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What Does The Doctrine Of The Mean Have To Do With Virtues? Classics In Ethics Phil 342 Philisophy

979 words - 4 pages

Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, is a renowned philosophical account, and one of its finer aspects is his ideology or doctrine that virtue consists of a mean state ranging from ruthless extremes of excess and deficiency. Translating this to a concrete characteristic; courage ranges between the extremities and vices of rashness and cowardice, which represent excess and deficiency respectively. Aristotle would not explain this in exact parameters; courage standing between rashness and cowardice does not equate to courage being in the exact middle of the two linear vices. As discussed by Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics practical sciences do not consist of common laws or precise formulas. Matters are resolved uniquely through reviewing instilled virtue and applying practical knowledge. Aristotle’s chief clam was that virtue could only be truly mastered through repeated practice (trial and error) as there were not set laws to be learnt and abided. Virtue was developed through learning from our own occurrences; unique to our mind is our mean path of vices we are susceptible to. The Doctrine of the Mean can not distinguish traits strictly as virtues and vices (in addition to the fact that Nicomachean Ethics doesn’t consist of laws or exact formulas) because everyone experiences these traits differently in different scenarios; instead the Doctrine of the Mean provides the principle behind understanding if a trait and its resulting action is virtuous.
Aristotle initially grows his ideology of the doctrine of the mean in his discussion of arete, defined as excellence or virtue in Book II of Nicomachean Ethics when claiming that “all excellence makes what has it good, and also enables it to perform its function well. For instance, the excellence of an eye makes the eye good and enables it to function well as an eye; having good eyes means being able to see well. Likewise, the excellence of a horse makes it a good horse, and so good at galloping, carrying its rider, and facing the enemy. If this is true in all cases, then, the excellence of a human being will be that disposition which makes him a good human being and which enables him to perform his function well”. An important claim of Aristotle in in Book I was that The primary function or principle activity of humans is ""a way of living... consisting in the exercise of the psyche's capacities in accordance with reason, or at any rate not in opposition to reason"; a virtuous person "exercises these capacities and performs these activities well." Arete/Excellence/Virtue is then the state of being exemplary in all activities we perform which exemplify humanity and is "the active exercise of his psyche's capacities in accordance with excellence". This is to say that excellence in humans is seen determined through excellence in our principle human activities. In children it may be observed in all-round school excellence (grades, extracurriculars, healthy relationships) as well virtue at home through...

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