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Chapter 7: Ethics Morality as Virtue: Aristotle

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Title: Chapter 7: Ethics Morality as Virtue: Aristotle


1
Chapter 7 EthicsMorality as Virtue Aristotle
  • Introducing Philosophy, 10th edition
  • Robert C. Solomon, Kathleen Higgins, and Clancy
    Martin

2
Virtue
  • Aristotles conception of virtue is based on the
    idea that man is a rational being
  • Thus, for Aristotle, virtue is a rational
    activity activity in accordance with a rational
    principle

3
Aristotle (384-322 B.C.E.)
  • One of the greatest Western philosophers, born in
    northern Greece (Stagira) father was the
    physician to Philip, king of Macedonia
  • Was to tutor Philips son, Alexander the Great
  • For eighteen years he was a student in Platos
    Academy, where he learned and parted from Platos
    views
  • Turned to the study of biology many of his
    theories ruled Western science until the
    Renaissance
  • Was with Alexander until 335 B.C.E., when he
    returned to Athens to set up his own school, the
    Lyceum

4
  • After Alexanders death, the anti-Macedonian
    sentiment in Athens forced Aristotle to flee
  • Virtually created the sciences of logic and
    linguistics, developed extravagant theories in
    physics and astronomy, and made significant
    contributions to metaphysics, ethics, politics,
    and aesthetics
  • Metaphysics is still a basic text on the subject
  • Nicomachean Ethics codified ancient Greek
    morality stresses individual virtue and
    excellence

5
  • The best life of all is the life of
    contemplation, the life of a philosopher, for it
    is the most self-contained and the closest to
    the gods
  • Such contemplation must be together with the
    pleasures of life, honor, wealth, and virtuous
    action

6
Happiness
  • Every act is for the sake of something else. But
    because there can be no infinite regress, there
    must be an end. What is the natural end that is
    the natural good for man? Aristotle claims that
    it is happiness
  • Happiness is what men desire for its own sake and
    is the natural good for man. Happiness, for
    Aristotle, is living according to rationality,
    the exercise of our most vital faculties

7
Reason
  • The good for man is that which is natural to
    him. What is natural to man is his rationality.
    But action according to rational principles is
    what Aristotle thinks virtue is
  • Thus, happiness is an activity of the soul in
    accordance with perfect virtue

8
Society
  • Virtue is a social conception and not limited to
    just the individual. Many of Aristotles virtues
    have much to do with ones role in society.
    Happiness, therefore, also has social dimensions
  • Aristotles conception of happiness (eudaimonia)
    is different than the modern conception.
    Happiness is more like living well or
    flourishing

9
Two Kinds of Virtue
  • The practical or moral virtues and the
    intellectual virtues
  • Moral virtues come to virtuous people
    naturally in other words, virtuous people have
    virtue built into their characters

10
The Golden Mean
  • Virtue as a mean between two extremes
  • Not the same as moderation
  • Examples
  • Courage is the mean between cowardice and
    rashness
  • Temperance is the mean between self-indulgence
    and insensitivity
  • Magnificence is the mean between vulgarity and
    miserliness
  • Pride is the mean between humility and vanity
  • Wittiness is the mean between buffoonery and
    boorishness

11
Morality and Sentiment Hume and Rousseau
  • Hume reason is and ought to be the slave of the
    passions
  • Reason can assist in acquiring our desires but
    not in determining our desires
  • Cannot derive ought from is

12
  • Rousseau consciencea powerful moral feeling
  • Problems
  • When in disagreement, what standard adjudicates?
  • In agreement, how can we know we are correct?
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