Ideas from 'Nichomachean Ethics' by Aristotle [334 BCE], by Theme Structure

[found in 'Ethics (Nicomachean)' by Aristotle (ed/tr ThomsonJ A K/TredennickH) [Penguin 1976,0-14-044055 0]].

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1. Philosophy / A. Wisdom / 1. Nature of Wisdom
Wisdom is scientific and intuitive knowledge of what is by nature most precious
Wisdom does not study happiness, because it is not concerned with processes
1. Philosophy / A. Wisdom / 2. Wise People
Aristotle thinks human life is not important enough to spend a whole life on it
Wise people can contemplate alone, though co-operation helps
1. Philosophy / D. Nature of Philosophy / 6. Despair over Philosophy
Most people are readier to submit to compulsion than to argument
1. Philosophy / F. Analytic Philosophy / 1. Analysis
Trained minds never expect more precision than is possible
1. Philosophy / G. Scientific Philosophy / 1. Aims of Science
The object of scientific knowledge is what is necessary
2. Reason / A. Nature of Reason / 4. Aims of Reason
Assume our reason is in two parts, one for permanent first principles, and one for variable things
2. Reason / B. Laws of Thought / 4. Contraries
Contraries are by definition as far distant as possible from one another
3. Truth / A. Truth Problems / 1. Truth
If everyone believes it, it is true
3. Truth / C. Correspondence Truth / 1. Correspondence Truth
A statement is true if all the data are in harmony with it
8. Modes of Existence / D. Universals / 6. Platonic Forms / d. Forms critiques
Eternal white is no whiter than temporary white, and it is the same with goodness
How will a vision of pure goodness make someone a better doctor?
It is meaningless to speak of 'man-himself', because it has the same definition as plain 'man'
11. Knowledge Aims / A. Knowledge / 3. Belief / c. Aim of beliefs
Opinion is praised for being in accordance with truth
11. Knowledge Aims / B. Certain Knowledge / 5. The Cogito
To perceive or think is to be conscious of our existence
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 6. Inference in Perception
Particular facts (such as 'is it cooked?') are matters of sense-perception, not deliberation
12. Knowledge Sources / E. Direct Knowledge / 1. Intuition
Intuition grasps the definitions that can't be proved
15. Nature of Minds / A. Nature of Mind / 2. Psuché
Everything that receives nourishment has a vegetative soul, with it own distinctive excellence
In a controlled person the receptive part of the soul is obedient, and it is in harmony in the virtuous
The irrational psuché is persuadable by reason - shown by our criticism and encouragement of people
If beings are dominated by appetite, this can increase so much that it drives out reason
15. Nature of Minds / A. Nature of Mind / 5. Unity of Mind
The rational and irrational parts of the soul are either truly separate, or merely described that way
16. Persons / B. Concept of the Self / 1. Essential Self
It would seem that the thinking part is the individual self
16. Persons / G. Free Will / 1. Free Will / a. Nature of free will
A human being fathers his own actions as he fathers his children
For an action to be 'free', it must be deliberate as well as unconstrained
Aristotle never discusses free will
18. Thought / A. Modes of Thought / 1. Thought
The attainment of truth is the task of the intellectual part of the soul
18. Thought / A. Modes of Thought / 6. Rationality
Aristotle gives a superior account of rationality, because he allows emotions to participate
20. Action / B. Motives for Action / 3. Acting on Reason / a. Practical reason
Seeing particulars as parts of larger wholes is to perceive their value
We deliberate about means, not ends
Prudence is mainly concerned with particulars, which is the sphere of human conduct
Virtue ensures that we have correct aims, and prudence that we have correct means of achieving them
One cannot be prudent without being good
Practical intellect serves to arrive at the truth which corresponds to right appetite
The one virtue of prudence carries with it the possession of all the other virtues
20. Action / B. Motives for Action / 3. Acting on Reason / b. Intellectualism
For Socrates virtues are principles, involving knowledge, but we say they only imply the principle of practical reason
Some people are good at forming opinions, but bad at making moral choices
Bad people are just ignorant of what they ought to do
20. Action / B. Motives for Action / 3. Acting on Reason / c. Reasons as causes
Our reasoned acts are held to be voluntary and our own doing
20. Action / C. Preliminaries of Action / 3. Willed Action / c. Weakness of will
Aristotle seems not to explain why the better syllogism is overcome in akratic actions
The akrates acts from desire not choice, and the enkrates acts from choice not desire
Virtue is right reason and feeling and action. Akrasia and enkrateia are lower levels of action.
Akrasia merely neglects or misunderstands knowledge, rather than opposing it
Some people explain akrasia by saying only opinion is present, not knowledge
A person may act against one part of his knowledge, if he knows both universal and particular
Licentious people feel no regret, but weak-willed people are capable of repentance
20. Action / D. Explaining an Action / 3. Agent Causation
An action is voluntary if the limb movements originate in the agent
Deliberation ends when the starting-point of an action is traced back to the dominant part of the self
20. Action / D. Explaining an Action / 4. Justifying an Action
If you repent of an act done through ignorance, you acted involuntarily, not non-voluntarily
For Aristotle responsibility seems negative, in the absence of force or ignorance
21. Aesthetics / B. Aesthetic Experience / 1. Beauty
We choose things for their fineness, their advantage, or for pleasure
22. Metaethics / A. Ethical Ends / 1. Value / a. Nature of value
For Aristotle 'good' means purpose, and value is real but relational
22. Metaethics / A. Ethical Ends / 1. Value / e. Ultimate value
We desire final things just for themselves, and not for the sake of something else
22. Metaethics / A. Ethical Ends / 2. Goodness / a. Goodness
Not all actions aim at some good; akratic actions, for example, do not
Goods are external, of the soul, and of the body; those of the soul (such as action) come first
The good is 'that at which all things aim'
22. Metaethics / A. Ethical Ends / 2. Goodness / b. Candidates for the Good
The masses believe, not unreasonably, that the good is pleasure
Wealth is not the good, because it is only a means
Happiness is perfect and self-sufficient, the end of all action
Intelligence and sight, and some pleasures and honours, are candidates for being good in themselves
Pleasure is not the Good, and not every pleasure is desirable
22. Metaethics / A. Ethical Ends / 2. Goodness / c. Form of the Good
Each category of existence has its own good, so one Good cannot unite them
There should be one science of the one Good, but there are many overlapping sciences
22. Metaethics / A. Ethical Ends / 5. Happiness / a. Nature of happiness
You can be good while asleep, or passive, or in pain
Happiness seems to involve virtue, or practical reason, or wisdom, or pleasure, or external goods
22. Metaethics / A. Ethical Ends / 5. Happiness / b. Eudaimonia
Does Aristotle say eudaimonia is the aim, or that it ought to be?
Some good and evil can happen to the dead, just as the living may be unaware of a disaster
Eudaimonia is said to only have final value, where reason and virtue are also useful
22. Metaethics / A. Ethical Ends / 5. Happiness / c. Value of happiness
Aristotle is unsure about eudaimonia because he is unsure what people are
Goods like pleasure are chosen partly for happiness, but happiness is chosen just for itself
How can an action be intrinsically good if it is a means to 'eudaimonia'?
22. Metaethics / A. Ethical Ends / 5. Happiness / d. Routes to happiness
Slaves can't be happy, because they lack freedom
Happiness needs total goodness and a complete life
The happy life is in accordance with goodness, which implies seriousness
Perhaps we get a better account of happiness as the good for man if we know his function
If happiness can be achieved by study and effort, then it is open to anyone who is not corrupt
Oxen, horses and children cannot be happy, because they cannot perform fine deeds
Happiness is activity in accordance with complete virtue, for a whole life, with adequate external goods
The best life is that of the intellect, since that is in the fullest sense the man
22. Metaethics / A. Ethical Ends / 6. Pleasure / a. Nature of pleasure
For Aristotle, pleasure is the perception of particulars as valuable
22. Metaethics / A. Ethical Ends / 6. Pleasure / b. Value of pleasure
Feeling inappropriate pleasure or pain affects conduct, and is central to morality
Nobody would choose the mentality of a child, even if they had the greatest childish pleasures
If we criticise bodily pleasures as licentious and bad, why do we consider their opposite, pain, to be bad?
It is right to pursue pleasure, because it enhances life, and life is a thing to choose
There are many things we would want even if they brought no pleasure
If happiness were mere amusement it wouldn't be worth a lifetime's effort
22. Metaethics / A. Ethical Ends / 6. Pleasure / c. Types of pleasure
There are pleasures of the soul (e.g. civic honour, and learning) and of the body
God feels one simple pleasure forever
Good people enjoy virtuous action, just as musicians enjoy beautiful melodies
Intellectual pleasures are superior to sensuous ones
22. Metaethics / A. Ethical Ends / 6. Pleasure / d. Sources of pleasure
Some things are not naturally pleasant, but become so through disease or depravity
While replenishing we even enjoy unpleasant things, but only absolute pleasures when we are replenished
Disreputable pleasures are only pleasant to persons with diseased perception
22. Metaethics / A. Ethical Ends / 6. Pleasure / e. Role of pleasure
Character is revealed by the pleasures and pains people feel
22. Metaethics / A. Ethical Ends / 6. Pleasure / f. Dangers of pleasure
The greater the pleasure, the greater the hindrance to thought
22. Metaethics / A. Ethical Ends / 7. Altruism
All altruism is an extension of self-love
22. Metaethics / A. Ethical Ends / 8. Love
Only lovable things are loved, and they must be good, or pleasant, or useful
Most people want to be loved rather than to love, because they desire honour
22. Metaethics / A. Ethical Ends / 9. Selfishness
For Aristotle, true self-love is love of the higher parts of one's soul
The best people exercise their virtue towards others, rather than to themselves
Self-love benefits ourselves, and also helps others
22. Metaethics / B. Basis of Ethics / 2. Moral Theory
We must take for granted that we should act according to right principle
There is no fixed art of good conduct, and each situation is different, as in navigation
We aim not to identify goodness, but to be good
22. Metaethics / B. Basis of Ethics / 3. Morality as Convention
Aristotle said there are two levels of virtue - the conventional and the intellectual
Moral acts are so varied that they must be convention, not nature
22. Metaethics / C. Sources of Ethics / 2. Human Nature
If bodily organs have functions, presumably the whole person has one
To eat vast amounts is unnatural, since natural desire is to replenish the deficiency
22. Metaethics / D. Consequentialism / 1. Consequentialism
