intro to philosophy


The Practical Art of Virtue

Aristotle greatly differs from Plato in the role he gives to practical experience, the ‘this-worldly’ character of truth, and the plurality of considerations required for knowledge and human flourishing. His virtue ethics remains relevant today as a powerful and nuanced alternative to modern theories of ethics, and many contemporary moral philosophers work primarily within the tradition he established.

Please read the Melchert section on the Good Life (pp. 183-196) and the selections on friendship from Aristotle’s Ethics (CANVAS).

The Question

Does the wise person need friends? Why or why not, and to what degree?

In doing the reading, you’ll notice that Aristotle both praises the self-sufficiency of nous as the highest fulfillment of human potential, and he also emphasizes friendship a precondition for living the good life. Virtue for Aristotle always involves striking a balance — what do you think he intends to say about how much we need friendship? In your answer, you may consider some of the following:

  • How does Aristotle define the highest kind of friendship?
  • How does his unique definition of happiness contribute to his view?
  • What role does friendship play in the perfection of our character, and our understanding of what proper ‘self-love’ entails?


Please address all parts of the prompt and refer to the text to support your answer. See the Outline of the Aristotle Ethics Reading page for an overview of subtopics.

You will be able to see the posts of others once you submit your own (and respond to them if you like, which is optional and not a requirement of this assignment).

Your response should be roughly 500-600 words to receive full credit, but it can be longer if you choose.