Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics (2022)


Self-Love: The Blueprint for Justice

June 17, 2019 by Essay Writer

Aristotle asks good human beings to be self-lovers, devoting special attention to virtue’s most fundamental groundwork. With all individual actions, it is the intellect which must determine the course of proper morality and strength of character; the path of right action elucidated in Nicomachean Ethics thus grounds itself in that personal aim for moral excellence. Given that the basic esteem one has for oneself inevitably precludes any concern for another, ideal friendship (friendship in its most perfect form) exhibits the larger activation of self-love’s most notable qualities. Friendship on these grounds then provides a fine arena for just action and good works. Aristotle’s analysis of this seemingly ill-united pair – the love for the self and the love for another – rather substantiates the intrinsic alliance of these two functions, posing further the impossibility of extrapolating friendship from self-love or self-love from friendship. Through an extensive survey of self-love’s capacity to cultivate a just civilization, Aristotle discloses the fundamentally private origin of civil justice and social concern.In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle states that “friends enhance our ability to think and to act” (Book VIII, 1155a). As friends provide a motivation and a receiving end for good works, they are, in this sense, “indispensable for life” (VIII, 1155a). Yet, although Aristotle claims friendship to be ideal for the practice of habitual virtue, the allure of comradeship inevitably beckons the wicked along with the good. Aristotle in turn prescribes neither friendship nor self-love for the wicked individual, lest that degenerate should use friends merely to escape the burden of his own corruption – an act that would threaten to “harm both himself and his neighbors in following his base emotions” (IX, 1169a). Ethics therefore puts forth that only the good man deserves the guidance of self-love, for only he deliberates respectably (with rightly-ordered desires) and discerns his environment through the scope of his own intelligence – a being’s most sovereign faculty. A wicked man’s unbridled self-love readily becomes clout, fueling his depravity and jeopardizing civil society’s moral stature in one fell swoop.According to Aristotelian ethics, although self-love and love for another complement each other in making a habit of virtue, self-love must be of primary concern in light of its expansive benefits. In section four of Book IX, Aristotle dictates self-love to be “the basis of friendship” (1166a), and expands on this in section eight, stating that “all friendly feelings toward others are an extension of the friendly feelings one has for oneself” (1168b). In this way, friendship and self-love are complementary though not equivalent; perfect friendship must expand upon and realize the incomparable friendliness that an individual feels toward himself. Aristotle designates the self-love of the virtuous person as one quintessential departure point for any society that seeks to be just. The good man operates from such a mold of customary concern and care for the soul – it is within the workings of this solitary yet amiable fellow that Aristotle finds the seed from which perfect friendships, and thus, a justly-ordered society, can be borne.While it is of concern that Aristotle’s virtuous self-lovers might dwarf in the shadows of society’s loftier figures – the spontaneously just, the noble in virtue, the perfect friends with their binary selflessness – what must be retained is self-love’s enduring indispensability despite its lack of broad, public recognition. Intent love of oneself, Aristotle supposes, is the veritable lifeblood for a just individual. In other words, the best way to learn to want good for another person – and for their own sake – is to consider the rational measures taken in an individual setting to cultivate one’s own goodness. However, while Aristotle emphasizes the positive nature of friendship and other grand-scale expressions of the noble at heart, he favors still the individual pursuit of excellence and virtuous self-love above all. Such “activities of the soul” in the private domain, albeit contained and secluded from the public forum, surpass (in their greatness) the reach of common social goings-on and most powerfully affect all planes of life. Closing section eight of Book IX, Aristotle concludes that “in everything praiseworthy a man of high moral standards assigns himself the larger share of what is noble” (1168b), and so grants the individual permission to act out of self-interest at times, assumedly in instances where the priority of personal well-being must be recaptured. Aristotle recognizes the ways in which individual actions affect the good of all; all society’s needs could only be met if each person’s deliberation was guided by intellect and the goal of far-reaching happiness.In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle enumerates the ways in which virtuous action and characteristic morality provide the means for achieving life’s ultimate goal. As happiness proves to be this good at which all earthly things aim, Aristotle devotes Books VIII and IX to the ways in which self-love makes up the foremost ingredient for fostering virtuosity and grasping true happiness. Importantly, Aristotle emphasizes humanity’s disposition toward friendship of all sorts, due to what he supposed is the natural interconnectedness in our physical existence. However, humanity’s greater task is to acquire friends for reasons higher than pleasure or utility, recognizing that the practice of willing good for another, for the sake of the other, embodies the greatest virtuous opportunity. Each participant of a perfect friendship enters that arena with the footing of self-love; as such, it is only through the self-love of a virtuous man that widespread good works can prevail.

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Courage and Aristotle’s Doctrine of the Mean

June 11, 2019 by Essay Writer

For Aristotle, the doctrine of the mean is a moral frame of reference by which each man’s character can be better understood. When applied to specific virtues such as courage, it illuminates what Aristotle believes to be the complex relationship among the agent of virtue, his judgment, and his character. However, the worth of the theory of the mean is its recognition of man’s moral autonomy, an independence that is made necessary by the incomplete and inconclusive nature of Aristotle’s doctrine.Aristotle’s account of virtue in the Ethics is given structure through its organizing principle, the doctrine of the mean. He first develops virtue as a mean through the analogy of art. He writes, “A master of any art avoids excess and defect, but seeks the intermediate and chooses this — the intermediate not in the object but relatively to usâ€? (1106b5). Thus, the standard by which every art does its work well and by which the good artist is judged is by looking toward the intermediate. For Aristotle, virtue is “more exact and better than any art.â€? Thus, as an art, virtue too “must have the quality of aiming at the intermediateâ€? (1106b10). He states that he is here concerned with “moral virtue,â€? the body of virtue that encompasses passions and actions and their inherent excesses, deficiencies, and intermediates. What is this intermediacy at which the master artist of the good life aims? Aristotle writes that what is intermediate is to feel the right pleasures and pains “at the right times, with the right motive, and in the right way;â€? and this applies “similarly with regard to actionsâ€? (1106b20). Thus, we find that there are four components of mean within each mean of virtue itself: the mean with respect to emotions, pleasures and pains, attitude and intention, and action. Both excess and deficiency in any of these components of mean are forms of failure, but the intermediate is a form of success at which virtue aims. Finally, from this Aristotle concludes that it is possible to fail in many ways, but to succeed is possible in only one way.Aristotle summarizes this account of virtue as a mean and introduces the secondary element of choice at 1107a: “Virtue, then, is a state of character concerned with choice, lying in a mean . . . relative to us, this being determined by a rational principle, and by that principle by which the man of practical wisdom would determine it.â€? Furthermore, virtue is a mean between two vices, one which falls short of and one which exceeds what is right in passions and actions. How is the doctrine of the mean developed for the specific virtue of courage? Aristotle begins by characterizing courage as a mean through an evaluation beginning at 3.6, using as measuring rods the elements of fear and confidence. He first asks, What do men fear? Because he defines fear as “expectation of evil,â€? he concludes that the things that are feared are “terrible things,â€? “evilsâ€? such as disgrace, poverty, and disease (1115a10). Yet there is a distinction among men as regards fear. The brave man fears only what is right and noble to fear, and would be base if he did not fear them. The brave man fears the greatest thing, death, in the noblest circumstances of danger: he is “brave who is fearless in face of a noble deathâ€? (1115a30). All terrible things are not terrible to the same magnitude and degree; some are terrible beyond human strength. Though the brave man fears even things that are within human strength, “he will face them as he ought and as the rule directs, for honor’s sake; for this is the end of virtueâ€? (1115a30). Not only are the objects of fear characterized by variation, but fear, as an emotion, is also subject to degrees and variance: one can fear more or less. The courageous man faces and fears the right things and from the right motive, in the right way and at the right time. He feels and acts according to the merits of each case as the rule directs — thus achieving the mean in action, emotion, and intention — with the end or goal of conformity to the state of the courageous character. Because courage is noble and each thing is defined by its end, the end of courage is noble. Thus, the “brave man endures and acts as courage directsâ€? for a noble end (1115b20).Aristotle analyzes the state of courage and its opposite states through a dissection of the magnitudes of fear and confidence. Aristotle calls he who exceeds in fearlessness “insensible,â€? and he who exceeds in confidence “rashâ€? (1115b25). The rash man is a pretender to and imitator of courage: “as the brave man is with regard to what is terrible, so the rash man wishes to appearâ€? (1115b30). In his analysis, Aristotle overlaps the genres of rashness and cowardliness by claiming that the rash man acts in both ways: by nature rash, the rash man does not persevere against what is truly terrible, showing himself cowardly as well. It seems, then, that the rash man diverges from the mean of courage in both directions, though foremost characterized by his excess of confidence. Contrarily, the coward exceeds in fear, fearing both what he should and what he should not, and is deficient in confidence. In summary:The coward, the rash man, and the brave man, then, are concerned with the same objects but are differently opposed to them; for the first two exceed and fall short, while the third holds the middle, which is the right position. (1116a5)For Aristotle, courage is the mean with respect to the objects that inspire emotions of confidence or fear, choosing and enduring these objects because of the nobility or the baseness of doing so. Fear and confidence play the configuring roles around which the account of courage is articulated. They unite the four components of mean (emotion, pleasure/pain, intention, and action). Fear and confidence are the emotions that drive one to act and give the action its accompanying intention or attitude, and they arise through man’s sensitivity to pleasure and pain — the pleasure of doing ignoble deeds, and the pain involved in doing noble deeds. Aristotle writes, “if virtues are concerned with actions and passions, and every passion and every action is accompanied by pleasure and pain, for this reason also virtue will be concerned with pleasures and painsâ€? (1104b15). Yet, paradoxically, although courage comes through facing what is painful, it has a pleasant and noble end that is concealed by the attending circumstances. This is central to the conflict within the courageous man: he must reconcile his feeling of fear (aversion to pain and desire for safety) and the uncertainty that lies in his feeling of confidence with the desire for good that is the end. Here there is a conflict between the external goal and the internal feelings attached. The courageous man assigns the correct value to these dangers, goods, and goals, and controls himself accordingly.Aristotle’s theory of the mean makes possible two models for identifying the mean. The first entails fixing the two extremes (state of excess and deficiency) in relation to each other, and consequently fixing the optimum mean in relation to these two points. The second model entails beginning with an independent optimum and identifying the two directions of extremity. With respect to courage, Aristotle proposes and takes the second approach by identifying the mean based on man’s feelings of fear and confidence. His methodology is fear-centric. Aristotle first takes the things that are feared by men and identifies which are to be feared rightly and which are not to be feared. The brave man achieves the mean of courage by fearing what is to be feared, facing this if necessary, and, in addition, by facing what is not to be feared. After finding this mean, Aristotle characterizes the insensible, rash, and cowardly man by the magnitude and correctness of his fears and by his actions in enduring or abstaining from the objects of his fear.The doctrine of the mean, with its structural analysis of virtue and its opposition, raises the question as to who will be able to identify the mean. Is right judgment about right and wrong a necessary precursor to identifying the mean? Aristotle implies that it is. At 1143a20 he defines judgment as “the right discrimination of the equitable.â€? Being a man of good and right judgment consists in “being able to judge about the things with which practical wisdom is concernedâ€? (1143a30). Thus, right judgment reconciles the understanding and discrimination of the equitable with practical wisdom. Identification of a virtue, already defined as the “mean determined by the rational principle by which a man of practical wisdom follows,â€? requires right judgment on the part of the agent concerning what is right and wrong (1107a). To support this position, Aristotle distinguishes states of character that he considers false types of courage. Among these is the “courageâ€? of the citizen-soldier: because he is compelled to act as he does, he has no right judgment of his own about what is noble. The passionate person is also not truly courageous because he lacks the choice and motive that follow from correct judgment: he is like a wild beast, acting not for honor’s sake but from the strength of his passions. Finally, the ignorant person acting bravely is excluded from having true courage: he is without awareness and self-reliance, and therefore is without right judgment. For Aristotle, judgment can be mistaken, but right judgment implies that one has judged correctly about right and wrong, and insomuch as the virtue of courage has as its end what is noble and right, right judgment predates the identification of the mean.The critical point to consider in concluding this is whether or not identification of the mean necessarily is followed by virtuous action. Do human beings sometimes err in acting virtuously even when they have knowledge of the virtuous mean state? Plato asserts that if the good is known, men will choose this good, because no one willingly chooses what is harmful. Aristotle echoes this position by claiming that “every action . . . aim[s] at some goodâ€? (1094a). Though action is connected to intention and emotion, each is given a separate and independent existence. By extension, is right judgment divorced from choice? For Aristotle, virtue is “a state of character concerned with choice, lying in a meanâ€? (1107a). He asserts that right judgment cannot be severed from the choice that manifests itself in the correct and virtuous character, the one that is chosen for its intermediacy. Therefore, right judgment is a necessary condition for the agent’s identification of the mean.Aristotle’s doctrine of the mean provides a moral framework that is not morally based but rather based on the elements of our functioning as humans — emotion, action, intention, and pleasure and pain. However, this moral framework is foremost a technical description of the range of possibility within man’s moral autonomy rather than a guide. He seems merely to make clearer what we should already know. In Aristotle’s grasp of the variable, he seems to have mastered the craft or art of virtue. Yet for the ordinary citizen or reader of the Ethics, “making and acting are differentâ€? (1140a). Aristotle has painted for us the art of virtue: he derives the means of virtues by elucidation and description through identifying the emotions, attitudes, and intentions that accompany our actions. But he leaves the individual to act for himself in ways that are uncompelled, aware, autonomous, and free. How is man to acquire right judgment? How is he to discover the means and achieve them through his actions? To answer this, we must explore the notion of practical wisdom as it relates to Aristotle’s theory of the mean. He defines practical wisdom as “the true and reasoned state of capacity to act with regard to the things that are good or bad for man;â€? the worth of practical wisdom is that it helps us “take the right meansâ€? to achieve the “right markâ€? which is the end of moral virtue (1144a5). Through his account of the mean, Aristotle gives structure to moral virtue, but acquiring practical wisdom is largely our own task. The well-functioning and excellent man has both, for “the work of man is achieved only in accordance with practical wisdom as well as with moral virtueâ€? (1144a5). The doctrine of the mean is only half of the answer when grappling with the questions of what one ought to do, questions that arise from the moral autonomy in which Aristotle firmly believes. Man must develop, for himself, “the eye of the soulâ€? which involves acquiring practical wisdom to live one’s life (1144a30).

