Aristotle's Virtues and Vices
1) are admirable character traits; generally desirable dispositions, which In Aristotle's famous study of character, a frequent theme is the fact that a virtue The virtue of courage, for example, lies between the vices of rashness and cowardice. . Immoderate or self-indulgent person (vicious in relation to pleasure ) -- Has no. Aristotle defines moral virtue as a disposition to behave in the right manner and as a mean between extremes of deficiency and excess, which are vices. This paper considers the distinctions Aristotle draws (1) between the intellectual virtue of the relations among and between virtues with a view according to and non-rational parts of the soul that a vice in any one area may undermine an.
The cause of this deficiency lies not in some impairment in their capacity to reason—for we are assuming that they are normal in this respect—but in the training of their passions.
Intellectual Virtues Since Aristotle often calls attention to the imprecision of ethical theory see e. In every practical discipline, the expert aims at a mark and uses right reason to avoid the twin extremes of excess and deficiency. But what is this right reason, and by what standard horos is it to be determined?
Aristotle says that unless we answer that question, we will be none the wiser—just as a student of medicine will have failed to master his subject if he can only say that the right medicines to administer are the ones that are prescribed by medical expertise, but has no standard other than this b18— It is not easy to understand the point Aristotle is making here.
Has he not already told us that there can be no complete theoretical guide to ethics, that the best one can hope for is that in particular situations one's ethical habits and practical wisdom will help one determine what to do? Furthermore, Aristotle nowhere announces, in the remainder of Book VI, that we have achieved the greater degree of accuracy that he seems to be looking for.
The rest of this Book is a discussion of the various kinds of intellectual virtues: Aristotle explains what each of these states of mind is, draws various contrasts among them, and takes up various questions that can be raised about their usefulness. Nor is it easy to see how his discussion of these five intellectual virtues can bring greater precision to the doctrine of the mean.
We can make some progress towards solving this problem if we remind ourselves that at the beginning of the Ethics, Aristotle describes his inquiry as an attempt to develop a better understanding of what our ultimate aim should be.
The sketchy answer he gives in Book I is that happiness consists in virtuous activity. In Books II through V, he describes the virtues of the part of the soul that is rational in that it can be attentive to reason, even though it is not capable of deliberating. But precisely because these virtues are rational only in this derivative way, they are a less important component of our ultimate end than is the intellectual virtue—practical wisdom—with which they are integrated.
Vices and Virtues Explained - Fact / Myth
If what we know about virtue is only what is said in Books II through V, then our grasp of our ultimate end is radically incomplete, because we still have not studied the intellectual virtue that enables us to reason well in any given situation.
One of the things, at least, towards which Aristotle is gesturing, as he begins Book VI, is practical wisdom.
This state of mind has not yet been analyzed, and that is one reason why he complains that his account of our ultimate end is not yet clear enough. But is practical wisdom the only ingredient of our ultimate end that has not yet been sufficiently discussed?
Book VI discusses five intellectual virtues, not just practical wisdom, but it is clear that at least one of these—craft knowledge—is considered only in order to provide a contrast with the others. Aristotle is not recommending that his readers make this intellectual virtue part of their ultimate aim. But what of the remaining three: Are these present in Book VI only in order to provide a contrast with practical wisdom, or is Aristotle saying that these too must be components of our goal?
He does not fully address this issue, but it is evident from several of his remarks in Book VI that he takes theoretical wisdom to be a more valuable state of mind than practical wisdom. It is strange if someone thinks that politics or practical wisdom is the most excellent kind of knowledge, unless man is the best thing in the cosmos.
So it is clear that exercising theoretical wisdom is a more important component of our ultimate goal than practical wisdom. Even so, it may still seem perplexing that these two intellectual virtues, either separately or collectively, should somehow fill a gap in the doctrine of the mean. Having read Book VI and completed our study of what these two forms of wisdom are, how are we better able to succeed in finding the mean in particular situations? The answer to this question may be that Aristotle does not intend Book VI to provide a full answer to that question, but rather to serve as a prolegomenon to an answer.
