Combining Philosophers

Ideas for Aristotle, Allan Gibbard and Deborah Achtenberg

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114 ideas

23. Ethics / A. Egoism / 1. Ethical Egoism
Nobody would choose all the good things in world, if the price was loss of identity [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Nobody would choose to have all the good things in the world at the price of becoming somebody else.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1166a23)
     A reaction: This now looks like a particularly good objection to utilitarianism, which aims to promote pleasure, no matter what the cost.
A man is his own best friend; therefore he ought to love himself best [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: A man is his own best friend; therefore he ought to love himself best.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1168b09)
     A reaction: Both halves of this sound odd. Being your own best friend has all the oddness of self-identity. Maybe this sort of self-love should be resisted. Altruistic people are lovely.
Self-interest is a relative good, but nobility an absolute good [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: One's own interest is a relative good, nobility a good absolutely.
     From: Aristotle (The Art of Rhetoric [c.350 BCE], 1389b)
     A reaction: The key idea in the whole of Greek moral theory is the concept of what we can call a 'beautiful' action. Such things, or course, tend to be visible in great actions, such as sparing an enemy, rather than the minutiae of well-mannered daily life.
23. Ethics / A. Egoism / 2. Hedonism
Licentiousness concerns the animal-like pleasures of touch and taste [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Licentiousness is concerned with such pleasures as are shared with animals (hence thought low and brutish). These are touch and taste.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1118a25)
     A reaction: Nietzsche is the best opponent of this view, when elevates purely physical pleasures such as dancing to a supreme status. It must be possible to give a justified account of 'high' and 'low' activities, perhaps related to increased generality + universals.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 1. Virtue Theory / a. Nature of virtue
All good things can be misused, except virtue [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: If one used strength, health, wealth and strategic expertise well, one might do the greatest possible good and if badly the greatest possible harm; this is a problem common to all good things, except virtue.
     From: Aristotle (The Art of Rhetoric [c.350 BCE], 1355b)
     A reaction: Of course, this may just be a tautology about virtue, rather than an empirical observation. However, in 'Ethics' he tries to describe a state of mind (essentially one of harmony) which could never result in misuse.
The best virtues are the most useful to others [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: The greatest virtues must be those most useful to others.
     From: Aristotle (The Art of Rhetoric [c.350 BCE], 1366b)
     A reaction: I wonder if this applies to the intellectual virtues, as well as to the social virtues? Is this virtue theory's answer to utilitarianism, or utilitarianism's answer to virtue theory? Personally I think good persons are prior to benefits.
All moral virtue is concerned with bodily pleasure and pain [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: All moral virtue is concerned with bodily pleasure and pain.
     From: Aristotle (Physics [c.337 BCE], 247a08)
     A reaction: Not to be misunderstood. The 'intellectual virtues' are different, for one thing. And he is not implying hedonism, but that moral virtue concerns our judgements and habits in relation to pleasure and pain. What do we count as acceptable pleasures?
The good for man is an activity of soul in accordance with virtue [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: The good for man is an activity of soul in accordance with virtue.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1098a13)
     A reaction: Although an 'activity of the soul' sounds like a mere state of mind, he emphasises that virtue requires action. 'Soul' here is more like 'the life' than the consciousness.
Many pleasures are relative to a person, but some love what is pleasant by nature, and virtue is like that [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Lovers of beauty find pleasure in things that are pleasant by nature, and virtuous actions are of this kind, so that they are pleasant not only to a particular type of person but also in themselves.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1099a14)
     A reaction: An optimistic but crucial claim that virtue is dictated by nature, and so can't just be relative to individuals. The claim that some things are 'pleasant by nature', rather than just being liked by some individuals, is controversial but appealing.
Aristotle must hold that virtuous King Priam's life can be marred, but not ruined [Hursthouse on Aristotle]
     Full Idea: In discussing Priam, Aristotle, I take it, would allow that the virtuous person's life can be marred, but not, I think, ruined.
     From: comment on Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1101a14) by Rosalind Hursthouse - On Virtue Ethics Ch.3 n11
     A reaction: This seems right. At first it seems that Aristotle is saying that Priam's eudaimonia was utterly lost, but elsewhere he implies that this is impossible if the disaster is external to his character.
Feelings are vital to virtue, but virtue requires choice, which feelings lack [Kosman on Aristotle]
     Full Idea: It seems perplexing in Aristotle that he apparently claims that virtues involve choice, while feelings do not.
     From: comment on Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1104b10) by L.A. Kosman - Being Properly Affected p.110
     A reaction: This captures the Kantian unease about Aristotle's theory. Presumably the answer is that choice comes into the training of the feelings, including self-training. Is choice involved in a dog trained to beg?
If virtues are not feelings or faculties, then they must be dispositions [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: If virtues are neither feelings nor faculties, it remains that they are dispositions.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1106a10)
     A reaction: Makng virtues into dispositions connects his moral theory to his accounts of potentialities and powers in his physics.
Actions are not virtuous because of their quality, but because of the way they are done [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Virtuous acts are not done justly or temperately because of their quality, but because they are done in a certain way.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1105a29)
     A reaction: These seems to be the contrast between correct behaviour because of a cold sense of duty (sometimes associatied with Kant), and the pleasure of acting with true virtue.
Virtue is the feeling of emotions that accord with one's perception of value [Achtenberg on Aristotle]
     Full Idea: For Aristotle virtue is the acquisition of a developed capacity or tendency to experience emotion and desire accordantly with one's cognition of value.
     From: comment on Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1106b16) by Deborah Achtenberg - Cognition of Value in Aristotle's Ethics 2.2
     A reaction: Leaving still the problem of the criminal whose emotions correctly follow their warped values. An interesting point, nevertheless.
