Nature, Reason, and the Good Life: Ethics for Human Beings

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For example, the level of courage necessary for a person is different for a philosophy teacher, a commando, and a systems programmer. The amount and kind of food a person eats is different for a ballerina and a weight-lifter. Notice, especially, Aristotle's theory does not imply ethical relativism because there are appropriate standards of the moral virtues and the rightness of action.

Political science would be an example of this kind of knowledge.. Sophia or theoretical wisdom in intellectual or philosophical activity. This is the highest faculty of human beings. Astronomy would be an example of this kind of knowledge. People have a natural capacity for good character, and this capacity is developed through practice. A capacity does not come first i.

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Arete is a disposition developed out of a capacity through the proper exercise of that capacity. Habits are developed through acting; a person's character is the structure of habits and is formed by what that person does. In both, states of character arise from actions of that corresponding kind. Hence, habits from a person's youth make a great difference in the excellence of that person's life.

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Passions are usually accompanied by pleasure or pain and are not praised nor blamed as are the virtues. The virtues, unlike the passions, represent states of character.


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Habits are developed through acting; a person's character is the structure of habits and is formed by the actions the person chooses to perform. The vicious circle which is preeminent— i. What does Aristotle mean when he writes that the good for man is self-sufficient?


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  • Explain and trace out some examples of Aristotle's Doctrine of the Mean. What is the relation between the passions and the virtues according to Aristotle?

    The 3 Key Ideas from Aristotle That Will Help You Flourish

    In the Nicomachean Ethics , does Aristotle trace out a method whereby human beings can change their character? If so, what are the main outlines of his program for change? Some version of this general approach dominated Western culture for many centuries.


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    Because ethics is a practical rather than a theoretical science, Aristotle also gave careful consideration to the aspects of human nature involved in acting and accepting moral responsibility. Moral evaluation of an action presupposes the attribution of responsibility to a human agent. But in certain circumstances, this attribution would not be appropriate. Responsible action must be undertaken voluntarily , on Aristotle's view, and human actions are involuntary under two distinct conditions: Nic.

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    Ethics III 1 First, actions that are produced by some external force or, perhaps, under an extreme duress from outside the agent are taken involuntarily, and the agent is not responsible for them. Thus, if someone grabs my arm and uses it to strike a third person, I cannot reasonably be blamed or praised morally for what my arm has done. Second, actions performed out of ignorance are also involuntary.

    Thus, if I swing my arm for exercise and strike the third party who unbeknownst to me is standing nearby, then again I cannot be held responsible for having struck that person. Notice that the sort of ignorance Aristotle is willing to regard as exculpatory is always of lack of awareness of relevant particulars. Striking other people while claiming to be ignorant of the moral rule under which it is wrong to do so would not provide any excuse on his view.

    As we'll soon see, decisions to act voluntarily rely upon deliberation about the choice among alternative actions that the individual could perform. During the deliberative process, individual actions are evaluated in light of the good, and the best among them is then chosen for implementation. Under these conditions, Aristotle supposed, moral actions are within our power to perform or avoid; hence, we can reasonably be held responsible for them and their consequences. Just as with health of the body, virtue of the soul is a habit that can be acquired at least in part as the result of our own choices.

    Aristotle: Ethics

    Although the virtues are habits of acting or dispositions to act in certain ways, Aristotle maintained that these habits are acquired by engaging in proper conduct on specific occasions and that doing so requires thinking about what one does in a specific way. Neither demonstrative knowledge of the sort employed in science nor aesthetic judgment of the sort applied in crafts are relevant to morality. This faculty alone comprehends the true character of individual and community welfare and applies its results to the guidance of human action.

    Acting rightly, then, involves coordinating our desires with correct thoughts about the correct goals or ends. This is the function of deliberative reasoning: to consider each of the many actions that are within one's power to perform, considering the extent to which each of them would contribute to the achievement of the appropriate goal or end, making a deliberate choice to act in the way that best fits that end, and then voluntarily engaging in the action itself.

    Aristotle on Happiness and Function of Human Being (Nic. Ethics bk. 1) - Philosophy Core Concepts

    Ethics III 3 Although virtue is different from intelligence, then, the acquisition of virtue relies heavily upon the exercise of that intelligence. But doing the right thing is not always so simple, even though few people deliberately choose to develop vicious habits. Aristotle sharply disagreed with Socrates's belief that knowing what is right always results in doing it. The great enemy of moral conduct, on Aristotle's view, is precisely the failure to behave well even on those occasions when one's deliberation has resulted in clear knowledge of what is right.

    Ethics VII 1 This may appear to be a simple failure of intelligence, Aristotle acknowledged, since the akratic individual seems not to draw the appropriate connection between the general moral rule and the particular case to which it applies. Somehow, the overwhelming prospect of some great pleasure seems to obscure one's perception of what is truly good. But this difficulty, Aristotle held, need not be fatal to the achievement of virtue. Although incontinence is not heroically moral, neither is it truly vicious. Consider the difference between an incontinent person, who knows what is right and aims for it but is sometimes overcome by pleasure, and an intemperate person, who purposefully seeks excessive pleasure.

    Aristotle argued that the vice of intemperance is incurable because it destroys the principle of the related virtue, while incontinence is curable because respect for virtue remains.

    The Good Life: Aristotle

    Ethics VII 8 A clumsy archer may get better with practice, while a skilled archer who chooses not to aim for the target will not. For without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods.

    Introduction: Aristotle's Definition of Happiness

    Differentiating between the aims or goals of each, he distinguished three kinds of friendships that we commonly form. Ethics VIII 3 A friendship for pleasure comes into being when two people discover that they have common interest in an activity which they can pursue together. Their reciprocal participation in that activity results in greater pleasure for each than either could achieve by acting alone. Thus, for example, two people who enjoy playing tennis might derive pleasure from playing each other.



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