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The Morality of Phil in Groundhog Day

May 6, 2019 by Essay Writer

Aristotle, Kant, Mill, and Plato: All influential philosophers with differing opinions on what it means to be marked by morality. One situation in which the opinions of these philosophers could be used to evaluate the morality of a person is in the movie Groundhog Day, specifically looking at the actions of the character Phil. At the beginning of Groundhog Day, Phil is sarcastic and selfish. However, throughout the film, we see his character develop to be more wholesome. In this paper, I argue that Aristotle and Plato view Phil’s character as increasingly moral throughout the film, and Mill and Kant also see his actions to be gaining morality throughout the film.

Aristotle has ten virtues that he sees as morally good, and an excess or deficiency of any is a vice (Aristotle 1108b11). At the beginning of the film, Phil is at the vice for a few of these: generosity, friendliness, and appropriate anger. Phil shows that he is lacking generosity when he refuses to give money to the bigger on the street (Aristotle 1107b10). He shows a lack of friendliness when he is rude to his old classmate, Ned (Aristotle 1108a28). Lastly, Phil shows an access of anger on numerous occasions, namely when he kidnaps the groundhog (Aristotle 1108a5). Aristotle claims in order for one to re-balance a virtue, one must aim to do the opposite corresponding vice (Aristotle 1108b25). Phil does just this by giving all of his money to the homeless man, embracing Ned in a long, uncomfortable hug, and giving a heartfelt report on the groundhog to Punxsutawney. By aiming for the opposite vice, Phil is able to re-balance his character to Aristotle’s virtues of character.

Furthermore, the situation in which Phil is placed is similar to the Ring of Gyges that Glaucon challenges Socrates with (Plato 359d1). At the beginning of the movie, Phil uses his “opportunity” exactly how Glaucon predicts he will: by using immoral methods to benefit himself due to lack of consequences (Plato 361d1). As the film progresses, Phil gets worse in this regard before he gets better. Towards the end of the film, he begins to act more justly, despite having no ulterior motive because of the repetitive day. This shows that he is resisting the temptation to act unjustly without consequences, and thus his character is more just in the end of the movie than at the beginning from Plato’s perspective (Plato 358a).

In regard to Phil’s actions, Mill sees his actions as increasingly morally valuable throughout the film. The most obvious characteristic of Phil’s actions throughout the movie that the utilitarian lens sees as increasingly moral is the quality of the pleasures in which Phil is engaging (Mill 8). For example, at the beginning of the film, Phil uses his “opportunity” to engage in lower pleasures such as stuffing his face with pastries and persuading random women to sleep with him (Mill 9). Later in the film, we see Phil shift his focus to becoming a better, more wholesome man. This is when we see a shift in his actions to resulting in higher pleasures, such as helping old women fix their flat tire, learning to play piano, and getting to know the locals (Mill 10). These actions result in more happiness for a greater number of people, and the direct pleasure that Phil receives is more valuable (Mill 10). Because of the increase in the quality of pleasure that Phil is striving for towards the end of the film, Mill sees Phil’s actions as increasingly moral.

Similar to Mill, Kant sees Phil’s actions to be increasing in moral valuable throughout Groundhog Day. One specific aspect of Kant’s philosophy that can be related to Phil’s actions is his idea of universality (Kant 4:402). At the beginning of the film when Phil is attempting to seduce random women by memorizing odd details about them and gaining intel on delivery men in order to steal money, it would be impossible to universalize these actions. If everyone did these things given the same opportunity, our world would be far from just (4:402). Yet, at the end of the film, when Phil catches children as they fall out of trees and saves men from choking, his actions become more universal for the world. Because of this increase in universality, Kant sees Phil’s actions as increasingly moral.

Kant, Mill, Aristotle, and Plato all see Phil’s actions and character as increasing in moral standing throughout Groundhog Day. The most feasible real-world application would be to reflect on one’s own life in regard to Aristotle’s virtues, and see where they may need to re-calibrate their virtues. This is a way that humans can learn from Phil and apply these Aristotelian teachings.

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The Virtues of Character According to Aristotle

May 2, 2019 by Essay Writer

In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle describes virtues in two types, one of character and another of thought. Virtues of character include things like bravery, temperance, and generosity, while virtues of thought include wisdom and prudence. In this paper, I will focus on the virtues of character and give a careful account of Aristotle’s views based on the reading of the Nicomachean Ethics.

According to Aristotle, the possession and exercise of the virtues of character are necessary for happiness. In other words, one can achieve happiness by being and doing good. By happiness, Aristotle is talking about the highest end and the best good for humanity. Aristotle believes that all human activities are directed towards certain ends or results, which we consider good. For example, we practice medicine to achieve health and generalship to achieve victory. Among the ends, some are instrumental ends which people attain for the sake of further ends. The further ends are therefore considered ruling and superior relative to the instrumental ends. Aristotle states that there is one end that is pursued not for any further end but for its own sake. This end is superior to any other end and is complete and perfect in itself. It is considered as the best good for humanity. Aristotle indicates that this highest end and best good is agreed to be happiness.

After establishing happiness as the highest end for humanity, Aristotle explains that the virtues of character are necessary for happiness because happiness depends on the possession and the exercise of them. Aristotle demonstrates this relationship between virtues and happiness by using the function argument. Aristotle believes that everything has a function and virtues are what cause the thing to perform its function well. For example, the function of eyes is seeing. Then, the virtue of eyes enables us to see well. According to Aristotle, the special function of human beings consists in the activity of the part of the soul that expresses reason. In other words, human function is living a life of rational activities. Human virtues are therefore what allow human beings to exercise our soul well. They enable us to do well and live well. Therefore, happiness, which implies living well and doing well, is an activity in accord with virtues. In this way, virtues of character promote or consist part of human happiness. For example, temperance is a virtue of character that enables us to eat and drink at an appropriate amount. This promotes our health, which is instrumental to achieving happiness.

Also, Aristotle emphasizes that happiness is an activity and therefore consists in not only the possession but also the exercise of virtues. Aristotle argues that the mere possession of something implies a state, which sometimes may achieve no good. For example, people can never achieve happiness when being asleep or inactive. Therefore, happiness is achieved not by the mere possession of virtues but by both the possession and exercise of them, just as Olympic prizes are not for the strongest but for the strongest contestants. People attain happiness not only by having the virtues of character but also by practicing the activities proper to these virtues. For example, we should not only have the virtue of temperance but also constantly do activities such as eating and drinking appropriately and healthily. In addition, Aristotle admits that some external goods, like sufficient wealth and a good birth, are still necessary preconditions for attaining happiness because they offer resources for the exercise of virtues of character.

In addition to a means to achieve happiness, virtues of character, according to Aristotle, are involved in the part of human soul that has feelings. As it is mentioned before, Aristotle thinks there are two types of virtues, virtues of character and virtues of thought. They are different because they belong to different parts of the human soul. Aristotle divides human soul into rational and irrational parts. The part of the soul that has reason in itself is called rational and it is where the virtues of thought, such as prudence and wisdom, occupy. For the irrational parts, there is one part of the soul that is described as vegetative or plantlike. This part is the cause of growth and nutrition, involving with no reason at all. Another part in the soul, which seems irrational but still shares in reason, is known as feelings and appetites. Although feelings are not equivalent to reason, they listen to and obey reason. The virtues of character, such as bravery, temperance, and generosity, are involved in this part of soul that has feelings and obeys reason. People with virtues of character show correct feelings, act correctly and follow what reason prescribes. Since reason is obeyed by feelings, virtues of thought are considered ruling and controlling of the virtues of character. To be more specific, Aristotle thinks prudence, the virtue of thought that involves in actions, is closely related to and inseparable from virtues of character. Virtues of character listen to prudence, and they are about having the right feelings and actions in accord with prudence through good deliberation. Wisdom, the virtue of thought that involves in study or philosophical contemplation, is considered superior to virtues of character. Actually, according to Aristotle, wisdom is the best virtue and the activity of philosophical contemplation is happiness itself. Therefore, virtues of character are subordinate to virtues of thought and serve as the means to achieve happiness.

Then, Aristotle discusses how virtues of character are acquired. He believes that they are results of habits. People attain the virtues of character by practicing and becoming habituated to them. Aristotle thinks virtues of character cannot be innate for the following reasons. First, if something is by nature, habituation will never bring it from one condition to another condition. For example, a stone is by nature falling downwards due to gravity. If one throws it upwards for many times to habituate it, it would still fall downwards, without changing the original condition. In this way, if virtues of character are by nature, people will not become more virtuous by habituation, and apparently Aristotle does not think that is the case. Therefore, virtues of character are not attained by nature. Second, if something is innate, people first have the capacity for it before performing the activity. For example, senses are innate because we already have senses before exercising them. We do not acquire our senses by seeing or hearing. However, for virtues of character, we first practice them before we acquire them. In other words, we become just by doing just actions and temperate by doing temperate actions. For this reason, virtues of character cannot be innate. Given that they are not innate, Aristotle argues that virtues of character are gained by the repetition of virtuous activities, which is achieved through correct habituation. On the contrary, vices are gained by the repetition of vicious activities. Aristotle also points out that the legislators’ correct habituation of citizens to make them good offers evidence for this argument. Therefore, for Aristotle, it is very important that people always perform the right activities in order to obtain the virtues of character.

Next, Aristotle claims that virtues and vices of character are related to pleasures and pains. For example, if a person finds it enjoyable to stand firm against terrifying situation in battlefields, he demonstrates the virtue of bravery, but if he finds it painful, he demonstrates the vice of cowardice. Also, a person who finds pleasure in abstinence is temperate, and a person who finds pain is intemperate. Aristotle gives two reasons why virtues of character are related to pleasures and pains. First, as he concludes before, virtues are about feelings and actions. Feelings and actions always imply pleasures or pains. In this way, virtues are about pleasures and pains. Second, corrective treatments employ pleasures and pains to punish vices and restore virtues. For example, to punish a vicious action, legislators associate pain with this action through sentence or imprisonment and therefore correct this vice. These corrective treatments of manipulating pleasures and pains indicate that virtues and vices are related to pleasures and pains. Given that, Aristotle concludes that people with virtues of character seek pleasures and endure pains in a right way and to a right extent, and vices are the opposites.

