The Nicomachean Ethics Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: The Nicomachean Ethics is a remarkable piece of writing by the famous philosopher Aristotle, who talks about the meaning of life, about pursuing eudaimonia and not just happiness, about showing up and about embracing your soul and the purpose of your life on earth.

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The Nicomachean Ethics Summary

We have a limited time on earth. And yet many of us tend to live mundane lives, like there’s always going to be a next day. To wake up from that mind prison and see life as it is, a journey towards self-fulfillment, eudaimonia, achieving your purposes, and constantly improving yourself, it takes a lot of mind training. 

To pursue not just happiness or happy moments, but eudaimonia, which Aristotle refers to as a state of art happiness, a blessing, contentment state, where peace and serenity prevail, you must first escape the mind prison and wake up in your own skin again. The Nicomachean Ethics is a collection of ten separate books of Aristotle on the ethics of life. It will teach you valuable and purposeful lessons, while clearing up your mind from the clutter of thoughts that keep you from being your best self.

Below are my three favorite lessons from the book:

  1. Aim to achieve a state of eudaimonia, instead of conventional happiness.
  2. Arete, or virtue, is accomplished through a lifetime of work.
  3. Strive to become magnanimous and thus, do honorable things in your life.

While we cannot possibly summarize Aristotle’s wisdom in a four-minute-read, I’ll try to go into as much detail as I can to explain the most essential points in regard to his perspective on life and the role of a human on earth. Here we go!

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Lesson 1: Eudaimonia is more than just happiness, it’s self-actualization

All people struggle to become happy. As humans, it’s in our nature to seek our interests, do what feels good, and look for happiness. Many of us describe it as a good financial status, a high reputation, or good health. However, Aristotle tends to disagree with the conventional definitions of happiness and success. Rather than struggling to improve your materialistic state and expect happiness as a result of that, aim to achieve pure fulfillment and self-actualization.

Happiness is not a political science, nor the result of extrinsic factors. In fact, it’s a result of how we live and what we do. Moreover, this concept isn’t associated with today’s definition of success, not at all. Eudaimonia is a state of the mind, the heart, and the soul. A person who reaches this state is a blessed, fulfilled individual, with higher spiritual levels. As it looks, eudaimonia represents reaching self-actualization, more than anything else.

An interesting fact about this concept is that it matches Abraham Maslow’s philosophy of life. The Hierarchy of Needs created by him shows five levels of needs that humans go through, starting from physiological needs, and moving all the way to self-actualization. When a human reaches this level, they achieve their full potential and start being creative, similar to geniuses. They also find inspiration in their environment and see the world differently.

Lesson 2: It takes a lifetime to achieve eudaimonia and excellence in out endeavors

According to Aristotle, “happiness is a virtuous activity of the soul”. To live with virtue, is to be in arete. This Greek word stands for something bigger than just virtue, but rather excellence, or achieving your full potential. Virtue can be moral, such a stemperance, or self-control, or intellectual, like wisdom and prudence. Moreover, one can only discover this state of being once the mind wanders. For that, we must fulfill our physical needs and go beyond the survival mode. 

Reasoning has gotten people further in life and contributed to the development of society. It is of utmost importance that we do so. This is how we discover our virtue and find the balance between too much and too little. Aristotle associates eudaimonia and the means to it, arete, to something as simple as eating. Too little or too much of it can affect our health, but a balance between the two can preserve and nurture it. The same goes with our virtues: modesty, temper, courage, patience, and so on. 

Moreover, it helps us achieve happiness, which is everyone’s ultimate goal, whether we realize it or not. In fact, all of our goals are subconsciously programmed to end in achieving happiness, and for that, we must find our purpose and fulfill it, therefore satisfying both our physical and spiritual urges.

And while it takes a lifetime of work to achieve excellence and virtue, or arete, it is everyone’s purpose to do so. Whether we like it or not, we’re programmed to strive and look for eudaimonia. Unfortunately, not all people achieve it. As Aristotle says, “we are what we repeatedly do”. Therefore, achieving arete is a work of habit, rather than an occurrence. Although it’s tough, everyone must face their own challenges on the path of fulfillment, and there’s no way out.

Lesson 3: A great person is a magnanimous person

Now, let’s start by defining what magnanimous means. According to Aristotle, to be magnanimous is to do honorable things and live greatly. To become so, one must live in arete, and experience eudaimonia. To be magnanimous, one has to have a high opinion about themselves, and know the need of giving back, helping others, being kind and virtuous. 

In achieving this, you have to be generous with money as well, and help those in need. Simply put, once you become the best version of yourself, you’ll see your great worth, and then you’ll be able to share it with the rest of the world. Achieving this state of mind is not an easy feat, and it takes a lot of self-introspection and inner growth. 

Living in fear and only fulfilling your best interests is described as being pusillanimous in Greek. This concept implies not being able to do the necessary things to pursue your best self and optimize it. It means showing lack of determination and courage to change. This state of mind will keep a man stagnating in his endeavors and not showing courage throughout his life.

To break the pattern of living an unfulfilling day-to-day life, you must step away from the mundane and let your mind wander. Think of your higher purpose on earth, and make it a priority to live for your cause. Embrace virtues like courage, morality, empathy, and step away from any type of fear, egocentrism, or arrogance.

The Nicomachean Ethics Review

The Nicomachean Ethics presents its readers with a compelling collection of Aristotle’s books and delves deep into the ethics of life, the principles of morality, bravery, staying true to yourself, and aiming for a higher purpose. Aristotle emphasizes how spiritual growth can be achieved only by working on yourself everyday, and how the process never really ends, although you become self-actualized on the way. Reading this book will have you rethink your life principles and look at things from a deeper perspective, thus becoming a better, more grounded person.

Who would I recommend the Nicomachean Ethics summary to?

The 55-year-old person who’s grown into a more spiritual being and has a passion for the Aristotelian lessons , the 30-year-old philosophy teacher who wants to deepen their knowledge in the field, or the 40-year-old person who’s been through a life-changing experience and wants to explore their spiritual side from now on.

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