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ARISTOTLES VIRTUE

ETHICS

Socrates
469- 399 B. C.

Plato
(429 347)

Aristotle
(384-322)

1978 First Presidency Statement

The great religious leaders of the world such as


Mohammed, Confucius, and the Reformers, as well as
philosophers including Socrates, Plato, and others,
received a portion of God's light. Moral truths were
given to them by God to enlighten whole nations and to
bring a higher level of understanding to individuals
(The First Presidency (Spencer W. Kimball, N. Eldon
Tanner, Marion G. Romney).

The Nicomachean Ethics

Lecture notes

Virtue Ethics

Happiness (Eudaimonia)

Virtue (Arete)

The Mean

The Good

For both Plato and Aristotle, there is something


called the Good ( ).

For Plato, the Good is the essence of all that is good.

The Good is something we know with our mind,


something beyond the empirical world of the senses.

Aristotles notion of the


Good

Happiness ()

The most complete Good

For-its-own-sake

Virtue

Arete ()

Virtue (or excellence) is a necessary


condition for Happiness

Happiness
Aristotle distinguishes

Happiness
&
Supreme Happiness

Stoic vs. Non-Stoic Conception

Stoic Version

A happy person will remain happy throughout


his life. For he will always . . . Both do and
contemplate what is in conformity with virtue
(EN 1100 b18).

Necessary or Sufficient?

For Aristotle, virtue is a necessary


condition of happiness.

As we will see, for the Stoics virtue is


both a necessary and a sufficient
condition for happiness.

Non-Stoic Version

Still, happiness, as we have said, needs external goods as


well. For it is impossible or at least not easy to perform
noble actions if one lacks the wherewithal. Many actions can
only be performed with the help of . . . friends, wealth, and
political power. And there are some external goods the
absence of which spoils our supreme happiness, e.g., good
birth, good children, and beauty: for a man who is very ugly
in appearance or who lives by himself cannot be classified as
altogether happy; even less happy, perhaps, is a man whose
children and friends are worthless [or totally bad], or one
who has lost good children, and friends through death (NE
1099b)

Virtue

Virtue (arete) is a state (or characteristic)


involving choice and consists in observing a
mean, relative to us, defined by a rational
principle such as one who has practical
reason would use to determine it.

Characteristics of virtuous
actions

An action only counts as virtuous if the


agent

(1) knows what he is doing,


(2) chooses to act that way & for its own
sake, and
(3) acts from an unchangeable
character.

Character
Character -Habit

Action --

Extreme (vice)

Virtue
Defect (vice)

Virtues:

Self-control

Courage

Generosity

Gentleness

Wittiness

High-mindedness

Truthfulness

Cowardice ---- Courage --Recklessness


Self-deprecation --- Truthfulness --Boasting
Boorishness --- Wittiness --- Buffoonery

The Virtue of Courage

One who is courageous fears what is worthy of fear


but endures it in the right way and as reason directs .
. . and does so for the sake of acting nobly.

Vices related to the virtue of Courage

One who has an excess of confidence (in


fearful situations) is reckless.

One who has excessive fear is a coward.

Extreme (Recklessness)

Courage
Defect (Cowardice)

The Virtue of Self-Control

A self-controlled person takes no pleasure in what


he should not, and takes no excessive pleasure in
touch and taste.

A self-indulgent person pursues appetite for pleasant


things at the cost of everything else.

The Question of Akrasia

Akrasia ()

Literally---not in command.

Weakness of will

Moral weakness

Virtue and Moral


Weakness

Virtue

Moral Strength (enkrateia)

Moral Weakness (akrasia)

Vice

Socrates on Akrasia

No one freely chooses to do what is bad believing it


to be bad.

It is not in human nature to choose what one thinks


is bad in preference to what one thinks is good.

Selection from Platos Meno


Socrates:
Do not all people desire good things?
Meno:
No, some desire bad things.

Socrates:
Do those who desire bad things believe the bad
things are good?
Or,
Do those who desire bad things desire them even
though they know they are bad?

Socrates Conclusion

It is clear that those who (mistakenly) think the


bad things are good for themselves do not really
desire the bad.

Rather, they desire what is good (for themselves);


they just mistakenly judge that bad (for themselves)
is actually good.

