Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics

Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics

Aristotles Nicomachean Ethics The good = what all things aim at We study Ethics, not merely to know, but to attain the good & to live good lives The Good for Man = Eudaimonia complete, sufficient a fulfilling human life human ergon = think on/lead a good life = a teleological ethics Defn = rational activity with virtue focused on the goal =

how to make my life good/fulfilling? Major Claims Ethics = quest for the good The good = happiness-in-rational activity Possible to attain in a life of virtuous activities together with friends Contrasting ethical theories Ancient: Relativism Universalism Command theories

Divine Command Polis laws Hedonism Eudaimonist Socrates?/Stoics: virtue alone = happiness Callicles: dominance = virtue = happiness Modern Relativism Existentialism (authenticity-ethics) Universalism Deontology (Kant: categorical imperative) Utilitarianism (Mill: the greater good)

Contrasting Ethical Claims KANTIANS Categorical Imperative Universal Moral Rules Possible conflict bet. Moral duty vs. Happiness Virtue = means to Duty, not ends UTILITARIANS Utility /Greatest Good = Highest ethical principle Good = pleasure or greatest happiness Conflict bet. personal happiness vs. greater good (including others) ARISTOTELIANS: vs. KANTIANS Ethics = ideal way of life, not principles of action C.I. does not work Justice = constitutive of happiness

Self-fulfillment in virtue, even in e.g. war vs. UTILITARIANS Pleasure = subjective aspect of good Good is happiness, not pleasure Self-sacrifice for greater good may not be just; but may be for enlarged self Virtue (arete) Virtues of character (moral virtues) Courage Temperance Justice

Chooses own goals, values Moral + intellectual virtue Interpersonal virtue: Friendship (philia) Maturing self Obedient to moral guidance, sense of honor Moral-behavioral virtues Virtues of mind (intellectual virtues) Practical wisdom (phronesis) Philosophical wisdom (sophia) Moral Stages: Mature, rational person

Immature ego Acts on impulse/feelings Opposes morals Moral Ed changes: immature ego moral self rational person Moral development Actions Voluntary vs. coerced, done in ignorance Chosen habits of choice, character Virtue involves:

Knowing the act Choosing it for its own sake A consistent state of character Freedom and Responsibility (III.5) Aristotle: If you know the particulars and You are not coerced then You are responsible, even if you dont deliberately choose to do it. But if actions arise from character, and it from how we are raised, are we really free? Aristotles reply: Either we are co-responsible Or, if not, we must still reward and punish to bring out what is better Definition of Moral Virtue (II.6)

A habit or state of character that expresses a choice Which finds a mean relative to us As determined by rational principle, ie. guided by values a morally wise person would see are at stake The Doctrine of the Mean Virtue (of character) involves striking a mean between extremes of action and passion. Excess: having too much of something

Deficiency: having too little of something. The mean is not mediocrity, but harmony and balance. Deficiency VIRTUE Excess COURAGE Rashness Self-indulgent TEMPERANCE Anhedonic (drunken, glutton, promiscuous)

(healthy moderation) (incapable of enjoying pleasure) Cheapness GENEROSITY Wastefulness Self-Shame, Servility PROPER PRIDE Arrogance, Vanity Cowardice (& high ambition) (low self-esteem)

(bloated self-esteem) Exploitative JUSTICE (covetous, dominator) (fair-mindedness) (Altruistic) Virtue and Self-Control Aristotle contrasts: Self-controlled or continent people, who have unruly desires but manage to control them, guided by good judgment (right reason). Temperate people, whose reason and desires have become harmonizedsecond-nature and choose that which is good for them. Weakness of will (akrasia) occurs when rightthinking people cannot keep their desires under control. (Discussed in Bk VII.)

Courage and Cowardice courage involves mastering fear courage = willing to give your life for the good you value no freedom without courage Temperance vs. Intemperance Temperate choose mean, willingly limit your

pleasures enjoy temperance Self-indulgent E.g. drunkenness, promiscuity virtue = freely act within limits vice = enslaving Justice and Fairness Virtues of Justice = Obeying the Law Fairness = willingly giving other his due 2 Forms of Justice Distributive Corrective

2 Norms of Justice Conventional Natural Distributive vs. Corrective Justice Distributive = giving or taking of goods or evils fairly to others, i.e. according to proportionality by merit*/desert *what constitutes merit may vary with situation & call for judgment, esp. where participants are unequal in their situation

Corrective = restoration of equality* between individuals where one has wrongfully injured the other *here the differences in merit between the individuals is irrelevant; the superior has no more right to harm the inferior than vice-versa Conventional vs. Natural Justice Conventional Right = Justice according to law or the prevailing norms of the society* *These will be at least partly in conformity to natural right, but may be distorted: e.g. laws under

conditions of tyranny or oligarchy or communism or other societies that do not value genuine merit Natural Right = Justice according to the laws/actions that fulfill human nature, relative* to wise judgment *These will reflect the ideal vision of a humanly fulfilling society with a realistic appraisal of what can best be attained at the time Sub-category of fairness: honesty Virtue of Honesty = Obeying the rules of the game Fairness = willingly giving the other (competitor) his due

