Aristotle on virtue Michael Lacewing enquiriesalevelphilosophy co uk

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Aristotle on virtue Michael Lacewing enquiries@alevelphilosophy. co. uk © Michael Lacewing

Aristotle on virtue Michael Lacewing [email protected] co. uk © Michael Lacewing

The good • ‘What is the good for human beings? ’ – What is

The good • ‘What is the good for human beings? ’ – What is it that we are aiming at? – What would provide a successful, fulfilling, good life? • Eudaimonia: The good for a human life – ‘living well and faring well’: flourishing • Aristotle argues that we are distinctively rational creatures, and so eudaimonia consists in living in accordance with reason • Virtues are traits of mind or character that enable us to do this

The rational soul Arational part Growth and nutrition Rational part Desire and emotion ‘responsive

The rational soul Arational part Growth and nutrition Rational part Desire and emotion ‘responsive to reason’ Reason ‘rational in itself’ Virtues of character Virtues of intellect (c) Michael Lacewing

What is a moral virtue? • Aristotle: a moral virtue is a state of

What is a moral virtue? • Aristotle: a moral virtue is a state of character by which you ‘stand well’ in relation to your desires, emotions and choices: – A character trait is a disposition relating to how one feels, thinks, reacts etc. in different situations, e. g. short-tempered, generous – Character traits are more stable and long-lived than mental states like moods and desires. They can change over a lifetime, but are central to being the person one is. – A virtue is a disposition to feel, desire and choose ‘well’ © Michael Lacewing

The doctrine of the mean • Virtues and virtuous actions lie between ‘intermediate’ between

The doctrine of the mean • Virtues and virtuous actions lie between ‘intermediate’ between two vices of ‘too much’ and ‘too little’ – Compare eating too much/little • Not arithmetical – ‘to feel [desires and emotions] at the right times, with reference to the right objects, towards the right people, with the right motive, and in the right way’ • This is Aristotle’s ‘doctrine of the mean’ • But this is not the same as ‘moderation’ on all occasions © Michael Lacewing

Annas’ development • Doing the right thing for the right reasons and in the

Annas’ development • Doing the right thing for the right reasons and in the right way • Right way: including right feelings – wholeheartedly • Right reasons: understanding that this is the right thing to do and why © Michael Lacewing

Practical wisdom • Practical wisdom – an intellectual virtue – helps us know what

Practical wisdom • Practical wisdom – an intellectual virtue – helps us know what the right time, object, person, motive and way is – To feel ‘wrongly’ is to feel ‘irrationally’ • A virtue, then, ‘a state of character concerned with choice, lying in the mean, i. e. the mean relative to us, this being determined by a rational principle, and by that principle by which the person of practical wisdom would determine it’ © Michael Lacewing

Virtues and vices Passion/concern Vice of deficiency Virtue Vice of excess Fear Cowardly Courageous

Virtues and vices Passion/concern Vice of deficiency Virtue Vice of excess Fear Cowardly Courageous Rash Pleasure/pain ‘Insensible’ Temperate Self-indulgent Money Mean Liberal (‘free’) Prodigal Important honour Unduly humble Properly proud Vain Small honours ‘Unambitious’ ‘Overambitious’ Anger ‘Unirascible’ ‘Properly ambitious’ Good-tempered Pleasant to others Quarrelsome Friendly Obsequious Shame Modest Shameless Righteously indignant Envious Shy Attitude to other’s Spiteful fortune © Michael Lacewing Short-tempered

Acquiring virtues • We acquire virtues of character through the habits we form during

Acquiring virtues • We acquire virtues of character through the habits we form during our upbringing. – Virtues can’t simply be ‘taught’ – there are no moral child prodigies • We are not virtuous ‘by nature’, but become virtuous by practising – Like learning to play a musical instrument – So we become just by doing just acts © Michael Lacewing

The skill analogy • (1) We develop virtues like we develop practical skills –

The skill analogy • (1) We develop virtues like we develop practical skills – Practice, not just theory, is needed • How can we do just acts unless we are already just? – ‘in accordance with’ justice v. just acts done as a just person would do it • (2) The aim is to learn to think for oneself – The expert has moved from following rules to developing a highly attuned sensitivity to each situation – The expert knows why a particular responses is most appropriate in a particular situation © Michael Lacewing

Virtuous action • A fully virtuous action – know what you are doing, –

Virtuous action • A fully virtuous action – know what you are doing, – chooses the act for its own sake – choose from a firm and unchangeable character • As we become just, we understand what justice is and choose it because it is just • Disanalogies with skills: – We can opt out of the end for skills but not for virtues – Many skills are developed without involving our emotions, but this is central to virtue © Michael Lacewing