Excellent Quality, More Sh*t Aristole Didn’t Say

Here’s a quotation [wrongly] attributed to Aristotle:

“Aristotle on Excellence: Excellence is never an accident; It is the result of high intention; sincere effort, intelligent direction, skillful execution and the vision to see obstacles as opportunities. “

So, if you’re on social media and decorating your virtual life with “ancient quotes” there is a pretty high chance they are nonsense masquerading as something an ancient might say. But there’s nothing remotely Aristotelian about this except for the use of words like “excellence”, “intelligent” and maybe “accident”. If that’s your criteria for making something Aristotelian, you’re better off misattributing the entire dictionary than this absurd b-school pabulum.

If you do a google search for books, this is really popular in the last decade or so, you find this in self help books, business books, etc. But if you search for 20th century, you find a variant that is not attributed to Aristotle:

Quality is never an accident; It is the result of high intention; sincere effort, intelligent and skillful execution; […]. quality represents the wise choice of many alternatives.”

There are several variants that combine various elements of these quotations. This is definitely not Aristotle: it is some bizarre love child of modern business child and the “excellence is a habit” misquotation. This is Rhetorica ad Fictum levels of fake.

Also, if you look carefully at the books data, the quote is attributed to a Willa Foster before it becomes pinterest fodder for the Aristotle hound. Here’s a discussion trying to figure out who Will A. Foster is. Some people identify the quote as coming from this William A. Foster.

The closest Aristotle gets to this is here:

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1105b

“It is therefore well said that a person becomes just by doing just things and prudent from practicing wisdom. And, no one could ever approach being good without doing these things. But many who do not practice them flee to argument and believe that they are practicing philosophy and that they will become serious men in this way. They act the way sick people do who listen to their doctors seriously and then do nothing of what they were prescribed. Just as these patients will not end up healthy from treating their body in this way, so most people won’t change their soul with such philosophy.”

εὖ οὖν λέγεται ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ τὰ δίκαια πράττειν ὁ δίκαιος γίνεται καὶ ἐκ τοῦ τὰ σώφρονα ὁ σώφρων· ἐκ δὲ τοῦ μὴ πράττειν ταῦτα οὐδεὶς ἂν οὐδὲ μελλήσειε γίνεσθαι ἀγαθός. ἀλλ’ οἱ πολλοὶ ταῦτα μὲν οὐ πράττουσιν, ἐπὶ δὲ τὸν λόγον καταφεύγοντες οἴονται φιλοσοφεῖν καὶ οὕτως ἔσεσθαι σπουδαῖοι, ὅμοιόν τι ποιοῦντες τοῖς κάμνουσιν, οἳ τῶν ἰατρῶν ἀκούουσι μὲν ἐπιμελῶς, ποιοῦσι δ’ οὐδὲν τῶν προσταττομένων. ὥσπερ οὖν οὐδ’ ἐκεῖνοι εὖ ἕξουσι τὸ σῶμα οὕτω θεραπευόμενοι, οὐδ’ οὗτοι τὴν ψυχὴν οὕτω φιλοσοφοῦντες.

go here for more stuff Aristotle did not say.

Leave a Reply