Finally, Aristotle gives a definition of the virtues of character by identifying the genus and differentia. First, Aristotle lists three possible candidates for the genus of virtues of character. Aristotle claims that they must belong to one of the three conditions in the human soul: feelings, capacities and states. Aristotle offers explanations for these three conditions. Feelings are the indicator of pleasures and pains, for example, appetite, anger, fear, etc. Capacities are the capabilities of having those feelings. States are what people have when they are better or worse off due to the feelings of pleasures and pains. For example, when feeling is either too intense or too deficient, people are worse off, and when feeling is intermediate and appropriate, people are better off. Aristotle performs a process of elimination to find the genus of the virtues of character. Aristotle states that virtues and vices of character cannot be feelings, and he gives three reasons for that. First, people are never praised or blamed for having certain feelings. However, they are praised or blamed for having certain virtues or vices. Second, feelings are generated without decisions. For example, people do not decide to feel angry or afraid. However, it does require decisions to perform certain actions proper to the virtues of character. Finally, people are said to be moved by feelings but never moved by virtues or vices. Therefore, virtues are not feelings, though they are relevant to feelings. Aristotle also indicates that they are not capacities either. Similar to feelings, capacities are neither praised nor blamed, but virtues and vices are. Moreover, capacities are gained by nature, but virtues are acquired not by nature but by habituation, as Aristotle discusses before. Therefore, virtues are not capacities. Then, there is only one possibility left: virtues are states.

After identifying the genus of virtues of character as states, Aristotle tries to find the differentia, which describes the essence of virtues of character and distinguishes them from other species in the genus of states. In other word, Aristotle is going to answer what kind of states they are. Aristotle introduces the concept of intermediate or the mean between extremes. According to Aristotle, there are two types of intermediate: one is in the object and one is relative to us. Intermediate in the object is the thing exactly equidistant to two extremes. For example, six is objectively intermediate between two and ten because it exceeds two by four and is exceeded by ten by the same amount. However, Aristotle emphasizes that the intermediate concerned in sciences is not objective but relative to us; that is to say, what individuals consider as neither excessive nor deficient for their sake. For example, for the science of prescribing food, six pounds might be the intermediate amount for professional athletes. However, for amateurs, six pounds would be too much, and something less is the intermediate for his sake. Therefore, one acquires a mean state according to what is intermediate for him.

Aristotle indicates that, in craft, people consider a good product as intermediate because they think nothing can be added to or reduced from it. If added or reduced, they think it is ruined by being excessive or deficient. According to Aristotle, since craft aims at the intermediate, virtues of character, as something superior to craft, should also aim at the intermediate condition. As he concludes before, virtues of character are about feelings and actions, and feelings and actions admit being excessive, deficient and intermediate. People can have too much or too little of pain and pleasure in particular circumstances that makes them vicious, and intermediate level of pain and pleasure that makes them virtuous. In this way, the intermediate feelings of pleasure and pain are proper to virtues of character. Then, Aristotle gives another reason to show that virtue is a mean between extremes. He states that people can be wrong in many ways but correct in only one way, which explains why being wrong is easy and correct is difficult. Therefore, people obtain virtues of character only when they reach the mean, but they demonstrate vices in various ways by being excessive or deficient. Finally, Aristotle concludes that what differentiates virtues of character from other states is that they aim at the intermediate, and they are the mean between two extremes. For example, bravery is a virtue of character. It is a mean in feelings of fear and confidence. Excessive confidence and deficient fear can be called rash, while deficient confidence and excessive fear can be called cowardly. Generosity is the mean in donating and receiving money. The excess is wastefulness, and the deficiency is ungenerosity. After considering the genus and differentia, Aristotle defines virtues of character as the states of a mean between extremes. This mean is relative to us, about feelings and in accord with reason and prudence.

In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle views the possession and practice of virtues of character as what promote and consist happiness. Virtues of character are involved in the part of human soul that has feelings, and they are about having correct feelings in accord with reason. They are related to virtues of thought in that they listen to what prudence prescribes and are subordinate to wisdom. They are acquired not by nature but by repetition of virtuous actions through habituation, and they are related to pleasures and pains. Finally, based on genus and differentia, Aristotle offers the definition of virtues of character: they are mean states relative to us between two extremes of excess and deficiency.

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Virtue Surmounts Deception

April 19, 2019 by Essay Writer

Several of the most famous stories told to young children were Aesop’s fables, creative stories designed to teach valuable life lessons. One of the most memorable to me was the fable about the lion that spared a mouse’s life and was later rescued by the mouse. Skeptical that this miniscule creature would ever be able to do something for him, the lion’s pride in his size and strength almost blinded him from displaying kindness. This tale particularly resonates in my mind because it teaches the moral that kindness and virtue are never wasted. Machiavelli’s controversial treatise, The Prince, offers a method of rule through fear. His cynical perspective of human nature causes him to lose faith and trust in others. He fails to acknowledge humans as relational beings, so his methods prove to be only temporarily effective. In contrast, understanding and exemplifying Aristotle’s definition of true virtue in his Nicomachean Ethics will bring reverence, love, and happiness to a leader. Therefore, the community will thrive when that individual believes in the common good and genuinely cares for others. Because love ultimately surpasses fear, in comparison to Machiavelli’s cynicism and skepticism, Aristotle’s beliefs about virtue would provide a better guide for achieving long term success. Firstly, I will discuss Machiavelli’s and Aristotle’s contrasting views of human nature and virtue. Next, I will argue for the effectiveness of Aristotle’s advice in comparison to Machiavelli’s fear tactics and provide hypothetical examples. Lastly, I will argue for how virtue brings long term success for both individuals and communities.

“If you have to destroy those who can or might hurt you, revamp old laws with new measures, be severe and indulgent, magnanimous and liberal, disband old armies and replace them with new, meanwhile managing your relations with other princes and kings in such a way that they will be glad to help you and cautious about harming you.”[1] Throughout the treatise, Machiavelli demonstrates his cynicism and little faith in human nature. Because he believes that everyone possesses evil intentions, he distrusts and dislikes other, merely forming relationships that promote personal gain. Cynicism causes individuals to constantly feel insecure and anxious, possibly leading them to make rash decisions based on emotion. Because there is a constant fear of failure, people may act on every minor suspicion or doubt about a person’s loyalty. These types of people essentially cannot form meaningful relationships with others besides friendships of utility that are lost when services are no longer being provided.[2] Obsession with power can consume the individual so that his or her most important goal is to maintain power instead of caring for those he or she is ruling over. Showing little control, these individuals may act on anger, causing something that may actually leads to their downfall. If people are willing to provide assistance to their neighbors out of pure selflessness instead of obligation, a well-functioning society can develop. This is because everyone can contribute their efforts to enhancing the standard of living. The polar opposite of Machiavelli, Aristotle believes humans can achieve true virtue as long as they possess a willing and open heart. Rather than believing that people always intend to commit evil, he views virtue is a cycle and “by abstaining from pleasures, we become self-controlled, and once we are self-controlled, we are best able to abstain from pleasures.” (36) One of the most key factors to a successful leader according to Machiavelli is cunningness, or the ability to deliberate well and choose best the means to what is evil but humanly attainable.[3] Demonstrating his complete lack of sympathy for others, this informs leaders that methods are negligible as long as the end goal is achieved. However, Aristotle emphasizes the art of prudence, or deliberating well and choosing best the means to what is good and is humanly attainable.[4] The people striving to do as much good as possible can become a source of light and hope for those who may never have experienced virtuous love or friendship. Spreading goodwill can induce gratuity in people so that a domino effect occurs and they become driven to help others. Additionally, people are not as inherently evil as Machiavelli believes, although they may sometimes lean towards evil because of temptations. By believing that people are and will always continue to be sinful and malevolent demonstrates a lack of hope in society. In contrast, if there is faith in human nature, communities can strive to better themselves and aid others. If people are willing to provide assistance to their neighbors out of pure selflessness instead of obligation, a well-functioning society can develop. This is because everyone can contribute their efforts to enhancing the standard of living.

“People are less concerned with offending a man who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared: the reason is that love is a link of obligation which men, because they are rotten, will break any time they think doing so serves their advantage; but fear involves dread of punishment, from which they can never escape.”[5] One of the most notable arguments in The Prince is Machiavelli’s discussion of utilizing cruelty and fear tactics to rule. Completely disregarding the long-term effects of deception and harm, he possesses a narrow-minded perspective about maintaining power. He only realizes the immediate effects of fear and does not consider any of the consequences of his suggestions. He is absolutely concerned with how people are instantly affected and disregards the important fact that fear breeds hatred. While his treatise may set an individual up for immediate success, that success will be interim and eventually there will be a loss of power. Fear seems effective at first because initially, no one possesses the courage to act. However, after people realize that everyone else bears the same sentiment, confidence becomes restored through numbers. This mutual defiance is extremely dangerous because those who are supposedly loyal may conspire against their leader and formulate plans for an uprising. Revolts are damaging to the state or whatever is being protested and the reputation of the leader is permanently stained. Punishing an individual with extreme cruelty is also ineffective because it only breeds more fear rather than loyalty. For example, consider a situation in which an employee in a large company fails to fulfill his or her duties or responsibilities to that company. Firing that employee to demonstrate that there is a “zero-tolerance” policy will only breed more resentment among the other employees and create an increasingly hostile environment. There is no admiration for the boss, and the employees are apathetic about their responsibilities. This means neither the company nor the boss is benefitted. The workers will be reluctant to work for the individual in charge or do anything that could benefit the company outside their immediate jobs. Only concerned for their own security, they would be willing to overthrow their boss if the opportunity is presented. Fear constantly needs to be renewed because the effects are temporary, but when a leader is loved, that love can grow with time. In complete contrast to deception and fear, love causes people to serve their leaders out of admiration. Becoming a figure of reverence, those around that individual will possess a willing heart for service and may genuinely desire to act in a way that benefits their leader. For example, good parenting requires teaching young children to exhibit virtue instead of deceit and cruel punishment through fear. It is crucial that evil is not ignored because children must be exposed to both sin and goodness. Additionally, it is the parents’ responsibility to emphasize virtue so the children will choose to do good. Parents must demonstrate love to their children so that they strive to please rather than disappoint their parents. Fear merely breeds resentment in the children so that they grow older to develop a rebellious nature. Teaching and instilling virtue into young minds also creates new generations of compassionate, cooperative, and effective communicators. Without this virtue, no one would believe in morality and the world would be chaotic due to self-indulgence. Hope for moral progress in society would be lost, thus increasing cynicism, which is never favorable.

“For fortune does not determine whether we fare well or ill, but is, as we said, merely an accessory to human life…the higher the virtuous activities, the more durable they are, because men who are supremely happy spend their lives in these activities most intensely and most continuously, and this seems to be the reason why such activities cannot be forgotten.”[6] Machiavelli’s thirst for power is evident through his idea that power guarantees happiness. Claiming that a person’s innermost desires can be achieved through the acquisition of power, he believes love is overvalued and “men are quicker to forget the death of a father than the loss of a patrimony.”[7] Believing that the effects of confiscating property exceeds those of losing a loved one, Machiavelli portrays his own sentiments towards relationships. He does not realize that people are capable of loving others for reasons other than the fortune or profit they may receive. This is the exact reason why he advocates the exploitation of men. Machiavelli emphasizes materialistic fulfillment that ultimately does not satisfy the void that is filled by human companionship. However, Aristotle’s advice can bring a genuine happiness, as his views lead to a life with much less regret. When an individual strives to do good for the community, he or she is more self-content. A life of hatred and deceit can cause a bitterness and constant dissatisfaction that ultimately can never be solved by any amount of material wealth. In contrast, virtue increases an individual’s capacity to love and spread this love to others. Virtue can induce an individual to serve the community because happiness, friendship, and kindness generates generosity and compassion. Similar to the cycle that leads to self-control, this, in turn, causes the community to feel a sense of adornment towards that individual. When the community demonstrates its appreciation towards that person, he or she becomes increasingly virtuous and content, so the cycle repeats. In the long run, people who are content will continue to be satisfied and possibly become increasingly happy as time passes. In addition, this virtue creates a sense of responsibility instead of an obsession with maintaining personal power. Individuals will feel that it is their duty to serve the interests of those they are ruling over and ensure that they are informed of everything that is occurring. This leads to active involvement in public events, which assures citizens of the considerate nature of their leader. When the people are aware that their problems are being attended to, trust is established and there is no desire for an uprising.

