Discuss, by reference to Aristotle’s Nichomachan

Discuss, by mention to Aristotle ‘s Nicomachean moralss, the chief characteristics of an aretaic ( virtue-based ) history of ethical motives.

The Nicomachean Ethical motives, by Aristotle, is a virtue-based, or aretaic, history of ethical motives. We must account for the significance of aretaic, which in the supporting literature has been the beginning of some confusion, to be certain of what Aristotle meant. Aretaic is a word of Greek origin approximately interpreting to virtue. Aristotle contrasts to frailty and gives a tabular array of matching virtuousnesss and frailties, which provides a orderly mention by which to clear up the confusing modern-day utilizations of aretaic.

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Byrne ( 1999 ) tries to trisect moral doctrine into a system that distinguishes ethical motives from moral theory and moral doctrine by doing mention to historical ancestors:

“Granted that there is some function for moral theory in the procedure of moral idea, we can ( following Dent 1984, pp. 31 – 34 ) separate three types of moral theory in the history of moral doctrine: consequentialist, deontological and aretaic.”( Byrne, 1999, pp. 37 – 38 ) .

Dent does no such thing inMoral Psychology of the Virtues, although he does exhibit a singular dependance on the impression of procedure ( Dent 1984 ) . Byrne’s trisection of the history of moral doctrine into consequentialist, deontological and aretaic excludes the possibility that aretaic might hold a broader significance that includes teleological. Crisp and Slote, on the other manus, steadfastly concatenation the significance of aretaic with modern virtuousness moralss, but he does non advert ethical motives, alternatively concentrating on semantic connexions between moralss and aretaic:

“It is characteristic of modern virtuousness moralss that it puts primary accent on aretaic or virtue-centred constructs instead than deontic or obligation-centred concepts.”( Crisp and Slote 1997, p. 3 )

With all this confusion in the modern-day literature about the constructs behind the word aretaic, we must return to the original Aristotelean significance, from theNicomachean Ethical motives. Aristotle lists virtuousnesss in resistance to frailties, giving a finite grouping of intending around virtuousness and aretaic, enabling us to discourse his intervention of moralss. The list is courage ( andreia ) , moderation ( sophrosune ) , liberalness ( eleutheriotes ) , impressiveness ( megalopsuchia ) , proper aspiration, forbearance ( praotes ) , truthfulness ( aletheia ) , humor ( eutrapelia ) , friendliness ( affection ) , modesty ( aidos ) , righteous outrage ( Nemesis ) . Each of these is to be applied, harmonizing to Aristotle, in a peculiar domain of action or feeling, such as fright and assurance, pleasance and hurting, acquiring and disbursement, honor and dishonor, choler, self-expression, conversation, societal behavior, shame and outrage ; and two of these domains are major or minor, viz. acquiring and disbursement, and honor and dishonor ( Aristotle, 1976, p. 104, translated by J. A. K. Thomson ) . Aretaic is the mean of each of these domains, whereas the frailty is either an extra or lack of action or feeling.

With such a long list of virtuousnesss, we must concentrate on the construct of mean, measuring what it signifies for Aristotle. It is non the same the arithmetic mean, although we would make good to utilize this as a starting point, in our treatment of Aristotle. The mean, or mesotron, literally ‘the middle’ :

I call average in relation to thethingwhatever is equidistant from the extremes, which is one and the same for everybody ; but I call average in relation tousthat which is neither inordinate nor lacking, and this isnonone and the same for all.( Aristotle, 1976, p. 100, translated by J. A. K. Thomson ) .

Again we have the thought that extra or lack is frailty, or the antonym of virtuousness, nevertheless it is besides related to us as beingnonone and the same for all ; for each of us virtue is different.

Now that we are clear that an aretaic history of ethical motives is different for each individual, it is possible to discourse the chief characteristics of Aristotelean virtuousness. Hutchinson follows the same method ( Hutchinson 1986 ) .The Virtues of Aristotledoes good to recognize that Aristotle’s aretaic virtuousnesss are really much linked to Aristotle’s linguistic communication, specifying aretaic clearly, and using the significance of the word systematically.

