Intro to Ethics
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Intro to Ethics
Chapter 14: The Nature of Virtue
Happiness is the end of all our pursuits, an intrinsically desirable
good for the sake of which we desire all other things. Aristotle seeks
to give material content to this formal definition by identifying the
"function" or characteristic action of human beings. A happy or
flourishing human being is one who performs his or her function well.
Now, the characteristic action of the human being is to exercise reason;
human happiness, therefore, consists in the excellent, or virtuous,
activity of the rational part of the soul, in both its theoretical and
practical dimensions. Intellectual virtue is acquired by birth and by
teaching, whereas moral virtue is acquired as a result of habit; that
is, by performing virtuous acts until these becoming a kind of "second
nature" to us. Virtuous acts strive to realize a mean of feeling an
action between the extremes of excess and defect. The standard of virtue
is given not by an abstract rule but by the example of the excellent
: A virtuous act is that act that the virtuous person would do in a
given set of circumstances.
According to Aristotle, an activity of the soul exhibiting moral and intellectual virtue over the course of a complete life.
Synonymous with 'excellence' in Aristotle; comes in
two forms in humans
: intellectual virtue, which is acquired by birth
and teaching, and moral virtue, which comes about by habituation.
That function the performance of which defines a
being as the kind of being it is; humans' characteristic function is an
activity of soul involving reason.
In Aristotle, the virtuous intermediate state between the two extremes of excess and defect in passions (feelings) and actions.