For it is only near the end of Book X that he presents a full discussion of the relative merits of these two kinds of intellectual virtue, and comments on the different degrees to which each needs to be provided with resources. We will discuss these chapters more fully in section 10 below.
One of his reasons for thinking that such a life is superior to the second-best kind of life—that of a political leader, someone who devotes himself to the exercise of practical rather than theoretical wisdom—is that it requires less external equipment a23—b7. Aristotle has already made it clear in his discussion of the ethical virtues that someone who is greatly honored by his community and commands large financial resources is in a position to exercise a higher order of ethical virtue than is someone who receives few honors and has little property.
The virtue of magnificence is superior to mere liberality, and similarly greatness of soul is a higher excellence than the ordinary virtue that has to do with honor. These qualities are discussed in IV.
The grandest expression of ethical virtue requires great political power, because it is the political leader who is in a position to do the greatest amount of good for the community. The person who chooses to lead a political life, and who aims at the fullest expression of practical wisdom, has a standard for deciding what level of resources he needs: But if one chooses instead the life of a philosopher, then one will look to a different standard—the fullest expression of theoretical wisdom—and one will need a smaller supply of these resources.
This enables us to see how Aristotle's treatment of the intellectual virtues does give greater content and precision to the doctrine of the mean. The best standard is the one adopted by the philosopher; the second-best is the one adopted by the political leader.
In either case, it is the exercise of an intellectual virtue that provides a guideline for making important quantitative decisions. This supplement to the doctrine of the mean is fully compatible with Aristotle's thesis that no set of rules, no matter how long and detailed, obviates the need for deliberative and ethical virtue. If one chooses the life of a philosopher, one should keep the level of one's resources high enough to secure the leisure necessary for such a life, but not so high that one's external equipment becomes a burden and a distraction rather than an aid to living well.
That gives one a firmer idea of how to hit the mean, but it still leaves the details to be worked out. The philosopher will need to determine, in particular situations, where justice lies, how to spend wisely, when to meet or avoid a danger, and so on.
All of the normal difficulties of ethical life remain, and they can be solved only by means of a detailed understanding of the particulars of each situation. Having philosophy as one's ultimate aim does not put an end to the need for developing and exercising practical wisdom and the ethical virtues. We began our discussion of these qualities in section 4. Like the akratic, an enkratic person experiences a feeling that is contrary to reason; but unlike the akratic, he acts in accordance with reason.
His defect consists solely in the fact that, more than most people, he experiences passions that conflict with his rational choice. The akratic person has not only this defect, but has the further flaw that he gives in to feeling rather than reason more often than the average person.
Aristotle distinguishes two kinds of akrasia: The person who is weak goes through a process of deliberation and makes a choice; but rather than act in accordance with his reasoned choice, he acts under the influence of a passion.
By contrast, the impetuous person does not go through a process of deliberation and does not make a reasoned choice; he simply acts under the influence of a passion. At the time of action, the impetuous person experiences no internal conflict.
But once his act has been completed, he regrets what he has done. One could say that he deliberates, if deliberation were something that post-dated rather than preceded action; but the thought process he goes through after he acts comes too late to save him from error.
It is important to bear in mind that when Aristotle talks about impetuosity and weakness, he is discussing chronic conditions. The impetuous person is someone who acts emotionally and fails to deliberate not just once or twice but with some frequency; he makes this error more than most people do. Because of this pattern in his actions, we would be justified in saying of the impetuous person that had his passions not prevented him from doing so, he would have deliberated and chosen an action different from the one he did perform.
The two kinds of passions that Aristotle focuses on, in his treatment of akrasia, are the appetite for pleasure and anger. Either can lead to impetuosity and weakness.
But Aristotle gives pride of place to the appetite for pleasure as the passion that undermines reason. We thus have these four forms of akrasia: A impetuosity caused by pleasure, B impetuosity caused by anger, C weakness caused by pleasure D weakness caused by anger. It should be noticed that Aristotle's treatment of akrasia is heavily influenced by Plato's tripartite division of the soul in the Republic.
