Aristotle's Dialogue with Socrates
On the "Nicomachean Ethics"
What is the good life for a human being? Aristotle’s exploration of this question in the Nicomachean Ethics has established it as a founding work of Western philosophy, though its teachings have long puzzled readers and provoked spirited discussion. Adopting a radically new point of view, Ronna Burger deciphers some of the most perplexing conundrums of this influential treatise by approaching it as Aristotle’s dialogue with the Platonic Socrates.
Tracing the argument of the Ethics as it emerges through that approach, Burger’s careful reading shows how Aristotle represents ethical virtue from the perspective of those devoted to it while standing back to examine its assumptions and implications.
“This is the best book I have read on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. It is so well crafted that reading it is like reading the Ethics itself, in that it provides an education in ethical matters that does justice to all sides of the issues.”—Mary P. Nichols, Baylor University
Introduction The Socratic Question of the Ethics
Part I THE HUMAN GOOD
1 The Final End and the Way to It
From the Good to the Human Good
Opinions about Happiness
The Human Good and the Human Ergon
Happiness in a Complete Life
The Nonrational Psyche
Part II THE BEAUTIFUL AND THE JUST
2 Excellence of Character
A Non-Socratic Account
Ethical Virtue and the Measure of the Mean
Responsibility and Nature
3 Virtues and Vices
The Beautiful as Telos of the Virtues
Justice in the City and Justice in the Soul
Part III RETURN TO THE GOOD
4 Excellence of Thought
The Pivot of the Argument of the Ethics
The Rational Psyche
Phronesis, Sophia, and the Claim to Happiness
5 Pleasure and the Discovery of Nature
A New Beginning: From the Bestial to the Divine
The Faction of Passion and Reason
Pleasure by Nature and the Good
6 Friendship and the Discovery of the Self
Rational and Political Nature
Perfect Friendship and Other Species
Justice in Friendship
The Friend as an Other Self
Friendship, Eros, and Philosophy
The Legislative Art
A Socratic Answer to a Socratic Question?
Appendix 1 Socrates, Plato, Philosophy
Appendix 2 Virtues and Vices
Appendix 3 Categories of Justice
Appendix 4 Classifications of Pleasure
“This is the best book I have read on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. It is so well crafted that reading it is like reading the Ethics itself, in that it provides an education in ethical matters that does justice to all sides of the issues.”
“Ronna Burger’s Aristotle’s Dialogue with Socrates brilliantly interprets the Nicomachean Ethics as a response to the strong forms of Socratic intellectualism. Her scholarly and reconstructive interpretation sets the stage for an exploration of the complex relations between the moral and intellectual virtues, one that has implications for Aristotle’s views on the role of philosophical inquiry in civic life.”
“This is a work of distinction that will be indispensable for all serious students of Aristotle’s ethics. It requires and will repay a close reading of the Aristotelian texts. Burger’s book exhibits the lucidity that is appropriate to complex philosophical argument. In this sense, her study mirrors Aristotle’s own way of writing on the human predicament.”
"In Aristotle’s Dialogue with Socrates, Ronna Burger invites the reader to examine the Nicomachean Ethics with a fresh eye, and to consider that it is perhaps not the treatise that it appears to be but rather the dialogue that Plato never wrote: a dialogue between two philosophers. . . . As she discovers and discloses the evidence in the text for Aristotle’s dialogue with Socrates, she herself practices and illustrates how we, the readers, may enter into and engage in a philosophic dialogue with Aristotle."
"Aristotle’s Dialogue with Socrates seems above all to aim to provoke its reader to do the hard work of studying the Nicomachean Ethics as carefully as possible, and as a whole. Doing so, [Burger] believes—and believes rightly—will actually help such a reader become someone ‘who thinks out everything for himself.’ Judged by this standard, her book is an extraordinary achievement."
Association of American Publishers: PROSE Book Award