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Aristotle Quotes

Quotations attributed to Aristotle.

By

Aristotle 384-322 B.C.

Courtesy of translator Giles Laurén, author of The Stoic's Bible from Aristotle. The Nichomean Ethics. W. D. Ross.

  • 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 been declared to be that at which all things aim.

    ARIST. Nico. I.1.

  • If there is some end in the things we do, which we desire for its own sake, clearly this must be the chief good. Knowing this will have a great influence on how we live our lives.

    ARIST. Nico. I.2.

  • Politics appears to be the master art for it includes so many others and its purpose is the good of man. While it is worthy to perfect one man, it is finer and more godlike to perfect a nation.

    ARIST. Nico. I.2.

  • It is the mark of an educated man to look for precision in each class of thing in so far as its nature admits.

    ARIST. Nico. I.3.

  • Each man judges well the things he knows.

    ARIST. Nico. I.3.

  • Men generally agree that the highest good attainable by action is happiness, and identify living well and doing well with happiness.

    ARIST. Nico. I.4.

  • There are three prominent types of life: pleasure, political and contemplative. The mass of mankind is slavish in their tastes, preferring a life suitable to beasts; they have some ground for this view since they are imitating many of those in high places. People of superior refinement identify happiness with honour, or virtue, and generally the political life.

    ARIST. Nico. I.5.

  • The life of money-making is one undertaken under compulsion since wealth is not the good we are seeking and is merely useful for the sake of something else.

    ARIST. Nico. I.5.

  • Our duty as philosophers requires us to honour truth above our friends.

    ARIST. Nico. I.6.

  • If things are good in themselves, the good will appear as something identical in them all, but the accounts of the goodness in honour, wisdom, and pleasure are diverse. The good therefore is not some common element answering to one Idea.

    ARIST. Nico. I.6.

  • Even if there be one good which is universally predictable or is capable of independent existence, it could not be attained by man.

    ARIST. Nico. I.7.

  • If there is an end for all we do, it will be the good achievable by action.

    ARIST. Nico. I.7.

  • The self-sufficient we define as that which when isolated makes life desirable and complete, and such we think happiness to be. It cannot be exceeded and is therefore the end of action.

    ARIST. Nico. I.7.

  • If we consider the function of man to be a certain kind of life, and this to be an activity of the soul implying a rational principle, and the function of a good man to be the noble performance of these, and if any action is well performed when it is performed in accordance with the appropriate principle; if this is the case, human good turns out to be activity of the soul in accordance with virtue.

    ARIST. Nico. I.7.

  • We must first roughly sketch the good and later fill in the details; anyone is capable of articulating what has once been well outlined. The beginning is thought to be more than half of the whole.

    ARIST. Nico. I.7.

  • Some identify Happiness with virtue, some with practical wisdom, others with a kind of philosophical wisdom, others add or exclude pleasure and yet others include prosperity. We agree with those who identify happiness with virtue, for virtue belongs with virtuous behaviour and virtue is only known by its acts.

    ARIST. Nico. I.8.

  • Lovers of what is noble find pleasant the things that are by nature pleasant; since virtue is by nature pleasant, they by virtuous actions find their pleasures within themselves.

    ARIST. Nico. I.8.

  • The man who does not rejoice in noble actions is not good; the good man judges well in matters of the good and the noble.

    ARIST. Nico. I.8.

  • Most noble is that which is most just, best is health; Most pleasant is to win what we love. Delphic Inscription.

    ARIST. Nico. I.8.

  • Is happiness to be acquired by learning, by habit, or some other form of training? It seems to come as a result of virtue and some process of learning and to be among the godlike things since its end is godlike and blessed.

    ARIST. Nico. I.9.

  • All who are able, may gain virtue by study and care, for it is better to be happy by the action of nature than by chance. To entrust to chance what is most important would be defective reasoning.

    ARIST. Nico. I.9.

  • Political science spends most of its pains on forming its citizens to be of good character and capable of noble acts.

    ARIST. Nico. I.9.

  • Durable virtue will belong to the happy man, and he will be happy throughout his life, for he will always opt for virtuous acts and thoughts and he will bear the hazards of life with nobility and live beyond reproach.

    ARIST. Nico. I.10.

  • No happy man can become miserable, for he will never do acts that are hateful and mean.

    ARIST. Nico. I.10.

  • Should we not say that he is happy whose acts are virtuous and has adequate external goods for his lifetime?

    ARIST. Nico. I.10.