An extremely important aspect that Machiavelli failed to recognize in The Prince was that humans are relational beings that require love and companionship to thrive. The bonds we form with others establish a sense of belonging and acceptance. Sometimes sharing valuable memories and moments with others can help us discover our own identity and purpose in life. Humans are meant to live as a community instead of merely coexisting, so every encounter is valuable. Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics provides meaningful and insightful advice that can help us establish virtuous relationships with others. It is important that the friendships we create are those that allow the participants in the relationship to grow and mature. Strive to accomplish goals that serve the common good and be a bright light to a world that is noticeably forgetting the true meaning of virtue.

[1] Machiavelli, Niccolò, The Prince 2nd ed. Norton Critical Editions, translated and edited by Robert M. Adams (New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1992), 23.

[2] Harrington, Barbara, “Aristotle on Friendship” presented at the HON 101 lecture (Azusa, CA, Azusa Pacific University, October 10, 2016).

[3] Weeks, David, “The Art of Imprudence,” presented at the HON 101 lecture (Azusa, CA, Azusa Pacific University, October 3, 2016).

[4] Ibid.

[5] Machiavelli, 46.

[6] Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, translated with an Introduction and Notes by Martin Oswald, Library of Liberal Arts (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1962), 25.

[7] Machiavelli, 46.

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John Proctor as a Man of Character: A Study of Scholarly and Critical Sources

April 4, 2019 by Essay Writer

Arthur Miller’s The Crucible was written in 1953 in conjunction with the anti-communist hysteria that had swept not only American society, but also the American justice system during the second Red Scare. Not contemporaneous to the time it was written, Miller’s play was intended to bring to light the parallels between McCarthyism in America and the gruesome higher stakes of the Salem Witch Trials; thereby challenging the rationality of congressional actions and the people’s response, but also, on a certain level, sympathizing with them. The Crucible demonstrates, above all, that doing the right thing is hard, and often requires a degree of bravery or personal sacrifice, which is exemplified in protagonist John Proctor. Proctor’s purpose in the context of the play, then, is to be in a state of development in terms of his conscience, character, and virtue, and to be able to ultimately triumph (despite the corporeal setbacks which ensue) over his personal struggles in the name of protecting justice. When considered in conversation with the thinkings of Richard Gula, Stanley Hauerwas, Aristotle and James Keenan, it becomes evident by The Crucible’s final scene that John Proctor has become a man of conscience, character, and virtue.

Richard Gula’s chapter on “Conscience” from his book Reason Informed By Faith defines the mature, moral conscience as “… the ability to make up one’s mind for oneself about what ought to be done” (124). This functions in contrast with the superego, which Gula describes as a “weapon of guilt”; a person acting out of superego is making their decisions based solely upon societal and authoritative influences for fear that they will be made to feel bad otherwise (125). The actions of the young women of Salem, led by the jealous Abigail Williams, best exemplify this kind of decision-making. Before the play begins, the girls are described as having gone to the forest to dance naked and toy with black magic; actions obviously born not out of conscience or superego, but purely for rebellion’s sake. When the authorities in the town find out about their heathenly actions, the girls feel that they must create lies in order to reallocate the blame. This makes sense for young girls (ages range amongst them, but Abby is portrayed as the oldest at seventeen) because they are morally immature. Gula describes: “As we develop through childhood, the need to be loved and approved is the basic need and drive. We fear punishment as children not for its physical pain only, but more because it represents a withdrawal of love” (125). John Proctor is seemingly one of the few people in Salem who understand the true motivations behind the girls’ actions – he never worships them like Parris, Hale, and the Judges do – as he consistently, clearly does act out of conscience (from the three – conscience, character, and virtue – Proctor seems to struggle with this the least). He, for example, attends church considerably little for a Puritan (he has gone twenty six times in seventeen months) because he doesn’t believe the way Reverend Parris runs the church is satisfactory according to his Christian values. He tells Reverend Hale in Act I, scene ii, “Since we built the church there were pewter candlesticks upon the altar… but Parris came, and for twenty week he preach nothing but golden candlesticks until he had them… when I look to heaven and see my money glaring at his elbows – it hurt my prayer…”. There is also something to be said for Proctor’s refusal in the second act tell Judge Danforth the names of anyone who may have consorted with the Devil, although this is not an immediate success for him. Gula writes, “So many confessions… are more clearly expressions of an overactive superego producing unhealthy guilt than they are the witness of an adult moral conscience renewing itself so that the moral person can serve God more lovingly and faithfully” (124). This holds true to John’s confession in the final scene that he did see the Devil. However, his refusal to name names and subsequent decision to die a good man are expressions of conscience. John Proctor’s struggle with conscience mostly pertains to the final scene of the play, and arise from the Roman Catholic tradition’s first two dimensions of conscience – synderesis (ability to identify “the good”) and moral science (discovering the good to be done and the evil to be avoided) (Gula 131). He simply cannot identify the good that he ought to do in this situation – should he save his own life so that he can continue to provide for his wife and three sons? Or should he sacrifice himself so he can continue to have a name weighted with honor? Ultimately, he does win through and make the correct moral decision, though only by the penultimate page of the play.

Stanley Hauerwas’ chapter, “Towards an Ethics of Character” from Volume 33, Issue 4 of Theological Studies, explains the concept of character as “the very reality of who we are as self-determining agents,” who consistently make distinctive and deliberate choices in order to live our lives a certain way, or according to certain values (154, 155). This is also one of John Proctor’s stronger points, because it is clearly demonstrated throughout the play that he has a reputation in Salem for being a man of honesty and integrity. References are made to his good name in the two scenes where it comes under immediate threat: in Act II, scene ii, when Proctor is telling Judge Danforth of his affair with Abigail Williams, he says of himself, “A man will not cast away his good name.” In Act II, scene iii, whilst Proctor refuses to incriminate others for interacting with the Devil, Parris says, of Proctor, “… it is a weighty name, it will strike the village that he confesses.” It is clear that his honesty is deliberate, as he establishes his belief that, “God damns all liars,” when trying to warn Mary Warren against being swayed to the immorality of Abigail’s power-hungry crusade (Act II, scene ii). All that being said, his actions do consistently reflect that he is an honorable man, as he often tells the truth when it seems particularly difficult to tell. For example, he admits blatantly to Reverend Parris that he does not respect his authority in the church. When Parris demands that there is a faction in the church conspiring against him, Proctor says: “Why, then I must find it and join it.” (Act I, scene i). In a society where the church is central to their daily life (there is no separation of church and state in Puritan culture), this is a particularly daring move, but all the same Proctor is not interested in giving Parris false praise. There are also a couple examples of Proctor’s unwavering honesty in the context of his affair with Abigail. Before the play begins, he has already told his wife, Elizabeth, about the affair, as evidenced by their conversation over supper in which he berates his wife’s apparent judgement of him, when he has only been good to her and confessed his sins otherwise (Act II, scene i). He must then again confess his infidelity to Judge Danforth, and thereby the general public, when he is attempting to discredit Abigail in court as a thoughtless young girl, motivated by her jealousy of his wife and nothing more. Of course, the most significant indicator of John Proctor’s unchanging honesty comes in the final scene of the play, when he makes the decision to rescind his insincere confession. He is aware that confessing that he truly has not seen the Devil will cost him his life, but he is also aware that if he maintains the lie, it will cost him his honor, something which he would not wish to live without.

James Keenan outlines the established cardinal virtues as well as offers a couple of his own in his “Cultivating the Cardinal Virtues.” In this text as well as in Aristotle’s “Nicomachean Ethics”, the term “virtue” is treated as being synonymous with “excellence” (Aristotle 33). The four most excellent attributes of the human person are then, according to Keenan’s summary of Aquinas: justice, temperance, fortitude, and prudence, where “prudence orders our practical reason; justice orders the will…; temperance and fortitude order the passions,” (149). Keenan’s personal contributions to the list of principal virtues are “fidelity” and “self-care”, in which we are called to act with these values as specific and unique relational beings (we are called to an original cardinal virtue – justice – as general relational beings) (150). I understand John Proctor as having specific relationships to the virtues of temperance, fortitude, fidelity, and self-care, whether those relationships are positive or negative (or developing). Firstly, it becomes extremely apparent that Proctor struggles with his temper. Through the duration of the play, he gets into fits with his wife, Abigail, Parris, Mary Warren, and the Judges. It is, of course, valid for Proctor to feel passionately about the lives of his neighbors and friends being put at stake for no discernable reason, however he also utterly fails at being proactive. As Keenan describes in his text, “Thomas [Aquinas] argued that each person ought to establish a proactive agenda. If we become what we do, then we should intend ways of acting that can shape us better into being the type of people we think we should become.” (147). While John knows in the very beginning of the play that the girls are only grasping for attention and power and have not actually seen the Devil (When he mentions that there are rumors in the town about witchcraft in Act I, scene i, Abby responds, “Oh, posh! – We were dancin’ in the woods last night, and my uncle leaped in on us. She [Betty] took fright, is all.”), he is consistently ignorant of the trials and arrests of his friends, too busy with his own marital matters; when his matters become entangled with those of the town, it’s then that he attempts to fight, but it is too late.

Contrastingly, if we are broadly defining temperance as one’s control of their irrational passions, Proctor does exercise temperance in light of his affair with Abby – he cuts her off, as he knows the rational thing to do is be patient and abide by his marital promises to his wife. This example obviously highlights John’s troubles with the virtue of fidelity as well; he has claimed that, outside of physical infidelity, he has remained emotionally faithful, but he comes to realize that he made an emotional “promise” to Abigail in their sexual relationship (Act II, scene ii). On the complete opposite hand, there is something to be said for John’s capacity for self-care in this context. At the point that he does engage in sexual acts with Abigail, his wife has been cold to him for many months on end. By fulfilling his physical needs, however contradictory to the virtue of fidelity or even his long-term emotional self-care, he is caring for himself in the short-term. The way he exercises self-care at the end of the novel is also contradictory; by turning himself over to die, he is abandoning all care of his physical self, but he knows that if he carries on living under the circumstances assigned to him, he will live only in a perpetual state of disgrace and self-contempt. Thereby, killing himself is the only way he can care for himself. Self-love is defined by Bernard of Clairvaux as, “the first step in a long process of returning to the love… of God.” (qtd. in Keenan, 140). If not a touch literal, the action Proctor takes in this moment accomplishes exactly that. Finally, much like Proctor and conscience, Proctor ultimately shows that he is fortitudinous in the play’s final scene, when he must resist his urges of self-preservation. Aristotle outlines in Nicomachean Ethics the characteristics of virtuous activity. He says, “First of all, [the agent] must know what he is doing; secondly, he must choose to act the way he does, and he must choose it for its own sake; and in the third place, the act must spring from a firm and unchangeable character.” (39). John Proctor fulfills each of these requirements in his final scene; first, Proctor very clearly grasps what he is doing – we as the audience know this because the process of him coming to his decision is written in monologue. Secondly, he is obviously choosing the act for its own sake because acting is not at all in his self-interest as a man with a desire to live, and, third, the moments of the final scene are what concretize John Proctor as an honest, honorable man; where his character is set in stone.

Elizabeth Proctor closes The Crucible with the line: “He has his goodness now”, in reference to her husband, who has made the ultimate sacrifice and has thereby absolved himself of his earlier sins in her eyes (Act II, scene iii). This line is staggeringly accurate when considered within the context of conscience, character, and virtue. While Proctor certainly struggles with all three throughout the play, it is in his final moment of sacrifice that he more clearly becomes a man who possesses all of these qualities in abundance.

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Friendship in Aristotle’s Writings

March 25, 2019 by Essay Writer

Friendship is arguably the most relevant philosophical matter expounded upon in The Nicomachean Ethics. While other virtues may not be practiced on a daily basis, friendship and the implications of such a relationship are somewhat more consistent. Living necessitates interactions and relationships with other people, and Aristotle’s view on friendship offers insight that can be incorporated into everyday life. Aristotle uses his discussion of friendship and its relation to justice to create a foundation for his argument about the function of politics, the “science of the human good,” in society (Aristotle, I, 2, 3). In light of his philosophical dissection of friendship and justice, Aristotle would support a government with a philosopher king as the head of the polis—like Plato presents—though Aristotle’s political system would focus more on the individual fostering of virtue than the creation of a perfect society.

