“Poetics” by Aristotle

“Poetics” by Aristotle


  • Trying to tackle poetry, variations – giving the the essentials, structure of plot & parts of a good poem, etc.
  • Epics, tragedies, comedies, dithryambic poetry, flute & lyre music & all forms of imitation
    • differences – medium, objects & manner of imitation
  • People imitate, either consciously or unconsciously, through color, form, voice, rhythm, language or harmony
  • Flutes & lyres use harmony & rhythm – dancing using rhythm w/o harmony – with emotion, character & action
  • You can use any of these in combination with each other


  • Objects of imitation are men in action
    • must represent as better or worse than in real life
  • Each mode of imitation will exhibit the difference & become a distinct king of imitation of objects
    • can use with dance, music, verse, etc.
    • Homer makes men better than they are
    • Cleophon shows them as they are
    • Hegemon & Thasian did parodies
    • Nicochares made them worse
    • Use different tactics with respect to verse & language depending on now you wish to portray them


  • Another way to differentiate is how they are imitated
    • with same medium, objects, poets can imitate by narration
    • they can impersonate Homer or use their own voices
    • 3 differences – medium, object & manner
      • Sophocles imitated Homer with higher types of character
      • Aristophanes did too with people’s actions
    • Giving “drama” to poems – representing action
    • Dorians claim to have invented both tragedy & comedy
    • Megarians claim comedy
    • Peloponnesian Dorians claim tragedy


  • Reason for Poetry’s birth
    • 1 – Instinct of imitation implanted from childhood, learning earliest lessons
      • view with pain when we think of monstrous animals & dead bodies
      • we enjoy seeing imitation b/c when we think of ourselves learning & saying “I recognize that in my life!”
      • You might be taken in other ways, too
    • 2 – Imitation is in our nature, as are harmony & rhythm. They continued w/ dancing & music until poetry was born.
      • Poetry diverged
        • Graver spirits – imitate actions of good/noble men
        • Trivial – imitate mean people (satires), no earlier than Homer, as well as lampooning
      • Homer is preeminent b/c he excelled at imitation, laid out foundation of comedy by dramatizing the ludicrous
        • Lampooning turned into comedy
        • Epics led to tragedy (a higher form of art than comedy)
  • Tragedy & comedy began as improvization
    • tragedy began as dithryambic poetry
    • comedians sand phallic songs
    • tragedy advanced slowly but each step was a development & eventually found a natural form & stopped there.
  • Aeschylus – first to add a second actor, diminished the importance of the chorus & advanced dialogue
  • Sophocles – increased to 3 actors & used scene-painting
  • Once dialogue came about, nature sorted out the right meters
    • Iambic – colloquial/conversational
  • Number of episodes/acts & acts other accessories would be hard to do a history about


  • Comedy is an imitator of a lower type
    • The mask is ugly & distorted but no pain is implied
    • tragedy’s history is detailed but comedy’s isn’t b/c it was never taken seriously
    • comedy had already solidified in its form by the time any famous poets came around
      • plots started in Sicily but solidified by Athenians in its form
  • Epics are similar to tragedies – imitates higher characters
    • epic is narrated & in one king of meter
    • tragedies limit themselves to one day in the plot or a little more
    • epic has no limit in time
    • All elements of epics are in a tragedy but not vice versa


  • Tragedy – serious, complete, of magnitude, embellished language, in an artistic manner, action, non-narrative, & fear & pity play large
    • embellished language – with rhythm & harmony
    • tragic drama – spectacular equipment, song & diction – metrical arrangement of words
    • plot – action & arrangement of incidents
    • 1 – Plot – the soul of tragedy
    • 2 – Character – same with painting, if you have beautiful colors but the picture/character is confused, it’s not as good as a chalk outline
    • 3 – Thought – saying what’s possible or pertinent in given circumstances. While character reveals moral purpose, thought is where something is proved to be or not to be, or a general maxim is enunciated
    • 4 – Diction – expression of words – essence in prose & verse
    • 5 – Song – chief place for embellishments
    • 6 – Spectacle – least artistic or least connected to poetry. Depends more on stage manager than the poet