  • No one praises happiness as he does justice, but rather calls it blessed, as being something more divine and better. Praise is appropriate to virtue, because as a result of virtue men tend to do noble deeds.

    ARIST. Nico. I.12.

  • Since happiness is an activity of soul in harmony with virtue, we must consider virtue to see if she can help us to understand happiness. The student of politics studies virtue above all else since he wishes to make his fellow citizens good and obedient to the laws.

    ARIST. Nico. I.13.

  • In speaking about a man's character we do not say that he is wise or has understanding, but that he is good tempered; we praise the wise man for his state of mind.

    ARIST. Nico. I.13.

  • Virtue, is of two kinds, intellectual and moral; intellectual owes its birth and growth to teaching while moral virtue comes to us through habit. None of the moral virtues arises in us by nature for nothing in nature can change its nature; we are adapted by nature to receive them and by habit, perfect them.

    ARIST. Nico. II.1.

  • By acting as we do with other men we make ourselves just or unjust. It makes no small difference whether we form habits of one kind or another from early youth; it makes, rather, all the difference.

    ARIST. Nico. II.1.

  • By abstaining from pleasures we become temperate and once temperate we are more able to abstain from them. Likewise, once habituated to despise what is terrible we become courageous.

    ARIST. Nico. II.2.

  • Moral excellence is concerned with pleasure and pain; because of pleasure we do bad things and for fear of pain we avoid noble ones. For this reason we ought to be trained from youth, as Plato says: to find pleasure and pain where we ought; this is the purpose of education.

    ARIST. Nico. II.3.

  • There are three objects of choice and three of avoidance: the noble, the advantageous, the pleasant and their contraries, the base, the injurious, the painful, and about all of these the good man tends to go right and the bad man tends to go wrong.

    ARIST. Nico. II.3.

  • It is harder to fight with pleasure than with anger, to use Heraclitus' phrase, but both art and virtue are always concerned with what is harder; even the good is better when it is harder. The concern of both virtue and political science is with pleasures and pains; the man who uses these well will be good, he who uses them badly, bad.

    ARIST. Nico. II.3.

  • Men who do just and temperate acts are just and temperate.

    ARIST. Nico. II.4.

  • Knowledge is not necessary for the possession of the virtues, whereas the habits which result from doing just and temperate acts count for all. By doing just acts the just man is produced, by doing temperate acts, the temperate man; without acting well no one can become good. Most people avoid good acts and take refuge in theory and think that by becoming philosophers they will become good.

    ARIST. Nico. II.4.

  • If the virtues are neither passions nor facilities, all that remains is that they should be states of character.

    ARIST. Nico. II.5.

  • The virtue of man will be the state of character which makes a man good and which makes him live well.

    ARIST. Nico. II.6.

  • For men are good in but one way, but bad in many. Anon.

    ARIST. Nico. II.6. 128

  • Virtue is a state of character concerned with choice, being determined by rational principle as determined by the moderate man of practical wisdom.

    ARIST. Nico. II.6.

  • In all things the mean is praiseworthy, and the extremes neither praiseworthy nor right, but worthy of blame.

    ARIST. Nico. II.7.

  • Man acts voluntarily, the impulses that move the parts of his body are in his power to do or not to do. To endure great indignities for no noble end or for a trifling one is the mark of an inferior person. As a rule, what is expected is painful, and what we are forced to do is base, whence praise and blame are bestowed on those who have been compelled or have not.

    ARIST. Nico. III.1.

  • It is absurd to make external circumstances responsible and not oneself, and to make oneself responsible for noble acts and pleasant objects responsible for base ones.

    ARIST. Nico. III.1.

  • Everything done by reason of ignorance is involuntary. The man who has acted in ignorance has not acted voluntarily since he did not know what he was doing. Not every wicked man is ignorant of what he ought to do and what he ought to abstain from; by such errors men become unjust and bad.

    ARIST. Nico. III.1.

  • No one chooses wishful things, but only that things might be brought about by his efforts; choice relates to things that are in our power and involve a rational principle.

    ARIST. Nico. III.2.

  • We deliberate about things that are in our power to do or not. We deliberate not about ends, but about means. The object of choice is one of the things in our power which is desired after deliberation.

    ARIST. Nico. III.3.

  • Each state of character has its own ideas of the noble and the pleasant, and perhaps the good man differs from others most by seeing the truth in each class of things. In most things the error seems to arise from pleasure, what appears good when it is not.

    ARIST. Nico. III.4.

  • The end being what we wish for, the means what we deliberate about and we choose our actions voluntarily. The exercise of virtues is concerned with means and therefore both virtue and vice are in our power.

