The Society for Ancient Greek Philosophy Newsletter

Document Type


Publication Date



Much of the Nicomachean Ethics treats egocentrism as an ineffectual and pernicious social vice out of which humans ought to be habituated. In the Politics self-centeredness is almost universally portrayed as a useful and enduring constituent of human psychology. The system of private property described in the Politics can hardly be a necessary social institution when Aristotle claims in the Ethics that the habituation process is capable of permanently fixing our attention upon public and altruistic fiscal ventures. This interpretive discrepancy between the two texts demonstrates that Aristotle’s defense of private property is ineffectual in its attempt to preserve the social benefits of the common property systems it was intended to replace. Aristotle would have more convincingly defended institutionalized private property if he had couched his five arguments in terms of virtuous qualities that are more reconcilable with the personalist emphasis of his ethical theory.


Jeremy Neill presented "The tension between altruistic character and self-serving possession" to the Society at its meeting with the Central Division in Chicago in 2007.

For information about the author see: