The Ethics Of Aristotle 's Nicomachean Ethics

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Word Count: 703 In Nicomachean Ethics, one of Aristotle’s aims is to convince us that the good for humans is engaging in rational activity virtuously. It is important to note that, within the context of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, acting virtuously is defined as acting on the intermediate or most reasonable option between extreme actions and feelings (class). Function is defined as being a characteristic work of the specific thing or being in question, such as human beings. Aristotle also accepts the idea that well-being (or happiness) is the ultimate good (1097b, 20). Aristotle begins outlining this view by arguing that the good for whatever thing that has a function, such as a flautist, depends on its “characteristic action” or function, so the same must be true for a human being (1097b, 20). Aristotle then seeks to find what the characteristic function of human beings must be. He explains that human beings and plants both share the function of living, so living cannot be the characteristic function of human beings (1097b, 30). Similarly, sense-perception is shared with every animal, so it cannot be the function of human beings (1097b, 30). According to Aristotle, the soul has parts that either obey reason or have reason and thinking both intrinsically and extrinsically. He argues that the human being’s function is to engage in the rational part of the soul. In other words, the function of a human being is rational activity (1098a). Aristotle establishes that functions are relative to kinds. One human kind would be that of a flutist, mathematician, or philosopher. Aristotle argues that because we’ve found that rational activity is the human being’s function, and that the good for human beings (or any kind) is in performing ... ... middle of paper ... ... An objector might argue that murder would consistently be perceived as the extreme action, and Aristotle still considers extreme actions to be blameworthy. They might propose that the idea of ‘virtuous action’ being an intermediate between extremes does protect us from murderers and that the virtuous rational action for a murderer would be less extreme than murder, because virtue does require an intermediate between extremes. However, I would argue that the intermediate between extreme actions for a murderer would still constitute harm, even if the intermediate or virtuous action were not the act of murder. I accept that rational activity is not always virtuous, but Aristotle’s definition of virtue needs to be adapted so that those who perform evil functions well cannot be considered virtuous. His definition of ‘virtue’ does not necessitate his definition of ‘good.’
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