Virtue and Aristotle Essay

“Happiness depends on ourselves. ” More than anybody else. Aristotle enshrines felicity as a cardinal intent of human life and a end in itself. As a consequence he devotes more infinite to the subject of felicity than any mind prior to the modern epoch. Populating during the same period as Mencius. but on the other side of the universe. he draws some similar decisions. That is. happiness depends on the cultivation of virtuousness. though his virtuousnesss are slightly more individualistic than the basically societal virtuousnesss of the Confucians.

Yet as we shall see. Aristotle was convinced that a truly happy life required the fulfilment of a wide scope of conditions. including physical every bit good as mental wellbeing. In this manner he introduced the thought of a scientific discipline of felicity in the classical sense. in footings of a new field of cognition. Basically. Aristotle argues that virtuousness is achieved by keeping the Mean. which is the balance between two surpluss. Aristotle’s philosophy of the Mean is evocative of Buddha’s Middle Path. but there are fascinating differences.

For Aristotle the mean was a method of accomplishing virtuousness. but for Buddha the Middle Path referred to a peaceable manner of life which negotiated the extremes of rough asceticism and animal pleasance seeking. The Middle Path was a minimum demand for the brooding life. and non the beginning of virtuousness in itself Aristotle: A Small Background Aristotle is one of the greatest minds in the history of western scientific discipline and doctrine. doing parts to logic. metaphysics. mathematics. natural philosophies. biological science. vegetation. moralss. political relations. agribusiness. medical specialty. dance and theater.

He was a pupil of Plato who in bend studied under Socrates. Although we do non really possess any of Aristotle’s ain Hagiographas intended for publication. we have volumes of the talk notes he delivered for his pupils ; through these Aristotle was to exert his profound influence through the ages. Indeed. the mediaeval mentality is sometimes considered to be the “Aristotelian worldview” and St. Thomas Aquinas merely refers to Aristotle as “The Philosopher” as though there were no other. Aristotle was the first to sort countries of human cognition into distinguishable subjects such as mathematics. biological science. and moralss.

Some of these categorizations are still used today. such as the species-genus system taught in biological science categories. He was the first to invent a formal system for concluding. whereby the cogency of an statement is determined by its construction instead than its content. See the undermentioned syllogism: All work forces are mortal ; Socrates is a adult male ; hence. Socrates is mortal. Here we can see that every bit long as the premises are true. the decision must besides be true. no affair what we substitute for “men or “is person.

” Aristotle’s trade name of logic dominated this country of idea until the rise of modern symbolic logic in the late nineteenth Century. Aristotle was the laminitis of the Lyceum. the first scientific institute. based in Athens. Greece. Along with his instructor Plato. he was one of the strongest advocators of a broad humanistic disciplines instruction. which stresses the instruction of the whole individual. including one’s moral character. instead than simply larning a set of accomplishments. Harmonizing to Aristotle. this position of instruction is necessary if we are to bring forth a society of happy every bit good as productive persons.

Happiness as the Ultimate Purpose of Human Existence One of Aristotle’s most influential plant is the Nicomachean Ethical motives. where he presents a theory of felicity that is still relevant today. over 2300 old ages subsequently. The cardinal inquiry Aristotle seeks to reply in these talks is: what is the ultimate intent of human being? What is that terminal or end for which we should direct all of our activities? Everywhere we see people seeking pleasance. wealth. and a good repute. But while each of these has some value. none of them can busy the topographic point of the main good for which humanity should take.

To be an ultimate terminal. an act must be self-sufficing and concluding. “that which is ever desirable in itself and ne’er for the interest of something else. ” and it must be come-at-able by adult male. Aristotle claims that about everyone would hold that felicity is the terminal which meets all these demands. It is easy plenty to see that we desire money. pleasance. and honor merely because we believe that these goods will do us happy. It seems that all other goods are a means towards obtaining felicity. while felicity is ever an terminal in itself.