  • Plot – tragedy must be imitation of action, complete, whole & of a certain magnitude
    • Whole – must have a beginning, middle & end
      • Beginning – doesn’t need something to precede it
      • Middle – must have something before it & something after it. The plot can’t end haphazardly.
      • End – must have something before it but nothing follows it
    • Must have an orderly arrangement of parts & be of a certain magnitude [beauty requires a bigness]
      • not too small or trivial & not too large as to confuse or overwhelm the audience.
      • has a length that can be embraced by memory – all are mostly the same length
      • must have a change from good to bad fortune or bad to good


  • Plot’s unity doesn’t need to rely on a hero’s unity of character
    • you can’t reduce a man’s life to a single unit
    • Some poets imagine Heracles as 1 man & think that his story must be written as a unity – far too long!
    • Homer didn’t include all Odysseus’s adventures but made the Odyssey & Iliad center around a single action
    • Plot must imitate one subject, one action & the whole forms a structural union around it such that removing any part of it will cause the plot to be disjointed.
    • If something’s presence or absence makes no difference, then it’s not an organic part of the whole


  • It’s not the poet’s job to relate what happened but what might happen – what’s possible according to probability or necessity
    • the poet & history are the same in this
    • Herodotus – could put history into verse but it’s still history
    • Difference is history actually happened, drama might happen
    • Poetry is higher & more philosophical b/c it tends to be more universal
      • Shows how a person may speak or act based on probability or necessity
    • comedy is around probability then inserts names & characters
    • Tragedy uses real names to be more credible & make the story seem more plausible
      • Some tragedies use a couple of real names & the rest are fictitious
    • You don’t have to stick to legends – the usual subjects of tragedy
    • Poets should write poems around plots & not write plots around poems
      • If historical subject, write poetry but stick to what’s possible or necessary
    • Epeisodic – worst king
      • acts succeed each other without probable or necessary sequence
      • bad poets compose them by their own fault
      • good poets compose them to please actors but stretch beyond its natural capacity
    • Tragedy must inspire fear or pity using surprise, & cause & effect


  • Plots – simple or complex based on real life
    • Simple – change of fortune happens without situation reversal or recognition
    • Complex – change of fortune happens with situational reversal or recognition


  • Reversal of situation – change by which action switches around to its opposite
    • Oedipus – messenger comes to cheer him up & relieve him of alarms about his mother
    • Lynceus – being led to his death & Danaus goes with him to kill him but Danaus is the one who’s killed & Lynceus ends up being spared
  • Recognition – change from ignorance to knowledge – producing love or hate between people
    • Oedipus – coincidental with situation reversal
    • in inanimate objects too
    • must be connected with the plot & action
    • should produce fear or pity
    • causes/leads to a good or bad fortune
    • maybe only one person recognizes
      • Iphigenia – is revealed to Orestes by sending a letter
      • later Orestes is revealed to her
    • 2 parts cause plot to turn on surprise
      • another is a scene where a destructive or painful action happens on stage – death, agony, wounds (scene of suffering)


  • Now to quantitative parts – separate parts of tragedy
    • Prologue – precedes parode of chorus
    • Episode – entire part of tragedy between complete choric songs
    • Parode – first undivided utterance of chorus
    • Stasimon – choric ode without anapaests or trochaic tetrameters
    • Commos – joint lamentation between chorus & actors


  • What a poet should be aiming for & should avoid
    • Perfect tragedy – in complex form, provoke fear or pity
      • Change of fortune – DO NOT take a man of prosperity from prosperity to adversity – it’s not tragic, only shocking
    • No bad man from adversity to prosperity – pisses the audience off
    • Pity for unmerited misfortune & fear misfortune for a man just like us
    • Character – between 2 extremes – a man not eminently good or bad but one whose misfortune is brought about by error or frailty, not vice or depravity
    • Single in issue – not from vice but error, fortune from good to bad
    • Like Euripides – he followed these principles, ending unhappily
    • With double threads, catastrophe for good & bad
      • Poets write for the audience & detracts from tragic form