Plato holds that either the spirited part which houses anger, as well as other emotions or the appetitive part which houses the desire for physical pleasures can disrupt the dictates of reason and result in action contrary to reason. The same threefold division of the soul can be seen in Aristotle's approach to this topic. Although Aristotle characterizes akrasia and enkrateia in terms of a conflict between reason and feeling, his detailed analysis of these states of mind shows that what takes place is best described in a more complicated way.
For the feeling that undermines reason contains some thought, which may be implicitly general. And although in the next sentence he denies that our appetite for pleasure works in this way, he earlier had said that there can be a syllogism that favors pursuing enjoyment: Perhaps what he has in mind is that pleasure can operate in either way: By contrast, anger always moves us by presenting itself as a bit of general, although hasty, reasoning.
But of course Aristotle does not mean that a conflicted person has more than one faculty of reason. Rather his idea seems to be that in addition to our full-fledged reasoning capacity, we also have psychological mechanisms that are capable of a limited range of reasoning. When feeling conflicts with reason, what occurs is better described as a fight between feeling-allied-with-limited-reasoning and full-fledged reason.
Part of us—reason—can remove itself from the distorting influence of feeling and consider all relevant factors, positive and negative. But another part of us—feeling or emotion—has a more limited field of reasoning—and sometimes it does not even make use of it. Anger is a pathos whether it is weak or strong; so too is the appetite for bodily pleasures. And he clearly indicates that it is possible for an akratic person to be defeated by a weak pathos—the kind that most people would easily be able to control a9—b So the general explanation for the occurrence of akrasia cannot be that the strength of a passion overwhelms reason.
Aristotle should therefore be acquitted of an accusation made against him by J. Plato and Aristotle, he says, collapsed all succumbing to temptation into losing control of ourselves—a mistake illustrated by this example: I am very partial to ice cream, and a bombe is served divided into segments corresponding one to one with the persons at High Table: I am tempted to help myself to two segments and do so, thus succumbing to temptation and even conceivably but why necessarily?
But do I lose control of myself? Do I raven, do I snatch the morsels from the dish and wolf them down, impervious to the consternation of my colleagues?
Not a bit of it. We often succumb to temptation with calm and even with finesse. What is most remarkable about Aristotle's discussion of akrasia is that he defends a position close to that of Socrates. When he first introduces the topic of akrasia, and surveys some of the problems involved in understanding this phenomenon, he says b25—8 that Socrates held that there is no akrasia, and he describes this as a thesis that clearly conflicts with the appearances phainomena.
Since he says that his goal is to preserve as many of the appearances as possible b2—7it may come as a surprise that when he analyzes the conflict between reason and feeling, he arrives at the conclusion that in a way Socrates was right after all b13— For, he says, the person who acts against reason does not have what is thought to be unqualified knowledge; in a way he has knowledge, but in a way does not. Aristotle explains what he has in mind by comparing akrasia to the condition of other people who might be described as knowing in a way, but not in an unqualified way.
His examples are people who are asleep, mad, or drunk; he also compares the akratic to a student who has just begun to learn a subject, or an actor on the stage a10— All of these people, he says, can utter the very words used by those who have knowledge; but their talk does not prove that they really have knowledge, strictly speaking.
These analogies can be taken to mean that the form of akrasia that Aristotle calls weakness rather than impetuosity always results from some diminution of cognitive or intellectual acuity at the moment of action. The akratic says, at the time of action, that he ought not to indulge in this particular pleasure at this time. But does he know or even believe that he should refrain? Aristotle might be taken to reply: He has some degree of recognition that he must not do this now, but not full recognition.
His feeling, even if it is weak, has to some degree prevented him from completely grasping or affirming the point that he should not do this. And so in a way Socrates was right. When reason remains unimpaired and unclouded, its dictates will carry us all the way to action, so long as we are able to act.
But Aristotle's agreement with Socrates is only partial, because he insists on the power of the emotions to rival, weaken or bypass reason. Emotion challenges reason in all three of these ways. In both the akratic and the enkratic, it competes with reason for control over action; even when reason wins, it faces the difficult task of having to struggle with an internal rival. Second, in the akratic, it temporarily robs reason of its full acuity, thus handicapping it as a competitor.
