Check Your Understanding
In Book I of the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle defines “the good” as the final end, or rather telos, to which all human endeavor aims. Whereas human beings generally seek a multitude of ends such as pleasure, wealth or notoriety, Aristotle argues that none of these are sought for their own sake. Instead, they are pursued in order that the individual may achieve the greatest and most final end, namely human flourishing.
Unlike the rather simplistic understanding of happiness that we find in modern societies, Aristotle defines flourishing in respect to a holistic life that includes both contemplation and activity: it is not enough to simply reflect on what the good life is, but one must also actively pursue it. Therefore, in I. 7 Aristotle concludes that “the good” with respect to humans is ‘activity of soul in accordance with virtue. ’ Such a definition of the good means that a human being is not simply born virtuous, but rather virtue is something that must be developed in the individual through proper training and practice.
In II. 1 Aristotle notes that although the human being is not given virtues by nature, he or she is adapted by nature to receive virtues and can realize them through habit. For Aristotle, virtue comes in the two forms of intellectual and moral virtue. Intellectual virtue deals with thinking and is associated with training in philosophy; however, moral virtue does not arise out of thinking alone (though clear thinking and correct concepts are important), but rather through the habitual practice of right action through right choice.
In this respect, listening to philosophy will shape the individual’s intellect, but true moral behavior must be realized through praxis. A just man becomes just, not solely by debating about or reflecting on the concept of justice, but by practicing actual just behaviors. Virtue as an action is further defined by Aristotle as a mean. Nearly every human action or state may be understood as a continuum between two extremes: for example, healthy eating lies somewhere in the continuum between “malnourishment” and “overeating”.
Because Aristotle defines the human good in terms of flourishing, and because the extremes of actions tend to harm rather than help the individual (e. g. continued overeating leads to obesity), Aristotle also associates moral virtue with moderation. In this respect, the moral practice of courage does not lie in the extremes of “rashness” or “cowardliness”, but rather in a mean position wherein the individual is able to face and understand danger without fleeing from that danger. Finally, in book 7 Aristotle discusses pleasure and why it is a good.
One argument for why pleasure is a good is that it is the natural accompaniment of the practice of other activities. One derives pleasure from sight and in this sense pleasure is paired with natural and good human functioning. A second argument for why pleasure is a good is that it helps reinforce virtuous activity. Because pleasure serves as a by-product of certain virtuous activity, such pleasure can help an individual continue in the same virtuous activity that produced the pleasure.
For example, a parent can teach a child to help a friend in need and through this the child may gain pleasure in the act of helping, which itself will contribute to the child doing the virtuous behavior of helping the next time a friend is in need. References Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics (W. D. Ross, Trans. ). Retrieved from http://classics. mit. edu/Aristotle/nicomachaen. 1. i. html Wielenberg, Erik. (2000). Pleasure as a Sign of Moral Virtue in the Nicomachean Ethics. The Journal of Value Inquiry, 34, 439-449.Sample Essay of PapersOwl.com