Aristotle: Ethics and the Virtues

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Aristotle's ethics consist of a form of virtue ethics, in which the ethical action is that which properly complies with virtue(s) by finding the mean within each particular one. Aristotle outlines two types of virtues: moral/character virtues and intellectual virtues. Though similar to, and inspired by, Plato and Socrates’ ethics, Aristotle's ethical account differs in some areas.

Aristotle, a student of Plato, is known for his contributions in many fields of philosophy, ethics being one of the most prominent. He produced the first methodical and collected ethical system to be produced by an ancient Greek philosopher, found in his book the Nicomachean Ethics. This, along with the less-read Eudemian Ethics, are his ethical accounts that we have today.

Aristotle begins his ethical account by saying that “every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and every choice, is thought to aim for some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim” (line 1094a1). Though some things might produce higher good than others, Aristotle looks for the highest good, which he says we must “desire for its own sake” and our actions are not decided on some other goal beyond this good itself (line 1094a20-25).[1] This highest good is then realized to be happiness (line 1095a16-20).

For Aristotle, ethics deal with the voluntary actions of humans. He holds that the thing that separates animals from humans Is reason, and that reason is what allows for ethical action. Actions must be voluntarily (as well as determined) because an action that is not voluntary is not caused by the person's reason. These voluntary actions can then be judged based on whether or not they accord to virtue. For a p...

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...f predetermined expectations and plans rather than a search for the truth/moral. If this were potentially the case, much of Aristotle's account of ethics would then be thrown into question.

Because of the complexities in the philosophy of ethics, the question of whether Aristotle's virtue theory of ethics is convincing (to the point that it should be implemented) cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. While it does have simplicity, which is crucial for many that do not wish to spend large quantities of time looking into the implications of their actions, it does not seem entirely adequate in today's world (Aristotle's social context aside).

Works Cited

Aristotle, W. D. Ross, and Lesley Brown. The Nicomachean Ethics. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009. Print.

Plato. Cooper, J. M., & Hutchinson, D. S. (1997). Complete works. Indianapolis, Ind: Hackett Pub.

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