Throughout the Ethics Aristotle analyzes ‘common language and meaning’ held by people of his day exploring various views widely held about particular issues. But, what criteria (plural) does Aristotle develop about the highest good of Ethics (Book 1, Chapter 7)?
The highest good of ethics, according to Aristotle, possesses certain criteria, which are well-reasoned and described. The Greatest Good can be defined as an object of people’s pursuit in life. This object is not an ordinary one, but final, or as it is said “absolutely final” (1098a, page 25). This clarification is given, because there are certain objects of pursue that lead one to another. The Greatest Good is the most final of them, which is the first criterion Aristotle offers. The second is that the highest good should be self-sufficient, which makes it the most choice-worthy of all the things in life. The next criterion is that the Greatest Good is a working of the Soul in the way of Excellence, and not an ordinary excellence, but the most perfect form of it. It is also worth mentioning that this work of soul should continue for the whole life, and not just once in a while. The Greatest Good that meets all these criteria is, according to Aristotle, the happiness.
I completely agree with Aristotle in the fact that happiness is the highest good of ethics and I consider it to be the main purpose of my life. As for the criteria offered for the definition of the Greatest Good, they are also absolutely clear to me, as in fact if we follow the logic offered by the philosopher, we will see that only such combination of criteria can describe the highest good of ethics and people’s life.
I am sure that happiness is the Greatest Good in our lives, as everything a person does in life, he/she does to be happy, and there are thousands of examples that can be given for this statement. The same goes for self-sufficiency and the way of working he describes. If a person succeeds to find a work that satisfies him and finds a way to become one of the best in his chosen field, he becomes really happy and his happiness is self-sufficient.
In order to show how people reach the state of eudemonia, Aristotle shows the ways, in which people are unique and how they should “function” in life. In order to understand the uniqueness of man, he states that it is necessary to define what differs people from the other beings on the planet. He says that the function of man is not simply to live, as all the other creatures do it, and nor is it in sensations, as animals also have them. Thus, what distinguishes people and makes them unique is their rational nature, which is realized in the actual working of soul in accordance with the reason (1098a, page 26). Aristotle states that the Good of Man is the working of the soul in the way of excellence throughout his complete life.
I agree with Aristotle that people can become happy and live interesting and rewarding life only if they reach such eudemonia. It is true that in order to reach it, it is necessary to find such work that is suitable for the person, and that only in such a way harmony can be reached. I also agree with the approach of the philosopher, which uses the concepts of function and uniqueness for definition of the eudemonia state, as through them it can be easily seen in what way people should act to reach this state.
In my life I have seen many examples, which confirm that Aristotle was right. I have seen people who work only to survive, as they didn’t find the profession that suits them, and they are not happy. I have met people who have everything they need from a material perspective and just waste their life, doing nothing in particular, just hanging out with friends, and I see that they are also not happy. I have seen and know people who are self-sufficient and really happy, and they are those who have a favorite work and are dedicated to it, achieving excellence in what they do.
How does Aristotle express moral and intellectual virtue and how it relates to parts of the soul (Book 1, Chapter 13)?
Moral and intellectual virtues are directly related to the difference between the two parts of the soul: rational and irrational. According to Aristotle, irrational part of the soul, as well as the rational one, is twofold. Irrational consists of the vegetative element, which doesn’t share the rational part and deals only with growth and nourishment. The second element, which is appetitive and desiring, shares in rational part of the soul and listens and obeys to it (1102b, page 42). The rational part also has two subdivisions: the first one having rational in the strict sense and the other possessing a tendency to obey, just like one obeys to one’s father. Thus, if a person has intellectual virtue, his second part of the irrational constituent obeys to the rational principle, while in the moral character this part obeys even more, agreeing entirely with the Reason. Intelligence, pure science, and practical wisdom are characteristic of Intellectual man, while liberality and perfected self-mastery – of Moral.
I agree with Aristotle that the virtues of intellect and morality are directly related to the way the parts of the person’s soul differ. If someone only pursues his urges and desires, he cannot be called intellectual or moral man, and I think that it is very easy to live in such a way. If, on the contrary, people do their best to master their urges and what is better for the society and not only for them, they can be called moral and intellectual personalities.
As an example supporting my point of view, I can say that I have friends who tend to satisfy only their desires. They want to go to a party – they do it even if they have a lot of work to do. They want to go to the cinema – the same picture. I don’t like such approach to life, as I have already understood that such way of life will lead to shallow existence without real happiness. Those who are moral and intellectual always know when they can have fun and when they should work. Finding a perfect balance is a real key to success, I think, and their examples prove that I am right.
Discuss how excellence, for Aristotle, relies on habitual nature of moral virtue in contrast to what is natural (Book 2, Chapter 1).
Aristotle states that of the two kinds of virtue, in particular, intellectual and moral, the first one owes its birth and development to teaching, relying on experience and time, while moral results in a habit. No moral virtues have natural origin and have to be constantly practiced to be acquired. In fact, we are adapted by nature to receive virtues, and they are reaching the state of excellence only by habit. It is necessary for all the skills to have them habituated to feel confidence while using them, and the same goes for the virtue (1103a, page 44). A lot depends on how we perform actions, as if we do it badly, we can end up with nothing, as only excellence can bring proper results. It is also of a great difference, whether the virtues are trained from the very young age, as the sooner we start, the better it is for us.
I completely agree with Aristotle that in order to acquire virtues, we have to work much on them. Ideally, our parents should bring us up in such circumstances that the main virtues are trained from our early childhood, so as the habit to act in the right way is formed from the very beginning. If it is not the case, then again a person should apply all the possible efforts to reach the excellence in his/her virtues. Often it is not easy, but it is definitely what should be done.
In my life I have met a lot of people with different characters, and I saw that it was very pleasant to speak with those who have developed moral and intellectual virtues. They are always more interesting to communicate with and are generally happier. As for those who didn’t try hard enough to achieve excellence in virtues, they are often harsh and unpleasant. They have fewer friends and on the whole are unsatisfied with their lives. It completely proves that Aristotle was right, as in the matter of acquiring virtues everything depends on people themselves, not the nature.
Express Aristotle's response to the position that "doing even one just action should make a just man"; contrast virtuous actions with works of art (Book 2, Chapter 4).
Aristotle responds to the position that people become just be doing just acts with contrast to the similar expression that can be drawn on the example of this one – that if people behave in accordance with the laws of music and grammar, they can be considered musician and grammarians. He says that the statement about grammarians and musicians cannot be true, as the professionals rely on their own knowledge, which is why this contrast is not similar to the statement about virtues (1105b, page 47). In this case, knowledge has little or no weight, while the other circumstances are the main factors. In order to become just and temperate, we should behave as just and temperate men do.
I am sure that Aristotle was right in agreeing that in order to become just, it is necessary to act in the corresponding way, as it becomes possible to acquire a habit of acting in the right way. If a person possesses such a habit, he/she can truly be considered just, as in life he/she will act according to this habit, which means justly. The same goes for the other virtues people have – everything should be trained and become a habit.
According to my experience, I can say that if a person does some good action only once in a while, he/she cannot be called well-behaved. Only a system of particular actions can make a person moral and can form the corresponding opinion about him/her. It is very important for people not to give up acting in the right way after they start doing it, as otherwise they won’t be able to achieve real success.