Virtue is a purposive mean disposition, which follows a rational principle and prudent judgment [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Virtue is a purposive disposition, lying in a mean that is relative to us and determined by a rational principle, and by that which a prudent man would use to determine it.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1107a01)
     A reaction: Presumably the last two are getting both the theory and the practice right. Are saying that virtues finds the appropriate mean, or that virtue IS the mean? Of what?
Acts may be forgivable if particular facts (rather than principles) are unknown [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: What makes an act involuntary is not ignorance in the choice (which is a cause of wickedness), nor ignorance of the universal principle (which is blameable), but particular ignorance, of circumstances and objects.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1110b31)
     A reaction: The point here has to be that particular facts are much more significant in moral decisions than principles. This is the whole key to virtue theory - that principles are overruled by the facts of a situation, and only virtue can see you through.
There are six categories of particular cirumstance affecting an action [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Particular circumstances of an action can involve 1) the agent, 2) the act, 3) the object, and also sometimes 4) the instrument, 5) the aim, and 6) the manner.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1111a04)
     A reaction: 'Particular circumstances' are a crucial ingredient in virtue theory. It is interesting that 'the aim' (no.5) is only 'sometimes' a factor. Odd for a teleologist. Aristotle is interested in factors affecting decisions, and also excuses afterwards.
An act is involuntary if the particular facts (esp. circumstances and effect) are unknown [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Anyone who is ignorant of any of the six factors affecting an action is considered to have acted involuntarily (especially the circumstances of the act, and its effect).
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1111a17)
     A reaction: This seems to concede that 'moral luck' may be an excuse. Cf. Idea 269. The big problem here is when someone offers one of the six types of ignorance as an excuse, and we feel they should have made the effort to know the facts.
Excellence is a sort of completion [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Excellence is a sort of completion.
     From: Aristotle (Metaphysics [c.324 BCE], 1021b)
People who perform just acts unwillingly or ignorantly are still not just [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Some people who perform just acts are still not just (for example, if the good act is done unwillingly or ignorantly).
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1144a10)
     A reaction: This is because virtue must be an 'activity of the soul'. The thought seems to be that the truly good action involves the commitment of the whole agent, not just a part of them.
A life of moral virtue brings human happiness, but not divine happiness [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Life in conformity with moral virtue will be happy in a secondary degree, because such activities are human (not divine).
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1178a10)
     A reaction: It seems a bit silly for a human being to aspire to 'divine' happiness. If contemplation is the eudaimonia of the gods, why does that mean that humans should aspire to it. Should cats try to play chess?
Virtue is different from continence [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Virtue is different from continence.
     From: Aristotle (Eudemian Ethics [c.333 BCE], 1227b17)
     A reaction: Basic to Aristotle - in that continence leads to right action, but that is not enough for virtue, which requires inner harmony, reason, and pleasure in doing what is right. Hence Aristotle is quite distinct from deontological or consequentialist views.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 1. Virtue Theory / b. Basis of virtue
The two main parts of the soul give rise to two groups of virtues - intellectual, and moral [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Virtue is divided into classes in accordance with differentiations of the soul. Some are called 'intellectual' (e.g. wisdom, understanding, practical reason), others are called 'moral' (e.g. liberality or temperance). The latter are virtues of character.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1103a04)
     A reaction: Aristotle arrives at a rather sharp division, and hence a sharp division between two virtuous lifestyles, the social and the intellectual. His only overlap is practical reason ('phronesis'). My vision of the good life (and the soul) is more integrated.
Is excellence separate from things, or part of them, or both? [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Does the universe possess goodness and excellence as something separated and by itself, or because of its arrangement? But why should it not be both ways?
     From: Aristotle (Metaphysics [c.324 BCE], 1075a)
How can good actions breed virtues, if you need to be virtuous to perform good actions? [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: A difficulty with saying that people must perform just actions if they are to become just is that if they do what is just they must be just already, as they are already musical if they play music correctly.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1105a19)
     A reaction: Aristotle is himself voicing a charge often made against him (by Kantians and utilitarians). He goes on to rebut the charge, but there is still a problem (despite the benign circle of virtue-and-good-action), which is the familiar one of relativism.
If a thing has excellence, this makes the thing good, and means it functions well [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Any kind of excellence renders that of which it is the excellence good, and makes it perform its function well; thus the excellence of the eye makes both the eye and its function good.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1106a17)
     A reaction: To say that a thing's excellence makes it good seems tautological to us, but Aristotle perceives a family of concepts (such as good, fine, excellent, and functioning well) which capture different psychological states. We need 'good', as well as 'right'.
Excellence is the best state of anything (like a cloak) which has an employment or function [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Excellence is the best disposition, state or capacity of anything that has some employment or function; this is evident from induction. For example, a cloak has an excellence - and a certain function and employment also; its best state is its excellence.
     From: Aristotle (Eudemian Ethics [c.333 BCE], 1219a02)
     A reaction: 'Employment' will be an assigned function, and 'function' will be a natural or intrinsic function, I presume. This is a nice clear illustration of the fact that for Aristotle virtue runs continuously from people to cloaks. See Idea 1663, though.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 1. Virtue Theory / c. Particularism
It is not universals we must perceive for virtue, but particulars, seen as intrinsically good [Aristotle, by Achtenberg]
     Full Idea: Aristotle believes cognition of particulars is more important for virtue than cognition of universals, ..and I would add that it is cognition not just of particulars, but of their value, that is, perception of them as good or beautiful.