The virtue of true friendship, as Aristotle defines it, deals with the mutually reciprocated relationship between two good people who bear goodwill towards one another for the other’s sake (VIII, 2, 144). Though Aristotle’s definition seems intuitive, a relationship must meet many qualifications in order to be considered a true friendship. Chiefly, the friendship must be virtuous. Virtue, specifically moral virtue, is a “state of character concerned with choice… this being determined by reason, and by that reason by which the man of practical wisdom would determine it,” (II, 6, 31). People perform virtuous actions for the sake of the action, aiming at happiness—the “final and self-sufficient…end of action”—and not using them as a means to obtain something else (I, 7, 10). Virtue also predisposes an individual to execute virtuous actions “at the right times, with reference to the right objects, towards the right people, with the right motive, and in the right way,” (II, 6, 30). Friendship, which is based on mutual love, is a virtue because “mutual love involves choice and choice springs from a state of character,” (VIII, 5, 148). Therefore, if a man considers himself a friend to another, then that man must make a conscious decision to partake in the activities of friendship towards the other person. Friendship, then, cultivates the actions of true friendship in a desire to fulfill the human telos, or end-goal of the human life. For this reason, friendships of utility and pleasure are not virtuous and quickly dissolve, because they exist so that each party can gain something from the other. True friendship, though, stands the test of time so long as the friends interact on a regular basis. In the case of friendship, both parties unconditionally love each other, constantly, equally, and for the sake of the other.

The differences between friendship and other traditional virtues can be seen clearly when considering friendship and temperance. Temperance is the mean between self-indulgence and insensibility, the excess and deficit states of character, while true friendship is the extreme in a sense (III, 10, 55). True friendship is not positioned on a continuum, but encompasses the inferior types of friendship, that of utility and pleasure. Because of this, a true friendship is both pleasurable and useful, but these complementing qualities are not the foundation of the relationship (VIII, 4, 147). The virtue of temperance, rather, is neither self-indulgent nor insensible, because these vices are opposing states of character. In addition, temperance does not require interaction with others, while friendship presupposes social interaction. A person can be deemed temperate if he works on the state of character within himself, but one person cannot establish friendship alone.

It seems that friendship, then, more closely resembles the virtue of justice than any of the other virtues in form and function. Both friendship and justice require a social context. There can be no friendship nor justice with a single person. Moreover, neither justice nor friendship can be exhibited towards an item or unsuspecting person; there must be a mutual recognition of justice or friendship between those involved, otherwise the virtue being shown is simply goodwill. Friendship, like justice, is a virtue for the virtuous, because it requires individuals to have virtue within themselves before they can apply it in relation to others. However, friendship, by definition, includes justice, “the actual exercise of complete virtue,” (V, 1, 81). True friends, unconditionally loving each other for the other’s sake, “have no need of justice… and the truest form of justice is thought to be a friendly quality,” (VIII, 1, 142). Because of this, legislature aims to build friendships within the polis, for when friendship is established, justice undoubtedly accompanies it.

Justice directly relates to friendship, and the two virtues “have an equal extension,” (VIII, 9, 153). The truer the friendship, the more justice is expected out of the relationship. Therefore, governments strive to foster the truest friendships in order to maintain justice to the fullest extent. Friendships exist between father and son, husband and wife, or brother and brother, but the manifestation of the friendships and the actions performed by each pair differ depending on the nature of the relationship. In the same way that different relations of friendship form, different constitutions of effective government form as well. The effective government appropriates justice “in every case according to merit, for that is true of friendship as well,” (VIII, 11, 156). Of the effective governments, three constitutions—monarchy, aristocracy, and timocracy—exist, each mirroring one of the friendly relations.

Monarchy is the type of government in which a king rules over his subjects. This king is “sufficient to himself and excels his subjects in all good things,” making him virtuous (VIII, 10, 154). His virtue and independence enable him to fully look after the interests of his subjects, and because of his virtue, the subjects trust and honor him completely. Monarchy correlates to the friendship between father and son, in which the father is “responsible for the existence of his children… for their nurture and upbringing,” (VIII, 11, 155). Through monarchy, the citizens grow in virtue and wisdom according to the direction of the king, and the king in turn receives honor and glory from his subjects. The perversion of this constitution is tyranny, in which the tyrant rules over his subjects based on his own interests, and mirrors the relationship between master and slave. In this relationship, “there is nothing common to the two parties; the slave is a living tool,” and friendship—as well as justice—must be mutually recognized (VIII, 11, 156). In a tyrannical political system, as in the master-slave relationship, no justice or friendship exist, for one cannot be friends with a tool. Because of this, Aristotle considers tyranny “the worst deviation-form,” and monarchy—as the opposite of tyranny—the best constitution (VIII, 10, 154).

In an aristocracy, a group of qualified nobility rule “in accordance to worth.” The aristocratic form of government closely resembles the husband and wife relationship, because the husband rules “in those matters in which a man should rule, but the matters that befit a woman he hands over to her,” (VIII, 10, 155). In this way, the aristocracy shares the powers with the general public, each working for the success of the polis. Aristocracy degrades into oligarchy when wealth and power, instead of virtue, determine the law. People undeserving of authority are exalted, which leads to the destruction of a functioning political system. Because of this, the amount of justice found in an oligarchy is reduced, just as the pure friendship between husband and wife can be reduced to a friendship of utility.

A timocratic government is the political form in which property owners rule “taken in turn, and on equal terms.” Equality and fairness determine the laws in this type of government, which stem from the fact that the rulers are “like in their feeling and their character,” (VIII, 11, 156). Timocracy mirrors the friendship found between brothers, for “two things that contribute greatly to friendship are a common upbringing and similarity of age,” which help the brothers develop similar beliefs and values (VIII, 12, 157). The distortion of timocracy is democracy, in which all have equal share of the ruling power. Although the legislation may not always be based on virtue, the democratic government is the least distorted version of friendship and justice, because “where the citizens are equal they have much in common,” (VIII, 11, 156).

Considering these forms of government and their corresponding forms of friendship, Aristotle would consider the philosopher king as the ideal head of government. In The Republic, Plato explains what he sees as the most pure and effective form of government: a monarchy with a philosopher king—constantly seeking truth and filled with virtue and phronesis, or practical wisdom—who determines the laws and gives them to guardians to implement and enforce (Plato, V, 473d, 153) . In Plato’s regime, the guardians are stripped of their individualism in order to more fully serve the city (VIII, 543a-c, 221). All of the citizens, except the philosopher king, would be raised believing in the noble lie, a lie intending to direct people towards virtuous action (III, 414a-415a, 94). In order for this type of government to begin, children would be taken from their parents, raised with a curriculum to foster wisdom and virtue, and a new city would be established with the children (VII, 541a, 220). Although Aristotle—from his discussions of justice and friendship—agrees with the philosopher king as a monarch, he would have a much different approach to the foundation of such a political system.

Aristotle believes that monarchy establishes the truest form of justice, because it parallels “the friendship of children to parents, and of men to gods.” The god-man relationship represents true father-son friendship, because the gods “are the causes of their being and of their nourishment, and of their education from their birth,” (Aristotle, VIII, 12, 158). The friendship between gods and men is the purest form of friendship, for gods are “above all other beings blessed and happy,” (X, 8, 197). Because the gods exemplify happiness, they are also the most virtuous and contemplative. Fittingly, the king would be a philosopher, a man whose life is also directed towards the contemplative and virtuous. The king—who has the greatest sense of virtue and justice—helps his subjects grow in virtue beginning at the establishment of the city. The subjects, based on their love and respect for the king, abide by his laws, which serve to foster virtuous action and discourage vice. Because virtue develops from habitual action, eventually, the laws will make the citizens of the city virtuous.

Aristotle does not find a noble lie or a blank slate necessary to create a virtuous city and, in fact, may view it as detrimental to the end-goal. In Plato’s system, the general public would have no true sense of virtue but would simply follow the laws established (Plato, V, 474c, 154). Though this would help the public achieve virtuous action, they would not be virtuous by Aristotle’s standards, because they lack the practical wisdom and right motivations. Additionally, Aristotle’s philosopher king would utilize, rather than destroy, the friendship between children and their parents as an extension of his virtuous laws into the household, further training children in the habits of virtue. In these ways, Aristotle would found and maintain the truest political system.

The manners in which Plato and Aristotle would form and preserve their ideal governments reflect their approaches to philosophy. While Plato in The Republic applies the rules of the polis to the human condition, Aristotle asserts that one must cultivate virtuous personal character first before a political order can be established. Because of this, Aristotle’s approach to establishing an ideal government focuses on the people, creating friendship between the ruler and his subjects first, which in turn creates justice and encourages more virtue. In Aristotle’s ideal city, the subjects actively participate in the political system and in the development of virtue, rather than blindly follow legislation. The virtue of friendship enables the foundation of a just society and the cultivation of virtuous people, and Aristotle’s ideal polis depends on the maintenance of true friendship. Friendship, then, provides the basis of Aristotle’s political philosophy, in that same way it provides the grounds for human life.

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Ancient to Modern Ethics: Aristotle and Kant on Virtue and Happiness

