According to Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics:

Happiness or the supreme good (human flourishing) is the ultimate end and purpose of human 


Happiness is not pleasure, nor is it virtue. It is the exercise of virtue (excellence). Virtue is that which 

encourages human flourishing.

Happiness is not a temporary state; it is the perfection of human nature.

Since human beings are rational animals, human happiness depends on the exercise of reason and, 

specifically, on using our reasoning capacities well.

Happiness depends on acquiring moral character (moral virtue), where one displays the virtues of courage, generosity, justice, friendship, and citizenship in one’s life. These virtues involve striking a balance or “mean” between an excess (too much) and a deficiency (too little). Excess and deficiency are vices because they do not encourage human flourishing (the supreme good): excess and deficiency 

move us off course.

Happiness requires intellectual contemplation (intellectual virtue), for this is the ultimate 

realization of our rational capacities.

Questions and discussion prompts for Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics and the Golden Mean

1. According to Aristotle, what are the two kinds of virtue (excellence)?

2. Aristotle identifies two kinds of vices. What are they? 

3. According to Aristotle, how does one acquire intellectual virtue (excellence)?

4. According to Aristotle, how does one acquire moral virtue (excellence)? 

5. Aristotle states that virtue (excellence) is something we learn by doing. What does this mean? 


6. How is becoming an excellent person similar to becoming an excellent musician?

7. Think of a situation in everyday life that requires a choice of action. Identify the two extremes and the 

    mean (the intermediate or middle ground). Explore how that mean can change.

8. Identify a vice that has no opposing virtue. 

9. Identify similarities between Aristotle's concept of virtue, the ancient Egyptian concept of Ma'at, 

    Hammurabi's Code, and the Hebrew Decalogue (Ten Commandments).

10. Examine some of the differences among the moral codes named in #9. 

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