     From: report of Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE]) by Deborah Achtenberg - Cognition of Value in Aristotle's Ethics Intro
     A reaction: This gets quickly to the heart of the problem, which is what fact about the particular is perceived which makes it good. Utilitarians are queueing up to answer this question. Interesting, though.
Actions concern particular cases, and rules must fit the cases, not the other way round [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: When we are discussing actions, although general statements have a wider application, particular statements are closer to the truth. This is because actions are concerned with particular facts, and theories must be brought into harmony with these.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1107a29)
     A reaction: This implies criticism of Kant's whole theory, suggesting that there cannot be a universal law for most given situations. I take Aristotle's view to be (in modern terms) that a key virtue is sensitivity, taken as acute awareness of detail in a situation.
We cannot properly judge by rules, because blame depends on perception of particulars [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: It is not easy to define by rule how, and how far, a person may go wrong before he incurs blame; because this depends upon particular circumstances, and the decision lies with our perception.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1126b04)
     A reaction: This is a key objection to Kantian approaches to morality. Aristotle does not flatly deny the role of rules (indeed, he is a great endorser of the law), but this shows why virtues of character are a better guide than rules can ever be.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 1. Virtue Theory / d. Virtue theory critique
Aristotle neglects the place of rules in the mature virtuous person [Annas on Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Aristotle has not thought through the place of rules in the virtuous person's thought. He moves from the problem-solving of the learner to the immediate sensitivity of the fully virtuous without explaining the structure of the latter's thinking.
     From: comment on Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE]) by Julia Annas - The Morality of Happiness 2.4
     A reaction: Good point. If Kantians are all rules, then Aristotle is a very good corrective, but the fact is that many people live well by following good rules, or at least good guidelines. They can be taught (or written on a poster).
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 2. Elements of Virtue Theory / a. Natural virtue
Moral virtue is not natural, because its behaviour can be changed, unlike a falling stone [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: None of the moral virtues is engendered in us by nature, since nothing that is what it is by nature can be made to behave differently by habituation. For instance, a stone, which has a natural tendency downwards, cannot be habituated to rise.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1103a19)
     A reaction: Not much of an argument. Training a flower to grow up a drainpipe is not unnatural, but then the whole notion of 'unnatural' is hard to justify these days.
We are partly responsible for our own dispositions and virtues [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Our virtues are voluntary, because we ourselves are in a sense partly responsible for our dispositions.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1114b21)
     A reaction: This seems half way to what we would now call existentialism. See Aristotle's other comments on natural virtue. The opposing view is Heraclitus's remark that "character is fate".
Dispositions to virtue are born in us, but without intelligence they can be harmful [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: It is universally believed that we have a disposition for justice or temperance or courage from birth, but moral qualities are acquired in another way; natural dispositions are found in children and animals, but without intelligence they can be harmful.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1144b04)
     A reaction: An interesting argument, supporting the idea that moral virtue is not only teachable, but has to be taught, because it has an intellectual component.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 2. Elements of Virtue Theory / c. Motivation for virtue
The end of virtue is what is right and honourable or fine [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: The end of virtue is what is right and honourable ('kalon').
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1115b14)
     A reaction: This wretched word 'kalon' (fine/beautiful/honourable) is at the heart of Aristotle's account, but many people think it is 'fine' for your family to avenge a murder, or to fearlessly commit a dangerous crime, or to be brazenly rude.
Virtuous people are like the citizens of the best city [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: The virtue of a man must be identical to that of a citizen of the best city.
     From: Aristotle (Politics [c.332 BCE], 1288a38)
     A reaction: Earlier he separated virtuous people from the best citizens, but here he reverses it. The interesting part is the role of the city in moulding the virtuous person.
A person is good if they act from choice, and for the sake of the actions in themselves [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: A person is a good man when he does the acts from choice, and for the sake of the acts themselves.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1144a19)
     A reaction: Not sure about 'for the sake of the acts themselves'. A good deed might be something unpleasant, in order to achieve a generally desired end. An action might be right but not good.
Existence is desirable if one is conscious of one's own goodness [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: What makes existence desirable is the consciousness of one's own goodness, and such consciousness is pleasant in itself.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1170b09)
     A reaction: Nowadays we are much more conscious than Aristotle was of vanity as a vice, probably thanks to Christianity. The smugness of virtue signalling is especially annoying. But you see his point.
People become good because of nature, habit and reason [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Men become sound and good because of three things: these are nature, habit and reason.
     From: Aristotle (Politics [c.332 BCE], 1332a38)
     A reaction: 'Habit' is the distinctively Aristotelian idea, but the most attractive part of his account is that habit and reason should combine.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 2. Elements of Virtue Theory / d. Teaching virtue
Associating with good people can be a training in virtue [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: A sort of training in virtue may result from associating with good people.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1170a12)
     A reaction: Aristotle doesn't say much about role models, but they strike me as basic to moral education. Good habits are largely acquired by copying. Teach the young to admire the right people. Not media celebrities!
Nature enables us to be virtuous, but habit develops virtue in us [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Moral virtues are neither by nor contrary to nature; we are constituted to receive them, but their full development is due to habit.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1103a21)
     A reaction: The notion of the habit of virtue is hugely important, precisely because such an idea is missing in Hobbes, Bentham and Kant. The concept of a true 'lady' or 'gentleman'.
We acquire virtues by habitually performing good deeds [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: We become just by performing just acts, temperate by performing temperate ones, brave by performing brave ones.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1103b01)
     A reaction: This is the circularity which is sometimes criticised, but seems to be benign. When two good things reinforce one another, that is not a vicious circle.
