Aristotle Virtue Theory Essay
Aristotle Virtue Theory
Aristotle’s Virtue theory is based on Teleology and the Golden Mean. He says that to be virtuous that we need to act with excellence. He believed that everything on this earth has its own virtue, meaning that if it performs the way it’s supposed to by its nature then it is virtuous. He asserted that every event had four causes or four factors that work on it and to bring it into being; 1) Material Cause- the “stuff the thing is made of. 2) Efficient Cause- the force that has brought it into being. 3) Formal cause- the shape or idea (the Form) of the thing. 4) Final cause- the purpose of the thing.
Virtue is not just for humans; it means that everything that exists has a purpose. The Golden Mean-is an action or feeling that corresponds to a particular situation at the right time, in the right way, in the right amount, and for the right reason. Not too much, not too little, everything in moderation. It is what is “Good for man” where a human can excel, what a human is meant to do and where a human will find happiness. He determined that if we are able to choose the proper response to every situation in life then we are morally good.
It is all about the reasonably thought out decisions we make and the action we take after we have made them. The virtuous person finds and choses the one that is intermediate. These are human concerns that are constant and remain the same concerns throughout the ages. Since we are human beings and capable of rational decision making we can be prone to go toward one extreme or the other, we must beware of our own short comings. It is only through habitually practicing to try to make the right decisions that we can aspire to become virtuous. It is not our response to a single situation but how we respond as a general rule. We need to be consistent in our actions.
Aristotle realized that this is something that doesn’t come overnight but that it takes time to mold ourselves. How we find out what the mean is in every situation is through reason, the more times we have done it and acted correctly the better we can build the habit of responding appropriately. He specifies that there are some acts that are just wrong by themselves, i. e. stealing, lying and murdering, and cannot be done in the right amount. There are also acts that cannot be done too often such as justice. You can never be “too just”. It takes a lifetime of training and commitment we are not inherently born this way.
It is not enough that you just act on your intentions but you need to succeed in order to be virtuous. Once you have succeeded in living a virtuous life then as a virtuous person your future actions will be generally virtuous because you developed virtuous habits. There are three dispositions to every situation: two vices, one on either side of virtue which in the middle. Aristotle advises us to keep trying until we get it right. Some extremes are closer to the middle than others. If you don’t know which one to choose, stay away from the extreme that is more opposed to the mean than the other extreme.
We each have our own ideals and failings but our responses to a situation need to remain flexible and a virtuous response will reveal itself. The appropriate way to handle the situation will fall within a range that is recognized by other virtuous people. He believed that there could be a perfectly virtuous person. He also believed that if you are virtuous in one respect but fail terribly in another then you have lost out completely. If you deviate only slightly you are still a virtuous person, a person who is good at being human and at realizing the human potential.
His thoughts on courage were that if you had too little courage you were a coward and that if you had too much courage you could be fool hardy, rush in and make rash decisions. He felt that there was nothing wrong with enjoying pleasure, but if you overdid it you are intemperate. If you are not capable of enjoying pleasure at all then you are unimpressionable. The virtue is to know in what amount to enjoy your pleasure, which would be temperance. The key is to enjoy in moderation.
His opinion on spending money was that if you spend too much you are prodigal and spend too little you’re a miser, just the right amount at the right time on the right people for the right reason makes you liberal. It is also possible to overestimate your honor, and become vain or underestimate it and become humble. He described proper pride as the virtuous way to estimate yourself and your accomplishments.
There is nothing wrong with feeling angry but you need to be even tempered. Being hot tempered is 1 / 2 a vice but so is also being meek. Let your anger be in proportion to the offense against you. Truthfulness is a virtue but his idea of a deficiency of truthfulness is irony “mock modesty” (downplaying the situation), the excess of truthfulness, bragging. It is all about assessing the situation and acting accordingly, don’t underplay the truth but don’t overplay the truth either.
The sole reason for designing the development of virtuous character was that Aristotle felt that being virtuous makes you happy. Happiness is what is good for a man. A good life means a happy life, but a good person also means a moral person. We can be happy only if we are good. Our highest goal, our purpose as a human being, is to live well, be happy, and to do well. He also warned that if we rely too much on pleasures that one day they won’t give us the thrill they used to. What is good for us can’t be something that harms us and over indulgence in too many pleasures can be harmful.
The requirement of true happiness is that it must be stand the test of time. Something that no one can take away from us and that is not harmful but beneficial that would be our good reasoning and contemplation. The ultimate happy life is that of the life of a thinker. He did not believe in an afterlife or a god that watches over humanity.
He states that the soul is the “form” of a human and the body is the “matter”, but since form cannot exist separately from matter when the body dies the soul ceases to exist. Happiness is only for the living and must be achieved in the here and now for a person to have fulfilled their purpose. One of the weaknesses of Virtue Ethics is that Aristotle was talking about the ruling class. If there is to be equality for all then there needs to be a moral theory that everyone follows regardless of whom they are. The laws need to be reasonable and clear.
Virtues were also too vague and weren’t helpful in solving problems. When you have two virtuous people that disagree how can you tell which one is correct. How is it decided which one is more virtuous than the other? With a clear set of morals and laws the problem is much easier resolved. Also why can’t humans have more than one purpose? There are many people that are equally good at several different things. Look at the musician that is equally good at playing the guitar and singing. Which purpose are they supposed to choose? Aristotle’s Virtue theory is basically based on the fact that everything has a purpose and as humans our happiness is determined by the choices that we make.
We should always strive to achieve our purpose whatever that may be and during that struggle hopefully we will achieve happiness. His theory may have some weaknesses but some of the ideas are supportable in my opinion. You need to use your logic to make informed decisions. Practice making the right choices, this practice will eventually turn into a habit. Make decisions that don’t cause harm to yourself or others. Lastly everything in moderation is a good rule to live by. This I believe will go a long way in helping human beings to achieve happiness. POWERED BY TCPDF (WWW. TCPDF. ORG).
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 30 October 2016
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