Having therefore defined aretaic we are able to discourse theNicomachean Ethical motivesin greater deepness. Aristotle wrote the work in the 4th century B.C. and its building has had a considerable consequence over the centuries, so that even reading the book for the first clip, we are slightly familiar with its thoughts. Its building is unsystematic, divided into 10, get downing with “The Object of Life” .

“The Object of Life” , Aristotle claims, is happiness, but he asks what felicity is. “If we consider what the map of adult male is, we find that felicity is a virtuous activity of the soul.” ( Aristotle 1976, p. 53 ) The chief feature of a happy life, hence, is aretaic activity. To be aretaic, Aristotle is stating, is the object of life.

He argues that his position of felicity is supported by popular beliefs, which we must understand as popular to his epoch and his vicinity, but we need non concentrate on a historical reading of felicity. For us it is sufficient is that Aristotle suggests ways that we can be aretaic, such as by the survey of felicity, or wellbeing. ( Aristotle 1976, p. 80 ) The survey of wellbeing can either be praised as a agency or valued as an terminal.

In the 2nd chapter, on Moral Goodness, “moral virtuousnesss, like trades, are acquired by pattern and habituation.” ( Aristotle 1976, p. 54 ) This follows Aristotle’s belief that moralss should be a practical scientific discipline and that virtuousnesss are exercised in the same sorts of action that gave rise to them. The felicity that actions cause may function as an index of moral advancement, since Acts of the Apostless that are by the way virtuous must be distinguished from those that are done “knowingly, of pick, and from a virtuous disposition.” ( Aristotle 1976 p. 54 ) . The definition of virtuousness depends on our determination to what category or genus it belongs, because it is a temperament, non a feeling or a module. Aristotle asks what virtue’s differentia are. He answers that the philosophy of the mean confirms that virtuousness enables its human owner to map good, measure uping his definition by stating that some feelings are basically evil. Therefore the philosophy of the mean must be applied to peculiar virtuousnesss and to sum up the chapter, three practical regulations for good behavior are given. First, to “keep off from that extreme which is more contrary to the mean” ; 2nd, “we must detect the mistakes into which we ourselves are apt to fall” ; 3rd, “in every state of affairs one must guard particularly against pleasance and pleasant things, because we are non impartial Judgess of pleasure.” ( Aristotle 1976, p. 109 )

Moral Responsibility, the 3rd chapter, is two virtuousnesss. Aristotle distinguishes between actions that are voluntary, nonvoluntary or non-voluntary Actions that we initiate ourselves, whether they are good or bad, are voluntary. Byrne links voluntariness with bondage, saying that even if bondage was chosen, we would still hold room, in malice of the deficiency of pick we would hold as a slave, to reason that a life of bondage is incorrect ( Byrne 1999, p. 140 ) . Aristotle states that moral behavior implies pick, which must be distinguished from desire, pique, wish and sentiment. Even so, virtuousness will be no more voluntary than frailty. ( Aristotle 1976, pp. 54 – 55 ) Once holding defined the virtuousness of non-voluntariness, and frailty versa, since pick involves deliberation, which is about agencies, non ends, Aristotle discusses the two virtuousnesss of moral duty one by one ; foremost, bravery ( andreia ) , the right attitude towards feelings of fright and assurance ; 2nd, moderation ( sophrosune ) , or self-denial.

The staying virtuousnesss from Aristotle’s list are discussed in the 4th chapter, Other Moral Virtues. The 3rd virtuousness is liberalness ( eleutheriotes ) , which is the right attitude towards money. Fourth is impressiveness ( megalopsuchia ) . Fifth is munificence, at which point Aristotle no longer adheres to his list of virtuousnesss, because this is a virtuousness which has non been discussed before. Magnanimity is “a proper appraisal of one’s ain worth in relation to the highest honours” ( Aristotle 1976, p. 56 ) and is opposed to the frailties of pusillanimousness and amour propre. It is related to proper aspiration. Sixth is forbearance ( praotes ) , the right temperament towards choler, which Aristotle claims is difficult to specify exactly. An surplus of forbearance is short temper ( orgilotes ) and a lack is deficiency of spirit ( aorgesia ) . The concluding four virtuousnesss in this chapter are friendliness ( affection ) , truthfulness ( aletheia ) , humor ( eutrapelia ) and modesty ( aidos ) . Omitted from the original list has been righteous outrage ( Nemesis ) . Nevertheless, all of these should be considered as societal, to be practised in company.