It is not merely a rival force, in these cases; it is a force that keeps reason from fully exercising its power. And third, passion can make someone impetuous; here its victory over reason is so powerful that the latter does not even enter into the arena of conscious reflection until it is too late to influence action.
Alternate Readings of Aristotle on Akrasia 8. Pleasure Aristotle frequently emphasizes the importance of pleasure to human life and therefore to his study of how we should live see for example a7—20 and b3—a16but his full-scale examination of the nature and value of pleasure is found in two places: It is odd that pleasure receives two lengthy treatments; no other topic in the Ethics is revisited in this way.
Book VII of the Nicomachean Ethics is identical to Book VI of the Eudemian Ethics; for unknown reasons, the editor of the former decided to include within it both the treatment of pleasure that is unique to that work X.
The two accounts are broadly similar. They agree about the value of pleasure, defend a theory about its nature, and oppose competing theories. Aristotle holds that a happy life must include pleasure, and he therefore opposes those who argue that pleasure is by its nature bad.
He insists that there are other pleasures besides those of the senses, and that the best pleasures are the ones experienced by virtuous people who have sufficient resources for excellent activity.
Book VII offers a brief account of what pleasure is and is not. It is not a process but an unimpeded activity of a natural state a7— Aristotle does not elaborate on what a natural state is, but he obviously has in mind the healthy condition of the body, especially its sense faculties, and the virtuous condition of the soul.
Little is said about what it is for an activity to be unimpeded, but Aristotle does remind us that virtuous activity is impeded by the absence of a sufficient supply of external goods b17— One might object that people who are sick or who have moral deficiencies can experience pleasure, even though Aristotle does not take them to be in a natural state. He has two strategies for responding. First, when a sick person experiences some degree of pleasure as he is being restored to health, the pleasure he is feeling is caused by the fact that he is no longer completely ill.
Some small part of him is in a natural state and is acting without impediment b35—6. Second, Aristotle is willing to say that what seems pleasant to some people may in fact not be pleasant b31—2just as what tastes bitter to an unhealthy palate may not be bitter. To call something a pleasure is not only to report a state of mind but also to endorse it to others.
Aristotle's Ethics (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
Aristotle's analysis of the nature of pleasure is not meant to apply to every case in which something seems pleasant to someone, but only to activities that really are pleasures. All of these are unimpeded activities of a natural state. It follows from this conception of pleasure that every instance of pleasure must be good to some extent.
For how could an unimpeded activity of a natural state be bad or a matter of indifference? On the other hand, Aristotle does not mean to imply that every pleasure should be chosen. He briefly mentions the point that pleasures compete with each other, so that the enjoyment of one kind of activity impedes other activities that cannot be carried out at the same time a20— His point is simply that although some pleasures may be good, they are not worth choosing when they interfere with other activities that are far better.
This point is developed more fully in Ethics X. The pleasure of recovering from an illness, for example, is bad without qualification—meaning that it is not one of the pleasures one would ideally choose, if one could completely control one's circumstances.
Although it really is a pleasure and so something can be said in its favor, it is so inferior to other goods that ideally one ought to forego it. Nonetheless, it is a pleasure worth having—if one adds the qualification that it is only worth having in undesirable circumstances.
The pleasure of recovering from an illness is good, because some small part of oneself is in a natural state and is acting without impediment; but it can also be called bad, if what one means by this is that one should avoid getting into a situation in which one experiences that pleasure.
Aristotle indicates several times in VII. Here he is influenced by an idea expressed in the opening line of the Ethics: Plants and non-human animals seek to reproduce themselves because that is their way of participating in an unending series, and this is the closest they can come to the ceaseless thinking of the unmoved mover.
Aristotle makes this point in several of his works see for example De Anima a23—b7and in Ethics X. He will elaborate on these points in X. Human happiness does not consist in every kind of pleasure, but it does consist in one kind of pleasure—the pleasure felt by a human being who engages in theoretical activity and thereby imitates the pleasurable thinking of god.
Book X offers a much more elaborate account of what pleasure is and what it is not. It is not a process, because processes go through developmental stages: By contrast, pleasure, like seeing and many other activities, is not something that comes into existence through a developmental process. If I am enjoying a conversation, for example, I do not need to wait until it is finished in order to feel pleased; I take pleasure in the activity all along the way.