Like activities produce like dispositions, so we must give the right quality to the activity [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Like activities produce like dispositions; hence we must give our activities a certain quality, because it is their characteristics that determine the resulting dispositions.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1103b22)
     A reaction: Who doubts that a child brought up working for a charity would tend to be charitable, and one brought up amidst crime would tend to criminality? I just wish Aristotle could pin down the 'certain quality' the acts are supposed to have. 'Fine', I suppose.
True education is training from infancy to have correct feelings [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: The importance of having been trained in some way from infancy to feel joy and grief at the right things; true education is precisely this.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1104b14)
     A reaction: I love this. I suspect the majority of parents neglect this, and allow children to indulge in feelings (both pro and anti) which will diminish them in later life.
We must practise virtuous acts because practice actually teaches us the nature of virtue [Burnyeat on Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Aristotle is not giving us a bland reminder that virtue takes practice; rather, practice has cognitive powers, in that it is the way that we learn what is noble and just.
     From: comment on Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1104b02) by Myles F. Burnyeat - Aristotle on Learning to be Good p.73
     A reaction: Interesting. This seems right about Aristotle, and suggests that we come to appreciate the arts (for example) by doing them rather than studying them. (NE 1147a21)
People can break into the circle of virtue and good action, by chance, or with help [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: It is possible to get started in virtuous action without being virtuous, just as it is in the arts; it is possible to put a few words together correctly by accident, or at the prompting of another person.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1105a24)
     A reaction: This is a crucial idea, applicable in many areas. Philosophers love to say that it is logically impossible to get started in something (e.g. scientific theory and scientific observation) because of circularity. But they are wrong.
We acquire virtue by the repeated performance of just and temperate acts [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: It is from the repeated performance of just and temperate acts that we acquire virtues.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1105b04)
     A reaction: Presumably one can endlessly compel a child or an employee or a slave to perform just and temperate acts, but still not generate the actual virtue.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 2. Elements of Virtue Theory / e. Character
A person of good character sees the truth about what is actually fine and pleasant [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: What makes the man of good character stand out furthest is the fact that he sees the truth in every kind of situation: he is a sort of standard and yardstick of what is fine and pleasant.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1113a32)
     A reaction: A question for Aristotle seems to be whether practical reason ('phronesis') is sufficient to enable one to see what is truly fine and pleasant. Phronesis must crucially involve perception of values, and not just of what is expedient.
People develop their characters through the activities they pursue [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: In every sphere of conduct people develop qualities corresponding to the activities that they pursue.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1114a07)
     A reaction: Correct. Hence the crucial thing for a good human life is the choice of activity when young. We can impose activity on the young, but the top aim of education is to teach people how to make good choices. ('Fat chance!' I hear you say..)
When people speak of justice they mean a disposition of character to behave justly [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: When people speak of justice we see that they all mean that kind of state of character that disposes them to perform just acts, and behave in a just manner, and wish for what is just.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1129a07)
     A reaction: No remark shows more clearly that for the Greeks morality is a matter of character, rather than of actions or rules. This doesn't totally disagree with Plato's 'Republic', where justice turns out to be harmony in an individual person.
It is very hard to change a person's character traits by argument [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: It is hard, if not impossible, to remove by argument the traits that have long since been incorporated in the character.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1179b18)
     A reaction: True, and a strong justification for Aristotle's approach, that the crucial element in morality is the early creation of character. But teachers can argue about what to teach.
Character can be heroic, excellent, controlled, uncontrolled, bad, or brutish [Aristotle, by Urmson]
     Full Idea: For Aristotle there are six possible states of character: heroic excellence, excellence, self-control, lack of self-control, badness of character, and brutishness.
     From: report of Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1145a15) by J.O. Urmson - Aristotle's Doctrine of the Mean p.158
     A reaction: The two extremes are odd, but the distinction between bad and brutish is interesting, and the distinction between control and true excellence is vital (pace Kant).
The three states of character to avoid are vice, 'akrasia' and brutishness [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: There are three kinds of states of character to be avoided: vice, 'akrasia' and brutishness.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1145a16)
     A reaction: The three are distinguished by the state of their reason: vice exhibits bad reason, akrasia exhibits right reason (but no control), and brutishness exhibits an absence of reason. A good distinction, which should be used to judge criminals.
Character virtues (such as courage) are of the non-rational part, which follows the rational part [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: The virtues of character belong to the part that is non-rational, but whose nature is to follow the rational part; we do not say what a man's character is like when we say that he is wise or clever, but when we say that he is gentle or daring.
     From: Aristotle (Eudemian Ethics [c.333 BCE], 1220a11)
     A reaction: In the Nichomachean Ethics it appears that good character is the 'harmony' between the two parts; here it sounds more like obedience. It seems to me that our rational part is a failure if it is not sensitive to the needs of the irrational part.
Character is shown by what is or is not enjoyed, and virtue chooses the mean among them [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Virtue is that state of character which chooses the mean, relative to us, in things pleasant and unpleasant, all those in respect of which a man is said to have a certain sort of character according as he enjoys or suffers pain from them.
     From: Aristotle (Eudemian Ethics [c.333 BCE], 1227b08)
     A reaction: The 'mean' should be understood as what is appropriate, rather than the mere average. Strong anger, for example, is sometimes appropriate. Does Aristotle rule out wild laughter, or frenetic dancing? Is a state of ecstasy wicked?
We judge character not by their actions, but by their reasons for actions [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: It is from his choosing that we judge what sort of person someone is; that is, what that for whose sake he does something is, not what he does.
     From: Aristotle (Eudemian Ethics [c.333 BCE], 1228a03)
     A reaction: Not entirely true. It can be sufficient to reveal their character that a person does some particular thing, as novelists know. When Hud parks his car in her flowerbed, we don't need to enquire about his reason. But see 1228a16!
