Sunday, July 18, 2010

Exploring Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle Part 1

I have been delving deeper into various philosophical works. I have started reading NICOMACHEAN ETHICS by Aristotle ( translated by W.D. Ross) and have found the it quite interesting.

Here is the first few paragraphs:

EVERY art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and pursuit,
is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has
rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim. But a
certain difference is found among ends; some are activities, others
are products apart from the activities that produce them. Where
there are ends apart from the actions, it is the nature of the
products to be better than the activities. Now, as there are many
actions, arts, and sciences, their ends also are many; the end of
the medical art is health, that of shipbuilding a vessel, that of
strategy victory, that of economics wealth. But where such arts fall
under a single capacity- as bridle-making and the other arts concerned
with the equipment of horses fall under the art of riding, and this
and every military action under strategy, in the same way other arts
fall under yet others- in all of these the ends of the master arts
are to be preferred to all the subordinate ends; for it is for the
sake of the former that the latter are pursued. It makes no difference
whether the activities themselves are the ends of the actions, or
something else apart from the activities, as in the case of the
sciences just mentioned.

If, then, there is some end of the things we do, which we desire for
its own sake (everything else being desired for the sake of this), and
if we do not choose everything for the sake of something else (for
at that rate the process would go on to infinity, so that our desire
would be empty and vain), clearly this must be the good and the
chief good. Will not the knowledge of it, then, have a great influence
on life? Shall we not, like archers who have a mark to aim at, be more
likely to hit upon what is right? If so, we must try, in outline at
least, to determine what it is, and of which of the sciences or
capacities it is the object. It would seem to belong to the most
authoritative art and that which is most truly the master art. And
politics appears to be of this nature; for it is this that ordains
which of the sciences should be studied in a state, and which each
class of citizens should learn and up to what point they should
learn them; and we see even the most highly esteemed of capacities
to fall under this, e.g. strategy, economics, rhetoric; now, since
politics uses the rest of the sciences, and since, again, it
legislates as to what we are to do and what we are to abstain from,
the end of this science must include those of the others, so that this
end must be the good for man. For even if the end is the same for a
single man and for a state, that of the state seems at all events
something greater and more complete whether to attain or to
preserve; though it is worth while to attain the end merely for one
man, it is finer and more godlike to attain it for a nation or for
city-states. These, then, are the ends at which our inquiry aims,
since it is political science, in one sense of that term.

Does the State have a greater cause than man? Should the State really dictate to man what is right and what is wrong? And to what extent, if so? How much should the State interfere into our lives?

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