12 June 2006

References in the Nicomachean Ethics

I've been working on a comprehensive study of the references in the Nicomachean and Eudemian Ethics (forward or backward in the same work, or to other works).

About how many such references would you guess that there are in the ten books assigned to the Nicomachean Ethics? (Answer in the comments feature.)

A. about 20
B. about 40
C. about 80
D. about 100
E. about 200


Michael Pakaluk said...

The correct answer is E.

Quite surprisingly (I think), there are 197 such references in the ten books.

Thornton said...

Hi Michael,

Wow, I'm surprised. Do you mean explicit references, like in I.13 ("it was said in the exoteric works that..."? Or are you also including internal cross refererences, like in VI.1 ("Since we have already said that the mean...")? I should have thought that references of the former kind--referring to other treatises in the corpus--were far fewer than 197; but approximatley 20 internal references per book strikes me as less odd (sometimes you can get two or three in a single paragraph).

Michael Pakaluk said...

Dear Thornton,

By a 'reference' I mean any text that refers to a text, assertion, or discussion--the referents ranging from a discussion which immediately precedes (e.g. ek twn eirhmenwn, to texts outside NE altogether (e.g. en tois exwterikois logois).

Some references are subtle and could easily be overlooked (e.g. ethemen or even simply hn); but most are not.

My question is: How much as regards continuity or integrity of exposition can be established by a careful examination of these?

I count only 11 references to something outside NE.

Thornton said...


Very interesting. I don't know if its ever been done (at least in a quantitative way), but it would be interesting to see how these 197 references are distributed throughout EN. I know Grant, Stewart, and Burnet are usually good guides to such cross references, but can't think of a place in their commentaries where they try to systematically correlate them. At the risk of sounding lazy (since I could check myself), does Kenny look at such data in the Aristotelian Ethics? It would seem to be a natural source of info for comparisons between EN I-IV, VIII-X and the common books.

Of course, as in studies of smoking, correlation is not the same thing as causation, as it were. But it would be an interesting point of fact if say there were far more cross references in EN I (a relatively polished book to my mind) and EN V or VII (loci of all sorts of editorial problems, in my eyes).

Tell me if you need any help with the number crunching!



Michael Pakaluk said...


I haven't yet considered EE, since my procedure is to look first at references within NE on their own, and afterwards to consider them comparatively.

Last time I looked at Kenny I thought he was insufficiently rigorous in considering these questions. But, yes, it is on my docket to return to his discussion.