Reading Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics


I want to read Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (also have to do it for a class) and have already gone through book I but it’s rather cumbersome to go through it and understand well.

Does anyone have a guide or know any tips for this?


Undergrad or graduate course?


If you can get hold of an audiobook version, that can help a lot. (There’s a free one on Librivox, and I’m pretty sure there are non-free ones with good actor narrators.)

All the Greek philosophers lived in a time when people read their works out loud, and they came out of an oral literary and social culture. So it often helps to hear somebody reading the argument, and then to be able to stop the audio and argue with it yourself! (Plato’s dialogues are particularly helped by a reader who does voices, or a full cast presentation.)

Also, if you search for things like “Nicomachean Ethics podcast”, you can find profs and philosophy students discussing parts of the books. I’m pretty sure there are webpages and blog posts too, but you might need to hunt around a bit. There are even YouTube videos.

(All that said, not everybody likes absorbing info through audio or video. I know some philosophy guys who are very eye-oriented, especially since they absorb by scratching notes in the margins. But I always had a very low tolerance for philosophy classics, and didn’t see much wit or interest in them, until I listened to them instead.)

It might even help, if people are discussing the book in a slightly different translation, or have different ideas or focuses than your prof does. Exposure to a few different perspectives can help “triangulate” what’s going on.


The problem, though, would be if the prof wants his students to read one particular translation (usually, because he thinks it’s a superior translation). Reading a different translation, then, would be counter-productive in the context of the class…



Thanks for the advice! Do you have any particular channels or lecture series or anything that you personally recommend?


You might try reading with a commentary - for example, the one written by St. Thomas Aquinas (


In fact, what we have today of Aristotle are basically the equivalent of lecture notes.

Now, if you want to be scandalized, look up the source of the name . . .



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