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The Moral Ideal to those who have most deeply reflected on it leads to the thought of an Ideal beyond and above it, which alone gives it meaning, but which seems to escape from definite conception by man. The richness and variety of this Ideal ceaselessly invite, but as ceaselessly defy, our attempts to imprison it in a definite formula or portray it in detailed imagination. Yet the thought of it is and remains inexpungable from our minds.

This conception of the best life is not forgotten in the Politics The end of life in the state is itself well-living and well-doing—a life which helps to produce the best life The great agency in the production of such life is the State operating through Law, which is Reason backed by Force. For its greatest efficiency there is required the development of a science of legislation. The main drift of what he says here is that the most desirable thing would be that the best reason of the community should be embodied in its laws. But so far as that is not possible, it still is true that anyone who would make himself and others better must become a miniature legislator—must study the general principles of law, morality, and education. The conception of [Grek: politikae] with which he opened the Ethics would serve as a guide to a father educating his children as well as to the legislator legislating for the state. Finding in his predecessors no developed doctrine on this subject, Aristotle proposes himself to undertake the construction of it, and sketches in advance the programme of the Politics in the concluding sentence of the Ethics His ultimate object is to answer the questions, What is the best form of Polity, how should each be constituted, and what laws and customs should it adopt and employ? Not till this answer is given will “the philosophy of human affairs” be complete.

On looking back it will be seen that the discussion of the central topic of the nature and formation of character has expanded into a Philosophy of Human Conduct, merging at its beginning and end into metaphysics The result is a Moral Philosophy set against a background of Political Theory and general Philosophy. The most characteristic features of this Moral Philosophy are due to the fact of its essentially teleological view of human life and action: (1) Every human activity, but especially every human practical activity, is directed towards a simple End discoverable by reflection, and this End is conceived of as the object of universal human desire, as something to be enjoyed, not as something which ought to be done or enacted. Anstotle’s Moral Philosophy is not hedonistic but it is eudmomstic, the end is the enjoyment of Happiness, not the fulfilment of Duty. (2) Every human practical activity derives its value from its efficiency as a means to that end, it is good or bad, right or wrong, as it conduces or fails to conduce to Happiness Thus his Moral Philosophy is essentially utilitarian or prudential Right action presupposes Thought or Thinking, partly on the development of a clearer and distincter conception of the end of desire, partly as the deduction from that of rules which state the normally effective conditions of its realisation. The thinking involved in right conduct is calculation—calculation of means to an end fixed by nature and foreknowable Action itself is at its best just the realisation of a scheme preconceived and thought out beforehand, commending itself by its inherent attractiveness or promise of enjoyment.

This view has the great advantage of exhibiting morality as essentially reasonable, but the accompanying disadvantage of lowering it into a somewhat prosaic and unideal Prudentialism, nor is it saved from this by the tacking on to it, by a sort of after-thought, of the second and higher Ideal—an addition which ruins the coherence of the account without really transmuting its substance The source of our dissatisfaction with the whole theory lies deeper than in its tendency to identify the end with the maximum of enjoyment or satisfaction, or to regard the goodness or badness of acts and feelings as lying solely in their efficacy to produce such a result It arises from the application to morality of the distinction of means and end For this distinction, for all its plausibility and usefulness in ordinary thought and speech, cannot finally be maintained In morality—and this is vital to its character—everything is both means and end, and so neither in distinction or separation, and all thinking about it which presupposes the finality of this distinction wanders into misconception and error. The thinking which really matters in conduct is not a thinking which imaginatively forecasts ideals which promise to fulfil desire, or calculates means to their attainment—that is sometimes useful, sometimes harmful, and always subordinate, but thinking which reveals to the agent the situation in which he is to act, both, that is, the universal situation on which as man he always and everywhere stands, and the ever-varying and ever-novel situation in which he as this individual, here and now, finds himself. In such knowledge of given or historic fact lie the natural determinants of his conduct, in such knowledge alone lies the condition of his freedom and his good.

But this does not mean that Moral Philosophy has not still much to learn from Aristotle’s Ethics. The work still remains one of the best introductions to a study of its important subject-matter, it spreads before us a view of the relevant facts, it reduces them to manageable compass and order, it raises some of the central problems, and makes acute and valuable suggestions towards their solution. Above all, it perpetually incites to renewed and independent reflection upon them.


The following is a list of the works of Aristotle:—

First edition of works (with omission of Rhetorica, Poetica, and second book of Economica), 5 vols by Aldus Manutius, Venice, 1495 8, re impression supervised by Erasmus and with certain corrections by Grynaeus (including Rhetorica and Poetica), 1531, 1539, revised 1550, later editions were followed by that of Immanuel Bekker and Brandis (Greek and Latin), 5 vols. The 5th vol contains the Index by Bomtz, 1831-70, Didot edition (Greek and Latin), 5 vols 1848 74

ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS Edited by T Taylor, with Porphyry’s Introduction, 9 vols, 1812, under editorship of J A Smith and W D Ross, II vols, 1908-31, Loeb editions Ethica, Rhetorica, Poetica, Physica, Politica, Metaphysica, 1926-33

Later editions of separate works De Anima Torstrik, 1862, Trendelenburg, 2nd edition, 1877, with English translation, L Wallace, 1882, Biehl, 1884, 1896, with English, R D Hicks, 1907 Ethica J S Brewer (Nicomachean), 1836, W E Jelf, 1856, J F T Rogers, 1865, A Grant, 1857 8, 1866, 1874, 1885, E Moore, 1871, 1878, 4th edition, 1890, Ramsauer (Nicomachean), 1878, Susemihl, 1878, 1880, revised by O Apelt, 1903, A Grant, 1885, I Bywater (Nicomachean), 1890, J Burnet, 1900

Historia Animalium Schneider, 1812, Aubert and Wimmer, 1860; Dittmeyer, 1907

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