  • Fear & pity – come about through spectacle but result from inner structure
    • Plot to be constructed so if you only just hear the play, you’ll hear it with terror & melt with pity [Oedipus]
    • less about artistry & more about extraneous aids
    • sense of terrible & monstrous
    • pleasure of spectator from pity & fear
    • Actions happen between friends, enemies or those indifferent
      • Enemies – killing each other don’t evoke pity except for suffering
      • Indifferents – don’t evoke pity either
      • Friends & family – because they’re near & dear to each other
        • don’t even have to tinker with legends – Clytamnestra was killed by Orestes & Eriphyle killed by Alcmaeon
        • Poet shows his genius by setting up the situation himself
    • Action cause consciously
      • How Euripides got Medea to kill her kids
    • May also be done in ignorance or tie of kinship or friendship is discovered afterwards [Oedipus]
    • Another form – about to act with knowledge &then doesn’t act
    • Another form – about to do irreparable deed through ignorance & makes discovery before deed’s done
    • Shock isn’t necessarily tragic because there’s no disaster – rarely use
    • Better is deed is perpetuated, especially in ignorance & discovered later
    • Best  – in Cresphontes, Merope is about to kill her son but recognizes him & ends up sparing him
    • Iphigenia recognizes Orestes in time


  • Character – FOUR AIMS
    • Must be good – speech or action manifesting moral purpose exposes character -> If good purpose -> good character, even slaves & women
    • Propriety – valor for men but not for women or unscrupulously clever
    • Character – true to life – believable
    • Consistency – if inconsistent, be consistently inconsistent
      • motive – less degradation of character [Menelaus in Orestes] of indecorous & inappropriate character
      • lament of Odysseus in the Scylla
      • Iphigenia at Aulis – doesn’t resemble her later suppliant self
      • Always aim for necessity & probabilty
        • speak in a way that is probable & the event must be followed by necessary/probable sequence
    • In unraveling of plot, must come out of the plot itself & not from Deus ex Machina, e.g. Medea, Return of Greeks in Iliad
      • Deus ex Machina – only for events external to drama – antecedent/subsequent events beyond human knowledge & needing to be foretold
      • Within action – nothing can be irrational
    • Tragedy is about people above common level – true to life yet more beautiful
    • Poet is to represent man as irascible, indolent or with other defects, preserve the type & ennoble it [Achilles by Homer]


  • Kinds of Recognition
    • 1 – least artistic – from ignorance, by signs, stars – could be congenital, maybe acquired after birth – bodily marks, scars, necklaces
      • Odysseus is recognized by a scar by his nurse & swineherds
      • Use of tokens as proof
      • Bath scene in Odyssey
    • 2 – Invented by poet, not artistic ether, done as poet requires in play
      • Orestes just tells Iphigenia who he is
      • She reveals herself in a letter
    • 3 – Depends on memory – when the sight of something awakens a feeling [Cyprians of Dicaeogenes] or Lay of Alcinous, where Odysseus hears a lure, recalls the past & weeps – recognition
    • 4 – Reasoning [Choephori] – Iphigenia realizes that Orestes looks like her & that he must be her brother
      • Maybe a composition of recognition based on a false inference by one character
      • Odysseus disguised – nobody could bend a bow but Odysseus & only he would know that the bow, which was unseen & reveals who he is
      • Recognitions are best when they come from incidents & discovery is done naturally [Oedipus]
        • Iphigenia sens a letter – natural occurrence
      • Dispense with artificial tokens, amulets, etc


  • Poets should place the scene as far away as possible from his eyes, as if he’s a spectator & unlikely to overlook any inconsistencies
    • Found in Carcinus – audience saw inconsistencies & hated the play
    • Most show, to those who are likely to feel emotion, a play most convincing through natural sympathy with the characters.
    • All audience’s emotions must be properly brought out when appropriate
      • Poet should write an outline & fill in action & details afterwards
      • Give names & fill in episodes
    • In Tragedy, brief summary – Orestes is captured by madness & delivered by a purification rite
    • In Epic, brief summary – Odysseus is away for years, watched jealously by Poseidon, his home is depleted by his wife’s suitors who are plotting against his son. He finally gets home, meets up with friends, attacks the suitors & gets his life back


  • Tragedies have 2 parts
    • Complication – incidents extraneous to action & bit of action
    • Unravelling/Dénouement – extends from beginning of change of fortune until the end
  • Four Kinds of Tragedy
    • 1 – Complex – depends entirely on situation reversal & recognition
    • 2 – Pathetic – motive is passion [Ajax, Ixion]
    • 3 – Ethical – motive is ethical [Phthiotides, Peleus]
    • 4 – Simple – w/o situation reversal & recognition
  • Try to combine all elements or as many as possible
  • Make complication & dénouement both good – both parts must be mastered!
  • Don’t turn an epic into a tragedy & a tragedy into an epic
  • Epics are so because of length & each part has its own magnitude
  • Those who try to dramatize the Fall of Troy instead of just parts fail utterly or the play does badly on stage
  • Don’t forget to use the Chorus like Sophocles used it. They should be a part of all this not just interludes