The defining nature of pleasure is that it is an activity that accompanies other activities, and in some sense brings them to completion. Pleasure occurs when something within us, having been brought into good condition, is activated in relation to an external object that is also in good condition.
The pleasure of drawing, for example, requires both the development of drawing ability and an object of attention that is worth drawing. But the theory proposed in the later Book brings out a point that had received too little attention earlier: It is not enough to say that it is what happens when we are in good condition and are active in unimpeded circumstances; one must add to that point the further idea that pleasure plays a certain role in complementing something other than itself.
Drawing well and the pleasure of drawing well always occur together, and so they are easy to confuse, but Aristotle's analysis in Book X emphasizes the importance of making this distinction.
He says that pleasure completes the activity that it accompanies, but then adds, mysteriously, that it completes the activity in the manner of an end that is added on. In the translation of W. It is unclear what thought is being expressed here, but perhaps Aristotle is merely trying to avoid a possible misunderstanding: The latter might be taken to mean that the activity accompanied by pleasure has not yet reached a sufficiently high level of excellence, and that the role of pleasure is to bring it to the point of perfection.
Aristotle does not deny that when we take pleasure in an activity we get better at it, but when he says that pleasure completes an activity by supervening on it, like the bloom that accompanies those who have achieved the highest point of physical beauty, his point is that the activity complemented by pleasure is already perfect, and the pleasure that accompanies it is a bonus that serves no further purpose. Taking pleasure in an activity does help us improve at it, but enjoyment does not cease when perfection is achieved—on the contrary, that is when pleasure is at its peak.
That is when it reveals most fully what it is: We should take note of a further difference between these two discussions: In Book X, he makes the point that pleasure is a good but not the good. He cites and endorses an argument given by Plato in the Philebus: If we imagine a life filled with pleasure and then mentally add wisdom to it, the result is made more desirable. But the good is something that cannot be improved upon in this way.
Therefore pleasure is not the good b23— By contrast, in Book VII Aristotle strongly implies that the pleasure of contemplation is the good, because in one way or another all living beings aim at this sort of pleasure.
Aristotle observes in Book X that what all things aim at is good b35—a1 ; significantly, he falls short of endorsing the argument that since all aim at pleasure, it must be the good. Book VII makes the point that pleasures interfere with each other, and so even if all kinds of pleasures are good, it does not follow that all of them are worth choosing.
One must make a selection among pleasures by determining which are better. But how is one to make this choice? Book VII does not say, but in Book X, Aristotle holds that the selection of pleasures is not to be made with reference to pleasure itself, but with reference to the activities they accompany. Since activities differ with respect to goodness and badness, some being worth choosing, others worth avoiding, and others neither, the same is true of pleasures as well.
A pleasure's goodness derives from the goodness of its associated activity. And surely the reason why pleasure is not the criterion to which we should look in making these decisions is that it is not the good. The standard we should use in making comparisons between rival options is virtuous activity, because that has been shown to be identical to happiness. That is why Aristotle says that what is judged pleasant by a good man really is pleasant, because the good man is the measure of things a15— He does not mean that the way to lead our lives is to search for a good man and continually rely on him to tell us what is pleasurable.
Rather, his point is that there is no way of telling what is genuinely pleasurable and therefore what is most pleasurable unless we already have some other standard of value. Aristotle's discussion of pleasure thus helps confirm his initial hypothesis that to live our lives well we must focus on one sort of good above all others: It is the good in terms of which all other goods must be understood.
Aristotle's analysis of friendship supports the same conclusion. Although Aristotle is interested in classifying the different forms that friendship takes, his main theme in Books VIII and IX is to show the close relationship between virtuous activity and friendship. He is vindicating his conception of happiness as virtuous activity by showing how satisfying are the relationships that a virtuous person can normally expect to have.
His taxonomy begins with the premise that there are three main reasons why one person might like someone else. One might like someone because he is good, or because he is useful, or because he is pleasant.
