translated as “incontinence,” this term connotes a lack of self-control.
A person exhibiting akrasia
knows what good behavior
consists of but lacks the self-control not to give in to physical pleasures.
The concept of akrasia
is significant to Aristotle,
as he generally agrees with the Socratic claim that no one willingly
does evil and that all wrongdoing is a result of ignorance. If the
incontinent person acts wrongly in full knowledge of what is good,
this poses a dilemma for Socratic ethics, which Book VII of the Ethics
translated as “virtue,” this important term means something more
akin to “excellence.” For the Greeks, arete
be used to refer not only to a person’s moral or intellectual virtues,
but to any other kind of excellence, be it the fitness of an athlete
or even the sharpness of a knife. Generally speaking, a person, animal,
or thing exhibits arete
when it is performing its function
properly. That the Greeks use the term arete
discussions of ethics implies a strong sense that humans have a
function just as knives do, and that we become good by fulfilling
Doctrine of the Mean
- Aristotle’s doctrine, stated most explicitly in
Book II, that virtue is a mean state between the vicious extremes
of excess and deficiency. This doctrine is left necessarily vague,
as Aristotle thinks that this mean varies from person to person.
Essentially, it consists of the observation that it is always possible
to have too much or too little of a good thing.
Greek word, which is the root of our word energy,
generally translated as “activity.” However, it is not necessarily
an activity in the sense that we might understand it. For instance,
Aristotle describes both happiness and contemplation as activities.
In calling happiness an energeia,
it with virtue, which he considers to be a hexis,
disposition. That is, the virtues dispose us to behave in the correct manner.
Actually behaving according to the virtues, however, is not itself
a virtue but rather the energeia
can see that this term is the root of our word ethics
it is more accurately translated as “character,” which gives us
an important insight to understanding the Ethics.
is not so much concerned with moralizing as he is with determining what
constitutes an admirable character.
translated as “happiness,” eudaimonia
connotations of success and fulfillment. For the Greeks, happiness
is not an inner, emotional state, but the activity, or energeia,
a successful person. The Greeks did not share our sharp distinction
between the public and the private, so for them, happiness is a public
matter that can be evaluated just as accurately by an observer as
by the person being observed.
as “disposition,” hexis
is the term Aristotle uses
to qualify the virtues. According to Aristotle, virtue is not something
one actively does. Rather, virtue is a disposition to behave in
the right way.
translated as “prudence,” this term is perhaps better, but more
cumbersomely, translated as “practical wisdom.” Phronesis
an important intellectual virtue that allows us to reason properly
about practical matters. Phronesis
no small part of an appropriate application of the practical syllogism.
- A syllogism is a three-term argument consisting
of a major premise stating some universal truth (e.g., “All horses
have four legs”), a minor premise stating some particular truth
(e.g., “Black Beauty is a horse”), and a conclusion derived from these
two premises (e.g., “Therefore, Black Beauty has four legs”). The
practical syllogism is a form of practical reasoning in syllogistic
form, the conclusion of which is an action. An example might be
that the major premise “All intruders will be shot on sight” and the
minor premise “I see an intruder over there” leads to the practical
conclusion of shooting at the intruder.
root of our word psychology,psuche
generally translated as “soul,” though it carries none of the spiritual
connotations of the Christian use of that word. Psuche
that unobservable property that distinguishes living things from
nonliving things. The human psuche
three major parts: the nutritive part, which it shares with both
plants and animals; the appetitive part, which it shares with only animals;
and the rational part, which is distinctively human.
important term can be translated variously as “end,” “goal,” or
“purpose.” According to Aristotle, we have a telos
humans, which it is our goal to fulfill. This telos
based on our uniquely human capacity for rational thought. Aristotle’s
view of humans having a telos
based in our rationality
leads directly to his conclusion in Book X that contemplation is
the highest human good.
Virtues and Vices
|Sphere of action of feeling||Excess||Mean||Deficiency
|Fear and Confidence||Rashness||Courage||Cowardice
|Pleasure and Pain||Licentiousness||Temperance||Insensibility
|Getting and Spending (minor)||Prodigality||Liberality||Illiberality
|Getting and Spending (major)||Vulgarity||Magnificence||Pettiness
|Honor and Dishonor (minor)||Ambition||Proper Ambition||Unambitiousness
|Honor and Dishonor (major)||Vanity||Magnanimity||Pusillanimity
|Anger||Irascibility||Patience||Lack of Spirit
|Indignation||Envy||Righteous indignation||Malicious enjoyment