Seminar in Selected Topics (PHIL 390): Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics
Instructor: Gregory Salmieri. This course meets on Wednesdays from 1:00-3:30PM.
Aristotle, who is by all accounts one of the most influential thinkers in history, can also be one of the most intimidating. His writings are often dense and occasionally cryptic, there is a great historical distance between him and us, and his views on different topics are so intertwined that it can be difficult to know where to begin in studying him. In this course we will approach Aristotle by focusing on one of his most accessible works, the Nicomachean Ethics, in which he develops a theory of the human good and details the role in it of virtue, intellectual achievement, pleasure, friendship, and other values. Over the course of the semester, we will read this treatise in its entirety, interspersed with related passages from other Aristotelian texts on a wide range of topics including: logic, science, causality, god, the soul, biology, and politics. In this way, students will become orientated to Aristotle’s philosophy as a whole and learn see the place of ethics within it. (We may also look briefly at some works by Plato to which Aristotle is reacting.)
The primary aim of the course is to help students develop an understanding and appreciation of Aristotle generally and of the Nicomachean Ethics in particular and to further their own thinking about the human good through critical engagement with Aristotle. A secondary aim is to help students develop the skills required for the detailed study of a philosophical text, with an emphasis on the special problems posed by a text from a different historical period and in a foreign language.
There are no formal prerequisites for the course, but it is will be geared primarily to the needs and interests of students who have had at least one prior course in philosophy. Prior exposure to the ideas of Plato and Aristotle (e.g. in Phil 210) would be helpful, but will not be presupposed.
Gregory Salmieri’s webpage