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Introduction: The Socratic Question of the Ethics

Introduction: The Socratic Question of the Ethics

Chapter:
(p.1) Introduction: The Socratic Question of the Ethics
Source:
Aristotle's Dialogue with Socrates
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226080543.003.0001

Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics addresses a question of the utmost importance to us: What is the human good? Or, as the question comes to be elaborated, What is happiness? What is the good life for a human being? After grappling with its fundamental question about the human good in Book I, the inquiry enters upon what looks like a long, indirect path to its goal, beginning with an investigation of virtue. Wherever the path of the Ethics finally leads, the question to which it responds sets Aristotle on a course following in the footsteps of Socrates. Through the series of allusions to the Platonic dialogues, Aristotle constructs the figure of Socrates as a perfect foil against which to develop a different account of virtue of character. How is the teaching of the Ethics about human happiness to be understood when its speeches are interpreted in light of the deed that we can call the action of the Ethics? That is the question that inspires this book.

Keywords:   Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Socrates, virtue, happiness, good life, human good, Platonic dialogues

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