Character (éthos) is developed from habit (ethos) [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Character (éthos), as the word itself indicates, is developed from habit (ethos).
     From: Aristotle (Eudemian Ethics [c.333 BCE], 1220a36)
     A reaction: Aristotle goes in for dubious etymologies, but this one sounds quite significant, and supports his view that habit is central to virtue. We would lose nothing in English if we said 'what are her habits?' instead of 'what is her character?'.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 2. Elements of Virtue Theory / f. The Mean
The mean implies that vices are opposed to one another, not to virtue [Aristotle, by Annas]
     Full Idea: The doctrine of the mean claims that virtues are not the polar opposites of vices, but rather stand between two vices which are opposed.
     From: report of Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1104a13) by Julia Annas - The Morality of Happiness 2.2
     A reaction: I'm not sure about that. If the two extremes of courage are cowardice and recklessness, how are those two opposed to one another?
Virtues are destroyed by the excess and preserved by the mean [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Temperance and courage are destroyed by excess and deficiency and preserved by the mean.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1104a23)
     A reaction: It sounds as if drifting off into an excess, like binge drinking, is not just having a bad day, but actually 'destroys' the virtue. Presumably it permanently diminishes the good habit.
Aristotle aims at happiness by depressing emotions to a harmless mean [Nietzsche on Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Moralities which aim at the promotion of individual 'happiness' do it with recipes to counter the passions….such as the depression of emotions to a harmless mean at which they may be satisfied, the Aristotelianism of morals.
     From: comment on Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1104a24) by Friedrich Nietzsche - Beyond Good and Evil §198
     A reaction: A serious error by Nietzsche, in which he confuses the mean with the virtue of temperance. The mean aims at appropriate emotion, not suppression. Extreme anger might be appropriate. What does Nietzsche think about inappropriate emotions?
The mean is relative to the individual (diet, for example) [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: The mean is relative to US (as an average diet is too small for Milo the wrestler).
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1106a32)
     A reaction: Does that mean that if I am a dreadful coward, then achieving a tiny bit of courage will enough to qualify me as courageous? Surely there is something absolute (or external) about the required courage?
Skills are only well performed if they observe the mean [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Every science performs its function well only when it observes the mean.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1106b09)
     A reaction: Hm. Not sure what he has in mind. Most people aspire to perfection in their skills. The mean needs a continuum between two obvious extremes.
One drink a day is moderation, but very drunk once a week could exhibit the mean [Urmson on Aristotle]
     Full Idea: The doctrine of the mean does not require the doctrine of moderation: if I say we should drink lots of alcohol once a week, but you propose a little each day, your view is more in line with moderation, but we can agree on the doctrine of the mean.
     From: comment on Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1106b16) by J.O. Urmson - Aristotle's Doctrine of the Mean p.162
     A reaction: So two people could agree on the doctrine, but end up behaving differently. This is important for virtue theory. In a moral dilemma there might be several right things that could be done.
In most normal situations it is not appropriate to have any feelings at all [Urmson on Aristotle]
     Full Idea: In a normal context, if you invite me to dinner the appropriate amount of anger, pity, fear and confidence I should feel is none.
     From: comment on Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1106b17) by J.O. Urmson - Aristotle's Doctrine of the Mean p.160
     A reaction: Not an objection to Aristotle, but an important point towards clarifying the doctrine of the mean, which is more to do with appropriateness than with having middling feelings.
We must tune our feelings to be right in every way [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: We must have feelings at the right times on the right grounds towards the right people for the right motive and in the right way.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1106b18)
     A reaction: And you thought feelings were just whatever comes naturally! We sometimes talk now of 'emotional intellgence', but we should talk more of 'educated emotions'.
The law is the mean [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: The law is the mean.
     From: Aristotle (Politics [c.332 BCE], 1287b04)
     A reaction: He probably intends to say that the law should be the mean. Since virtue is always the mean (i.e. what is appropriate), then it is almost tautological (for him) that the law is the mean.
The mean is always right, and the extremes are always wrong [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: In all things the mean is to be commended, while the extremes are neither commendable nor right, but reprehensible.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1108a16)
     A reaction: This is the aspect of Aristotle which Nietzsche hated, as a stultifying conservativism seems to be implied. Elsewhere, though, Aristotle emphasises what is 'appropriate' (e.g. in anger) which allows the possibility of bolder and more exciting actions.
There is a mean of feelings, as in our responses to the good or bad fortune of others [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: There are mean states also in the sphere of feelings. …The man who feels righteous indignation is distressed at instances of undeserved good fortune, but the envious man is distressed at any good fortune, and the spiteful man rejoices at bad fortune.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1108a29)
     A reaction: This example captures nicely the crucial point that Aristotle wants our actions and responses to be appropriate, rather than just restrained. The disciple of Aristotle does not conduct himself like a cold Stoic, but has lively responses to situations.
The vices to which we are most strongly pulled are most opposed to the mean [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: It is the things towards which we have the stronger natural inclination that seem to us more opposed to the mean….(e.g. pleasure).
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1109a12)
     A reaction: Trying to identify these might lead to a circularity (if strong opposition can only be identified by strong pull). If the pull varies with individuals, that implies that the opposition is also relative.
To make one's anger exactly appropriate to a situation is very difficult [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: It is easy to get angry - anyone can do that - but to feel or act towards the right person to the right extent at the right time for the right reason in the right way - that is not easy, and it is not everyone that can do it.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1109a26)
     A reaction: This shows clearly that Aristotle's doctrine of the mean is NOT the same as the virtue of temperance (as Nietzsche seemed to think). Appropriate anger could be very forceful indeed, and bravery might be quite extreme in a particular crisis.
