site than I do from the book.

I do think Aquinas clarifies some of A's points immensely. I think we've all discovered how dense A.'s text is, and the commentary dilutes it.


David | 2695 comments Here is an article from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's website on Aristotle's Ethics that may help to summarize and clarify what we are reading.

Kraut, Richard, "Aristotle's Ethics", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2017 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)


Thomas | 4509 comments I understand the need for commentaries with this very difficult material, but let's be careful that we are still discussing Aristotle's Ethics and not an interpretation of it. Spark notes, Kraut, and even Aquinas are no doubt right on some points but scholars have have had and still have disagreements on a lot of this stuff.

I'm not saying don't read the commentaries, because they can indeed be helpful. I just want to give Aristotle and our own reading of the text priority over the commentaries.




message 35: by David (last edited Jan 12, 2018 06:55PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

David | 2695 comments Thomas wrote: "I understand the need for commentaries with this very difficult material, but let's be careful that we are still discussing Aristotle's Ethics and not an interpretation of it..."

Of course! But after reading each part it three times I think I earned a little research time. :)


Thomas | 4509 comments Thanks. Those who have been in the group a while know how anti-commentary I am, so I guess this is me trying to hit "the mean." :)


message 37: by Ian (last edited Jan 13, 2018 02:42PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments Thomas wrote: "I understand the need for commentaries with this very difficult material, but let's be careful that we are still discussing Aristotle's Ethics and not an interpretation of it. Spark notes, Kraut, a..."

In his translation of the Eudemian Ethics [EE}, Anthony Kenny reports that:

"Since the time of Albert the Great commentaries on the NE have appeared about once a decade, whereas the EE has had only half-a-dozen throughout its history."

If Kenny is right, a little arithmetic works that out as something like 75 to 80 commentaries!

Perhaps fortunately for this discussion, only a small minority of these commentaries are available in English. I doubt that many of the earlier ones are available in print in any language, but remain in manuscript.

Kenny's first (European) commentator, Albert the Great -- more commonly cited as Albertus Magnus, c.1200 - November 15, 1280 -- is now perhaps best known (if known at all) as the teacher of Thomas Aquinas, but he also has a large place in modern studies of medieval science. He was a monk, and a bishop, and is also known as Saint Albert the Great and Albert of Cologne. In his own time he seems to have been regarded as the most learned man in Christendom. (There is a Wikipedia article, from which I have taken the dates shown above.)


Everyman | 7718 comments Thomas wrote: "Thanks. Those who have been in the group a while know how anti-commentary I am, so I guess this is me trying to hit "the mean." :)"

I support you in this view. Commentaries (and notes in texts) can be useful, but should not, in my view, be a substitute for wrestling directly with the material. These discussions work best, I believe, when people are posting their own views rather than those of commentators. One's own views can be informed and enhanced by occasional use of commentaries, but the object here has always been to develop and explore the direct relationship between the reader and the work.


Christopher (Donut) | 531 comments Everyman wrote: "... the object here has always been to develop and explore the direct relationship between the reader and the work. "

I think with a text like the EN, this isn't even an 'ideal.'

I would say there is no substitute for the actual text, in that we may have gotten a 'canned' or 'thumbnail' sketch of Aristotle's ethics in high school or college which doesn't jibe with the text, but the very fact that there have been so many commentaries since 1200 or thereabouts (one per decade for so long a time.. it's like the anecdote about the marvelous lawns at Oxford) is a strong indication that no one can read Aristotle and just pick up an immediate impression. What fer?


David | 2695 comments I agree there is no substitute for the original. Having said that, I don't read greek, and after giving it a good try or three on your own, some of the better commentaries/summaries can seem like just another translation.


message 41: by Gayle (new)

Gayle Warren | 5 comments I love this! Even if I don't have the time it takes to fully appreciate the writings. It doesn't even matter if I don't understand it completely; I love the fact that I'm actually reading Aristotle. Didn't take philosophy in school (probably should have) and always thought it was too difficult to wrap my mind around, but no! I am a deeply religious person and I get this- some anyway. Just wanted to put it out there that I'm proud of this group for tackling such an interesting and profound subject. Thanks for all your comments.


message 42: by Lily (last edited Jan 17, 2018 09:40PM) (new) - added it

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments David wrote: "....some of the better commentaries/summaries can seem like just another translation."

I sometimes like to think of them as conversations or even posts by and with others who don't or can't (perhaps because they are long dead) directly participate with us.

They sometimes help me bridge the gap across the centuries (millennia?) since something was written -- what was potent enough to survive the pummeling of conversation and analysis? Were others able to shed or suggest ways to deal with whatever may be hanging me up as far as understanding or relevance?


message 43: by Lily (new) - added it

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Since we have been touching on the topic of courage, I'll share what was basically the content of an email I received this afternoon about 80 men under the direction of Lt. Col. James Doolittle who made a retaliatory raid on Japan after Pearl Harbor.

https://deltavan1.wordpress.com/2016/...

I particularly liked the final picture of the four men still alive at the time of this article.


message 44: by Genni (new) - added it

Genni | 837 comments Lily wrote: "I sometimes like to think of them as conversations or even posts by and with others who don't or can't (perhaps because they are long dead) directly participate with us."

I like this way of seeing it, Lily.


message 45: by Lily (new) - added it

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Genni wrote: "Lily wrote: "I sometimes like to think of them as conversations or even posts by and with others who don't or can't (perhaps because they are long dead) directly participate with us."

I like this ..."


Thx, Genni. (Good morning.)


Thomas | 4509 comments It sounds like some of us are a little behind in the reading, so I'm wondering if we might want to take a week to let folks catch up. This is tough stuff, without a doubt, and I don't want to lose anyone because we're moving too fast.

Should we take a short breather, or is everyone okay at the pace we going?


message 47: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1729 comments Thomas wrote: "It sounds like some of us are a little behind in the reading, so I'm wondering if we might want to take a week to let folks catch up. This is tough stuff, without a doubt, and I don't want to lose ..."

I could use a breather.


message 48: by Genni (new) - added it

Genni | 837 comments Thomas wrote: "It sounds like some of us are a little behind in the reading, so I'm wondering if we might want to take a week to let folks catch up. This is tough stuff, without a doubt, and I don't want to lose ..."

I would love to have an extra week to go back and reread some stuff instead of plowing ahead.


Ashley Adams | 328 comments I second a slow-down as well. I've been stricken by illness and am falling behind.


message 50: by Dave (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dave Redford | 145 comments A breather might help me too. I'm doing my best to catch up, but this stuff is dense!


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