Aristotle and the Book of Nicomanchean Ethics
In Book I of Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle states that the ultimate human goal or end is happiness. Aristotle describes the steps required for humans to obtain happiness. Aristotle states that activity is an important requirement of happiness. He states that a happy person cannot be inactive. He then goes on to say that living a life of virtue is something pleasurable in itself. The virtuous person takes pleasure in doing virtuous things. The role of virtue is an important one for Aristotle. Without virtue, it seems one cannot obtain happiness. Virtue acts as a linking factor to happiness.
Aristotle states that the human function is the life activity of the part of the soul that has reason. He extends this further by stating that some sort of activity of the past of the soul that has reason has to be according to virtue. This will create a good man. For Aristotle, in order to be happy, humans must perform their function well in accordance with virtue.
In Book II, Aristotle makes a distinction between two types of virtues; those which are considered ethical and those which are considered intellectual. Ethical virtues deal with actions of courage, generosity, and moderation. Intellectual virtues deal with wisdom and contemplation. Ethical virtues are created through habitual actions. Aristotle says that humans are not born with a natural capacity for virtue. He believes that education and cultivation as youth by one’s parents are pivotal in setting up humans’ ability in making virtuous acts habitual. He feels that humans have to perform virtuous actions as much as possible and through this humans can make a step in becoming virtuous. Aristotle also states that ethical virtues have to be attended by pleasure. He believes that humans cannot be pained when committing a virtuous action. If a human is pained by an action then it is not considered virtuous.
Aristotle goes on to create a distinction between virtuous actions and virtuous character. In a sense, it is a relationship of seeming versus being. Seeming versus being where a virtuous act may seem to be virtuous when it in reality is not. Whereas, a virtuous character actually is virtuous and as a result, actions done by one of virtuous character result in those actions being considered virtuous. An act is not considered virtuous unless it is done by a virtuous person. Aristotle supports this assertion by stating three criteria for an action to be virtuous. First, one has to know the act is virtuous. Second, one has to intend to do it for its own sake. Therefore, one is not expecting anything in return as a result of the action. Thirdly, the action has to be done by one who, when he acts he does so in a certain and firm manner. Aristotle makes the conclusion that most humans do not actually act virtuously. They instead discuss and philosophize about these actions, but do not act on them. This, Aristotle said, is unacceptable because one will not...