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- The metaphysics of goodness in the ethics of Aristotle
- The Nicomachean Ethics Quotes by Aristotle
- From the SparkNotes Blog
- Advice from Aristotle
Rationality is our distinctive activity, that is, the activity that distinguishes us from plants and animals. All living things have a nutritive soul, which governs growth and nutrition. Humans and animals are distinct from plants in having a sensitive soul, which governs locomotion and instinct. Humans are distinct above all for having also a rational soul, which governs thought.
Since our rationality is our distinctive activity, its exercise is the supreme good. Aristotle defines moral virtue as a disposition to behave in the right manner and as a mean between extremes of deficiency and excess, which are vices. We learn moral virtue primarily through habit and practice rather than through reasoning and instruction. Virtue is a matter of having the appropriate attitude toward pain and pleasure. For example, a coward will suffer undue fear in the face of danger, whereas a rash person will not suffer sufficient fear. Aristotle lists the principle virtues along with their corresponding vices, as represented in the following table.
A virtuous person exhibits all of the virtues: they do not properly exist as distinct qualities but rather as different aspects of a virtuous life.
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In this meditation on Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics , an award-winning teacher shows you the clarity and ethical wisdom of one of humanity's greatest minds. Professor Joseph W. Koterski directs the M. In these lectures, Professor Koterski shows how and why this great philosopher can help you deepen and improve your own thinking on questions of morality and the best life.
Often called "the philosopher of common sense," Aristotle offers an exquisitely balanced account of many ethical questions. Professor Koterski's aim is to provide you with a clear and thoughtful introduction to Aristotle as a moral philosopher. And he suggests ways in which this thinker from so long ago still speaks to the deep concerns of our own or any age. After absorbing some important background information designed to introduce you to Aristotle's career and general approach to the various fields of knowledge, you turn to the 10 books today we would call them chapters of this brief but towering work.
The rewards of studying Aristotle come not only from mastering the substance of what he teaches but from learning to analyze, apply, and even criticize his very method of reasoning itself. Aristotle, as Professor Koterski emphasizes, was not only a philosopher but a pioneering biologist.
The metaphysics of goodness in the ethics of Aristotle
Most of his surviving writings, in fact, actually deal with the life sciences. And in light of the method he used in philosophy, that comes as much less of a surprise than might otherwise be the case. Professor Koterski's enthusiasm is infectious as he explains the Aristotelian method of tackling a topic by observing and classifying exemplary cases and then seeking to work from those toward an intelligent account of general principles the famous "inductive method".
Prompted by Aristotle's own commitment to case study, Professor Koterski analyzes examples from literature, history, and his own or common experience to clarify what this most practical of philosophers is driving at in his lucid but densely coiled treatise. These six hours of carefully organized lectures invite you to join Professor Koterski in considering:. Given his concentration on virtue, Aristotle devotes much of the earlier part of his treatise to defining moral virtue, then illustrating it by example.
In the effort to be wisely commonsensical, he stresses that virtue consists of a steady disposition to choose the golden mean between responses that would be excessive or deficient. But, he insists, this mean should be understood not as the average or the mediocre but as the very peak of excellence. And this holds true whether in regard to our actions or our feelings. His case studies of virtue feature the traditional set of four cardinal virtues: courage, temperance, justice, and prudence.
In the second half of the Ethics , Aristotle takes up several issues that are crucial to the moral life. Most significantly, perhaps, he explores the contradictions that are involved in taking pleasure rather than happiness to be the goal of life. He also compares the notions of well-ordered and badly ordered pleasures to show that while pleasure may not equal happiness, handling pleasure well is a key test of moral excellence.
He offers a catalogue of the intellectual virtues to match his earlier list of specifically moral virtues. And he address two important issues:. Since virtue has an irreducibly social dimension, it is important to understand what kinds of friendship there are and how each relates to moral excellence.
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Using a threefold distinction based on the precise object of affection prominent in various relationships, Aristotle distinguishes the best sort of friendship friendship of character from friendships of pleasure and friendships of utility. You learn Aristotle's method for sorting out and evaluating the different kinds of friendships, as well as his practical advice for this part of the well-lived life.
In his final books, Aristotle brings you back full circle to the argument about happiness with which he began.
The Nicomachean Ethics Quotes by Aristotle
He states his reasons for thinking that a knowledge and practice of ethics is not self-sufficient, but points beyond itself to at least one fuller project essential to human flourishing. Aristotle wrote a book on that fuller project. It is called The Politics. But that must await another course. This experience is optimized for Internet Explorer version 10 and above.
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The Nicomachean Ethics Ethics is a seminal text that has for centuries influenced the study of ethics all over the world. The Ethics is about individual excellence, an essential prerequisite for the good life in the city. Behavior is what matters. The Ethics is a long text divided into ten books most probably by later editors rather than by Aristotle himself.
From the SparkNotes Blog
Probably it was given either in the name of his father Nicomachus, or because his son Nicomachus edited the text. Public Domain. We need to approach the Ethics as a work in progress, as a series of lectures that Aristotle gave in the Lyceum while walking with his students, as if the teacher is talking to us.
Because it takes several readings to gain insight into subtle meanings and puzzling contradictions, repetitions, questions Aristotle leaves unexplored, assumptions he turns into facts, popular opinions he presents and then rejects as inadequate, references he makes to other individuals, and cultural idiosyncrasies he mentions, that come to us from another time and era. The School of Aristotle The Lyceum. Throughout this work, Aristotle refers to other philosophers, like Plato, or to mythical figures, like Priam.
He gives examples of excellence in arts and crafts. He speaks about the souls of animals and plants. He warns against the passions of young and immature people. He calls for character education from a young age. He explains the role of chance and the possibility of misfortune. And in doing so, he builds his argument about human excellence and the best way to live, the good life and eudaimonia - the state or act of living this good life.
It takes quite a while to read and fully understand the Ethics. And it takes an open mind to challenge, reflect, and learn from it. But eventually, we come to appreciate listening to Aristotle teaching on the highest good for human beings, the virtues of character and intellect, and eudaimonia, even if many points are open to interpretation.
The value of his ideas is gradually revealed to us, not only because his is a work of profound wisdom, but also because it gives us insights into eternal questions of human existence that still concern us today. Neoptolemus killing Priam. Public Domain W ould it be wrong to call Priam unhappy because his last years were unhappy?
Advice from Aristotle
Aristotle believed so. The Ethics is a systematic inquiry into human character. Aristotle analyzes individual excellence that for him depended on who we are as persons, on personal responsibility and agency, on practice and effort, and on the good habits we develop. And, ultimately, on how all this is expressed in the activity of eudaimonia over a lifetime.