My third contribution to the contest to find the longest sentences ever published by a philosopher, my first and second contributions being a 161-word contender from John Stuart Mill and a 163-word heavyweight from Immanuel Kant.
We turn now to Book 1 of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics:
“Now if the function of man is an activity of soul in accordance with, or not without, rational principle, and if we say a so-and-so and a good so-and-so have a function which is the same in kind, e.g. a lyre-player and a good lyre-player, and so without qualification in all cases, eminence in respect of excellence being added to the function (for the function of a lyre-player is to play the lyre, and that of a good lyre-player is to do so well): if this is the case, [and we state the function of man to be a certain kind of life, and this to be an activity or actions of the soul implying a rational principle, and the function of a man to be the good and noble performance of these, and if any action is well performed when it is performed in accordance with the appropriate excellence: if this is the case,] human good turns out to be activity of soul in conformity with excellence, and if there are more than one excellence, in conformity with the best and most complete.”
Those 188 lyrically-functioning words can be found at 1098a7-18 or page 1735 of Volume Two of The Complete Works of Aristotle, edited by Jonathan Barnes, Princeton University Press, 1984.
Note the 66 bracketed words: in a footnote Barnes notes that they were excised by Bywater. How dare he. But I leave it to those of you who have not neglected their Greek for the last twenty years to advise me on those words’ proper status in (or out of) the quotation.