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Unformatted text preview: Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics Book II Chapter 1 There is intellectual virtue and moral virtue. The first owes its development to teaching, the second to habit, ethos, and so is called ethics. No moral virtue is implanted by nature: nature cannot be changed by habit. Nature gives us the ability to receive virtues. Unlike the senses, we acquire the virtues by first putting them in action. This is also true for the arts. A harpist becomes one by playing the harp. We become just by practicing just actions. [Terpsichore playing the harp.] A lawgiver makes the citizens good by producing good habits in them. [Athenian lawmaker: Pericles] But you can also become bad at something if your do it badly and it becomes a habit. That's why instructors are needed. "Characteristics develop from corresponding activities." So it makes a big difference what habits are inculcated in children. Chapter 2 Method in the Practical Sciences This study is not intended to gain theoretical knowledge: our goal is not to know what virtue is but to become good. Since actions determine what characteristics are developed we should examine them. We'll assume that we should act according to right reason. Any discussion of action will lack precision: we should only demand the amount of precision that a subject allows. As for particular actions, the agent should consider on each occasion what the situation demands. Note that moral qualities are destroyed by defect or by excess, as in strength and health (too much or too little food.) Selfcontrol and courage are examples. There is a feedback loop here. By abstaining from pleasures we become selfcontrolled, and by becoming selfcontrolled we are able to abstain from pleasures. Chapter 3 Pleasure and Pain as the Test of Virtue If you enjoy abstaining from bodily pleasures then you are selfcontrolled. Pleasure makes us do bad things, pain prevents us from doing good things. So, as Plato says, children should be brought up to feel pain and pleasure in the proper things. Chapter 4 Virtuous Action and Virtue Someone might argue that if you perform just actions then you are already just, but doing the just thing in a just way requires a skill, just as in literature. Unlike the arts, however, in the virtues the agent must know what he is doing, choose to act in this way for its own sake, and this must come from his character. Knowledge and argumentation of little importance here! For the mastery of the virtues knowledge is of little importance. [contrast to Plato] [Continuation of criticism of Plato?] "most men do not perform such acts, but by taking refuge in argument they think they are engaged in philosophy and that they will become good in this way." They are like sick men who listen to a doctor but do not do what he says. Chapter 5 Virtue Defined, part 1, the genus There are three things in the soul: emotions (appetite, anger, whatever is followed by pleasure or pain), capacities (what enables us to feel the emotion) characteristics (the condition in which we are in relation to the emotions, if our anger is moderate then the condition is good). The virtues and vices cannot be emotions: we are not praised or blamed based on our emotions, and no choice is involved when we experience emotion. The virtues cannot be capacities, since these are given by nature, and we do not develop into being good or bad men by nature. So they must be characteristics. Chapter 6 Virtue Defined, part II Every virtue makes that of which it is a virtue good, and causes it to function well. Every science perfects its work by looking for the mean, since excess and deficiency harm. We can experience fear, confidence, desire, and the other emotions too much or too little, or properly. Aristotle's great definition of virtue "to experience all of this at the right time, toward the right objects, toward the right people, for the right reason, and in the right manner that is the median and the best course, the course that is the mark of virtue." 1106b20 ...
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