And so there are three bases for friendships, depending on which of these qualities binds friends together. When two individuals recognize that the other person is someone of good character, and they spend time with each other, engaged in activities that exercise their virtues, then they form one kind of friendship. If they are equally virtuous, their friendship is perfect. If, however, there is a large gap in their moral development as between a parent and a small child, or between a husband and a wifethen although their relationship may be based on the other person's good character, it will be imperfect precisely because of their inequality.
The imperfect friendships that Aristotle focuses on, however, are not unequal relationships based on good character. Rather, they are relationships held together because each individual regards the other as the source of some advantage to himself or some pleasure he receives.
Aristotle does not mean to suggest that unequal relations based on the mutual recognition of good character are defective in these same ways. Rather, when he says that unequal relationships based on character are imperfect, his point is that people are friends in the fullest sense when they gladly spend their days together in shared activities, and this close and constant interaction is less available to those who are not equal in their moral development.
When Aristotle begins his discussion of friendship, he introduces a notion that is central to his understanding of this phenomenon: Does such good will exist in all three kinds of friendship, or is it confined to relationships based on virtue?
- Virtue Ethics
- Vices and Virtues Explained
At first, Aristotle leaves open the first of these two possibilities. But in fact, as Aristotle continues to develop his taxonomy, he does not choose to exploit this possibility.
He speaks as though it is only in friendships based on character that one finds a desire to benefit the other person for the sake of the other person. Those who wish good things to their friends for the sake of the latter are friends most of all, because they do so because of their friends themselves, and not coincidentally. In such statements as these, Aristotle comes rather close to saying that relationships based on profit or pleasure should not be called friendships at all.
Friendships based on character are the ones in which each person benefits the other for the sake of other; and these are friendships most of all. Because each party benefits the other, it is advantageous to form such friendships.
And since each enjoys the trust and companionship of the other, there is considerable pleasure in these relationships as well. Because these perfect friendships produce advantages and pleasures for each of the parties, there is some basis for going along with common usage and calling any relationship entered into for the sake of just one of these goods a friendship. Friendships based on advantage alone or pleasure alone deserve to be called friendships because in full-fledged friendships these two properties, advantage and pleasure, are present.
It is striking that in the Ethics Aristotle never thinks of saying that the uniting factor in all friendships is the desire each friend has for the good of the other. Aristotle does not raise questions about what it is to desire good for the sake of another person. He treats this as an easily understood phenomenon, and has no doubts about its existence. But it is also clear that he takes this motive to be compatible with a love of one's own good and a desire for one's own happiness.
Someone who has practical wisdom will recognize that he needs friends and other resources in order to exercise his virtues over a long period of time.
When he makes friends, and benefits friends he has made, he will be aware of the fact that such a relationship is good for him. And yet to have a friend is to want to benefit someone for that other person's sake; it is not a merely self-interested strategy. Aristotle sees no difficulty here, and rightly so. For there is no reason why acts of friendship should not be undertaken partly for the good of one's friend and partly for one's own good. Acting for the sake of another does not in itself demand self-sacrifice.
It requires caring about someone other than oneself, but does not demand some loss of care for oneself. For when we know how to benefit a friend for his sake, we exercise the ethical virtues, and this is precisely what our happiness consists in. Aristotle makes it clear that the number of people with whom one can sustain the kind of relationship he calls a perfect friendship is quite small IX. Even if one lived in a city populated entirely by perfectly virtuous citizens, the number with whom one could carry on a friendship of the perfect type would be at most a handful.
For he thinks that this kind of friendship can exist only when one spends a great deal of time with the other person, participating in joint activities and engaging in mutually beneficial behavior; and one cannot cooperate on these close terms with every member of the political community. One may well ask why this kind of close friendship is necessary for happiness.
If one lived in a community filled with good people, and cooperated on an occasional basis with each of them, in a spirit of good will and admiration, would that not provide sufficient scope for virtuous activity and a well-lived life?
Admittedly, close friends are often in a better position to benefit each other than are fellow citizens, who generally have little knowledge of one's individual circumstances. But this only shows that it is advantageous to be on the receiving end of a friend's help. The more important question for Aristotle is why one needs to be on the giving end of this relationship. And obviously the answer cannot be that one needs to give in order to receive; that would turn active love for one's friend into a mere means to the benefits received.
