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Basic Works of Aristotle, The

by Aristotle

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Just weighing The Basic Works of Aristotle in your hand reminds you that you canít expect your student to read all of Aristotle. This is a massive book, and it doesnít lend itself to speed-reading like an Agatha Christie mystery.

That said, students need to have a basic understanding of Aristotle because he was the catalyst for so much of the Great Conversation. Even something as foundational as the philosophical problem of the One and the Many makes much more sense if we know Aristotle and his teacher, Plato.

As you can see from our recommended reading list, we ask students to read excerpts from three of Aristotleís most important works: Metaphysics, Politics, and Nicomachean Ethics. Among many other things, this will introduce students to Aristotleís idea of the Golden Mean, an ethical proposition that clearly indicates the superiority of Christian ethics.

According to Aristotle, ďmoral virtue . . . is a mean between two vices, the one involving excess, the other deficiency.Ē Thus, he places the virtue of courage in the middle of a spectrum with cowardice at one extreme and foolhardiness at the other. Too little courage results in cowardice; too much in foolhardiness. The virtue lies in the middle.

Such a model seems quite sensible until Aristotle begins to discuss pride and humility. I wonít spoil the surprise for you; but Iím sure you can guess that Aristotleís view of manís place in the universe is not the same as Christís. The Christian call is a much more radical call than anything man can conceiveóeven a man as brilliant as Aristotle.

by Jeff Baldwin