Aristotle’s Ethical Views in His Work “Nicomachean Ethics”

Free «Aristotle's Ethical Views in His Work Nicomachean Ethics» Essay Sample

Aristotle’s ethical theory was characterized by the development of logical analysis, the unity of the method of rational comprehension of problems and empirical evidence, as well as the social orientation of ethical reflection (the relationship of ethics and politics) and the practical significance of the theory of morality. All the above mentioned provided the thinker with opportunity not only to maximize the benefits of the ethical tradition, but also to overcome the possible deficiencies in the understanding of ethics.

Aristotle’s work Nicomachean Ethics reveals that the philosopher considered ethics to be a special, rather practical science of morality, the main purpose of which was to learn how to become a virtuous and thus a happy man. According to Aristotle, this particular science should help a person to realize the main aims of their life activity and to solve the question of the possibility of education in the state of virtuous citizens. The main feature of Aristotle’s ethical views was the idea that one can be happy only when one aspires to comply with the measure in their desires and demonstrate such virtues as modesty, kindness, generosity, etc.

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Paying tribute to the previous ethical tradition, Aristotle recognized happiness as the highest self-sufficient good and made a significant contribution into interpretation of this concept by introducing many innovative aspects of this study. What is more, he supported the opinion that happiness is a special state of satisfaction derived from perfect and virtuous activity in particular. Noting the unity of morality and happiness, Aristotle emphasized that achieving the state of the highest satisfaction with life directly depends on the deeds of human activity. Among numerous conditions that lead to happiness, the moral and intellectual improvement, the presence of external benefits, active citizenship, and friendship are of a great significance.

Aristotle emphasized, that the concept of happiness is precisely related to the human virtues, since he was inclined to believe that only a virtuous man is able to be happy. Thus, virtue is the main condition for people’s acquisition of happiness. For this reason, the philosopher paid particular attention to the above mentioned notion and its features. To be precise, in contrast to Plato, Aristotle denied the innate virtues, which gave him the opportunity to raise the problem of moral education. Virtue is associated with socially relevant action and the concept of it can be applied to the praiseworthy properties of the soul acquired as a result of human education. Virtue has a normative character, i.e., it is not given by nature, but rather should be nurtured. In this regard, Aristotle used the notion of a habit with the meaning of something that is being learned in the course of human life, and characterized it by a stable nature. Aristotle’s ethical ideas also took into account the fact that a person combines both the intellect and emotions that ultimately impacts the formation of different virtues.

Since morality is based on reason and will, Aristotle distinguished two types of virtues, namely those related to a reasonable part of the soul, including wisdom, practicality, ingenuity, etc., and those based on human ethics, such as courage, temperance, generosity, sociability, justice, truth, and others. In Book 1, he wrote that “virtue too is distinguished into kinds in accordance with this difference; … some of the virtues are intellectual and others moral, philosophic wisdom and understanding and practical wisdom being intellectual, liberality and temperance moral” (Aristotle, 350 B.C./2009, n.pag.). Aristotle also provided a specific approach to the definition of the measure of a virtue, expressing the idea that every virtue is in the middle between the two extremes, for example, courage is in the middle between cowardice and insane courage.

Aristotle paid special attention to the notion of friendship, since it is considered to be exceptionally important in the social life of people. In Book 8 of the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle argues that “the nature of the types of friendship differs in species” (Aristotle, 350 B.C./2009, n.pag.). He bases his argument upon two controversial premises: a) friendship is a mutual feeling between people; b) every person is able to be a friend for someone else for the sake of utility, pleasure or friendship itself (that is for the good). In general, evaluating the various virtues, Aristotle took into account the peculiarities of the human soul.

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The philosopher believed that moral virtues arise as a result of interaction between rational and irrational parts of the soul, at the same time supposing that the irrational part is also involved in the virtues. He mentioned, that virtue is the ability to act well in every situation that regards pleasure and pain, while viciousness is its opposition. Addictions and affects constitute the subject and the matter of these virtues, while the mind is the beginning of their control. Defining the virtue as a middle ground with respect to the two extremes, Aristotle stated, that in order to be virtuous, the action must be deliberately balanced. Ethical virtues begin when one not simply pursuits their own pleasure, but when the voice of the reason becomes the guide for their behavior and actions.

The practical value of the ethics of Aristotle is undeniable. Indeed, my personal experience has shown that every individual should strive to comply with the measure in their behavior. Greed or waste, aggression or indifference, excessive boastfulness or excessive stiffness cannot make people happy, but on the contrary, are the sources of many difficulties and problems. The man who seeks to exorbitant wealth forgets that wealth cannot bring true happiness. People are more likely to find it in something that is permanent. Money, fame and luxury are not permanent things and one whose thoughts are only with them is deeply unhappy person.


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