March 7, 2019 by Essay Writer

The following essay aims to compare Ancient versus Modern theories of ethics, particularly those of Aristotle and Immanuel Kant. The central concepts of virtue, happiness, and the human good are relevant to modern ethics, but do not play the same role as they did in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. Thus, several significant concepts separate Kant from Aristotle. While Aristotle provides an empirical account of morality, Kant’s theory is based ‘pure’ philosophy and deontology. Kant argues against many Ancient theories that do not agree with his concept of rationality and human nature. Evaluation of the concepts in the Practical Philosophy by Kant, and Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, reveal significant differences between the ancient and modern theories of ethics. Kant’s theory of moral duty and the categorical imperative suggest concepts of the goodness and virtue, which diverge from Aristotle’s account of morality.A central distinction between Ancient and Modern ethics is evident through the approach each takes to develop their theories. Aristotle’s account of morality relies on empiricism. This is based on the view that morals are acquired through experience. It also follows that morality is not an innate quality, but rather exists as a learned trait. Modern theory diverges from this approach as Kant argues empirical principles cannot be the basis for morality. This account is based on the belief that morals center on how the world should be, rather than how it is. According to Kant, principles of morality are independent from the outside world. As a result, this account of ethics involves ‘a priori’ ideas of reason, meaning they exist outside of experience. This follows from Kant’s idea that there are moral duties, which apply to all rational humans, regardless of the circumstance. Kant suggests a ‘pure’ morality, rather than empirical . Kant uses the term “metaphysics of morals” to denote a pure ethical theory. Moreover, following this view, morality is not based on what is specific to human nature.Kant provides an account of goodness, which differs greatly from that given by Aristotle, particularly in the function of happiness. According to Aristotle, the good in an action is characterized in the reason for pursuing the action. Here, it is possible to make a connection to Modern theory of morality in that Kant also believes that the value of an action relies on the underlying motivation. However, both philosophers provide a different account of which motivations qualify for moral acts. Aristotle argues happiness is the highest good, for which all other actions are pursued. Following Aristotle’s theory, human actions are good when efforts of the soul are consistent with virtue. In this view, virtue is consistent with the natural end of happiness. In contrast, Kant objects to the notion that goodness or value can be measured through its influence on happiness. Consequently, Kant’s idea of morality does not center on the good life. Rather the focus is placed on moral maxims, or the motivations behind actions. Specifically, Kant clarifies that acts are only moral when there is a moral motivation to act according to the moral law. Therefore, unlike Aristotle, Kant separates the issue of morality from the issue of Happiness.The concept of happiness changes significantly between the ancient and modern positions. Aristotle’s conception of happiness is reflected in the Ancient conception of eudemonia. Here, Aristotle defines happiness as acts of the soul that agree with virtue. It also follows that happiness is the highest human good. Perhaps most significant, Aristotle claims it is the end for all human actions and the basis for morality. Kant’s theory does not reflect this same position on happiness. Namely he challenges the Ancient conception of happiness as a basis for morality. According to Kant, the understanding of happiness is only possible through experience. Moreover, this account of happiness centers on empirical notions of physical or ethical sensations. Kant explains that empiricism cannot provide the basis for morality because the moral principle cannot be based on experience. Rather, morality is universal and obligatory. Thus, happiness is not the foundation for Kant’s ethics.In addition to the previous argument, Kant finds Aristotle’s account of happiness to be problematic for other reasons as well. Kant believes that happiness cannot be the basis for morality because the fulfilling one’s own desires may involve compromising the wellbeing of others. It follows that not everyone could be happy because not everyone would be moral. Kant also explains that many people are not aware of what would allow them to be happy, and consequently are unsure which actions would lead to happiness. Here, Kant thinks that the time allotted to determine how to be happy ultimately impedes on the ability to feel fulfilled in life. As a result, it could be argued that looking for happiness does not end in its discovery. Thus, Kant argues this further justifies why happiness cannot serve as the end of morality for rational humans. Overall, Kant’s theory does not discuss happiness to the same extent that Aristotle does, because it is not the foundation to his account of morality. While Ancient ethics understood happiness as the end of all actions, it logically served as the most prominent concept. However, for Kant, happiness takes on a different meaning. To begin, happiness is a state, rather than an activity. More specifically, happiness is the human state that occurs through complete fulfillment of will and desire. Given Kant’s definition of happiness, it is possible to recognize that the term does not signify the same idea as in Ancient understanding of eudemonia. Accordingly, it may be important to acknowledge that the degree to which these theories may be compared is limited as both terms signify separate concepts. While it is not the foundation of ethics, Kant recognizes that happiness is a natural end for humans. However, this natural pursuit of happiness does not take precedent over other ends, namely compliance with moral law. Also central to this view, morality does not focus on how one becomes happy, but rather the means to deserve happiness. Therefore, moral acts determine if someone deserves to be happy. Through this is becomes evident that Kant conceives the connection between virtue and happiness in a way than is reflected in the Ancient account. Namely, virtue relates to happiness as virtuous action to obey the moral law, contributes to the condition of worthiness to be happy. This presents a clear divergence from Ancient thought. For Aristotle, the connection exists, as virtue is a necessary component for happiness.Both Ancient and Modern theories of ethics acknowledge the existence of a Highest Good. Several similarities connect Aristotle’s notion of the Highest Good with that of Kant’s conception. To start, both philosophers view the Highest Good as an agreeable act of the souls, corresponding with virtue. Additionally, both Kant and Aristotle separate goodness into two categories. First, there is the part that involves the practice of virtue. This quality of goodness relies on human actions. The remaining portion of goodness relies on other causes. For Kant, this takes the form of happiness. Alternatively, Aristotle refers to these causes with the role of fate and external goods as related to happiness. More specifically, he believes the majority of goods that influence happiness are virtues, however, goods ascertained by fortune may also constitute a smaller contribution.From here, it is possible to acknowledge the significant divergence from Ancient theory to the modern idea of the highest good. Kant also recognizes the existence of a superior good, yet ultimately develops a different conception. Aristotle suggests there is a common agreement in the Ancient period where happiness is accepted as the highest good. Here, it is possible to acknowledge this as a reflection of the Greek culture during the Ancient period. Therefore, the change of ideas that took place between this time and the Modern period may account for the different significance of happiness that is reflected in Kant’s work. Following Aristotle’s theory, happiness is the highest good because it serves an independent end. The activity of happiness is based on rationality in agreement with virtue. Aristotle further characterizes the highest form of happiness as the activity of study, or contemplation. This is based on the idea that it is an activity with the strongest correlation to the qualities of happiness. Specifically, contemplation is a self-sufficient activity, in that study is pursued and valued for itself. Kant does not agree that contemplation should be deemed the most superior good. According to Kant, the pleasures of knowledge are at the same level as pleasures of the body. Here, the activity of study may be equated to those of physical desires and thus does not qualify as a greatest good. Kant presents an alternative understanding of the highest good. Kant suggests that although virtue is embodied in the highest good, it does not compose its entirety. Instead, the highest good is the combination of virtue and happiness. More specifically, this involves the Kant suggests that morality, referred to as the ‘supreme good’, is the primary condition of the highest good. In turn, happiness may be recognized as the secondary condition of the highest good. In this, happiness is only possible with, but also a necessary implication of morality. In addition, Kant notes that humans do not have the capacity to reach a level or complete morality. As a result, the highest good necessitates the potential for immortality of the soul. It follows that only God is capable of the highest good as a final end, as God does not experience the same limitations that arise for humans. Thus, only God would be able to manifest the totality of the highest good. Both Aristotle and Kant believe the rationality is a distinct quality of human nature. Additionally, each suggests an account of morality that relies on the human propensity for rational thought. However, reason does not play the same role in Modern theory, as it does in Ancient. For Aristotle the capacity for rational thought is what makes happiness an activity that only possible for humans. A person is only virtuous when the act is performed deliberately, and is valued in itself for the sake of its goodness. Thus, the capacity for reason is necessary to deliberate and determine which action to pursue. Kant develops a different view on how reason is related to morality. Specifically, he diverges from the Ancient position that reason is for a specific good, as is the reflected in Aristotle’s conception of happiness. Kant maintains it is human autonomy that provides the capacity for rational thought. It then follows that this rational freedom is the only justification for our actions. Consequently, Kant believes goodness is a rational concept. In this view, ends that are good are established through reason, as opposed to inclination or gratification. For Kant, the purpose of reason is to generate a will that is valued in itself. Kant argues that the Good Will is the only possible thing that may be valued in itself. According to Kant, possession of the Good Will makes a person deserving of happiness. The Good Will is the only thing in the world that is “good without limitation”. It has a fundamental goodness that exists regardless of positive or negative outcomes. Kant also argues the Good Will is valued in itself. The basis of deontology in Kant’s morality is reflected in this account of the Good Will. According to Kant, There are particular responsibilities of the Good Will, which are known as duties. Kant explains qualities that characterize the significance of duty. First, good actions are pursued for the purpose of duty alone. The moral worth of acts is measured by the underlying motivation for the action. Furthermore, duty follows as a required action that is consistent with a law. Kant argues there is a Moral Law that is absolute and applies to all situations. It is not possible to determine absolute moral laws on the basis of experience because experience involves specific contexts. Thus, the moral Law exists a priori. It also follows that acts are only moral when they are morally motivated and consistent with Moral Law. Kant characterizes the Moral Law as a Categorical Imperative. The Categorical Imperative necessitates actions for the sake of the act itself. This may be distinguished from Aristotle’s concept of happiness, which reflects the hypothetical Imperative. This obliges actions in given situations, relative to a particular context. The action is necessary in order to serve another end. The hypothetical imperative is evident in Aristotle’s Ethics, as all actions are believed to serve the end of happiness. Kant does not share this position and alternatively argues for the Categorical Imperative instead. According to Kant, there is only one categorical imperative. Specifically, Kant refers to the imperative to act in a way that you would want the motivating standard to be a universal law. Kant explains that the principle of morality represented by the categorical imperative corresponds with three particular qualities. First, as previously stated, the principle takes on a universal form. In this it does not vary between context, but remains a fixed law outside of experience. Second, maxims within the moral law have an end that is an end in itself. This means that the motivation for a moral act is the valued for itself. Third, under the principle of morality, the maxims of all actions are consistent with what Kant refers to as ‘the Kingdom of Ends’. Kant suggests that there is a Kingdom of Ends that consists of the totality of goodness. In this Kingdom, all rational beings reach a level of completeness. The Kingdom of Ends represents the totality of virtue and happiness, which is equally experienced by all. According to Kant, this becomes the end goal for all people as well as for the world. Here, it is also possible to understand how Aristotle’s use of teleology is undermined in Kant’s theory of morality. Teleology denotes the belief that final causes exist in human nature. Here it is possible to note how Kant’s view of a Kingdom of Ends stands in opposition to a teleological approach. While individual freedom and rationality remain significant determinants of morality, both Ancient and Modern theories also account for the influence of others. In this, Kant and Aristotle maintain different positions regarding the role of others interests when determining correct actions. Kant’s theory of the Categorical Imperative reflects an important consideration for others interests. Specifically, the basis of morality becomes the mutual and equivalent reason among all people. According to the Categorical Imperative maxims are to reflect what could be a universal law. Here, the interests of others are considered insofar as the Moral Law commands actions, which could be accepted with all people at a universal level. Aristotle takes a separate approach to incorporate the interests of others. Aristotle’s ethics accept that virtue requires the non-instrumental consideration for others. Moreover, this is also understood as a necessary factor within human goodness. Also related to the significance of others, Aristotle and Kant each discuss the importance of friendship. Aristotle connects the capacity for friendship with the theory of virtue. After separating different forms of friendships, he argues those based on goodness are lasting and most valuable. In what he recognizes as a complete friendship, both friends want goodness for each other. In this type of friendship, both people have similar virtues, and value the other person in themselves rather than as a means to some other pleasure. Aristotle maintains it is part of human nature to coexist and live with others. In this, friendship is a natural good, and can be recognized as a prerequisite for happiness.Kant also recognizes friendship as a component of morality. However, in contrast to Aristotle’s understanding, Kant’s conception of friendship reflects the significant of deontology. For Kant, friendship is characterized by mutual adoration and admiration between people. In this view, friendship is based on the will of oneself, but also that of the other person. As a result, the shared bond contributes to duty through means of learning to understand another’s perspective. Here, Kant makes a distinction between personal duty and the duty of others. On one side, personal duty advances the morality for the individual. Alternatively, Kant believes our duty to others involves the intention to aid their quest for happiness. In Kant’s theory, the categorical imperative and moral duty are perhaps most fundamental to the account of virtue. Consequently, Kant’s account of the moral law suggests a concept of virtue that greatly differs from the position held by Aristotle. Here, there are several qualities, which separate these two accounts. According to Aristotle, virtue is a state, which supplies goodness to something. One significant difference is evident as Ancient theory incorporates emotions into the concept of virtue. In this, Human emotions are trained to become consistent with awareness of what is necessary for virtue. This relates to the Ancient view that virtues are developed through habit of repeated acts of virtue. Specifically, the virtue exists when these habitual actions are chosen for their goodness. Kant disagrees with the notion of virtue as an acquired habit. Following Kant’s theory, people have freedom to embrace maxims that are consistent with the moral law. This it follows that the development of virtue as a habit would take away this element of freedom.Another central aspect to Aristotle’s position on virtue is the Doctrine of the Means. This states that character virtues exist as a balance between the extremes of too much of too little of a given trait. Kant also objects to this position. Following Aristotle’s account of the doctrine of means, virtues exist as a balance between extremes, which are understood to be vices. Kant disagrees with this conception and argues that virtues do not exist on a continuum whereby lack or excess that same virtue becomes a vice. In this, he maintains it is not possible to differentiate based on the degree of compliance with moral law. Consequently, Kant develops a different understanding of vice. For Kant, vice is not reduced to a lack of virtue. The lack of virtues occurs through weak or inadequate pursuit of duty, but still maintaining a commitment to morality. Alternatively, vice involves the motivation to act against moral law. More specifically, vice exists as a deliberate divergence from duty and morality.It is evident through Kant’s account of virtue that the meaning of this idea is different in the modern context. Kant differentiates virtue as the ‘disposition’ to follow duty due to reverence for the moral law. This disposition refers to a character that conforms to moral law. Kant also characterizes virtue as a form of strength. In this, virtue involves strength of self-control to act in accordance with duty. Within this same account, virtue also implies a struggle to obey duty rather than follow the desires of human nature. Kant also highlights a conflict, which is involved in the disposition of virtue. In this, the character is in conflict to obey duty as opposed to follow the inclinations of human nature. According to Kant, virtue is challenged by the innate presence of ‘radical evil’ in humans. This evil is a susceptibility to prioritize personal desires over the moral law. For Kant it follows that virtue implies a struggle to overcome the temptations brought on through the radical evil, and thus necessitates strength to follow duty. Here, it may be significant to note that Aristotle’s theory does not reflect this same account of confliction and struggle involved in virtue. This may illustrate a central divergence from the Ancient account of virtue. Human autonomy is also significant to Kant’s account of virtue. For Kant, virtue is based on the internal freedom to choose ones actions. More specifically, virtues convey and support internal freedom. This quality may be evident in Kant’s notions that struggle and conflict that are manifested in virtues. Here, the presence of confliction presupposes that humans have the free will to choose actions that resist temptation to follow the moral law. For Kant, virtue is not equivalent to the good will. However, the good will is a necessary quality to establish virtue. Thus Kant establishes the connection between these concepts in that to be virtuous, one must possess a good will. At the same time, the good will is manifested or expressed, through virtue.Despite several similarities that connect Modern theory to Aristotle’s ethics, it may be argued that Kant’s account does not present a continuation of Ancient thought. Kant’s Practical Philosophy may reflect discussion of the same topics discussed in Nicomachean Ethics, such as the highest good, happiness, or friendship, yet ultimately he takes a significantly different position in all these areas. Here, It seems difficult to understand a primary point of divergence whereby Kant’s account separated so greatly from the Ancient theory. The Modern rejection of empiricism immediately entails a divergence from Aristotle’s approach to Ethics. Perhaps the most fundamental distinction centers on Kant’s approach of deontology. Kant asserts the validity of the Categorical Imperative as a sole, universal law of morality, which thus stands in opposition to the principles of virtue and happiness set forth by Aristotle. While Aristotle supports the notion of a moral life that is consistent to virtue, Kant argues the happiness we all desire is in conflict with the pursuit of morality. Ultimately, many of the Ancient positions do not conform to Kant’s rational approach and previous Ancient ideas are traded for those consistent with deontology and the moral law. SourcesAristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. Ed. by Terence Irwin. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Pub., 1999.Denis, Lara. “Kant’s Conception of Virtue.” The Cambridge Companion to Kant and Modern Philosophy. By Paul Guyer. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2006.Engstrom, Stephen P. “Happiness and the Highest Good in Aristotle and Kant.” Aristotle, Kant, and the Stoics: Rethinking Happiness and Duty. By Stephen Engstrom and Jennifer Whiting. New York: Cambridge UP, 1996.Hughes, Julie L. “The Role of Happiness in Kant’s Ethics.” Aporia 14.1 (2004): 61-72.Korsgaard, Christine M. “Aristotle and Kant on the Source of Value.” Ethics 96.3 (1986): 486.Kant, Immanuel. The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant. Ed. Mary J. Gregor. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ., 1996.Sherman, Nancy. Making a Necessity of Virtue: Aristotle and Kant on Virtue. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1997.

