In The Nichomachean Ethics, named for their first editor, Aristotles son Nicomachus, Aristotle sets out to discover the good life for man: the life of happiness.
For Aristotle, happiness is the activity of the soul in accordance with virtue. Virtue is shown in the deliberate choice of actions as part of a worked-out plan of life, a plan that takes a middle course between excess and deficiency. This is the famous doctrine of the golden mean. Courage, for example, is a mean between cowardice and rashness, justice between a mans getting more or less than his due.
The supreme happiness, according to Aristotle, is to be found in a life of philosophical contemplation; but as this is only possible for a few, a secondary kind of happiness is available in a virtuous life of political activity and public munificence.
Aristotle (384-322 BC) was a Greek philosopher, scientist, and physician whose writings profoundly affected the whole course of ancient and medieval philosophy and remain central to philosophy curricula today. At age twenty-one he became a student under Plato in Athens. In 342 he became the tutor of young Alexander the Great in Macedonia. After that, Aristotle returned to Athens to establish his own school and research institute, the Lyceum.
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