The Grecian word that normally gets translated as “happiness” is eudaimonia. and like most interlingual renditions from ancient linguistic communications. this can be misdirecting. The chief problem is that felicity ( particularly in modern America ) is frequently conceived of as a subjective province of head. as when one says one is happy when 1 is basking a cool beer on a hot twenty-four hours. or is out “having fun” with one’s friends. For Aristotle. nevertheless. felicity is a concluding terminal or end that encompasses the entirety of one’s life. It is non something that can be gained or lost in a few hours. like enjoyable esthesiss.

It is more like the ultimate value of your life as lived up to this minute. mensurating how good you have lived up to your full potency as a human being. For this ground. one can non truly do any dictums about whether 1 has lived a happy life until it is over. merely as we would non state of a football game that it was a “great game” at halftime ( so we know of many such games that turn out to be runawaies or togs ) . For the same ground we can non state that kids are happy. any longer than we can state that an acorn is a tree. for the potency for a booming human life has non yet been realized.

As Aristotle says. “for as it is non one sup or one all right twenty-four hours that makes a spring. so it is non one twenty-four hours or a short clip that makes a adult male blessed and happy. ” ( Nichomachean Ethical motives. 1098a18 The Golden Mean Aristotle’s moralss is sometimes referred to as “virtue ethics” since its focal point is non on the moral weight of responsibilities or duties. but on the development of character and the geting of virtuousnesss such as bravery. justness. moderation. benevolence. and prudence. And anyone who knows anything about Aristotle has heard his philosophy of virtuousness as being a “golden mean” between the extremes of surplus and lack.

Courage. for illustration. is a average sing the feeling of fright. between the lack of heedlessness ( excessively small fright ) and the surplus of cowardliness ( excessively much fright ) . Justice is a mean between acquiring or giving excessively much and acquiring or giving excessively small. Benevolence is a mean between giving to people who don’t merit it and non giving to anyone at all. Aristotle is non urging that one should be moderate in all things. since one should at all times exercise the virtuousnesss. One can’t ground “I should be cruel to my neighbour now since I was excessively nice to him before.

” The mean is a average between two frailties. and non merely a mean between excessively much and excessively small. Furthermore. the mean is “relative to ourselves. ” bespeaking that one person’s mean may be another person’s extreme. Milo the grappler. as Aristotle puts it. needs more gruel than a normal individual. and his mean diet will change consequently. Similarly for the moral virtuousnesss. Aristotle suggests that some people are born with weaker volitions than others ; for these people. it may really be a mean to fly in conflict ( the extreme being to acquire slaughtered or perpetrate self-destruction ) .

Here we see the flexibleness in Aristotle’s history: every bit shortly as he begins to put down some moral regulations. he relaxes them in order to take into consideration the assortment and eventuality of peculiar dispositions. Aristotle’s philosophy of the mean is good in maintaining with ancient ways of believing which conceived of justness as a province of equilibrium between opposing forces. In the early cosmologies. the Universe is stabilized as a consequence of the rapprochement between the opposing forces of Chaos and Order.

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus conceived of right life as moving in conformity with the Logos. the rule of the harmoniousness of antonyms ; and Plato defined justness in the psyche as the proper balance among its parts. Like Plato. Aristotle idea of the virtuous character along the lines of a healthy organic structure. Harmonizing to the predominating medical theory of his twenty-four hours. wellness in the organic structure consists of an appropriate balance between the opposing qualities of hot. cold. the dry. and the moist.

The end of the doctor is to bring forth a proper balance among these elements. by stipulating the appropriate preparation and diet regimen. which will of class be different for every individual. Similarly with wellness in the psyche: exhibiting excessively much passion may take to foolhardy Acts of the Apostless of choler or force which will be deleterious to one’s mental wellbeing every bit good as to others ; but non demoing any passion is a denial of one’s human nature and consequences in the sallow qualities of morbidity. obtuseness. and antisocial behaviour.

