Aristotle’s Virtue Theory

Aristotle’s Virtue Theory • The extent of Aristotle’s role in philosophy is outlined, including his concept of teleology and causation. In particular his theory of virtue is examined with examples. The lecture concludes with an overall discussion of virtue theory. Main Points Empirical Knowledge and the Realm of the Senses • • Aristotle rejects Plato’s notion that the Forms exist separately from the world; he envisions Forms existing in the world of the senses. This shift enables Aristotle to think in terms of empirical research.

Aristotle the Scientist • The importance of logic and observation for Aristotle; his intellectual interests in ethics, metaphysics, politics, drama, rhetoric, and so forth. Aristotle and Virtue Virtue and Excellence • For Aristotle “virtue” means doing something with excellence. Teleology: The Concept of Purpose • Aristotle’s theory that everything has a purpose. The Human Purpose • • • The telos for humans as a species and the telos for an individual person are both defined by that species’ or person’s potential.

The human purpose is to use one’s reason well. Aristotle’s two forms of virtue: Intellectual and moral. Theoretical and practical wisdom. The Golden Mean • The Golden Mean: Not too much, and not too little. TIP Many students seem to think that Aristotle by his theory of the Golden Mean is praising mediocrity or is envisioning some bland average as a moral ideal. On the contrary Aristotle praises excellence as virtuous, and that requires the best possible effort. But the “best” effort is not the same as the “most” effort: That would be in xcess. Aristotle believes it is virtuous to know when an effort is sufficient; you may want to ask your friends for examples from personal experience (such as putting the right amount of effort into studying for an exam, writing a term paper, or—on a personal level—being the right kind of friend). The best possible (virtuous) result is far from being an average result; also, the question of “what is the right amount” is something most people have to face continually: How grateful should I be?

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How friendly? How assertive? There is no question of seeking the average, but the best, response in each situation.. • Discussion of three questions about Aristotle’s virtue theory: (1) If this is supposed to be a theory of character, why does Aristotle talk about conduct? (2) What does developing a good character have to do with rational thinking? (3) Are we supposed to do everything in the right amount, such as stealing and lying? Isn’t The Golden Mean relative to the situation.

Discussion of examples of Aristotle’s virtues: Courage, temperance, pride, eventemperedness, truthfulness, wit. How does one find the virtue? By trial and error and developing good habits. • • • Happiness • Aristotle’s idea of well-being: contemplation. Some Objections to Greek Virtue Theory • • The advantage of ethics of conduct over virtue ethics: Recourse to a common law. Virtue ethics is based in teleology, and we can’t make assumptions about natural human purposes.