Ethics of Reading

(3410 words)
  • Michael O'Sullivan (University College Cork)

Literary/ Cultural Context Essay

As far back as Aristotle’s Ethics (c. 340 BCE) we learn that happiness is “co-extensive with contemplation” and is in “accordance with the highest virtue”. (The Nicomachean Ethics,p. 328) He tells us that the “more people contemplate, the happier they are”. It seems likely then that reading, an important tool and aid for contemplation, might serve to further our potential for happiness and virtue. In Aristotle’s day the dialogue was the favoured means for furthering philosophical investigation; it afforded the contemplative life a strong intersubjective dimension. The role of dialogue, however, diminished with the advent of a monastic culture that inaugurated an era of solitary devotional reading, a …

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O'Sullivan, Michael. "Ethics of Reading". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 25 November 2004
[, accessed 29 September 2016.]