Patient people are indignant, but only appropriately, as their reason prescribes [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Patience is commended, because a patient person tends to be unperturbed and not carried away by his feelings, but indignant only in the way and on the grounds and for the length of time that his 'logos' prescribes.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1125b33)
     A reaction: Because the word 'logos' is used here, this strikes me as Aristotle's best statement of his doctrine of the mean (which is never the middle way, but always the appropriate way).
The sincere man is praiseworthy, because truth is the mean between boasting and irony [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Falsehood is bad and reprehensible, while the truth is a fine and praiseworthy thing; accordingly the sincere man, who hold the mean position, is praiseworthy, while both the deceivers (the boaster and the ironist) are to be censured.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1127a29)
     A reaction: An interesting and surprising claim - that truth is not an abstract Platonic absolute, but a human virtue seen as a mean between two extremes of falsehood (excessive assertion and excessive denial). Truth is a human value.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 2. Elements of Virtue Theory / h. Right feelings
At times we ought to feel angry, and we ought to desire health and learning [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: There are some things at which we actually ought to feel angry, and others that we actually ought to desire - health, for instance, and learning.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1111a29)
     A reaction: This is obviously an important part of virtue theory. Other theories are inclined to take our feelings as a given, and then offer rules for controlling and directing them. Emphasis on character can involve re-educating bad desires.
It is foolish not to be angry when it is appropriate [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Those who do not get angry at things that ought to make them angry are considered to be foolish.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1126a05)
     A reaction: This remark most clearly shows that Nietzsche did not understand Aristotle, as he seemed to think that Aristotle was recommending bland restraint. Aristotle loves reason, but that does not mean that he admires boring tedium.
Virtue is concerned with correct feelings [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Virtue is concerned with enjoying, loving, and hating in the correct way.
     From: Aristotle (Politics [c.332 BCE], 1340a14)
     A reaction: The context is a defence of music as a training of right feelings.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 2. Elements of Virtue Theory / i. Absolute virtues
There is no right time or place or way or person for the committing of adultery; it is just wrong [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: No matter whether a man commits adultery with the right woman or at the right time or in the right way, because anything of that kind is simply wrong.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1107a18)
     A reaction: It would be nice if he gave a reason or a criterion for this opinion. Kekes says this points to something even more morally basic than virtue. Some acts should not even be considered.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 2. Elements of Virtue Theory / j. Unity of virtue
Nowadays we (unlike Aristotle) seem agreed that someone can have one virtue but lack others [Williams,B on Aristotle]
     Full Idea: We accept, indeed regard as a platitude, an idea that Aristotle rejected, that someone can have one virtue while lacking others.
     From: comment on Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE]) by Bernard Williams - Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy Ch.3
     A reaction: Probably because we don't think as hard about it as Aristotle did. What are the prerequisites of even a single virtue? Distinguish a true virtue from an accidental good quality.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / a. Virtues
Gods exist in a state which is morally superior to virtue [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: A god has no virtue or vice, any more than a brute has; the goodness of a god is more to be esteemed than virtue.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1145a24)
     A reaction: A very interesting comment, implying how very human the virtues are, with all the implied limitations. The virtues are just the natural excellences for a human, but this leaves open how naturally excellent the human race is.
Friendship is preferable to money, since its excess is preferable [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Friendship is preferable to money; for excess of friendship is preferable to excess of money.
     From: Aristotle (Topics [c.331 BCE], 118b07)
     A reaction: Compare Idea 12276, which gives a different criterion for choosing between virtues. This idea is an interesting qualification of the doctrine of the mean.
Justice and self-control are better than courage, because they are always useful [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Justice [dikaiosune] and self-control [sophrosune] are preferable to courage, for the first two are always useful, but courage only sometimes.
     From: Aristotle (Topics [c.331 BCE], 117a36)
     A reaction: One could challenge his criterion. What of something which is absolutely vital on occasions, against something which is very mildly useful all the time? You may survive without justice, but not without courage. Compare Idea 12277.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / b. Temperance
It is quite possible to live a moderate life and yet be miserable [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: It is quite possible to live a moderate life and yet be miserable.
     From: Aristotle (Politics [c.332 BCE], 1265a32)
     A reaction: That's a relief. Presumably this would achieve the correct mean in terms of indulgence, but all ruined by excesses in other areas.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / c. Justice
Between friends there is no need for justice [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Between friends there is no need for justice.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1155a26)
     A reaction: This is something like Aristotle's distinction between 'enkrateia' (control) and true virtue. It is an important point for those (usually on the left wing) who think that justice is the highest aim of a society.
Justice concerns our behaviour in dealing with other people [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: It is the way that we behave in our dealings with other people that makes us just or unjust.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1103b16)
     A reaction: This makes clear that 'justice' for the Greeks concerns what we think of as basic morality, rather than legal distribution of pleasure or pain. It will be the Greek word 'dikaiosuné', which is the main topic of Plato's 'Republic'.
What emotion is displayed in justice, and what are its deficiency and excess? [Urmson on Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Aristotle notoriously has difficulty in finding the specific emotion that is displayed in just and unjust actions, and equal difficulty in distinguishing the two errors of deficiency and excess required by the doctrine of the mean.
     From: comment on Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1129a03) by J.O. Urmson - Aristotle's Doctrine of the Mean p.164
     A reaction: Not a criticism of Aristotle, but it opens up the complexity of his view. It seems to make justice a super-virtue, a combination of lesser sets of combined mean and right feeling. Maybe.
