Aristotle on Virtue. Introduction Student of Plato Student of Plato Teacher of Alexander the Great Teacher of Alexander the Great.
Post on 18-Jan-2016
Aristotle on VirtueIntroductionStudent of PlatoTeacher of Alexander the GreatIntroductionStudent of PlatoTeacher of Alexander the GreatA Realist, not an IdealistIntroductionStudent of PlatoTeacher of Alexander the GreatA Realist, not an IdealistText: Nicomachean EthicsLecture NotesMoral BackgroundHeroic ideals from the Greek Dark Ageshonour, fame, revenge, fate, courage, prideMoral BackgroundHeroic ideals from the Greek Dark Ageshonour, fame, revenge, fate, courage, prideAchilles the hero Moral BackgroundHeroic ideals from the Greek Dark Ageshonour, fame, revenge, fate, courage, prideAchilles the hero choose gloryFullest use of a mans qualitiesMoral BackgroundHeroic ideals from the Greek Dark Ageshonour, fame, revenge, fate, courage, prideAchilles the hero choose gloryFullest use of a mans qualitiesInterest in ones own character rather than the general goodEthicsAristotles StrategyFirst describe what people ultimately search for in life.Then give as philosophically precise a characterisation of this as the subject will allow.Then examine the character traits that are essential to achieving what we ultimately search for.EthicsEvery action has a goalEvery skill and every inquiry, and similarly every action and rational choice, is thought to aim at some good; and so the good has been aptly described as that at which everything aims. (1094a)EthicsEvery action has a goalA hierarchy existsEg.Bridle-maker < bridles < horsemanship < warEthicsEvery action has a goalA hierarchy existsEg.Bridle-maker < bridles < horsemanship < warMost ends are instrumental EthicsEvery action has a goalA hierarchy existsEg.Bridle-maker < bridles < horsemanship < warMost ends are instrumental Some (one) ends are finalEthicsThere is one goal for all actionsSo if what is done has some end that we want for its own sake, and everything else we want is for the sake of this end; and if we do not choose everything for the sake of something else (because this would lead to an infinite progression, making our desire fruitless and vain), then clearly this will be the good, indeed the chief good. (1094a)EthicsThere is one goal for all actionsAristotle cant prove this, but he believes it He has a candidate final endEudaimoniaHappiness is the one goal for all actionsEudaimoniaHappiness is the one goal for all actionsan overall-condition of a persons life Not a mental stateEudaimoniaHappiness is the one goal for all actionsan overall-condition of a persons life Not a mental stateThe end for which everything is pursuedunconditionally complete self-sufficient EudaimoniaJustified in terms of our characteristic activityEudaimoniaJustified in terms of our characteristic activityBut perhaps saying that happiness is the chief good sounds rather platitudinous, and one might want its nature to be specified still more clearly. It is possible that we might achieve that if we grasp the characteristic activity of a human being. For just as the good the doing well of a flute-player, a sculptor or any practitioner of a skill, or generally whatever has some characteristic activity or action, is thought to lie in its characteristic activity, so the same would seem to be true of a human being, if indeed he has a characteristic activity. EudaimoniaJustified in terms of our characteristic activityOur capacity to reason sets us apart from all other species.So our characteristic activity (ergon) consists in using reason.Thus our use of reason is the key to our distinctive happiness (eudaimonia).We live a happy (eudaimonic) life only if we use reason with great skill. EudaimoniaJustified in terms of our characteristic activityAristotles ideal life - one viewEnds by telling us that the best kind of life is the life of contemplation.Not many people think this is so desirableIt doesnt match what he tells us elsewhere describing a practical and active life.EudaimoniaA happy life is a life lived virtuouslyEudaimoniaA happy life is a life lived virtuouslyHappiness requires the excellent use of reasonExcellence in the use of reason is virtueVirtues are character traitsEudaimoniaA happy life is a pleasant lifeIt is also the case that the life of [virtuous] people is pleasurable in itself. For experiencing pleasure is an aspect of the soul, and each person finds pleasure in that of which he is said to be fond, as a horse-lover finds it in a horse, and someone who likes wonderful sights finds it in a wonderful sight. In the same way, a lover of justice finds it in the sphere of justice and in general a person with virtue finds pleasure in what accords with virtue. EudaimoniaA happy life is a pleasant lifeTheir life therefore has no need of pleasure as some kind of lucky ornament, but contains its pleasure in itself, because, in addition to what we have already said, the person who does not enjoy noble actions is not good. For no one would call a person just if he did not enjoy acting justly, or generous if he did not enjoy generous actions; and the same goes for the other virtues. If this is so, it follows that actions in accordance with virtue are pleasant in themselves. (1099a)EudaimoniaBUT pleasure is not the same as acting virtuouslyNevertheless, as we suggested, happiness obviously needs the presence of external goods as well, since it is impossible, or at least no easy matter, to perform noble actions without resources. For in many actions, we employ, as if they were instruments at our disposal, friends, wealth, and political power. Again, being deprived of some things such as high birth, noble children, beauty spoils our blessedness. (1099b) EudaimoniaBUT pleasure is not the same as acting virtuouslyFor the person who is terribly ugly, of low birth, or solitary and childless is not really the sort to be happy, still less perhaps if he has children or friends who are thoroughly bad, or good but dead. As we have said, then, there seems to be an additional need for some sort of prosperity like this. For this reason, some identify happiness with good fortune, while others identify it with virtue. (1099b)VirtuesAreteExcellenceA functionalist conceptVirtuesAreteExcellenceA functionalist conceptFor just as the good the doing well of a flute-player, a sculptor or any practitioner of a skill, or generally whatever has some characteristic activity or action, is thought to lie in its characteristic activity, so the same would seem to be true of a human being, if indeed he has a characteristic activity.(1097b) VirtuesCharacterAristotle divides virtues into virtues of character (moral virtues) and virtues of reason (intellectual virtues).Virtues of character are directed towards the intelligent handling of emotions.Courage: fearTemperance: pleasureMagnanimity: generosityVirtuesDoctrine of the MeanVirtues lie between excess and deficiencyVirtuesDoctrine of the MeanVirtues lie between excess and deficiencyFirst, then, let us consider this the fact that [emotions] are naturally corrupted by deficiency and excess, as we see in the cases of strength and health (we must use clear examples to illustrate the unclear); for both too much exercise and too little ruin ones strength, and likewise too much food and drink and too little ruin ones health, while the right amount produces, increase and preserves it. (1104a)VirtuesDoctrine of the MeanVirtues lie between excess and deficiencyThe same goes, then, for temperance, courage and the other virtues: the person who avoids and fears everything, never standing his ground, becomes cowardly, while he who fears nothing, but confronts every danger, becomes rash. (1104a)VirtuesDoctrine of the MeanApplication?I am talking here about virtue of character, since it is this that is concerned with feelings and actions, and it is in these that we find excess, deficiency and the mean. [T]o have them at the right time, about the right things, towards the right people, for the right end, and in the right way, is the mean and the best; and this is the business of virtue.(1106b) VirtuesDoctrine of the MeanApplication?[O]ne should exert oneself and relax neither too much nor too little, but to a mean extent and as the right principle dictates; but if you grasped only this you would know nothing more e.g. you would not know what remedies to take if someone told you to take what medical science prescribes and as a medical man prescribes it .(1138b) VirtuesTrainingAccording to Aristotle, we do not become virtuous by learning about virtues. Virtues are like habits or dispositions.We acquire habits or dispositions by practice.Thus we acquire the virtues, e.g. courage by acting as if we are courageous. We acquire virtues predominantly in our childhood.
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