  • Thought – every thought produced by speech – proof, refutation, excitation of pity & fear, anger, suggestion of importance
    • dramatic incidents must do the same as speech in evoking emotion
    • Incidents speak for themselves without speech
    • Speech must be produced by the speaker
  • Diction – art of delivery – what are prayer, statement, threat, question, answer, etc.?
    • Not to know this is no huge crime – Homer uses a prayer as a commend to a god


  • Letter – indivisible sound
  • Syllable – one beat of speech
  • Connecting word – prepositions connect 2 words
  • Noun – subject, object
  • Verb – word of action
  • Inflection – in Greek grammar, changes the case of a word to change or give a word additional significance
  • Sentence/phrase – composition of words to give one or more ideas


  • Compound word – 2 or more words combined together to have a new or different meaning
  • Current word – word commonly used today
  • Metaphor – a concept/word not to be taken literally
  • Analogy – makes a comparison between 2 different things or ideas
  • New word – never been used before & made up by the poet
  • Lengthened word – adding extra syllables to a word
  • Altered word – recast parts of a word for a different meaning


  • Perfection of style – bearing clear without being too Laconic. Use proper or current words
    • Clear diction raised above commonplace & may use unusual words [strange, metaphor, etc.]
    • Style made from unusual words is a riddle if it’s made wholly of them
    • Riddle – expresses true facts under impossible combinations (only in metaphor)
    • Diction of strange terms is jargon – may be necessary
    • Deviating from normal language gives it distinction, while conformity gives it clarity
    • To use all of these types too much would be obnoxious but some use is good & gives the language distinction
    • Compounds & lengthened words help the text match or fit with the rhythm & harmony of the meter


  • Plot ought to be built on dramatic principles
    • Subject to have a single action
    • Whole with beginning, middle & end
    • Resembles life & gives the audience some pleasure
    • Historical events should have some basis in reality but also possibility
      • Homer’s example – Whole Trojan war wasn’t the plot – war had no beginning or end but plot focuses on one section [also w/ Cypria]


  • Epics must be simple, complex, ethical or pathetic
    • They have 4 of the 6 parts of tragedy – NOT song & spectacle but has reversals, recognitions, suffering [Best example is Homer]
    • Different to tragedy on scale & meter, has larger dimensions
      • Tragedy can’t have all those plot lines
      • Tragedy must confine action to players & on a stage
    • Epics’ events can occur simultaneously, if relevant – diverts the mind & conduces to grandeur, story’s relieved by episode
    • Poet shouldn’t speak for himself – only narrate
    • Many actions couldn’t occur on stage [Pursuit of Hector]
    • Homer tells lies skillfully (secret is fallacy)
      • Assume that if one thing is, then a second thing is seen to be there -> not necessarily true but the author pulls you along
      • Prefer probably impossibilities to improbably possibilities
      • Don’t compose plot with irrational parts
        • If irrational – exclude it from events/action of the play
      • Diction to be elaborated in pauses of action where there’s no character or thought


  • Solutions to Difficulties – must imitate 1 of 3 things
    • 1 – Things as they are or were
    • 2 – Things as they are said or thought to be
    • 3 – Things as they ought to be – using language [current, rare, metaphors]
  • 2 Kinds of faults in poetry
    • 1 – Those concerning its essence (plotholes or terrible characters or language)
    • 2 – Those concerning details (anachronisms, continuity mistakes)
      • if a poet wants to imitate something but does so incorrectly, the error is inherent in the poetry
      • if a poet makes a wrong choice – represents a horse throwing out both its off legs at once or technical inaccuracies – error is not essential
      • if a poet describes the impossible – guilty of an error but may be justified if goal is attained – embellished action
        • Does the error affect the essentials of the poem or are they accidental?
      • if a description isn’t true – could reply but they’re as they ought to be [Sophocles & Euripides] -> Is it poetically good or bad?
      • Punctuation may answer questions
      • Ambiguity needs to be cleared up
      • Make metaphors clearly understood to be metaphors
      • Contradictions should be examined with the same rules as dialectic refutation
  • 5 Critical Objections
    • Impossibility
    • Improbability
    • Morally harmful
    • Contradictory
    • Contrary to artistic correctness