The word 'unjust' describes law-breaking and exploitation [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: The word 'unjust' is considered to describe both one who breaks the law and one who takes advantage of another, i.e. acts unfairly.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1129a32)
     A reaction: Roughly, injustice is bad dealings with fellow citizens. We have 'distributive justice', and justice in keeping contracts. Our central meaning, of giving each citizen what they deserve, doesn't seem to be here.
Justice is whatever creates or preserves social happiness [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: We call 'just' anything that tends to produce or conserve the happiness of a political association.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1129b18)
     A reaction: This is closer to a modern view, though we probably think that some societies might flourish while being unjust, while others might be very just but disintegrate. We are more cynical than Aristotle.
Justice is a virtue of communities [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Justice is a virtue relating to communities.
     From: Aristotle (Politics [c.332 BCE], 1283a38)
     A reaction: Interesting, given that we can also think of justice as between two individuals - in a contract, for example. Betrayal is an injustice. But for Aristotle the focus is on the constitution.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / d. Courage
Strictly speaking, a courageous person is one who does not fear an honourable death [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: In the strict sense of the word the courageous man will be one who is fearless in the face of an honourable death, or of some sudden threat of death.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1115a33)
     A reaction: I.e. one is rightly afraid of a DIShonourable death. This seems to be more of a touchstone than a definition. Presumably one can show true courage in the face of pain as well as of death.
True courage is an appropriate response to a dangerous situation [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: The man who faces or fears the right things for the right reason and in the right way and at the right time is courageous.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1115b18)
     A reaction: This is the consistent view of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Their concept is much broader and more value-laden than ours. We are inclined to see courage as simply being undeterred by pain, and place the morality elsewhere.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / e. Honour
Honour depends too much on the person who awards it [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Honour is felt to depend more on those who confer than on him who receives it.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1095b22)
     A reaction: That presumably means that honour is not only highly relative (much more so than a society's other virtues), but that the persons awarding the honours are highly biased. See the absurd UK House of Lords.
Honour is clearly the greatest external good [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Honour is clearly the greatest external good.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1123b20)
     A reaction: Honour was earlier dismissed as 'the good', largely because it depended on other people. It is not far off to say that the aim of Aristotle's theory is to achieve genuine and justified honour. One's 'eudaimonia' is judged by others too.
If you aim at honour, you make yourself dependent on the people to whom you wish to be superior [Aristotle, by Williams,B]
     Full Idea: People who aim at political honour tend to defeat themselves by making themselves dependent on those to whom they aim to be superior (what might be called the 'Coriolanus Paradox').
     From: report of Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1095b25) by Bernard Williams - Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy Ch.3
     A reaction: This brings out Aristotle's point nicely. This is why aristocrats withdraw behind their fences, among small coteries of accolytes.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / f. Compassion
The young feel pity from philanthropy, but the old from self-concern [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Old men are prone to pity, but where the young are so from philanthropy, the old are so from weakness, for they think all these things are near for themselves to suffer.
     From: Aristotle (The Art of Rhetoric [c.350 BCE], 1390a)
     A reaction: I am shocked to find Aristotle being so cynical. I see no reason why the old should not be as philanthropic as anyone else, and they clearly are so, as when they plant trees for future generations to enjoy.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / g. Contemplation
Only contemplation is sought for its own sake; practical activity always offers some gain [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: This activity [contemplation] alone would seem to be loved for its own sake; for nothing arises from it apart from the contemplating, while from practical activities we gain more or less apart from the activity.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1177b), quoted by Christine M. Korsgaard - Aristotle and Kant on the Source of Value 8 'Finality'
     A reaction: Not true. Gardening, walking, travelling, chatting with friends, reading. I'm shocked that he should say this.
The intellectual life is divine in comparison with ordinary human life [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: If the intellect is divine compared with man, the life of the intellect must be divine compared with the life of a human being.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1177b31)
     A reaction: This raises an interesting question: what, for Aristotle, was the value of a human life? This raises a meta-question for virtue theory, because the latter only concerns itself with excellence for humans? What is the value of a slug?
The gods live, but action is unworthy of them, so that only leaves contemplation? [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: The circumstances of action would be found trivial and unworthy of gods. ...Still, everyone supposes that they live and are therefore active. ...Now if you take away from a living being action, and still more production, what is left but contemplation?
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1178b), quoted by Christine M. Korsgaard - Aristotle and Kant on the Source of Value 8 'Finality'
     A reaction: Is the ideal life for a human being to be paralysed by injury, and hence capable of nothing except godlike contemplation?
Contemplation is a supreme pleasure and excellence [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Contemplation is a supreme pleasure and excellence.
     From: Aristotle (Metaphysics [c.324 BCE], 1072b)
The more people contemplate, the happier they are [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: The more people contemplate, the happier they are.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1178b29)
     A reaction: On the other hand he regularly says that virtues concern actions, not thoughts. He sees slavery as essential to allow others to contemplate, but feeling guilty about that would ruin it.
Contemplation (with the means to achieve it) is the perfect happiness for man [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Contemplation (with enough self-sufficiency, leisure and energy) is the perfect happiness for man.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1177b17)
     A reaction: I assume this is successful and elevating contemplation, rather than sinking into depression as one contemplates human folly and wickedness. Stick to anodyne contemplations?
We should aspire to immortality, and live by what is highest in us [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: We ought, so far as in us lies, to put on immortality, and do all that we can to live in conformity with the highest that is in us.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1177b33)
     A reaction: This high/low picture should be treated with caution. 'Be a good animal, true to your animal self', says a D.H. Lawrence character. Why aspire to what is unattainable?