    ARIST. Nico. III.5.

  • We punish a man for his ignorance if he is thought to be responsible for his ignorance.

    ARIST. Nico. III.5.

  • If a man does unjust things without being ignorant he is unjust voluntarily.

    ARIST. Nico. III.5.

  • Death is the most terrible of all things, for it is the end, and nothing is thought to be either good or bad for the dead.

    ARIST. Nico. III.6.

  • The man who fears the right things for the right motives in the right way at the right time and feels confidence is brave.

    ARIST. Nico. III.7.

  • Confidence is the mark of a hopeful disposition.

    ARIST. Nico. III.7. The brave man is the mean between the coward and the rash man.

    ARIST. Nico.

  • III.7. Self-indulgence is a matter for reproach because it attaches us with animals.

    ARIST. Nico. III.10.

  • The temperate man is so called because he is not pained at the absence of what is pleasant. The self-indulgent man craves pleasures and is led by his appetite to choose them at the cost of everything else.

    ARIST. Nico. III.11.

  • Liberality seems to be the mean as regards wealth, for the liberal man is praised for the giving and taking of wealth and especially with giving.

    ARIST. Nico. IV.1.

  • Givers are called liberal; those who do not take are not praised for liberality but rather for justice; those who take are hardly praised at all. The liberal are most loved of virtuous men because they are useful.

    ARIST. Nico. IV.1.

  • Liberality lies not in the multitude of the gifts but in the character of the giver.

    ARIST. Nico. IV.1.

  • Those who inherited wealth are thought to be more liberal than those who made it, since men are fonder of their own productions. It is not easy for the liberal man to be rich for he cannot have more wealth if he does not take pains to have it.

    ARIST. Nico. IV.1.

  • Some exceed in taking by taking anything from any source, e.g. those who ply sordid trades, pimps and money lenders. What is common in them is sordid love of gain; they put up with a bad name for the sake of gain.

    ARIST. Nico. IV.1.

  • It is hard to be proud and impossible without nobility and goodness of character.

    ARIST. Nico. IV.3.

  • The Spartans did not recount their services to the Athenians, but those they had received, when they asked for help to defend against a Thebian invasion in 369.

    ARIST. Nico. IV.3.

  • He must be open in his hate and in his love, for to conceal one's feelings is to care less for truth than for what people think and that is the coward's part. He must speak and act openly because it is his to speak the truth.

    ARIST. Nico. IV.3.

  • He must be unable to make his life revolve round another unless he be a friend; for this is slavish and all flatters are servile people lacking in self- respect. Nor is he a gossip, he will speak neither about himself or about another since he cares not to be praised nor others blamed.

    ARIST. Nico. IV.3.

  • By reason of excess choleric people are quick-tempered and ready to be angry with everything on every occasion. Sulky people are hard to appease and retain their anger until revenge relieves them of it.

    ARIST. Nico. IV.5.

  • We call bad-tempered those who are angry at the wrong things more often than is right, and longer, and will not be appeased until they are revenged.

    ARIST. Nico. IV.5.

  • Some men are thought to be obsequious; to give pleasure they praise everything and never oppose, but think it their duty 'to give no pain to the people they meet,' while those who, on the contrary oppose everything and care not a whit about giving pain are called churlish and contentions.

    ARIST. Nico. IV.6.

  • Each man speaks and acts and lives according to his character. Falsehood is mean and culpable and truth noble and worthy of praise. The man who is truthful where nothing is at stake will be still more truthful where something is at stake.

    ARIST. Nico. IV.7.

  • A man who claims to be more than he is to gain reputation is not much blamed, but if he should do so for money or things that lead to money he is an ugly character.

    ARIST. Nico. IV.7.

  • Mock-modest people who understate things seem more attractive in character, for they have no thought of gain but rather to avoid any parade of qualities which might bring reputation that they disclaim. Some seem boastful through moderation, like Spartan dress, for both excess and great deficiency are boastful.

    ARIST. Nico. IV.7.

  • We think young people should be prone to shame because they live by feeling and commit many errors and are restrained by shame.

    ARIST. Nico. IV.9.

  • Since the unjust man is grasping, he must be concerned with those goods that lead to prosperity and adversity.

    ARIST. Nico. V.1.I

  • Rule will show the man. Bias.

    ARIST. Nico. V.1.

  • Justice alone of the virtues is thought to be 'another's good,' because it is related to our neighbour and does what is advantageous to another.

    ARIST. Nico. V.1.