  • Epic v Tragedy
    • High refinement appeals to better sort of audience
    • Art that imitates anything & everything is unrefined
    • Audience is supposed to be too dull to understand something on their own – restless movements by performers confuse the audience
      • Bad musicians distract physically to distract from bad play
      • Tragedy has that defeat
    • Epics addressed to a cultivated audience who don’t need gesture
      • Tragedy is lower mostly due to histrionic art – gesticulation can be overdone
      • Not all action is overdone but there are bad performers
    • Tragedies would not make good epics
      • imagine Oedipus as long as the Iliad
    • Epic has less unity – can furnish several tragedies
    • Tragedy is superior in all respects & fulfills function of better arts – produces pleasure proper to it
      • Attains its end more perfectly

“Politics Book I” by Aristotle (350 BC)

“Politics Book I” by Aristotle (Notes)

"...Those plebes don't even know it's 'hoi polloi' and not 'the hoi polloi'. What a bunch of knobs."

“…The riffraff don’t even know it’s ‘hoi polloi’ and not ‘the hoi polloi’. Straight from the Department of Redundancy Department. What a bunch of knobs!”

1. The state is a sort community and is set up to achieve some sort of good. That’s the nature of mankind – to achieve what they think is good. Since a community is made of many men, their good must be higher than an individual’s since they are an accumulation of men. The only difference between a statesman, king and householder is the number of subjects. A ruler of a few is a master. Over more is the manager of a household and over even more is a statesman or king. A statesman is the leader of a society where the people are the rulers and the leader of a one-man led society is a king. The only difference among them is the number of people they rule over. If you want to learn more about what they do, you should start off looking at the smallest and simplest form and then expand out from there. So, let’s test and see if this is really what the state is for.
2. Humanity consists of two sorts of relationships: between man and woman and between master and slave. The relationship between man and woman is for the continuation of humanity as well as the raising of children. Woman has a high place in the raising of children and the running of a household but the man is the master. The relationship between master and slave/servant is based on one man commanding the running of the household as a business. The master’s command of the affairs of the house are dependent on his ability to command servants, understanding the ground in which the crops are planted, how the animals are to be cared for and how the food/products are to be shipped into market. Extrapolating from one household, a community is built in the same manner but of many households. At this point, society no longer consists of self-sufficient households but of many inter-dependent households who must deal with each other to survive.
The state is superior to that of the family because it is larger and needs to be conducted in an efficient manner. If one household were to be cut off from the body of the state, it would be the equivalent of losing a foot from the body – a painful damage but not necessarily a lethal excision. A healthy state is one within which the individuals are able to provide the most good for themselves and others. This is one with justice in it.
3. Since the state is made up of households, let’s talk about them for a bit. They consist of slaves and freemen. Boiled down to the essentials, that’s the master and the servant, and the man and wife, and the business aspect of the household. In the master-servant relationship, there is an art or science behind running a household. The master must choose the number of servants, the type of work they do, how they all work together and how the distribution of work and materials are decided and managed. Some say that relationship of the master and servant isn’t right and is unnatural. We’ll leave that for another debate.
4. Property is an important part of the household. You’ve got to have all the necessities to live well and to run a business well. Your workers must have the proper tools and instruments to do their jobs. A servant is in many ways an instrument important to the household – actually more important than other non-living tools because he commands the tools himself.
5. Is slavery a violation of nature? It seems necessary and natural that one thing be ruled and one to rule them. It makes sense that this distinction be drawn from the moment of one’s birth. And there are many different types of rulers and ruled. Ruling over men is more productive and higher than ruling over animals. In this case, the work is better, more efficient and more complex than with animals.
About ruling: there is always the threat of violence or physical force behind the enforcement of the ruler-ruled relationship. Within the individual, the soul rules over body. When the reverse happens, the results are really bad. Control is divided into two parts: despotic and constitutional. The soul’s control over the body is despotic in that the soul has exerted its superiority over the soul and rules it as a superior. The intellect rules over the appetites constitutionally because both need to be satisfied equally in order for both to flourish.
This superiority-inferiority extends to man’s relationship with animals and man’s relationship with women. The body is functionally the servant of the soul, just as the animal is the servant of the man. The man-servant relationship is higher with slaves because the slave understands his servitude, while an animal doesn’t. The way freemen and slaves differ from one another is not in body, but in soul.
6. “Slave” and “slavery” are used a lot – in law and in nature. In law, it is the loser of a battle who is taken by the victor. Many people disagree about whether or not this is a good or fair thing – to be master over another through strength and violence. Philosophers differ in that. The origin of the dispute might justify this battle and subsequent slavery. If the battle was a virtuous, the consequence of it must be virtuous as well – that is, if the battle was about justice, then the result is a just and virtuous one. According to some versions of justice, war can be in accordance to custom of war. But what about if the cause was unjust? Many people tend to claim slavery is unjustified when it’s one of their own people enslaved and don’t think so when other people are enslaved. Justice is not purely limited to one party being assigned the role of master or servant but is mostly on how one performs those roles. They do have a common interest and the natural role of the two depends on how they fulfil their roles.
