Reading Aristotle's Ethics

Virtue, Rhetoric, and Political Philosophy

By Aristide Tessitore

Subjects: Classics
Paperback : 9780791430484, 155 pages, July 1996
Hardcover : 9780791430477, 155 pages, July 1996

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents





Civic Virtue and Philosophy
The Rhetorical Dimension of Ethical Discourse
Interpretative Approach


1. The Audience of the Ethics, Book I


The Ethics in Context
Philosophic Readings of the Ethics
Political Readings of the Ethics
Aristotle's Dual Audience
The Useful Imprecision of Book I


2. The Virtues, Books II-VI


The Doctrine of Ethical Virtue
Ascent to Magnanimity
The Identity of the Magnanimous Person
Justice: Comprehensive Virtue and Proportional Equality
The Problem of Political Justice
The Need for Intellectual Virtue
The Competing Claims of Prudence and Wisdom


3. A New Beginning: Incontinence and Pleasure, Book VII


The New Horizon: Puzzle and Discovery
Incontinence: Clarifying Socrates' Ethical Paradox
Incontinence: Preserving Decent Opinion
Pleasure and Political Philosophy
Pleasure as End
Pleasure as the Supreme Good
Pleasure as Divine Activity


4. Virtue, Friendship, and Philsophy, Books VIII-IX


Turning to Friendship
Friendship and Virtue
Friendship and the City
Friendship and Nature
Friendship with Oneself
Political Friendship
Two Kinds of Self-Love
Friendship, Happiness, and Philosophy


5. Making the City Safe for Philosophy, Book X


Pleasure and Moral Education
Aristotle's New Description of Pleasure
Happiness and the Pleasures of the Powerful
Happiness and the Best Way of Life
One Consistent Teaching: Similar and Complementary Ways of Life
Two Inconsistent Teachings: Persistent Tension
Concluding Arguments: Gods, Moral Nobility, and the City
Consistent Inconsistency




Bibliography of Cited Works



Presents the Nicomachean Ethics as a work of political philosophy, emphasizing the interplay between its practical political concerns and its underlying philosophic perspective and arguing that it is rhetorical in the precise Aristotelian meaning of the term.

Aristide Tessitore is Associate Professor of Political Science at Furman University.


"Tessitore presents a consistent and well-supported argument that the Nicomachean Ethics is aimed at a dual audience of both politically engaged citizens and philosophers, and that the complexity of Aristotle's rhetorical purpose is a key to understanding the subtlety of his message. This is an important work, which opens up a new way of reading the Ethics and sheds light on many of the most vexed questions in Aristotle scholarship." -- Thomas L. Pangle, University of Toronto

"By paying attention to the diversity of Aristotle's intended audience in the Ethics, and with that to the diverse purposes motivating the argument, Tessitore's reading makes a distinctive and useful contribution to the prominent contemporary debate about Aristotle's teaching concerning the good life for human beings, in particular, the relation in it between moral virtue and theoretical activity." -- Ronna Burger, Tulane University

"This work has more than its share of sharp insights, important clarifications, and new and intriguing problems for readers of Aristotle. The prose is clear and accessible throughout without any undue simplification, the scholarship is excellent, covering the relevant literature in German and French as well as English, and the interpretive arguments are clearly drawn and persuasive." -- Stephen Salkever, BrynMawr College

"What is fascinating about Tessitore's presentation is this: he tries to solve the basic puzzles that have bedeviled scholars for generations--but he does so in an entirely novel way. Instead of trying to square the circle and prove that Aristotle nowhere contradicts himself, he traces the tensions within the peripatetic's text to the rhetorical problems faced by its author. Tessitore makes a compelling case that, in this work and in The Politics, Aristotle addresses two different audiences, potentially at odds with one another, with an eye to reconciling them. In my judgment, he does a remarkable job. I found reading the book exciting." -- Paul A. Rahe, author of Republics Ancient and Modern