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First, Aristotle shows that there are two kinds of virtue – an intellectual virtue, which is a result of teaching, and a moral virtue, which is a result of habit…
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Download file to see previous pages First of all, according to Aristotle, moral virtue is defined by action, or in short, “we learn by doing them” (II.1). This means that virtue is not inherent in man’s nature but that man possesses the potentiality to practice virtue. Virtues are not an inborn quality of man but rather something that is acquired through practice. In the Ethics, Aristotle gives an example: “By doing the acts that we do in our transactions with other men we become just or unjust” (II.1). This means that a man is known as just not because of his nature but because he has demonstrated justice to others through his own acts. No one can say someone is good unless that someone has done good deeds. For Aristotle, action must precede virtue and character. It is therefore not that man is doing good things because he is good – but rather man is good because he is doing good things.
The idea of defining virtue as an action-based principle would then imply that its demonstration is actually a matter of choice (II.3). The idea of ascribing virtue as subject to man’s choice now becomes the basis of responsibility. Furthermore, Aristotle explains this by showing that virtue concerns itself with pleasures and pains and that it seeks the advantageous, the noble and the pleasant while it seeks to avoid the base, the injurious and the painful (II.3). Therefore, for Aristotle, virtue is something that is utilitarian or pleasure-seeking and pain-avoiding, unlike vice, which is its opposite.
Although people would generally equate vice with evil, and virtue with goodness, Aristotle clarifies the meaning of virtue by defining it as a mean between two vices, one an excess and the other a lack: “Virtue is a kind of mean, since, as we have seen, it aims at what is intermediate” (II.6). For example, in terms of appetite, the vice of lacking pleasure ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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