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Comparison of Aristotle’s and Machiavelli’s Philosophies

February 22, 2019 by Essay Writer

The conflict between the ideal and the reality has long been the center of the debate in the history of political philosophy. Many famous philosophers have constructed an imaginary world upon which their entire theories are based. They believe an ideal model of the state, which serves as the final goal of human society, can guide people on a correct way to achieve the goal. Therefore investigation of this final goal is more important than any other topic. However, there are still some thinkers, such as Machiavelli, who doubt the feasibility of such ideal states. They believe that without developing reliable methods of achieving the goal from our daily experience, the end is unattainable and thus useless. Practical methodology, rather than the ideal model, is what we can control and experiment on. It is interesting to compare different roads that Aristotle and Machiavelli undertake to achieve what they believe is the most important thing through their political thoughts.Among these practical thinkers, Machiavelli has the greatest influence on later generations. He believes that people do not follow philosophers’ prescriptive instructions on what they should do, but act according to their own interests. He says in The Prince that “the gap between how people actually behave and how they ought to behave is so great that anyone who ignores everyday reality in order to live up to an ideal will soon discover he has been taught how to destroy himself, not how to preserve himself” (48). This quote arises from his belief that men in nature are selfish and strive only for their own interest. Life is a process of pursuing one’s own desires; once one stops pursuing, his life comes to an end. He bitterly satirizes men’s nature that “men are quicker to forget the death of their father than the loss of their inheritance” (52). People will not forget the wrongs they suffered from you even when you are doing good to them (38). Men are less nervous of offending someone who makes himself lovable, than someone who makes himself frightening (52). He thinks that what people want is, on the condition that they are safe, to preserve their own property and acquire more things that people “are ungrateful, fickle, deceptive and deceiving, avoiders of danger, eager to gain” (52). Machiavelli concludes that men’s desire for power and property is infinite, while actual power and property are limited by natural conditions; therefore, people are always in a condition of competition. To some extent, individual interest is the highest value in the society he lived; everything other than the end interest of his extreme individualism is meaningless. Machiavelli’s political philosophy and policies are all based on the premise that men in nature are selfish and wicked. This view also lays one of the foundations of Hobbes’ philosophy system that the right of nature is “the liberty each man hath, to use his own power, as he will himself, for the preservation of his own nature” (Chap XIV, 1) and the state of nature is the state of war.In contrast to Machiavelli’s theory of human nature, Aristotle states “a human being is by nature a political animal” (1253a2-3), meaning an animal with an innate propensity to develop complex communities. He also thinks “a human being is more of a political animal than a bee” (1253a8-9) because they are naturally equipped for life in a type of community that is itself “more quintessentially political” than a beehive, namely, a household or city-state (Politics, xlviii). What enables human beings to live in such communities is the ability for rational speech, which is peculiar to human beings. For rational speech “is for making clear what is beneficial or harmful, and hence also what is just or unjust… and it is community in these that makes a household and a city-state” (1253a16-7). Also in The Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle suggests that the defining character of human beings is rationality, as he states “the function of man is an activity of soul which follows or implies a rational principle” (1098a2-4). As a political animal, man thrives in his rationality—most fully in the making of laws and traditions, which means sacrifice one’s own interest to help others. Aristotle points out that people naturally form a city-state in order to achieve self-sufficiency and live well. In a community, individuals must care about others and sometime even lay down his own rights for the good of the community. It is rationality that tells one to make such altruistic sacrifice since one knows he depends on the community. This sacrifice, which arises from self interest and develops beyond self interest, forms the most primitive and innate goodness of human nature in Aristotelian theory.It is worth noting that Machiavelli thinks that the power of rulers is given by election of his subjects, and later becomes hereditary. There is no divine right of kings. He gets rid of Augustine and Aquinas’ political theory of divine power, expelling the Catholic philosophy out of the regime of politics. He applies his theory of human nature to find out the natural order of states through rational deduction and empirical evidence. Throughout The Prince, he uses over 78 different examples to prove his political theory, ranging from Carthage to Turkey, from ancient Greece to modern Italy, from small military leader to Roman Emperors. Moreover, in each of his claims, he starts from analysis to certain situation and develops his theory by applying psychoanalysis. Sometimes he even applies game theory when discussing the behavior of two opposing sides, due to his assumption that people act on their own interest and care about their preservation. When he talks about why rulers do not need to fear assassination of their conspirators, he applies game theory to the issue of whether a conspirator’s associate should betray him and whether the people will turn on him even if the conspiracy succeeds. He abandons the incomplete induction and harangue without logic of Aquinas and Augustine in favor of strictly scientific process of reasoning. This is one of the reasons why Machiavelli’s theory is so popular.Behind the difference of Aristotle and Machiavelli’s human nature theory lies a more fundamental conflict. Machiavelli’s political philosophy is based on his own experience of affairs, concerned to set forth the means to assigned ends. He believes that we should be concerned more about the means rather than ends, since it is futile to pursue a political purpose by methods that are bound to fail; “if the end is held good, we must choose means adequate to its achievement” (Russell, 510). Moreover, the question of means can be treated in a purely scientific manner, with little regard to the goodness or badness of the ends. In Chapter Seven of The Prince, Machiavelli describes in detail how Cesare Borgia comes to power and carefully examines every step that Cesare Borgia has undertaken. From the passage, we can tell Machiavelli acknowledge that the Duke is bloody and harsh, but he still praises him unrestrainedly that he “cannot think of any better example [he] could offer a new ruler than that of [Cesare Borgia’s] actions” (22). It must be supposed that Machiavelli’s admiration of Cesare Borgia was only for his skill, not for his purposes. The stories of Agathocles and Oliverotto also exemplify Machiavelli’s admiration of skillful means to acquire power, though he regards their means as “wicked actions” (27). Machiavelli feels that as long as the end is justified, one can choose whatever means to achieve the goal. On the other hand, whatever means that can help achieve the end are justified. He comments on political conspiracy and violence positively and proves any means, however ferocious, brutal and wicked, can be used to acquire and preserve power. He depicts the pope Alexander VI thusly “now look at how this honorable pope pays his debts: he simply cancelled them all” (37) and suggests that nobody thinks the pope’s action is despicable. He also shows that ruling is a kind of art and that in order to unite Italy, one has to rely on power to overcome the obstacles.As a teleologist, Aristotle was concerned more about ends instead of means. Politics begins by pointing out the importance of city-state, the highest kind of community aimed at the highest good. To him, every form of community and government aims for some good. Aristotle in Book III Chapter Nine claims: “households and families live well as a community whose end is a complete and self-sufficient life” (1280b33-4) and “the city-state must be concerned with virtue” (1280b6-7). Aristotle further shows the end of virtue in Book VII Chapter Eight that “happiness is the best thing, however, and it is some sort of activation or complete exercise of virtue” (1328a36-7). Happiness, or eudaimonia, is regarded by Aristotle as “final and self-sufficient, and is the end of action” in The Nicomachean Ethics (1097b20-1) and politics is the science of the good for man to achieve eudaimonia as in Politics, “the greatest and best good is the end of the science or craft that has the most authority of all of them, and this is the science of statesmanship; but the political good is justice, and justice is the common benefit” (1282b14-7). It’s not hard to see that Aristotle’s politics for virtue has several meanings. First, in ethics, politics is the science to attain happiness for the majority, which is opposite to violent and evil rule Machiavelli suggests. Next, in ideal, politics strives for justice, which is the sole measure of the government, rather than the acquisition of power for Machiavelli.In addition, Machiavelli believes situationalism, which is opposed to Aristotle’s theory of moral character. Machiavelli thinks that people react to situations where they find they are in, rather than to some internal state. He is always prudent not to give general conclusions, but to discuss each possible situation and analyze its outcome. When talking about how to avoid hatred and contempt, he divides the situations into whether one is a new ruler or has inherited power, whether the soldiers are more stronger or the populace, and whether one has a large territory or not. He is careful that political policies are determined by many factors and one should “adapt himself to changing circumstances” (75). However, Aristotle thinks people’s actions are not random. People habituate themselves and become virtuous by doing virtuous actions, as in The Nicomachean Ethics, he says “to virtue belongs virtuous activity” (1098b31-2). Thus he believes it is people’s moral character that determines their behavior rather than inconstant external situations.Nevertheless, the two great philosophers hold something in common, partly because Machiavelli, especially his Discourses, was largely influenced by Aristotle. First, their methodologies are both scientific and concerned with reasoning. Second, Machiavelli seems to agree upon some ends that are worth pursuing—national independence, security, and a well-ordered constitution. The two things, love of skill and patriotic desire for Italian unity, existed side by side in his mind, which can be seen from the final exhortation to unite Italy in The Prince.Aristotle also differs from his teacher Plato in that he is more concerned with the feasibility of a political theory. In Politics, he emphasizes that “what is the best constitution, and what is the best life for most city-states and most human beings, judging not by a kind of education that requires natural gifts and resources that depend on luck, nor by the ideal constitution, but by a life that most people can share and a constitution in which most city-states can participate” (1295a25-30). This is totally different from Plato’s utopia designed for “philosophy kings”. In this sense, Aristotle can be called the founder of practical and realistic political philosophy and a critical heir of his teacher’s rational and idealistic political philosophy.Having examined all these similarities and differences of the two philosophers, it is time to discuss the question raised in the beginning of this essay about whether political philosophy should care more about reality or ideal models. Aristotle and Machiavelli’s divergence on the ends or the means also derives from this question. In Machiavelli’s view, the means pave the road towards the end and its consequences are foreseeable. However, since we can only conduct thought experiment on the ideal model of states, we cannot apply scientific methodology to examine its correctness; thus it is rather risky to follow the guide of an ideal model. Therefore he gradually neglects the transcendental moral requirements behind the political theory and emphasizes the procedural justice of government, rather than substantial justice, cutting off the relationship between politics and ethics. This moral indifference leads astray modern politics into pettiness. In this sense, it is essential to recover the transcendental role of virtue in politics. To Aristotle, only the concept of virtue can give a republic substantial justice in addition to procedural justice and free individual human rights from the political interests. Compared to Machiavelli, Aristotle’s political philosophy is between ideal and reality. His political ideal was quite at one with Plato’s in setting up an ethical purpose as the chief end of the city-state, but Aristotle suggests that the ideal need be embodied in practice to be valid. He is trying to reconcile the discrepancy between ideal and reality in order to find a political philosophy that can truly guide the Greeks.It is surprising to see Aristotle and Machiavelli have developed different paths of their philosophy noticing that Renaissance Italy is so much like the classical Greece both with warring principalities and cities. Thus the Greek philosophers owe their theoretical education to the wars of petty states just as Machiavelli learned his lesson in the ceaseless conflicts among the five States of Italy and foreign powers. Among the many reasons Machiavelli and Aristotle differ in their political philosophy while sharing similar political environment, the most important one is due to the influence of the Renaissance. With the diminishing authority of the Church, and the increasing authority of science, Machiavelli’s scientific and empirical political philosophy earns its fame. In Machiavelli’s time, there was a growing cynicism, which makes men forgive anything if it pays money to them. The Italian Renaissance awakens the bright side of humanity as well as the dark side as “people tend to become unscrupulous egoists” (Sabine 321). “Admiration of skill, and of the actions that lead to fame, was very great at the time of the Renaissance” (Russell, 507). The universal egoism of that period resulted in Machiavelli’s moral indifference. Works Cited:Machiavelli, The Prince, Hackett, 1995Aristotle, Politics, Hackett, 1998Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics, Oxford, 1998Hobbes, Leviathan, Oxford, 1996Sabine & Thorson, A History of Political Theory, Dryden Press, 1973Russell, A History of Western Philosophy, Simon & Schuster, 1972