7. The role of the master is not constitutional. The rule of a house hold is a monarchy with everybody under one person: the master. Constitutional rule is a government of freemen and equals. The role of the master is not based on his knowledge but his character as a master, just as a slave’s role is based on his character. There is still a science behind each one fulfilling his role. Just as you can improve knowledge of any other art, knowledge of the role of master or servant can always be improved and expanded. The master must know how to order the slave to execute his role. He must also tend to his needs and help improve his work too. The role of master is not confined to buying slaves but also managing them.
8. What is the role of making money in the management of the household? Is it the same thing? Is it just a part of it? If so, how big of a part of it? It’s clear that they aren’t exactly the same thing because you need other things besides money to run a household. You can make money through various means. Even in the same means there are different parts. For example, if you make your money by providing food, you can provide meat, wheat, etc. They are different in that they are plants and animals. If you talk about meat, then you have cows, sheep and pigs. Some eat meat, some don’t. Each animal has a different art of its care, which requires knowledge of each in order to manage the farm. You could also be a fisher, which requires you to live near the sea, know how to sail and understand the water. That knowledge isn’t transferrable to living on the land. Some people get by on both. On the land, you’ll find out some animals require a lot more care than others in many ways.
You will need wealth to make managing a household an easier task. Also, money is not in unlimited supply, so you will need to understand how to distribute the wealth within the household’s domains in order to run it properly. This is art is similar to what the ruler of a society must do – balance his abilities to take care of many things so that society on the whole can run properly.
9. Bartering is a grey area in this aspect. If you make shoes, you’re making them to be worn, not to be traded for something else. The shoe’s primary purpose is to be worn and a secondary purpose is to be traded for something else. You can say the same about all possessions – that they aren’t made to be traded, they are made for a purpose (wearing, eating, etc.) and the trade of them is secondary to the original function of the good. Retail trade isn’t the primary purpose of production. The surplus of production would not exist if it weren’t for exchange because the producer would have stopped when he had enough. Beyond the singular household is where surplus becomes important and where the benefit to society from the surprise starts. If the household still needs something it looks to other households to fulfill those needs.
The necessity of money came around when households didn’t have coinciding needs. It’s not really natural, but it helps households acquire things when they don’t have a bartering partner. From that point, exchange grew increasingly complex. They started applying the concept to money to various useful metals which were then coined into standard sizes to help with the transactions. The art of wealth-acquisition was born as a result of this.
There is a difference between the art of getting wealth and the art of acquiring coins. There is no limit to the pursuit of acquisition of coins. The art of wealth-getting has a limit – that is the limit of what it buys for the use of the household. Acquiring coins has no limit because your pile of money can always grow and grow. But you will eventually run out of things you can use in the production in your household. Desires can be unlimited because the desire will grow beyond the household surviving to living well (which has no limit) and that depends on wealth. If they aren’t able to fulfill their pleasures, they turn their attention to “unnatural things”. The art of running a household has a natural limit.
10. The art of wealth-getting is the business of a household manager and statesman because wealth is presupposed. Political science doesn’t make men but takes them from nature and uses them in the same way that nature provides the sea and the earth and man uses them for his purpose. In the same way he is like a weaver, who does not make wool but uses it. He has to know what kind of wool to use and how to use it. Wealth-getting is useful for other arts like medicine. Household management is a subordinate art because it requires the use of more general arts like wealth-getting.
The first part of wealth-getting is important and honorable – household management – because it is natural and exchange occurs justly. The second part – retail trade – is not honorable and is unnatural because it makes money out of money itself. It increases money based on interest and requires the attention of pure devotion to the accumulation of coins, rather than production.
11. The knowledge of wealth-getting starts with knowledge of livestock – how profitable they are, the different types, what they are used for and how to take care of them. Then is husbandry – how to till and plant, keep bees, fish and fowl and other animals. Then comes commerce in three forms: the provision of ship, conveyance of goods and exposure for sale. Then comes usury and then service for hire (in skilled mechanical labor and also unskilled labor). There is also the provision of resources in the cutting of timber and mining minerals. Each of these have many branches of their own.
These arts become more “illiberal” the more they require physical effort from men. The more these subjects become researched and their techniques perfected, the more useful they become to the art of wealth-getting. What is required is not only the ability to come up with such techniques but also the ambition to use them in order to accumulate more wealth. This skill must be applied to the management of the state’s household.
12. In the management of a household, there is also the relationship between father and children and husband and wife. The male is a fitter commander than the female in the same way that the elder is better than the younger. In constitutional states, the citizens are rulers and are ruled by the rules. In a family, the nature form is men ruling over the women. The rule of a father over his children is royal because he rules out of love and out of older age and experience.
13. It also seems more natural for a man to be the manager of acquisition of inanimate objects and to human management of freemen as well as management of slaves. There is an excellence within slaves because they are completely capable of virtues in his life: temperance, courage, justice, etc. The have a rational principle and it’s silly to think they are incapable of virtue. Women and children are also capable of virtue. We must think of virtue and whether or not it is being followed and achieved not in one’s ranking in society but in the fulfillment of one’s role within his place in society. Since we all occupy different places and different ranks in our society, our virtue depends on how justly, temperately and courageously we play our roles.