The 5th chapter ofNicomachean Ethical motives, Justice is something of a going from an aretaic history of the chief features of ethical motives, traveling off from an just history towards a more elitist and universalist virtuousness. Justice in the sense of lawful is “complete virtue” ( Aristotle 1976, p. 56 ) , whereas unfair agencies either lawless or unjust, but non just. Crisp and Slote argue that a “moral system’s ain thought that morality can non be capable to luck connects with and is motivated by a deeper concern that life, or at least what is most of import in life, should non be capable to luck, but instead should becarnivalormerely.” ( Crisp and Slote 1997, p. 6 ) Such resistance by Crisp and Slote to Aristotle’s definition of justness is mitigated by Aristotle’s aside on equity, which shows Aristotle’s preoccupation with justness as a legal term, non a moral one ( Aristotle 1976, p. 57 ) .

Intellectual Virtues marks the midway in theNicomachean Ethical motives. Aristotle asks “what is the right rule that should modulate behavior? ” In order to reply his inquiry, the rational virtuousnesss are divided into brooding and calculating. Both purpose at truth, but “the calculating module purposes at truth as justly desired by the exercising of choice.” ( Aristotle 1976, p.57 ) We must understand the importance of pick as a feature of an aretaic history of ethical motives, hence, since pick is a map of the calculating module. G. E. Anscombe argues that the term moral, in the modern sense, merely does non suit into an history of Aristotelean moralss because of Aristotle’s rational virtuousnesss. This begs the inquiry, “Have some of what he calls ‘intellectual’ virtuousnesss whatweshould name a ‘moral’ facet? ” ( Anscombe, in Crisp and Slote, 1997, p. 26 ) We shall name what Aristotle calls the rational virtuousnesss: episteme, techne, phronesis, nous, sophia, euboulia, sunesis, dwarf, and deinotes.

The concluding chapters mark a fresh start in Aristotle’s treatment of virtuousness, with a treatment of normally held positions about frailties, the antonym of virtuousnesss, of which there were three features to be avoided, frailty ( kakia ) , incontinency ( akrasia ) and brutishness ( theriotes ) . ( Aristotle 1976, p. 226 ) Having therefore defined frailty ( kakia ) theNicomachean Ethical motiveshas come full circle from its definition of virtuousness. The balance of the book covers few of the features of an aretaic history of ethical motives, therefore we will non concern ourselves with it, alternatively turning to some modern virtue-based histories of ethical motives.

Michael Slote defines aretaic as in resistance to deontic:

An agent-based attack to virtue moralss treats the moral or ethical position of Acts of the Apostless as wholly derivative from independent and cardinal aretaic ( as opposed to deontic ) ethical word pictures of motivations, character traits, or persons, and such agent-basing is arguably non to be found in Aristotle, at least on one sort of standard reading.( Crisp and Slote 1997, p. 239 )

Although this concurs to some grade with Byrne and Dent, as noted above it is much more modern significance of aretaic than either of them employ, because it does non trust on historical significances. Slote’s modernness is proven, if cogent evidence is needed, by his agent-based attack to virtue moralss.

Slote distinguishes between agent-based and agent-focused, once more with mention to Aristotle’sNicomachean Ethical motives,whose aretaic moralss are agent-focused instead than agent-based. He goes on to state,

We must separate between a virtue-ethical theory like Aristotle’s ( as normally interpreted ) , which focuses more on virtuous persons and single traits than on actions and is therefore in some sense agent-focused, from agent-based positions, which, unlike Aristotle, treat the moral or ethical position of actions as wholly derivative from independent and cardinal ethical/aretaic facts ( or claims ) about the motivations, temperaments or interior life of the persons who perform them.( Crisp and Slote 1997, p. 240 )

Associating aretaic with action, Slote’s definition of the primary feature of a virtue-based history of ethical motives becomes ethical, because the virtuous agent must move in order to be moral. In other words, every agent who acts is ethical because they act, but the actions in themselves may non be virtuous.