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Influences on Aristotle’s Rhetoric by Plato and Isocrates

February 13, 2019 by Essay Writer

What does it mean to be human? We are “decision-making creatures capable of overruling [their] own instincts.” It naturally follows that those tools which enable humans to exhibit these unique characteristics are the most essential to human existence and evolution. For thousands of years, Rhetoric has proved to be this ubiquitous tool. Rhetoric is a device by which humans can explore and explain the otherwise unexplainable and persuade others of the subsequently derived probabilities, all the while integrating emotion and psychology into the process. No other art, science, or communicative tool can match the intellectual potential inherent to rhetoric. Aristotle’s work Rhetoric, titled after the exclusive nature of its content, explicates the enigmatic definition of rhetoric in the first book of the three-part series, and suggests ways to employ rhetoric for any conceivable end in the second and third parts. In his opening chapter, Aristotle defines rhetoric as the ability to “see the persuasive and the apparently persuasive” in any case. Proceeding from this definition, Aristotle explains the means of persuasion, the importance of projected character in persuasion, and the importance of understanding and incorporating the desired end in any case involving persuasion. While the Greek philosopher, Pericles, lived nearly a century before Aristotle published Rhetoric, one the elder’s works, “Funeral Oration,” functions almost flawlessly as a model for Aristotle’s theory of rhetoric. Aristotle’s emphasis on pathos and ethos as highly useful means of persuasion as well as his prescription for effective epideictic rhetoric seem to be written following the precise form of “Funeral Oration.” Whether one influenced another is irrelevant; the greater significance lies in the irrefutable, tremendous impact each work imparted on the future of rhetoric. Aristotle’s theory of rhetoric, while unique and original in its own right, is rooted in a history of frequent exploration and dissertation on the same topic. Rhetoric existed long before Aristotle divulged its dense content. In fact, humans have relied on rhetoric since the birth of communication as a way to express not only their needs, but their needs fused with their feelings and emotions. As human communication and society became more sophisticated, rhetoric developed accordingly. In ancient Greece for example, society developed in such a way that discourse became the way of business in society and politics. In this society, “social and political contexts emerged that molded speech into certain conventional forms shaped by the psychology and expectation of audiences.” As the need for rhetoric in ancient Greek society immediately became evident, many philosophers offered their theories. Plato (427-347 BCE) discussed rhetoric in several of his works, including Apology and Gorgias. In Apology, Plato describes rhetoric as dangerous and implicitly deceptive and dishonest. In his protagonists’ opening statement of defense to the judge and jury, Socrates notes that rhetoric employed by his accusers was, while impressively eloquent, not truthful. Plato elaborates on his theory that rhetoric is merely a tool by which any trained or naturally intelligent person can trick any other person. To Plato, rhetoric is a device used for evil and vice. He goes on to suggest that rhetoric masks the truth with flowery language, literary devices, manipulative emotional appeal, and deceptive psychological implications. Plato seems to believe that intellectual discourse sans emotion was more productive of the truth than rhetoric, which naturally incorporated emotion, could ever prove to be. Similarly, in Gorgias, Plato again warns about the dangers of rhetoric; however, in Gorgias, Plato acknowledges the astounding amount of power in the mastery and correct implementation of rhetoric. In Gorgias, when a student of rhetoric inquires about the scope of its power, the teacher responds thgat rhetoric “embraces…all the other arts!” He goes on to say, “the rhetorician is capable of speaking against everyone else and on any subject . . . in such a way that he can win over vast multitudes to anything, in a word, that he may desire.” Plato’s character recognizes the power of rhetoric and allows its use with the stipulation that “one should . . . make use of rhetoric in the same way as one does of every other sort of proficiency . . . This, one should not employ against any and everybody.” Thus, Plato views rhetoric itself as morally neutral; rhetoric’s potential for evil lies in the intent of the rhetorician. However, on the basis that rhetoric does offer such potential for evil, it should be uses minimally and with extreme discretion on the parts of both the orator and the audience. Perhaps Plato’s cautious approach to rhetoric could be explained by his limited usage of it. Plato only discussed rhetoric’s place in judicial affairs. Plato’s belief that rhetoric masked the facts was based on the presumption that “the facts” were the desired end. He did not consider other situations in which rhetoric could be useful, such as deliberation and encomium. Plato’s limited view of rhetoric influenced Aristotle’s theory to an extent; however, Aristotle expanded greatly on Plato’s theory. The views of other philosophers, such as Isocrates, also contributed to Aristotle’s more moderate view of the tool’s potential. Isocrates (436-338 BCE) had a divergent theory of rhetoric. Isocrates taught rhetoric with the intention of producing noble civic leaders. To Isocrates, “Rhetoric…was a powerful tool for investigating [immediate practical] problems–where only probable, not certain, knowledge was available” Isocrates advocates obtaining knowledge of rhetoric for the purpose of creating a functioning society operated by honest, virtuous statesmen who would use their knowledge of rhetoric for the advancement of mankind as a whole. He expresses this belief when he says “we should not be able to live with one another” without persuasion and self-expression. Isocrates perceives the sphere of influence constructed through rhetoric in a much more optimistic way that Plato. This optimism is derived from Isocrates’ confidence that men would use it for ethical, noble purposes. In one of his many theses, Isocrates states “The man who wishes to persuade people will not be negligent as to the matter of the character… [He] will apply himself above all to establish a most honorable name amongst his fellow citizens.” Also dissimilar to Plato’s theory of rhetoric was Isocrates’ use of artistic modes of language, such as his extensive use of similes and metaphors and even incorporation of audible rhythm that worked in conjunction with the tone or meaning of his work Also, Isocrates wrote about the systematic construction of a speech. He specifies that a speech must “have a head (introduction), torso (substantial argument), and feet (conclusion).” As a contemporary of both Plato and Isocrates, Aristotle had the unique opportunity to learn from both men and construct his own theory of rhetoric incorporating selected elements of each philosopher’s theory. For example, Aristotle clearly borrowed from Plato his theory that rhetoric is morally neutral. In his theory, Aristotle emphasizes the duality of every situation. Aristotle notes that rhetoric, unlike any other art, “reasons in opposite directions” and is “equally concerned in opposite directions.” In other words, rhetoric has the potential to serve opposite sides of a single situation with equal proficiency. It was out of this truth that Plato found reason for concern. However, Aristotle was not so concerned about the potential misuse of rhetoric. Aristotle dealt quite a bit more with the nature of rhetoric as opposed to the nature of the rhetorician. To Aristotle, as long as a person understood the available means of persuasion in rhetoric, he or she could identify the evil in it and thus not be vulnerable to deception. For example, in a case in which a person is tricked through rhetoric used for evil, Aristotle believed it was a success on the part of the rhetorician at employing the various techniques outlined in Rhetoric and a failure on the part of the audience at not fully comprehending rhetoric. Isocrates’ theory of rhetoric lent more to Aristotle’s theory than Plato’s likely did. While Plato limited rhetoric to the court room, Aristotle expanded it to all realms of life. Like Isocrates, Aristotle discussed the various parts of a speech including a clear statement of the subject and a subsequent demonstration of it. Also like Isocrates, Aristotle strongly advocated any available language devices to appeal to a wide variety of audiences. For example, Aristotle advises rhetoricians to supplant euphemisms for offensive words in order to keep the audience content. He says, “[when praising] one should always take each of the attendant terms in the best sense; for example, [one should call] an irascible and excitable person “straightforward” and an arrogant person “high-minded.” Plato would have likely thought this to be deceptive, while Isocrates would have likely thought it to be clever. Aristotle’s theory of rhetoric incorporated many ideas from the previous theories, but it also introduced new and insightful ideas that seem to be more plausible and certainly more applicable to contemporary rhetoric. Works CitedAristotle. Aristotle on Rhetoric. Trans. George A. Kennedy. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991. Horwitz, Linda. Lecture. Western Rhetorical Tradition. Lake Forest College, Lake Forest IL 19. Oct & 2. Nov. 2005.“Isocrates.” Packet for Communications 250, edited by Linda Horwitz. Pp. 67Plato. Apology. Trans. Benjamin Jewett. Provided by: Linda Horwitz, Lake Forest College, 2005. 

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Nicomachean Ethics
Aristotle's ethics, or study of character, is built around the premise that people should achieve an excellent character (a virtuous character, "ethikē aretē" in Greek) as a pre-condition for attaining happiness or well-being (eudaimonia). › wiki › Aristotelian_ethics
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the cardinal virtues
The cardinal virtues are four virtues of mind and character in both classical philosophy and Christian theology. They are prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. They form a virtue theory of ethics. › wiki › Cardinal_virtues
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normative ethics
normative ethics, that branch of moral philosophy, or ethics, concerned with criteria of what is morally right and wrong. It includes the formulation of moral rules that have direct implications for what human actions, institutions, and ways of life should be like. › topic › normative-ethics
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golden mean
The golden mean or golden middle way is the desirable middle between two extremes, one of excess and the other of deficiency. › wiki › Golden_mean_(philosophy)
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Answer: The Nicomachean Ethics

The Nicomachean Ethics
Aristotle's ethics, or study of character, is built around the premise that people should achieve an excellent character (a virtuous character, "ethikē aretē" in Greek) as a pre-condition for attaining happiness or well-being (eudaimonia). › wiki › Aristotelian_ethics
is the name normally given to Aristotle's best-known work on ethics. The work, which plays a pre-eminent role in defining Aristotelian ethics, consists of ten books, originally separate scrolls, and is understood to be based on notes from his lectures at the Lyceum.

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Aristotle stated that we can reach minor states of happiness through money, power, or fame, but eudaimonia (ultimate happiness) can only be reached though the practice of virtue. There are two kinds of virtues that he recognises, intellectual and moral.

What is Nicomachean Ethics and give example? ›

One of the most famous aspects of the Ethics is Aristotle's doctrine that virtue exists as a mean state between the vicious extremes of excess and deficiency. For example, the virtuous mean of courage stands between the vices of rashness and cowardice, which represent excess and deficiency respectively.

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Aristotle directly addresses and thematizes the concept of “the good life” in his Nicomachean Ethics

Nicomachean Ethics
Aristotle's ethics, or study of character, is built around the premise that people should achieve an excellent character (a virtuous character, "ethikē aretē" in Greek) as a pre-condition for attaining happiness or well-being (eudaimonia). › wiki › Aristotelian_ethics
, wherein it is suggested that the best possible life for a human being is one that is lived in accordance with a human being's natural function, that is, logos.

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