“Ethics Book I” by Aristotle (340 BC)

"...Cop didn't see it, I didn't do it..."

“…Cop didn’t see it, I didn’t do it…”

1. Everything and every activity has a point to it. The purpose of building a ship is to have built a ship. But this purpose has purposes beyond it. Having a ship built has military purposes as well as fishing purposes or trade purposes. There’s almost nothing around that stands alone. The expansion of knowledge in one domain will probably lead to expansion in others.
2. There are things we choose to do for their own sake, not just for the results. These are the highest types of good and we should do all we can to make sure that we learn all we can about them and expand what’s known about them. Not only are they good in and of themselves, they’re good for other things too. Politics seems to be one of these things because its goal is the welfare of the city, which is also the welfare of the citizens of the city.
3. It’s hard to say what is good and just since we all have a different opinion of that. It’s easier to use convention as a guiding principle rather than specifics. Education is the key. You can’t really know something until you’ve studied it. That’s true for everything. Young people probably aren’t the best judges of what is good and just because they either haven’t started or haven’t finished their education. But an old person isn’t necessarily wiser because there are plenty of old fools. The judge has to be experience, learned and wise.
4. We’ve decided that politics is the study of the highest of all goods in humanity. Most wise men say that the purpose of life is happiness. We all have a general idea of what happiness is but it varies from person to person. The overall goal of a sick person is to get well, just as the goal of a poor person is to be rich. Those who understand their own ignorance will admit that the idea of what happiness really is beyond their grasp. Even approaching this end goal of happiness is a very good starting point to getting there.
5. So many people have different goals based on the type of lives they lead. The most basic form (vulgar) is based on physical pleasure. People focus on acquisition will look to become rich. Those in a political frame of mind will look for honor. Those focused on the moral side of life will look for virtue. The contemplative life will try to get insight and understanding of life itself.
6. There isn’t really a universal idea of good because “good” means so many things in different areas. We could think about “good” as the thing for whose sake we do things. But is there just one? Or many? If there’s only one, then that’s the thing we should be aiming for. If there are many, then we should be going for the most important and most final of all them – that is, the one most for its own sake than the others. Such things are extremely rare. Even our own areas of expertise tend to have some sort of purpose beyond its own self.
7. If we look at particular areas and ask what the good of it is – e.g. medicine’s good is health, architecture is a house, etc. – the goods of the areas are real and achievable through action. If there’s more than one, there is more than one achievement done by one or more actions. Not all ends are final – some are merely intermediary – but there will be one goal in the end. The intermediary goal is never the goal for its own purpose. End goals are for their own purpose. That makes end goals more desirable to achieve but that does not meant intermediary goals are not necessary. Even some of the higher goals we’ve discussed earlier (pleasure, honor, understanding, wealth, etc.) are ultimately just intermediary goals to the real ultimate goal – happiness. They are just the paths that people have to take according to their own personal penchant.
Happiness seems like a platitude that needs more explanation to have any real meaning. The good of man, just as things’ goods are in their functions, is in his function. A man is a conglomeration of functions because we have eyes and ears all of which have functions for some purpose of their own – sight and hearing. The function of a man is having senses and having rational thought. The body is to receive input and carry out action and the soul is there to make sense of the input and instruct the body to carry out the activity – sense and living according to reason is the function of a human because it is the combination of these that are unique to humans. The best activity is one of virtue. Therefore, the human good is the function or activity of the soul in accordance with virtue. Human activity and the various parts of the body and soul must be subordinated to this good.