The other option


Socrates continues:
Do those who desire bad things, knowing that bad things harm
their possessor, know they will be harmed by them? ---Yes
Do they not think that those who are harmed are miserable and
unhappy? ---I think so
Does anyone wish to be miserable and unhappy
---I do not think so Socrates.
Therefore, no one wants what is bad.

Bad for oneself or for others?

Here it makes a difference, of course, if we are talking about


what is bad for oneself or what is bad for others.

Many people do things that are bad (for others), but are (they
might think) good for themselves.

In this particular discussion, it is not exactly clear whether they


mean only what is good for oneself or what is good period.

Belief and Desire

For Socrates, our desires and passions [can] never


motivate us independently of what we think is good for
us (SMP 200).

Our beliefs/judgments have great influence our desires.

Thus, our appetites and passions cannot lead us to act


contrary to what we believe is best.

Appetites and passions can, however, cause us to


mistakenly believe that something is good for us--even though it is not.

Thus they thus are indirectly influential.

Socrates position

Socrates claimed that no one acts contrary to what is


best in the conviction that what he is doing is bad,
but rather through ignorance of the fact that it is
bad.

Thus, what is called weakness of will (akrasia) is


really a type of ignorance.

Ignorance & Responsibility

However, even though Socrates believes


wrongdoing is the result of ignorance, that does not
mean we are not responsible for doing what is
wrong.

For Socrates, we are responsible for this type of


ignorance in some way because we did not judge
carefully, or control our passions.

Can we knowingly choose


wrong?

Is Socrates right?

Is it true that when we do wrong, we dont really


understand that it is wrong?

How might we disagree with Socrates?

What can be said in support of Socrates position?

Aristotles Response to
Socrates

On the one hand, he agrees that there is moral


weakness (akrasia).

On the other hand, he tries to find as much truth in


what Socrates says as he can.

Two Important Distinctions

The universal/particular knowledge


distinction

The active/passive knowledge distinction

Active/Passive Knowledge

There are two ways of knowing something:

(1)

passive knowledgei.e., having knowledge


without using it

(2)

active knowledgei.e., having knowledge and


attending to it

The Practical Syllogism


A practical syllogism would contain a universal premise with some
moral/ethical principle such as:

One ought not to harm innocent people.


or

One should help others in dire circumstances when there is no harm of loss
to self.

or

Unhealthy food is to be avoided.

(1)
people.

I ought not to harm innocent

(2)
If I were to continue driving, I
would hit
an innocent pedestrian in front
of me.
___________________
Therefore, I should stop.

The universal premises

The universal premise would contain


some universal moral principle, such
as . . .
All unhealthy food is to be avoided.
or
I should not eat this type of food
(for whatever reason)

Universal or Particular?

We need to determine whether, in a case


of akrasia, a person is ignorant of a
universal premise or a particular premise
at the moment of weakness.

The Particular Premise

The particular premise would be


something like:
This candy bar is unhealthy for me.

Aristotles Response

The akratics appetite causes him to


cease attending to the fact that that
candy bar is unhealthy.

Agreement w/ Socrates

Aristotle argues that what is properly called


knowledge is of the universal rather than the
particular.

Thus, since it is not what is properly called


knowledge that is dragged about by emotion,
Socrates is (in a sense) right.

Dragged about

This knowledge is dragged from being


actively known to being passively known.

Partial Disagreement

There is still a legitimate sense in which we can speak of


akrasia.

We allow ourselves to be overcome by our appetite.

We accepted that it was wrong before and after, but because


we allow ourselves to be overcome, we loose our
conviction during the acratic moment.

Similarities & Differences

Happiness as the object/goal of


existence.

Virtue as broader than chastity

We believe in being virtuous. This may have nothing whatever


to do with sexual morality; that is covered by the
word chaste. Virtuous, in this case, I believe, means having
strengththe strength to do whatever needs doing. Great virtue
comes in doing well and consistently the everyday, often rather
tedious tasks of life. Blaise Pascal said that the strength of a
mans virtue should not be measured by his special exertions,
but by his habitual acts (Gordon B. Hinckley, True to the
Faith).

Differences

the Atonement

Forgiveness

Pure love of Christ (charity)

Love and Friendship

Aristotle does have a discussion of love, and he does say that


the highest form of love involves caring about an other
person for-their-own-sake (and not simply for utility or
pleasure).

The highest form of friendship is what he calls virtue


friendship.

The Cardinal Virtues


Prudence
Justice
Self-Control
Courage

Theological Virtues
Faith
Hope
Charity