Act of honesty Done consciously Choose for own sake Act of character Relation to other virtues NOTE: honesty implies either (i) other-directed sense of honor & shame (pre-adult virtue) or (ii) personal sense of honor & principle (adult virtue) PRIDE: Self-respect, highmindedness, integrity PRACTICAL WISDOM: True v.

false self-presentation (vs. cleverness, self-deception) FRIENDSHIP with self, others HAPPINESS in genuine accomplishment Virtues of the Mind Art e.g. sculptor, doctor Makes particular useful things They wouldnt otherwise exist Deliberative skill re: means Right values (ends) Self-knowledge Unity of Virtue Science e.g. chemist

Deduces from necessary, universal laws Not concerned with particular things/events Intuitive Reason = Realizes principles/facts are ultimate Recognizes principles in practical situations Practical Wisdom Theoretical Wisdom Logic, Physics, Ethics Vision of God Moral Knowledge is like Art (techne, craft) Goal-oriented Perception of, feel for

the situation (nous) Brings about useful, noble particulars, which otherwise dont exist Grounded in desire, not cognition Truth-in-action more than in logos Science (episteme) Truth-revealing Awareness of universal principles, human nature Skill in deliberation and reasoning Involves knowledge of self, others Particulars exemplify universal values Weakness of Will

Socrates: No one can know the good and not choose it. Common view: People can know what they should do, but still choose not to do it. PARADOX: How can you choose to do what you know is not good for you? Who knows? Who is choosing? Compare: how is self-deception possible? Aristotles Solution One can have general knowledge but, moved by passion, not apply it.

PARADOXES: Chronic weak-willed do not choose Chronic weak-willed not = one self SOLUTION: vs. Socrates: abstract knowledge is possible; knowing is not = doing. vs. Common sense: Cannot know in situ and still choose bad voluntary doing is not = choosing Person can lack moral self-unity What is Self-Love? Is it good or bad?

Self-love based on virtue is good We should love ourselves, be caretakers of our virtue and well-being (compare Apology 30b) Care of our psyche will involve care of our works (theoretical and practical), but value process/virtue over outcome/success Art of Self-Care?

Socratic theme Central value = integrity Self-friendship = preserving ethical balance in midst of actions, emotions Phronesis evaluates lifes opportunities with good reasoning right values (justice, noble beauty) concept of full life True Self-Love Self-care, selfrespect (proper pride) Having good goals (wisdom)

Sticking to goals (courage, temperance) Acting to promote flourishing in yourself, others (justice, friendship) Friendship () Friendships of utility pleasure virtue Friendship = bridges egoism / altruism True friendship

based in self-love expands the self Is Altruism Possible? Ethical egoism = seek good for oneself. Altruism = do good for another (for their sake) Counterexamples: sacrifice for child, friend who betrays Still do it? Friendships = alliances for mutual benefit or emotional attachments (temporary? longlasting?) ARISTOTLE Friendships: most

egoistic = based on pleasure/utility Perfect friendship Based on virtue mutual recognition Non-competitive includes pleasure, utility Friend is other self Self is expanded self Friendship & Egoism bridges gap between egoism and altruism Even self-sufficient

virtuous person needs friends The Good Life and Politics subjective vs. objective good pleasure/joyfulness vs. happiness/flourishing 2 forms of the good life contemplative (theoria) Vision of God Perfect happiness active (praxis) Imperfect happiness Necessary & good Puzzle: What is the Telos? Dominant End Goal = activities aiming at truth; or liberty and justice Life-actions are

subordinated to one great goal Fulfillment in goalachievement Inclusive End Goal = inclusive balance of goods within a form of life Self e.g. politician, business, family life, physical life Performative balance in a good life Which is Aristotle? Answers to Skeptics To Egoists and Immoralists: why be moral? A: No one can find peace and fulfillment without a rational, friendly relation to others. To Hedonists: A: virtues and even external goods are not good b/c they are pleasurable, but are truly enjoyable b/c they are good (=conducive to rational flourishing, fulfillment) To Relativists:

A: some individuals and some societies ethics are more deeply fulfilling of human nature than others (the fact people disagree does not mean there is not a true answer to the question) To Pluralists: A: some individuals lives are more fulfilling than others (the life of the mind and the life of politics are fully satisfying in ways that a life of art, or a life of business and family are not; yet many contemporary Aristotelians reject this, and the dominant end model of life) Aristotles Politics I rejects Republic as contrary to natural law humans by nature desire/need: Family life Property of their own Share in governing themselves (except for natural slaves) Aristotles Politics II: rule by philosopher-kings impossible;

men need the rule of law GOOD GOVTS Constitutional Monarchy Constitutional Aristocracy Constitutional Republic; blends other forms BAD GOVTS Tyranny = rule by fear (lawless) Oligarchy = govt by the rich Democracy = rule by working class (least bad)

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