10 Great Books: Aristotle,
Nicomachean Ethics (circa 340BCE)

This month, Professor Margaret Cameron presents on one of the most important historical philosophical works in the Western world, Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics.

Associate Professor Tim Lynch, convener of 10 Great Books, will introduce you to our speakers each month and facilitate audience questions following their presentation.

Professor Margaret Cameron's masterclass on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics
Professor Margret Cameron and Associate Professor Tim Lynch answer questions from our audience after Professor Cameron’s 10 Great Books presentation on Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle.

'What is the good for humans?'

There is no single philosopher to have had such a lengthy, extensive, and international influence than Aristotle, who lived and worked in the 4th century BCE.

In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle asked a fundamental question: "What is the good for humans?". His first attempt at an answer sparked a debate that has lasted for millennia: it is happiness, but what that is and how to achieve it, is a matter of great delicacy.

In what may be considered the first "self-help" manual to have been written, Aristotle sets out a proposal for achieving happiness as we interact on a daily basis with so many different things: money, education, emotions, relationships with other people, political entities, and honours. He considers the roles played by pleasure and pain, and asks the hard questions: Can I be happy without friends or children? How do I become happy? Are there things in life to be avoided at all costs?

In the end, we will consider the depth of influence of this great ethical treatise, and investigate its relevance today.

Extra resources

Professor Margaret Cameron
Professor Margaret Cameron

About Professor Margaret Cameron

Professor Margaret Cameron is the Head of School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne.

Her primary areas of research expertise are in the history of philosophy, especially the ancient, medieval and early modern periods. Professor Cameron was previously (until June 2019) Canada Research Chair in the Aristotelian Tradition, as well as Associate Dean of Research, at the University of Victoria, Canada.

She has published on philosophy of language (Sourcebook in the History of Philosophy of Language), philosophy of mind (Philosophy of Mind in the Early and High Middle Ages), and many articles and chapters on her favourite philosopher, Peter Abelard (12th century).

Professor Cameron is currently working on two projects: the universal language movement in the Renaissance, and the philosophy of true crime.

10 Great Books: a Melbourne Masterclass

The Faculty of Arts proudly presents the book club to end all book clubs: 10 Great Books, a Melbourne Masterclass. Each month, hear leading academics and experts give their take on a text that has shaped the way we see the world.

We ask the big questions about how our selected books captured the zeitgeist and shifted the culture. The ten diverse texts will become our window into politics, art, love, death, and everything in between. Now in its seventh year, 10 Great Books has traversed the broad history of the written word, exploring great novels, non-fiction, plays, poetry, pamphlets and more.

Visit the 10 Great Books website for this year's program and speaker information.

Learn more