The healthy way is the “middle way. ” though retrieve it is non precisely the center. given that people who are born with highly passionate natures will hold a different mean than those with sullen. dispassionate natures. Aristotle concludes that goodness of character is “a settled status of the psyche which wills or chooses the mean comparatively to ourselves. this average being determined by a regulation or whatever we like to name that by which the wise adult male determines it. ” ( 1006b36 ) Friendship

For Aristotle. friendly relationship is one of the most of import virtuousnesss in accomplishing the end of wellbeing ( felicity ) . While there are different sorts of friendly relationship. the highest is one that is based on virtuousness ( arete ) . This type of friendly relationship is based on a individual wishing the best for their friends irrespective of public-service corporation or pleasance. Aristotle calls it a “…complete kind of friendly relationship between people who are good and likewise in virtue…” This type of friendly relationship is long lasting and tough to obtain because these types of people are difficult to come by and it takes a batch of work to hold a complete virtuous friendly relationship.

Aristotle notes that one can non hold a big figure of friends because of the sum of clip and attention that a virtuous friendly relationship requires. Aristotle values friendship so extremely that he argues friendship supersedes justness and award. First of all. friendly relationship seems to be so valued by people that no 1 would take to populate without friends. Peoples who value award will probably seek out either flattery or those who have more power than they do. in order that they may obtain personal addition through these relationships. Aristotle believes that the love of friendly relationship is greater than this because it can be enjoyed as it is.

“Being loved. nevertheless. people enjoy for its ain interest. and for this ground it would look it is something better than being honoured and that friendly relationship is chosen for its ain interest. ” The accent on enjoyment here is notable: a virtuous friendly relationship is one that is most gratifying since it combines pleasance and virtuousness together. therefore carry throughing our emotional and rational natures. The Hierarchical View of Nature In order to explicate human felicity. Aristotle draws on a position of nature he derived from his biological probes.

If we look at nature. we notice that there are four different sorts of things that exist in the universe. each one defined by a different intent: Mineral: stones. metals and other exanimate things. The lone end which these things seek is to come to a remainder. They are “beyond stupid” since they are inanimate objects with no psyche Vegetative: workss and other wildlife. Here we see a new sort of thing emerge. something which is alive. Because workss seek nutriment and growing. they have psyches and can be even said to be satisfied when they attain these ends Animal: all the animals we study as belonging to the carnal land.

Here we see a higher degree of life emerge: animate beings seek pleasance and reproduction. and we can speak about a happy or sad Canis familiaris. for illustration. to the extent that they are healthy and take a pleasant life Human: what is it that makes human existences different from the remainder of the animate being land? Aristotle replies: Reason. Merely worlds are capable of moving harmonizing to rules. and in so making taking duty for their picks. We can fault Johnny for stealing the confect since he knows it is incorrect. ” but we wouldn’t fault an animate being since it doesn’t know any better.

It seems that our alone map is to ground: by concluding things out we attain our terminals. work out our jobs. and therefore populate a life that is qualitatively different in sort from workss or animate beings. The good for a human is different from the good for an animate being because we have different capacities or potencies. We have a rational capacity and the exercise of this capacity is therefore the perfecting of our natures as human existences. For this ground. pleasance entirely can non represent human felicity. for pleasance is what animate beings seek and human existences have higher capacities than animate beings.

The end is non to eliminate our physical impulses. nevertheless. but instead to impart them in ways that are appropriate to our natures as rational animate beings. Therefore Aristotle gives us his definition of felicity: …the map of adult male is to populate a certain sort of life. and this activity implies a rational rule. and the map of a good adult male is the good and baronial public presentation of these. and if any action is good performed it is performed in agreement with the appropriate excellence: if this is the instance. so felicity turns out to be an activity of the psyche in conformity with virtuousness. ( Nichomachean Ethical motives. 1098a13 ) Decision.

In decision. harmonizing to Aristotle. what is happiness? •Happiness is the ultimate terminal and intent of human being •Happiness is non pleasure. nor is it virtue. It is the exercising of virtuousness. •Happiness can non be achieved until the terminal of one’s life. Hence it is a end and non a impermanent province. •Happiness is the flawlessness of human nature. Since adult male is a rational animate being. human felicity depends on the exercising of his ground. •Happiness depends on geting a moral character. where one displays the virtuousnesss of bravery. generousness. justness. friendly relationship. and citizenship in one’s life.