  • If a man makes gain, his action is ascribed to no form of wickedness but injustice and his motive is the pleasure that arises from gain.

    ARIST. Nico. V.2.

  • All men agree that a just distribution must be according to merit in some sense; they do not all specify the same sort of merit, but democrats identify if with freemen, supporters of oligarchy with wealth (or noble birth), and supporters of aristocracy with excellence.

    ARIST. Nico. V.3.

  • When a distribution is made from the common funds of a partnership it will be according to the same ratio which the funds were put into the business by the partners and any violation of this kind of justice would be injustice.

    ARIST. Nico. V.4.

  • In some states they call judges mediators on the assumption that if they get what is intermediate they will get what is just.

    ARIST. Nico. V.4.

  • Some think that reciprocity is just, as the Pythagoreans said, who defined justice as reciprocity. People want the justice of Rhadamanthus to mean this: Should a man suffer what he did, justice would be done. Hesiod. frag. Yet in many cases reciprocity and reciprocal justice are not in accord.

    ARIST. Nico. V.5.

  • In associations for exchange men are held together according to proportion and not on the basis of equal return. It is by the justice of proportionate requital that the city holds together. Men seek return either evil for evil or good for good and if they cannot do so there is no exchange and without exchange they cannot hold together.

    ARIST. Nico. V.5.

  • People are different and unequal and yet must be somehow equated. This is why all things that are exchanged must be comparable and to this end money has been introduced as an intermediate for it measures all things. In truth, demand holds things together and without it there would be no exchange.

    ARIST. Nico. V.5.

  • Law exists for men between whom there is injustice. Injustice is the assigning of too much good to oneself and too little evil.

    ARIST. Nico. V.6.

  • When a man acts involuntarily he acts neither justly nor unjustly except incidentally. By voluntarily I mean any act in one's power done with knowledge.

    ARIST. Nico. V.8.

  • Acts done from anger are not done with malice aforethought, for it is the man who enraged him that starts the mischief.

    ARIST. Nico. V.8.

  • The incontinent man does things he does not think he ought to do.

    ARIST. Nico. V.9.

  • When the virtuous man takes less than his share, he perhaps gets more than his share of some other good, i.e. honour. He suffers nothing contrary to his own wish, he is not unjustly treated and at most only suffers harm.

    ARIST. Nico. V.9.

  • Men think that acting unjustly is in their power and therefore that being just is easy. But to act justly a certain state of character, which is not in our power, is necessary and not always easy to find.

    ARIST. Nico. V.9.

  • The equitable is just, not legally just, but a correction of legal justice. This is because all law is universal, but about some things it is not possible to make a universal statement. When the law is silent the equitable settlement is just.

    ARIST. Nico. V.10.

  • We ought to choose that which is intermediate, neither the excess nor the defect; what is intermediate is determined by right rule.

    ARIST. Nico. VI.1.

  • The virtue of a thing relates to its proper work. What affirmation and negation are in thinking, pursuit and avoidance are in desire. Since moral virtue is a state of character concerned with choice, both good reasoning and proper desire must be present if the choice is to be good.

    ARIST. Nico. VI.2.

  • Every science is thought to be capable of being taught and its object capable of being learned. Unless a man believes in a certain way and is familiar with the starting points, his knowledge will be only incidental.

    ARIST. Nico. VI.3.

  • Art loves chance and chance loves art. Agathon.

    ARIST. Nico. VI.4. 133

  • Practical wisdom is thought to be the mark of a man able to deliberate well about what is good and expedient to himself and conduce to the good life. Practical wisdom is a virtue and not an art.

    ARIST. Nico. VI.5.

  • That which can be demonstrated scientifically is known whereas art and practical wisdom deal with that which is variable.

    ARIST. Nico. VI.6.

  • Wisdom must be intuitive reason combined with scientific knowledge.

    ARIST. Nico. VI.7.

  • Reasoned knowledge and initiative wisdom are the highest by nature. This is why men like Thales and Anaxagoras had philosophic and not practical wisdom. When we see them ignorant to their own advantage and we say they knew things that are remarkable, admirable, difficult, and divine, but useless, it is because it was not human good that they sought.

    ARIST. Nico. VI.7.

  • The man who is good at deliberating is the man capable of aiming with calculation at the best things attainable by action.

    ARIST. Nico. VI.7.

  • While young men may become geometers and mathematicians and such like things, young men of practical wisdom cannot be found. Wisdom is concerned not only with universals, but with the particulars, which only become familiar through the experience the young man has not.

    ARIST. Nico. VI.8.

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