Walking with Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics III.6-9

by Peter Saint-Andre


The first thriving of character that Aristotle discusses at length is courage. Why?

To start with, we mustn't forget the cultural and historical context: that of small city-states plagued by endemic warfare (e.g., Athens and Megara, 40km apart, were in conflict on and off for centuries). For good reason, the Greek word ἀνδρεία means both courage and manliness: if the menfolk did not demonstrate bravery in battle, a town could be destroyed, with the men likely killed and the women and children sold into slavery. For the ancients, courage was serious business.

More fundamentally, courage illustrates a number key points that Aristotle wishes to make about human character:

That's a lot to squeeze into three short chapters! We'll see Aristotle build upon these insights as he works his way through the other virtues, starting in III.10-12 with moderation.

(Cross-posted at philosopher.coach.)


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