These virtuousnesss involve striking a balance or “mean” between an extra and a lack. •Happiness requires rational contemplation. for this is the ultimate realisation of our rational capacities. Aristotle on Virtue Aristotle holds the position that moral virtuousnesss are provinces of character lying at the mean between extremes of surplus and lack. Moral virtuousnesss. for Aristotle. are to be distinguished from rational virtuousnesss. Moral virtuousness has to make with feeling. choosing. and moving good. Intellectual virtuousness is identified as a sort of wisdom acquired by learning. Here we are concerned merely with moral virtuousness.

In keeping that moral virtuousnesss are provinces of character. Aristotle gives us a position of what kinds of things virtuousnesss are. But non all provinces of character are virtuousnesss. Many more provinces of character are frailties. Aristotle’s position that virtues lie at the mean between two extremes. sometimes called ‘the philosophy of the mean’ . is intended to assist us place which provinces of character are the virtuous 1s. Here I will explicate Aristotle’s grounds for keeping that moral virtuousnesss are provinces of character and I will explicate and exemplify how Aristotle’s philosophy of the mean marks the differentiation between virtuous and barbarous provinces of character.

It is taken for granted that virtuousnesss belong to the psyche. Aristotle’s impression of the psyche is possibly closer to our impression of the head. His position of the psyche is non a position of some non-material thing that exists independent of our organic structures. On Aristotle’s position. the psyche has three kinds of constituents. These are our passions. our modules and our provinces of character. Our passions are our feelings. our desires. frights. aspirations etc. Our modules are our natural capacities for feeling and moving in the assorted ways that we can.

Our provinces of character can be thought of as complex inclinations or temperaments to move and experience in certain ways under certain fortunes. Given this position of what the psyche consists of. moral virtuousnesss must be identified with one of these three. Aristotle regulations out the first two possibilities and is left with the position that virtuousnesss are provinces of character. Virtues can non be passions. Aristotle claims. because we are non praised or blamed for the manner we feel. but we are praised or blamed for our virtuousnesss. We are non praised or blamed for our feelings because they arise more or less involuntarily in response to fortunes.

Aristotle’s ground for denying that virtuousnesss are modules is similar. Part of a individuals modules consist of his or her ability to experience choler. Be we do non praise or fault people for holding the ability to experience anger. Rather. we praise people for be givening to attest their ability to experience anger when. and merely when. the fortunes call for it. So virtuousnesss are non to be identified with our capacities either. Virtues must. therefore. be provinces of character. Not all provinces of character are virtuous. Lustfulness. for case. is a province of character. It is a inclination to experience sexual desire excessively much and seek sexual pleasances excessively much.

But this province of character is non a virtuous one. Having reached the decision that virtuousnesss are provinces of character. Aristotle’s history of moral virtuousness remains uncomplete until he tells us something about which provinces of character are the virtuousnesss. Here Aristotle entreaties to his philosophy of the mean. The virtuousnesss are those provinces of character that lie at the mean between surplus and lack. The virtuous province of character will be a inclination to experience and respond to fortunes in the appropriate manner and to the appropriate grade. This. as opposed to over-reacting on the one manus or under-reacting on the other.

See once more the instance of lecherousness. Lust is non a virtuousness because it is a inclination to experience excessively much sexual desire and to react to it excessively randomly. Lust lies at the extreme of surplus. At the other extreme is the province of character we sometimes call frigidness which consists in a inclination to experience excessively small sexual desire or to respond excessively small to it. Sexual virtuousness. will lie at the mean between these extremes on Aristotle’s position. Sexual virtuousness will dwell in feeling and reacting to sexual desire under the right fortunes and to the appropriate grade.

Aristotle’s philosophy of the mean does non state us merely what fortunes warrant what grade of passion with regard to sexual virtuousness or other virtuousnesss. But. as Aristotle comments near the beginning of his treatment of virtuousness and the good life. “our treatment will be equal if it has every bit much clarity as the capable affair admits of. ” A more narrowly focussed probe into the nature of specific virtuousnesss would affect a more elaborate treatment of what grade of passion or action is appropriate under what fortunes.


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