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In Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle writes about contemplation and it being a kind of good of mankind, an ultimate good etc. But what actually is contemplation? What would be a good example of contemplation?

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The Greek word for contemplation is 'theoria', and is the basis for the word 'theory' where it came to mean 'careful contemplation of a subject'. A theoros is a spectator at a theatre, observing the drama without involving themselves in it. It's interesting to note in his Poetics Aristotle is said to have defined the modern meaning of 'catharsis' (it used to mean a kind purging of sins), so it's reasonable to think his advocacy for non-involvement didn't mean to be completely unfeeling.

In the Nichomachean Ethics he describes the life of contemplation as being of the highest virtue, and best source of happiness:

"the Working of the Intellect, being apt for contemplation, is thought to excel in earnestness, and to aim at no End beyond itself and to have Pleasure of its own which helps to increase the Working, and if the attributes of Self-Sufficiency, and capacity of rest, and unweariedness (as far as is compatible with the infirmity of human nature), and all other attributes of the highest Happiness, plainly belong to this Working, this must be perfect Happiness"

And as most akin to the nature of the gods:

"And that the perfect Happiness must be a kind of Contemplative Working may appear also from the following consideration: our conception of the gods is that they are above all blessed and happy: now what kind of Moral actions are we to attribute to them? those of justice? nay, will they not be set in a ridiculous light if represented as forming contracts, and restoring deposits, and so on? well then, shall we picture them performing brave actions, withstanding objects of fear and meeting dangers, because it is noble to do so? or liberal ones? but to whom shall they be giving? and further, it is absurd to think they have money or anything of the kind. And as for actions of perfected self-mastery, what can theirs be? would it not be a degrading praise that they have no bad desires? In short, if one followed the subject into all details all the circumstances connected with Moral actions would appear trivial and unworthy of Gods.

Still, every one believes that they live, and therefore that they Work because it is not supposed that they sleep their time away like Endymion: now if from a living being you take away Action, still more if Creation, what remains but Contemplation?"

So he seems to advocate a kind of ascent, away from entanglement with ordinary affairs, towards the highest qualities of being human which is the divine part it connects to what is transcendental.

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  • You could see the 'Working' as similar to the 'wellbeing' which is the keyword of the modern Nonduality movement.
    – Scott Rowe
    Jun 25, 2023 at 23:36

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