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Aristotle Virtue Ethics:. Happiness and the Good Life. Aristotle (384-322). Virtue: arete , excellence Eudaimonia : Happiness, human flourishing, the good life. Teleology: Purpose, final cause, everything has a final cause. The Nature of Ethical Thought.

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aristotle virtue ethics

Aristotle Virtue Ethics:

Happiness and the Good Life

aristotle 384 322
Aristotle (384-322)
  • Virtue: arete, excellence
  • Eudaimonia: Happiness, human flourishing, the good life.
  • Teleology: Purpose, final cause, everything has a final cause.
the nature of ethical thought
The Nature of Ethical Thought
  • Aristotle claims that each discipline (mathematics, physics, ethics, etc.) has its own method.
  • Moreover, the precision with which we can establish conclusions in each discipline is different.
  • For instance, in mathematics we use deduction and this method allows us to obtain very precise, definite, and necessary conclusions.
  • The method of ethics allows for only probable conclusions, but this is not to be taken as a flaw or a deficiency, because that is simply its nature.
precision necessary vs probable
Precision: Necessary vs. Probable
  • Precision or accuracy in statements should reflect the precision or accuracy permitted by the subject matter the statement is about.
  • “Now things that are noble and just (with which Politics deals) are so various and so uncertain, that some think these are merely conventional and not by natural directions. There is a similar uncertainty also about what is good, because good things often do people harm … Our subject, then, and our data being of this nature, we must be content if we can indicate the truth roughly and in outline … probable conclusions.” Aristotle
the purpose of things
The purpose of things
  • Aristotle believed that the essence or nature of all natural things entailed a purpose or end.
  • Similar to the way that artificial things have a purpose, natural things have a natural purpose.
what is the purpose of human beings
What is the purpose of human beings?
  • To determine the purpose of human beings, we need to determine Human beings’ ultimate end.
  • If there is some end for which all other ends is a means, and it is NOT a means for anything further, then it must be an end in itself.
  • That is, this end must be one we choose for NO other reason than itself.
  • It is always an END and NEVER a MEANS.
we should know this end
We should know this end.
  • It seems prudent if there is such an end that we come to know it so that we can act in the most effective and efficient way toward achieving it.
  • Like an archer, she would want to know in which direction the definite mark is.
ultimate end of human beings
Ultimate End of Human Beings
  • HAPPINESS: to live well and do well.
  • Human Flourishing
the function of things
The Function of things?
  • The function of a thing is the natural behavior that the thing manifests through its nature and essence.
  • The function of a thing is what the thing does best or what it was “meant” to do.
  • The function of a steak knife is to cut steaks.
  • The function of a butter knife is to spread butter on bread (or similar tasks).
the function of humans
The Function of Humans?
  • Do humans have a function or purpose?
  • The eye has a purpose, a function.
  • Other parts of the human body also have a purpose or function.
  • “So we must suppose that man also has a some function over and above all these.”
  • The hand and foot have a function and purpose.
  • What do humans do well? What do they do best?
  • The function of a thing is determined by its nature (its essence).
human being s nature
Human Being’s Nature
  • Life humans have in common with all living creatures.
  • Life of nutrition and growth humans also have in common with plants and animals.
  • Life of the senses humans have in common with animals.
  • What humans have that they do not share with plants and animals is the life of thought (concepts, communication, reasoning, language, etc.) …“the life of rational nature.”
what is happiness
What is Happiness?
  • Is happiness found in the life of enjoyment or pleasure, or is happiness found in a life of reason?
  • Aristotle argues that happiness is found in the life of reason.
  • He refers to this as the “contemplative life.”
why is happiness and virtue connect to reason
Why is happiness and virtue connect to reason?
  • Aristotle claimed that virtue was excellence.
  • Excellence was living and doing things in accordance with one’s nature.
  • Because the nature and function of human beings is to reason, the faculty of reason is what is most special about humans.
  • Then acting rationally or acting in accordance with reason is acting virtuously.
reason and the golden mean
Reason and the Golden Mean
  • If to act excellently and virtuously is to act in accordance with rationality, then one should act in all things prudently.
  • The person that is guided by reason will always act moderately, avoiding extremes, given the particular context and situation she is in.
the golden mean
The Golden Mean
  • The prudent and virtuous person will avoid being a coward but will also avoid being rash. He will be courageous.
  • The prudent and virtuous person will avoid being a bore and will avoid being a buffoon. He will be witty.
  • The prudent and virtuous person will avoid being too angry or not angry enough. She will know how much anger is right for the particular transgression and to whom to direct the anger.
virtue excellence
Virtue – Excellence
  • The good of humans is their exercise of their faculties in accordance with excellence or virtue.
  • This he must due consistently and over time and not just in a few isolated instances.
happiness eudaimonia
Happiness- Eudaimonia
  • A kind of excellence
  • Excellence in disposition and acts that are excellent.
  • She who loves excellence and virtue will receive pleasure from acting virtuously or excellently.
  • “Their life, then does not need pleasure to be added to it as an appendage, but contains pleasure in itself.”
to be good is to desire good and take pleasure in doing good
To be good is to desire good and take pleasure in doing good.
  • To be good, it is necessary to take pleasure in noble deeds.
  • To be just you must desire to do just things and take pleasure in doing just things.
  • To be called generous you must desire to be generous and take pleasure in acting generously.
happiness and goodness
Happiness and Goodness
  • Happiness and Goodness are inseparable!
happiness and external goods
Happiness and External Goods
  • Happiness also requires external goods.
  • A certain amount of good fortune can also help one’s happiness.
  • Health, wealth, friends, good birth, good children, etc.
  • “for a man is not very likely happy if he is very ugly in person.”
  • Intellectual Virtue: Prudence (to reason well).
  • Moral Virtue: Temperance, Justice, and Fortitude.
moral virtue
Moral Virtue
  • Moral virtue is taught
  • One learns to be just by doing just things.
  • We acquire moral virtues by habit.
  • Moral virtue is a State of Character
  • States of character arise out of activities, i.e., what you say and do.
  • A virtuous (or excellent state of character) will allow a person to act in an excellent fashion
what is it to act well
What is it to act well?
  • One acts well when one avoids extremes, so that virtue is a kind of Mean.
  • “…fear and confidence and appetite and anger and pity and in general pleasure and pain may be felt both too much and too little, and both cases not well; but to feel them at the right times, with reference to the right objects, towards the right people, with the right motive, and in the right way is what is intermediate and best, and this is characteristic of virtue.”