Nicomachean_Ethics

Nicomachean_Ethics - Nicomachean Ethics - Aristotle Book 2:...

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Nicomachean Ethics - Aristotle Book 2: Moral virtue Moral virtues are close to what we would call virtues today. Aristotle lists the following as moral virtues : courage, temperance (moderation), liberality (moderation in giving and taking money), magnificence (correctly dealing with great wealth or power), pride (claiming what is due to you), gentleness (moderation with respect to anger), agreeableness, truthfulness, and wit. Shame is also given some attention, although Aristotle specifically states that shame is not a virtue. The Golden Mean Aristotle’s doctrine of the mean consists of three pillars that work together to form a complete account. First, there is a sort of equilibrium that the good person is in. This is related to a medical idea that a healthy person is in a balanced state. For example, one’s body temperature is neither too high nor too low. Related to ethics, one’s character does not go to extremes. For example, one does not overreact to situations, but rather keeps his composure. Equilibrium is the right feelings at the right time about the right things, toward the right people, for the right end, and in the right way. The second pillar states that the mean we should strive for is relative to us. The intermediate of an object is unchanging; if twelve is excess and four is deficiency, then roughly eight is the intermediate in that object. Aristotle proposes something different for finding an intermediate relative to oneself. Aristotle’s ethics are not a one-size-fits-all system; what he is looking for is the mean that is good for a particular individual. For example, watering a small plant with a gallon of water is excessive but watering a tree with a gallon of water is deficient. This is because different plants have different needs for water intake and if the requirements for each plant are not met, the plant will die from root rot (excess) or dehydration (deficiency). The third pillar is that each virtue falls between two vices. Virtue is like the mean because it is the intermediate between two vices. On this model a triad is formed with one vice on either end (excess or deficiency) and the virtue as the intermediate. If one’s character is too near either vice, then the person will incur blame but if one’s character is near the intermediate, the person deserves praise. Proper participation in each of these three pillars is necessary for a person to lead a virtuous and therefore happy life. As stated in the inscription at the temple at the Oracle at Delphi, a person should do nothing to excess. The inscription should have also included the words, "find the mean." Temperance is the virtue that is the mean in order to control emotions, courage is the mean when seeking honor, and wisdom is the mean when seeking knowledge. A general must seek to find courage, the mean between cowardice and foolhardiness, in
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This note was uploaded on 03/07/2008 for the course PHIL 137g taught by Professor Lloyd during the Fall '07 term at USC.

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Nicomachean_Ethics - Nicomachean Ethics - Aristotle Book 2:...

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