8. In order to back any of that up, you’ve got to test it. You can divide good things up into 3 categories: 1- external goods, 2- bodily goods, 3- goods relating to the soul. The goods of the soul are of the highest value because the others are not capable of providing happiness alone. This goes along with the previous assumption that happiness is an activity of the soul. A happy man is a man who leads a good life which also coincides with our definition of happiness being a good life and in a state of well-being. Things we generally look for in happiness – virtue, practical and theoretical wisdom, prosperity – we include in our definition of it. The way our definition is set up, we can say happiness is a virtue or happiness is in conformity with virtue. Either way, that involves the activity of the soul. Activity is important because the use of something fulfills its purpose. An idle soul is useless because it does no good. The more we focus on the highest form of good, the more virtuous we will be and the less our souls will be idle. You do need some sort of external good to achieve the highest level of happiness. You need a good upbringing, good children, good health, etc. otherwise your attention will be diverted from the ultimate goal of the highest form of happiness.
9. Can you get happiness from learning or discipline, or is it given to you by the gods? If anything comes to humans from the gods, it must be the ultimate of good, happiness. If happiness is divine, then you must be able to get it from learning and training. Happiness is the best of anything but it must be attainable from one’s own efforts. Happiness depends on being excellence. If you can share your excellence with others, you can share your happiness.
If happiness is the good of man and an activity of the soul in a virtuous manner, it can only be achieved by a man living in a city. This is because politics is the study of bringing about the well-being for many people at once, which is higher than the well-being for just one. A man who behaves virtuously toward others is more virtuous than the man who is just virtuous for his own sake. Animals can’t truly be happy because they are unable to do moral or rational activities. Children can’t be either because they are too young to understand the idea behind reason or morality. Once they show signs of understanding, we can say they are happy. It’s also important to remember that happiness depends on time – happiness for an instant isn’t really happiness, just as a man who lived a mostly happy life but died unhappily will probably not be considered unhappy.
10. Because no living man’s life is over, it doesn’t really make sense to call him happy because there’s always a chance things could go badly for him from here on out. It’s strange because we tend to think of happiness and virtue as static but things can change so quickly in our lives that we can’t really think about them as such. But you have to think about a virtuous man as virtuous under all sorts of circumstances – good and bad. He’ll be able to make the best of a shitty situation and appreciate the good times too. The real test of one’s virtue is going through the whole life being tested.
11. Virtue cannot be passed down. How many good men do you know who have had shitty children? How many kids with bad families end up doing all right for themselves? Your family and friends can have an effect on your happiness but not really after one’s death. Their virtue or lack of virtue can only affect your happiness so long as you are weak and need posthumous honor’s for your family to remain happy.
12. Should happiness be praised or honored? Praise should really only be given to absolutely good things – things that don’t have defects. Happiness and virtue, since we consider them to be divine and perfect, are absolutely praiseworthy.
13. What is the nature of happiness? We’ll need to know in order to recognize it and then try to culture it in ourselves and our society. Since we’ve decided that it is the excellence of the human soul, the rulers of a state will have to know the inner workings of the soul.
The soul has two parts: 1- the rational, 2- the irrational. It’s unimportant if these are physically separate from each other. The irrational part has two parts of its own a- the part that grows just like a plant does (unimportant for this exercise). b- the part of appetites and desires. This must be controlled by the rational side of the soul. The rational side includes intellect (wisdom, intelligence, prudence) and morals (generosity, liberty, temperance, self-control). When the irrational side of our soul is under control and made to act in accordance with the rational is when we get our best results.
Dividing the soul up like this allows us to recognize the parts of the human and their functions. It also allows us to learn how to use the body and the soul in order to learn how to achieve happiness.