Lower animals cannot be happy, because they cannot contemplate [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: The lower animals have no share in happiness, being completely incapable of contemplation.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1178b25)
     A reaction: I've heard it suggested that the recipe for human happiness is to be good looking and rather dim. Very few people can be seriously good at contemplation.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 4. External Goods / a. External goods
The fine deeds required for happiness need external resources, like friends or wealth [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: It seems clear that happiness needs the addition of external goods, for it is difficult if not impossible to do fine deeds without any resources; many can only be done by the help of friends, or wealth, or political influence.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1099a32)
     A reaction: One should ask what fine deeds can be done without external resources, and also what corruptions of virtue result from the pursuit of external goods (esp. political influence!). Aristotle wants to DO good, where Stoics want to BE good.
A man can't be happy if he is ugly, or of low birth, or alone and childless [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: A man is scarcely happy if he is very ugly to look at, or of low birth, or solitary and childless.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1099b03)
     A reaction: This seems a bit shocking for us, when none of these setbacks is the person's fault. Socrates was said to be ugly, and Plato seems to have had no children.
It is nonsense to say a good person is happy even if they are being tortured or suffering disaster [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Those who say that a man who is being tortured and has suffered terrible calamities is happy if he is a good man are willy-nilly talking nonsense.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1153b19)
     A reaction: Someone expressed this extreme idea, and the Stoics sympathised with it. Happiness is life going well. Making a supreme sacrifice for an enormous good seems like life going well.
Goods in the soul are more worthy than those outside it, as everybody wants them [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: All goods are either in the soul or outside it, and it is those in the soul that are more worthy of choice; for wisdom, virtue and pleasure are in the soul, and some or all of these seem to be an end for everyone.
     From: Aristotle (Eudemian Ethics [c.333 BCE], 1218b34)
     A reaction: An interesting reason for this assertion - that it is true because everybody agrees on it. See Idea 95. I would think that he might claim that our soul is our essence, whereas external goods pander to the non-essential in us.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 4. External Goods / c. Wealth
The virtue of generosity requires money [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: The liberal man will need money to perform liberal acts.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1178a28)
     A reaction: The sort of thing Margaret Thatcher used to say, with a passive aggressive tone. The virtue also needs someone to be short of money. The paradox of virtue - that bad situations are needed, to give them opportunities.
Rich people are mindlessly happy [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: The character of the rich man is that of the mindlessly happy one.
     From: Aristotle (The Art of Rhetoric [c.350 BCE], 1391a)
     A reaction: Very nice. It is hard to deny that the rich tend to be happy (in some sense of the word), and recent sociological research has tended to demonstrate this, but the pursuit of wealth must inevitably take the focus away from key intellectual pursuits. Yeh?
The rich are seen as noble, because they don't need to commit crimes [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: The rich seem to possess already the things for the sake of which unjust people do injustice, which is why the rich are called both noble and good and notable.
     From: Aristotle (Politics [c.332 BCE], 1293b38)
     A reaction: This doesn't seem (at least in popular lore) to apply to those who acquired their wealth by unjust means, because by then injustice has become a habit.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 4. External Goods / d. Friendship
We value friendship just for its own sake [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: We value friendship for its own sake, even if we are not likely to get anything else from it.
     From: Aristotle (Topics [c.331 BCE], 117a03)
     A reaction: In 'Ethics' he distinguishes some friendships which don't meet this requirement. Presumably true friendships survive all vicissitudes (except betrayal), but that makes such things fairly rare.
Aristotle does not confine supreme friendship to moral heroes [Cooper,JM on Aristotle]
     Full Idea: I argue that Aristotle does not make friendship of the central kind the exclusive preserve of moral heroes, and that he does not maintain that friendships of the derivative kinds are wholly self-centered.
     From: comment on Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1155a03-) by John M. Cooper - Aristotle on Friendship p.305
     A reaction: Glad to hear it. Though he does seem to think that only virtuous people can have true friendships. He sees friendship as the cement of a good society, so it has to be fairly widespread.
For Aristotle in the best friendships the binding force is some excellence of character [Cooper,JM on Aristotle]
     Full Idea: For Aristotle what makes a friendship a virtue-friendship is the binding force within it of some - perhaps for all that partial and incomplete - excellence of the character.
     From: comment on Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1156b10) by John M. Cooper - Aristotle on Friendship p.308
     A reaction: It is certainly hard to imagine a really good friendship that doesn't involve mutual respect, and possibly even mutual admiration.
Bad men can have friendships of utility or pleasure, but only good men can be true friends [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: Where the object is pleasure or utility friendship is possible between bad men,…but obviously only good men can be friends for their own sakes.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1157a16)
     A reaction: If bad men try to be friends, they presumably become aware of the vices in the other person, and vices are usually fairly unfriendly.
Master and slave can have friendship through common interests [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: There is an interest in common and a feeling of friendship between master and slave, wherever they are fitted for this relationship.
     From: Aristotle (Politics [c.332 BCE], 1255b12)
     A reaction: Very striking. His view that there are natural slaves, who are incapable of the good life, seems to count against this, but I suspect that he is forced to confront the facts in his own city.
23. Ethics / D. Deontological Ethics / 1. Deontology
'Enkrateia' (control) means abiding by one's own calculations [Aristotle]
     Full Idea: The continent man (controlled, 'enkratic') is identical with one who tends to abide by his own calculation.
     From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1145b09)
     A reaction: The point is that this is NOT virtue, even though it results in doing the right thing. In such an 'enkratic' (controlled) person the reason is in a healthy state, but the desires, emotions and pleasures are badly trained.