Getting started! The proem to Pachymeres’s Commentary

At the beginning of his Commentary on the Nicomachean Ethics (NE), Pachymeres refers to Aristotle’s division of philosophy into a theoretical and a practical part, each of which have distinct ends: theoretical philosophy is targeted at truth (alētheia), while practical philosophy aims at moral goodness (agathon). In light of this distinction, the NE is situated under the practical section of philosophy and is called a treatise on ethics (ēthikē pragmateia).

Kind: Theoretical Kind: Practical
Aim: Truth Aim: Moral goodness

In the remainder of his brief proem, the commentator informs his readers about the title of the NE; it was named after Aristotle’s son, Nicomachus, or another such-named person, just as the Eudemian Ethics (EE) was dedicated to Eudemus, Aristotle’s disciple. Finally, Pachymeres refers to the Magna Moralia (MM) or Great Ethics, dedicated to Aristotle’s father, Nicomachus.

Pachymeres then focuses on the tripartite division of practical philosophy into ethics, economics, and politics, and he briefly explains how they differ in their subject matter:

  1. Ethics is concerned with just one person, helping them to manage the activities through which the human end is reached; that’s happiness (eudaimonia).
  2. Economics is concerned with the household, enabling not just the individual but also those he is affiliated with in the context of the oikos to pass their lives in excellence.
  3. Politics is about the entire polis and is concerned with how the body politic can achieve happiness.

It is made clear that the target of practical philosophy, in all its different forms, is good living.

Aristotle by Francesco Hayez (1791-1882)
Aristotle by Francesco Hayez (1791-1882)

Following this short proem, Pachymeres’s Commentary turns to the first lemma and his explication of it. Coming up!