Aristotle attempts to answer this question in IX. A virtuous person loves the recognition of himself as virtuous; to have a close friend is to possess yet another person, besides oneself, whose virtue one can recognize at extremely close quarters; and so, it must be desirable to have someone very much like oneself whose virtuous activity one can perceive. The argument is unconvincing because it does not explain why the perception of virtuous activity in fellow citizens would not be an adequate substitute for the perception of virtue in one's friends.
Aristotle would be on stronger grounds if he could show that in the absence of close friends one would be severely restricted in the kinds of virtuous activities one could undertake.
But he cannot present such an argument, because he does not believe it. He refuses to regard private life—the realm of the household and the small circle of one's friends—as the best or most favorable location for the exercise of virtue. He is convinced that the loss of this private sphere would greatly detract from a well-lived life, but he is hard put to explain why. He might have done better to focus on the benefits of being the object of a close friend's solicitude.
Just as property is ill cared for when it is owned by all, and just as a child would be poorly nurtured were he to receive no special parental care—points Aristotle makes in Politics II. But Aristotle is not looking for a defense of this sort, because he conceives of friendship as lying primarily in activity rather than receptivity. It is difficult, within his framework, to show that virtuous activity towards a friend is a uniquely important good.
Since Aristotle thinks that the pursuit of one's own happiness, properly understood, requires ethically virtuous activity and will therefore be of great value not only to one's friends but to the larger political community as well, he argues that self-love is an entirely proper emotion—provided it is expressed in the love of virtue IX. Self-love is rightly condemned when it consists in the pursuit of as large a share of external goods—particularly wealth and power—as one can acquire, because such self-love inevitably brings one into conflict with others and undermines the stability of the political community.
If egoism is the thesis that one will always act rightly if one consults one's self-interest, properly understood, then nothing would be amiss in identifying him as an egoist. But egoism is sometimes understood in a stronger sense. The ancient Greeks had a moral ideal of seriousness, which could be expressed in religious, philosophical, or ethical activity, but not so easily in physical production; early modern thinkers, however, recognize a virtue of industriousness, which tend to be expressed in activity related to production, to subduing the physical environment.
How can we be sure the models proposed are ideal unless we invoke moral rules to evaluate them? Thus, however valuable virtue ethics may be, it seems to need another ethical theory in order to complete it. Why should we bother with virtue ethics? Or would you rather just be liked or loved because of your money or your good looks which nature gave you and you did not create?Aristotle on Ethics, Happiness, and Virtue - Peter Adamson
Or do you want to be someone who needs constant approval of his actions from people around you even though they disagree among themselves and do not remain consistent even in their own judgements? Or do you want to do the courageous or honest thing reluctantly--as if it really hurts, as if you would rather be doing the opposite?
If you have answered yes to the first question in each of these pairs, then you want to develop the good character traits known as moral virtues. Other Reasons Another reason to pay attention to virtue ethics, which centers on character, is that often we are concerned with evaluating persons and their enduring moral characteristics their character rather than on a single action and how it relates to a rule or what sort results it produces.
We are then not chiefly concerned with what rule one follows or what consequences you produce, but what kind of person you are, e. Moreover, we often cannot evaluate an action unless we know something about the psychology of the person who is acting.
But to understand motive it is helpful to know about character. Finally, one of the best ways to foster social cooperation and harmony is to promote and solidify the better sides of humanity. Rules by themselves may give guidelines, but they cannot make people good. Concern with consequences is important but without a reform of persons we are not likely to produce greater total satisfaction or more substantial freedom for people.
What do we need to know about human psychology in order to understand the virtues? This analysis is derived from Plato and Aristotle. Other Greek philosophers had somewhat different analyses. The mental side of the human person consists of several capacities. The spirited part social emotions: The appetitive part love of money, hunger, thirst, sexual desire, desire for other physical pleasures, aversion to physical pain "Desire" is not limited to just one part.
The rational part naturally desires to understand and to promote the good of the whole as it perceives this good. The appetitive part desires pleasure, possessions, etc.