Mary P. Nichols, Senior Fellow, The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI), is a specialist in the Great Books.  Indeed, AHI recently honored her and her husband David, both retired professors of political science at Baylor University, with an annual Great Books conference in their name.  Mary has published a learned new book, Aristotle’s Discovery of the Human: Piety and Politics in the “Nicomachean Ethics.”

Dr. Mary Nichols

According to description for University of Notre Dame Press, Dr. Nichols “offers a fresh, illuminating, and accessible analysis of one of the Western philosophical tradition’s most important texts.  She “explores the ways in which Aristotle brings the gods and the divine into his ‘philosophizing about human affairs’ in his Nicomachean Ethics. Her analysis shows that, for Aristotle, both piety and politics are central to a flourishing human life. Aristotle argues that piety provides us not only an awareness of our kinship to the divine, and hence elevates human life, but also an awareness of a divinity that we cannot entirely assimilate or fathom. Piety therefore supports a politics that strives for excellence at the same time that it checks excess through a recognition of human limitation.”

Focusing on each of the ten books of the Ethics, Dr. Nichols demonstrates that “this prequel to Aristotle’s Politics is as theoretical as it is practical. Its goal of improving political life and educating citizens and statesmen is inseparable from its pursuit of the truth about human beings and their relation to the divine. In the final chapter, which turns to contemporary political debate, Nichols’s suggestion of the possibility of supplementing and deepening liberalism on Aristotelian grounds is supported by the account of human nature, virtue, friendship, and community developed throughout her study of the Ethics.”

Real Clear Books and Culture, an online media company, excerpted Dr. Nichols’s book in an issue entitled “Aristotle and Three Graces” on August 9th.