Ethics of Reading

Literary/ Cultural Context Essay

Michael O'Sullivan (University College Cork)
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As far back as Aristotle’s


(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 tendency which was extended when the invention of the printing press (c.…

3410 words

Citation: O'Sullivan, Michael. "Ethics of Reading". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 25 November 2004 [, accessed 15 June 2024.]

1514 Ethics of Reading 2 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

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