Aristotle: 22 Best Quotes (With References)

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This page contains a collection of quotes by Aristotle. These quotes are all genuine and details about the book, chapter number, and translation are included where applicable.


On human nature:

All men by nature desire to know.

– Aristotle, Metaphysics, 402a, trans. W. D. Ross


On truth vs friendship:

. . . it would perhaps be thought to be better, indeed to be our duty, for the sake of maintaining the truth even to destroy what touches us closely, especially as we are philosophers; for, while both are dear, piety requires us to honour truth above our friends.

– Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1096a, trans. W. D. Ross


On the function of humans:

To say that happiness is the chief good seems a platitude, and a clearer account of what it is is still desired. This might perhaps be given, if we could first ascertain the function of man. For just as for a flute-player, a sculptor, or any artist, and, in general, for all things that have a function or activity, the good and the ‘well’ is thought to reside in the function, so would it seem to be for man, if he has a function. Have the carpenter, then, and the tanner certain functions or activities, and has man none? Is he naturally functionless? Or as eye, hand, foot, and in general each of the parts evidently has a function, may one lay it down that man similarly has a function apart from all these? What then can this be?

– Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1097b, trans. W. D. Ross


On the human good:

The human good turns out to be activity of soul in conformity with excellence, and if there are more than one excellence, in conformity with the best and most complete.

But we must add ‘in a complete life’. For one swallow does not make a summer, nor does one day; and so too one day, or a short time, does not make a man blessed and happy.

– Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1098a, trans. W. D. Ross


On virtue:

The man who does not rejoice in noble actions is not even good; since no one would call a man just who did not enjoy acting justly . . .

– Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1099a, trans. W. D. Ross


On virtue:

Men are good in but one way, but bad in many.

– Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1106b, trans. W. D. Ross


On virtue:

Excellence, then, is a state concerned with choice. . . . It is a mean between two vices, that which depends on excess and that which depends on defect; and again it is a mean because the vices respectively fall short of or exceed what is right in both passions and actions, while excellence both finds and chooses that which is intermediate.

– Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1106b, trans. W. D. Ross


On virtue:

It is no easy task to be good. For in everything it is no easy task to find the middle, e.g. to find the middle of a circle is not for every one but for him who knows; so, too, any one can get angry—that is easy—or give or spend money; but to do this to the right person, to the right extent, at the right time, with the right aim, and in the right way, that is not for every one, nor is it easy; that is why goodness is both rare and laudable and noble.

– Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1109a, trans. W. D. Ross


On choice:

Choice is desire and reasoning with a view to an end. This is why choice cannot exist either without thought and intellect or without a moral state; for good action and its opposite cannot exist without a combination of intellect and character. Intellect itself, however, moves nothing, but only the intellect which aims at an end and is practical.

– Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1139a, trans. W. D. Ross


On friendship:

The good man is related to his friend as to himself (for his friend is another self).

– Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1166a, trans. W. D. Ross


On sociability:

No one would choose the whole world on condition of being alone, since man is a political creature and one whose nature is to live with others.

– Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1169b, trans. W. D. Ross


On the good life:

That which is proper to each thing is by nature best and most pleasant for each thing; for man, therefore, the life according to intellect is best and pleasantest, since intellect more than anything else is man. This life therefore is also the happiest.

– Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1178a, trans. W. D. Ross


On the state:

It is evident that the state is a creation of nature, and that man is by nature a political animal.

– Aristotle, Politics, 1253a, trans. Benjamin Jowett


On government:

It is evident that that form of government is best in which every man, whoever he is, can act best and live happily.

– Aristotle, Politics, 1324a, trans. Benjamin Jowett


On the state:

A state is not a mere aggregate of persons, but, as we say, a union of them sufficing for the purposes of life.

– Aristotle, Politics, 1328b, trans. Benjamin Jowett


On slavery:

Some men are by nature free, and others slaves, and that for these latter slavery is both expedient and right.

– Aristotle, Politics, 1255a, trans. Benjamin Jowett


On the strong and weak:

The weaker are always asking for equality and justice, but the stronger care for none of these things.

– Aristotle, Politics, 1318b, trans. Benjamin Jowett


On rhetoric:

Rhetoric is useful because things that are true and things that are just have a natural tendency to prevail over their opposites, so that if the decisions of judges are not what they ought to be, the defeat must be due to the speakers themselves, and they must be blamed accordingly.

– Aristotle, Rhetoric, 1355a, trans. W. Rhys Roberts


On comedy:

As for comedy, it is . . . an imitation of men worse than the average; worse, however, not as regards any and every sort of fault, but only as regards one particular kind, the ridiculous, which is a species of the ugly. The ridiculous may be defined as a mistake or deformity not productive of pain or harm to others; the mask, for instance, that excites laughter, is something ugly and distorted without causing pain.

– Aristotle, Rhetoric, 1449a, trans. W. Rhys Roberts


On plot:

A likely impossibility is always preferable to an unconvincing possibility.

– Aristotle, Poetics, 1460a, I. Bywater


On history and poetry:

The distinction between historian and poet is not in the one writing prose and the other verse—you might put the work of Herodotus into verse, and it would still be a species of history; it consists really in this, that the one describes the thing that has been, and the other a kind of thing that might be. Hence poetry is something more philosophic and of graver import than history, since its statements are of the nature rather of universals, whereas those of history are singulars.

– Aristotle, Poetics, 1451b, I. Bywater


On the soul:

What is soul? It is substance in the sense which corresponds to the account of a thing. That means that it is what it is to be for a body of the character just assigned. Suppose that a tool, e.g. an axe, were a natural body, then being an axe would have been its essence, and so its soul; if this disappeared from it, it would have ceased to be an axe, except in name.

– Aristotle, On the Soul, 412b, trans. J. A. Smith


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