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I argue that Aristotle holds the following principle:

(AE) An ethically virtuous person always chooses a course of action that he believes promotes his own eudaimonia at least as much as any other course of action he could have chosen.

The claim that Aristotle holds such a principle conflicts with Richard Kraut’s interpretation of Aristotle’s view presented in Kraut’s important book Aristotle on the Human Good. I am inclined to count (AE) as a brand of egoism, primarily on the grounds that it implies that sacrificing one’s own eudaimonia for the sake of the eudaimonia of others is incompatible with complete ethical virtue. On such a view, a person who knowingly enhances the quality , of the lives of others at the expense of the quality of his own life thereby reveals an ethical defect in his character. Nevertheless, (AE) is significantly different from the kind of egoism that is typically attributed to Aristotle. I am not particularly concerned with the issue of whether it is appropriate to apply the term ‘egoistic’ to Aristotle’s ethical view. My main concern here is to make the case that Aristotle holds (AE) and that Kraut’s non-egoistic interpretation of Aristotle is incorrect.


Erik J. Wielenberg presented “Egoism and Eudaimonia – Maximization in the Nicomachean Ethics” to the Society at its meeting with the Central Division in Chicago in 2004. An alternate verions was published in Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 26 (2004) 277-295.

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