Jonathan Barnes says that any work of moral doctrine “is apt to incorporate opinions of two different kinds. [ … ] It will offer advice on moral affairs [ and ] it will incorporate adversions on what is sometimes called the ‘logic’ of moral discourse.” ( Barnes 1976, p.19 ) In a virtue-based history of ethical motives we can state that the opinions made by moral philosophers about those aretaic histories is adversive and offers advice. The adversions on the histories must be a portion of moral doctrine without, nevertheless, needfully being virtue-based ; though it would be sufficient for them to be so.

We must return to the treatment of justness and its relation to virtue in Aristotle’s history. Aristotelean justness is closely linked to the thought of wellbeing, or felicity, because it is possible to make justness and wellbeing to oneself. It is moreover possible to make their antonyms to oneself, unfairness and sadness, in a metaphorical and analogical sense. ( Aristotle 1976, p. 202 ) Happiness is an rational activity, non a practical activity, whilst moral activity is secondary felicity. ( Aristotle 1976, p. 60 ) . In chapter 10, subdivision seven, entitled “Happiness and Contemplation” Aristotle provinces:

If felicity is an activity in conformity with virtuousness, it is sensible to presume that it is in conformity with the highest virtuousness, and this will be the virtuousness of the best portion of us.( Aristotle 1976, p. 328 ) .

In order to prosecute rational activity we must hold leisure, which in bend relies on justness to supply the peace and quiet for our felicity and virtuousness, for without justness our practical and rational activities can non be done in a virtuous moral province. ( Aristotle 1976, p. 57 ) Justice can be either distributive or rectificatory: “distributive justness employs geometrical proportion and rectificatory justness redresss an unjust division between two parties by agencies of a kind of arithmetical progression.” ( Aristotle 1976, p. 56 ) This differentiation suggests a mathematical relationship to the philosophy of the mean, which is nevertheless rather false and deserving discussing at length with a citation from book five, ‘Particular justness is either distributive or rectificatory’ :

One sort of peculiar justness, and of that which is merely in the corresponding sense, is that which is shown in the distribution of honor or money or such other assets as are divisible among the members of the community ( for in these instances it is possible for one individual to hold either an equal or an unequal portion with another ) ; and another sort which rectifies the conditions of a dealing. This latter sort has two parts, because some minutess are voluntary and others involuntary.[ 1 ]Voluntary minutess are, e.g. , merchandising, purchasing, loaning at involvement, plighting, imparting without involvement, lodging, and allowing ( these are called voluntary because the initial phase of the dealing is voluntary ) . Involuntary minutess are either secret, such as larceny, criminal conversation, toxic condition, procuring, temptation of slaves, killing by stealing, and attesting falsely ; or violent, e.g. assault, physical parturiency, slaying, robbery, maiming, calumny, and public abuse.( Aristotle 1976, pp. 176 – 177 )

The ground for this long list is that it is a list of what Aristotle respects as virtuous and barbarous Acts of the Apostless. What we are besides provided with is an penetration into the importance of free-will for Aristotle’s aretaic history of ethical motives, because without free-will the Acts of the Apostless Aristotle speaks could non be voluntary or nonvoluntary. Virtuous Acts of the Apostless are voluntary and barbarous Acts of the Apostless are nonvoluntary. Free-will must be the chief characteristic of virtue-based histories of ethical motives.

Another characteristic of virtue-based histories is that it requires friendship: “for it is a sort of virtuousness, or implies virtue, and it besides most necessary for living.” ( Aristotle 1976, p. 258 ) There are, harmonizing to Aristotle, three sorts of friendly relationship: friendly relationship based on public-service corporation, friendly relationship based on pleasance ; and friendship based on goodness, which is perfect friendly relationship. “And friendly relationship in the primary and proper sense is between good work forces in virtuousness of their goodness, whereas the remainder are friendships merely by analogy.” ( Aristotle 1976, p. 265 ) Aristotle’s accent on friendly relationship in theNicomachean Ethical motivesis amazing – he dedicates two chapters, eight and nine, to friendship. The latter of these is an analysis of the evidences of friendly relationship.

