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Reading Notes

Reading philosophical essays is more challenging in that you often have to scan once, read once, and review once before you can adequately explain the author's position. In order to be sure that you are receiving maximum benefit from your time spent studying, try to answer the guide questions posed below. If you cannot answer them, it is time to read or review to be sure you understand the main arguments presented. See more tips here.

Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics: Eudaimonia in Practice &
Camus' Bread and Freedom

  1. Resources
  2. Terms to Learn
  3. Concepts
  4. Guide Questions
  5. Smartboard Notes

Here are some web sites that will enhance your understanding of this week's reading:

Aristotle's Ethics:

Eudaimonia in the Modern World:


Here's a nice introduction to Camus and his writing by Dr. Robert Soloman:




Concepts & Terms to Know:

The following questions are designed to fine tune your understanding of the reading. The subject matter and answers to these questions form the basis of what you will be required to know for exams.

Objectives for this week: These are the learning objectives you should have mastered after attending the lectures and completing the questions below

  1. Explain Aristotle's teleological worldview with its emphasis on Eudaimonia.
  2. Explain the ways in which Aristotle's definition of happiness differs from our everyday conception of happiness.
  3. Compare Aristotle's eudainmonistic theory of happiness to Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
  4. Explain the Doctrine of the Mean and its role in influencing ethical conduct
  5. Describe the various notions of merit presented by Aristotle in the reading.
  6. Identify the role of merit in Aristotle's ethical system
  7. Discuss the difference between intellectual and moral virtue.
  8. Describe Camus' position on the freedom of working class citizens
  9. Identify the persons Camus believes constitute the working class.
  10. Describe, in Camus' terms, the connection between freedom and justice.


Terms you should know:

  1. self-realization ethic: the idea that we all have the innate drive or desire to become our "unique self"; in so doing we are realizing our ultimate potential , a must for Aristotelian happiness
  2. instrumental: as in "instrumental ends" which are means to achieving some other goal; e.g., we take low-paying minimum wage jobs to get money to attend college, an instrumental means on the way to our educational goals
  3. intrinsic: ends that "are valued in themselves, not because of what they achieve" (e.g., liberty, justice)
  4. eudaimonia: Greek word for happiness; eudaimonists believe that the "key question in ethics is what is happiness or the end of human life"1
  5. hedonist: Someone who believes that the highest aim of life ought to be the pursuit of pleasure.
  6. balancing process: a "rationally ordered life in which intellectual, physical and social needs are all under the governance of reason and moderation"([Soccio, 1995, p.194])
  7. moderation: living in balance at the point between two extremes. To practice moderation is to do just the right amount of everything; excess and deficiency are extremes to be avoided.


Following is an outline of some key concepts from the chapter.

The Doctrine of the Mean and Moral Balance

In short, the good life is a balancing process. We have to learn to fulfill each of our needs while avoiding extreme excesses and deficiencies.


See the diagram below: both extremes are at either side of the line. Your text gives a chart of virtues (p.52) identifying the excess, mean and deficiency for each.

Four Conditions for Temperate Acts:


1. Polansky, Ronald. Eudaimonism in Plato and Aristotle. Class discussion on the Nicomachean Ethics. Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA. January, 1995


Guide Questions:

Week 3 (Aristotle, Page 20)

    1. What is the difference between the ordinary definition of happiness and Aristotle's concept?
    2. Name the two kinds of virtue and describe how these are acquired.
    3. Describe how the Doctrine of the Mean works with regards to virtue.

Week 3 (Aristotle, Page 477)

    1. Identify the two types of distributive justice.
    2. Describe Aristotle's notion of equality. How does it differ between democrats , aristocrats and oligarchs.
    3. If the just is proportional (as Aristotle claims), then how does he identify the just versus the unjust person?

Week 3 (Aristotle, Page 479)

    1. Describe Aristotle's notion of merit. How does this same notion inform our sense of justice and equality today?
    2. Aristotle displays an form of elitism when he notes the qualifications for political office. What are balancing factors in addition to wealth and freedom?

Week 3 (Camus, "Bread and Freedom" Page 509)

    1. Camus contends that workers are not free. Why does he argue that freedom is an illusion for the working class?
    2. How are freedom and justice related for Camus?
    3. How can we ensure maintenance of democratic liberty?
    4. According to Camus, what is the relation between freedom and poverty?
    5. Who/what guarantees our freedom?


Smartboard Notes

Smartboard Notes from Week 3 Lecture:















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