It is clearly better to pass one’s clip in the company of friends and good work forces than in that of aliens and people of unsure character. It follows, hence, that the happy adult male needs friends.( Aristotle 1976, p. 304 )

The word aretaic is derived from arete, or agathos, intending either goodness, excellence, virtuousness or efficiency. Arguing in favor of virtuousness moralss, Bernard Williams, disagrees with Aristotle that efficiency is one of the characteristics of aretaic histories of morality that makes it superior:

Once once more, the other constructs of morality can non assist us. They can merely promote the thought, which ever has its greedy friends, that when these semblances have gone there can be no consistent thoughts of societal justness, but merely efficiency, or power, or uncorrected fortune.( Williams, in Crisp and Slote 1997, p. 65 )

Alisdair Macintyre, in his articleThe Nature of the Virtues, discusses the significance of arete at considerable length, concentrating on the interlingual rendition issue:

…perhaps we ought non to interpret the word arete in Homer by our word ‘virtue’ , but alternatively by our word ‘excellence’ ; and possibly, if we were so to interpret it, the seemingly surprising difference between Homer and ourselves would at first sight have been removed. [ … ] For we would now look to be stating that Homer’s construct of an arete, an excellence, is one thing and that our construct of virtuousness is rather another, since a peculiar quality can be an excellence in Homer’s eyes, but non a virtuousness in ours andfrailty versa. ( Macintyre, in Crisp and Slote 1997, p. 119 )

Iris Murdoch argues that goodness is the chief characteristic of virtuousness moralss. For illustration inThe sovereignty of Good over other constructs,she argues that arete is goodness:

Goodness is connected with the credence of existent decease and existent opportunity and existent transcience and merely against the background of this credence [ … ] can we understand the full extent of what virtuousness is like.( Murdoch, in Crisp and Slote 1997, p. 117 )

Philippa Foot discusses the semantics of arete and goodness in the debut to her article,Virtues and Frailties, in which she provides us with a brief history of moral doctrine:

For many old ages the topic of virtuousnesss and frailties was queerly neglected by moralists working within the field of analytic doctrine. The tacitly recognized sentiment was that a survey of the subject would organize no portion of the cardinal work of moralss. [ … ] During the past few decennaries several philosophers have turned their attending to the topic.

In decision we can state that, for Aristotle, the chief characteristics of aretaic ( virtue-based ) history of ethical motives, with mention to theNicomachean Ethical motives, are free-will and friendly relationship. There is considerable difference in the literature, nevertheless, in modern virtue-based moralss, of what arete means. The assorted interlingual renditions range from virtuousness, goodness, excellence and efficiency. Which of these options one chooses to interpret from Aristotle has considerable consequence on an history of ethical motives.


Aristotle,The Ethical motives, 1976. Translated by J. A. K. Thomson, Penguin Classics, London.

Barnes, Jonathan, 1976.Introduction, in Aristotle,The Ethical motives. Translated by J. A. K. Thonson, Penguin Classics, London.

Byrne, Peter, 1999.The Philosophical and Theological Foundations of Ethical motives: an Introduction to Moral Theory and its Relation to Religious Belief, 2neodymiumedition, Macmillan Press, London.

Crisp, Roger and Michael Slote ( editors ) , 1997.Virtue Ethical motives, Oxford Readings in Philosophy, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Dent, J. M. , 1984.Moral Psychology of the Virtues, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Foot, P. , 1997.Virtues and Frailties,inVirtue Ethical motives,edited by Roger Crisp and Michael Slote, Oxford Readings in Philosophy, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Hutchinson, D. S, 1986.The Virtues of Aristotle,Routledge and Kegan Paul Books, London.

Macintyre, A. , 1997.The Nature of the Virtues,inVirtue Ethical motives,edited by Roger Crisp and Michael Slote, Oxford Readings in Philosophy, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Murdoch, I. , 1997.The Sovereignty of Good over other Concepts, inVirtue Ethical motives,edited by Roger Crisp and Michael Slote, Oxford Readings in Philosophy, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Williams, B. , 1997.The Nature of the Virtues, inVirtue Ethical motives,edited by Roger Crisp and Michael Slote, Oxford Readings in Philosophy, Oxford University Press, Oxford.


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