Clearly perfect conduct will involve both good intention and good action
23. Ethics / A. Egoism / 1. Ethical Egoism
Nobody would choose all the good things in world, if the price was loss of identity
A man is his own best friend; therefore he ought to love himself best
23. Ethics / A. Egoism / 2. Hedonism
Licentiousness concerns the animal-like pleasures of touch and taste
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 1. Virtue Theory / a. Nature of virtue
The good for man is an activity of soul in accordance with virtue
If virtues are not feelings or faculties, then they must be dispositions
A life of moral virtue brings human happiness, but not divine happiness
Actions are not virtuous because of their quality, but because of the way they are done
Virtue is a purposive mean disposition, which follows a rational principle and prudent judgment
Many pleasures are relative to a person, but some love what is pleasant by nature, and virtue is like that
Aristotle must hold that virtuous King Priam's life can be marred, but not ruined
Feelings are vital to virtue, but virtue requires choice, which feelings lack
Virtue is the feeling of emotions that accord with one's perception of value
Acts may be forgivable if particular facts (rather than principles) are unknown
There are six categories of particular cirumstance affecting an action
An act is involuntary if the particular facts (esp. circumstances and effect) are unknown
People who perform just acts unwillingly or ignorantly are still not just
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 1. Virtue Theory / b. Basis of virtue
Each named function has a distinctive excellence attached to it
The two main parts of the soul give rise to two groups of virtues - intellectual, and moral
How can good actions breed virtues, if you need to be virtuous to perform good actions?
If a thing has excellence, this makes the thing good, and means it functions well
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 1. Virtue Theory / c. Particularism
We cannot properly judge by rules, because blame depends on perception of particulars
Actions concern particular cases, and rules must fit the cases, not the other way round
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
We are partly responsible for our own dispositions and virtues
Dispositions to virtue are born in us, but without intelligence they can be harmful
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
A person is good if they act from choice, and for the sake of the actions in themselves
Existence is desirable if one is conscious of one's own goodness
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 2. Elements of Virtue Theory / d. Teaching virtue
Nature enables us to be virtuous, but habit develops virtue in us
Associating with good people can be a training in virtue
We acquire virtues by habitually performing good deeds
We must practise virtuous acts because practice actually teaches us the nature of virtue
People can break into the circle of virtue and good action, by chance, or with help
We acquire virtue by the repeated performance of just and temperate acts
Like activities produce like dispositions, so we must give the right quality to the activity
True education is training from infancy to have correct feelings
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
People develop their characters through the activities they pursue
When people speak of justice they mean a disposition of character to behave justly
It is very hard to change a person's character traits by argument
Character can be heroic, excellent, controlled, uncontrolled, bad, or brutish
The three states of character to avoid are vice, 'akrasia' and brutishness
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
Excess and deficiency are bad for virtue, just as they are for bodily health
Virtues are destroyed by the excess and preserved by the mean
Aristotle aims at happiness by depressing emotions to a harmless mean
The mean is relative to the individual (diet, for example)
Skills are only well performed if they observe the mean
One drink a day is moderation, but very drunk once a week could exhibit the mean
There is a mean of feelings, as in our responses to the good or bad fortune of others
To make one's anger exactly appropriate to a situation is very difficult
Patient people are indignant, but only appropriately, as their reason prescribes
The sincere man is praiseworthy, because truth is the mean between boasting and irony
The vices to which we are most strongly pulled are most opposed to the mean
We must tune our feelings to be right in every way
In most normal situations it is not appropriate to have any feelings at all
The mean is always right, and the extremes are always wrong
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
It is foolish not to be angry when it is appropriate
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
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
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / a. Virtues
Gods exist in a state which is morally superior to virtue
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / c. Justice
Justice concerns our behaviour in dealing with other people
What emotion is displayed in justice, and what are its deficiency and excess?
The word 'unjust' describes law-breaking and exploitation
Justice is whatever creates or preserves social happiness
Between friends there is no need for justice
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / d. Courage
Strictly speaking, a courageous person is one who does not fear an honourable death
True courage is an appropriate response to a dangerous situation
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / e. Honour
Honour depends too much on the person who awards it
Honour is clearly the greatest external good
If you aim at honour, you make yourself dependent on the people to whom you wish to be superior
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / g. Contemplation
Contemplation (with the means to achieve it) is the perfect happiness for man
The intellectual life is divine in comparison with ordinary human life
We should aspire to immortality, and live by what is highest in us
The gods live, but action is unworthy of them, so that only leaves contemplation?
Lower animals cannot be happy, because they cannot contemplate
The more people contemplate, the happier they are
Only contemplation is sought for its own sake; practical activity always offers some gain
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 4. External Goods / a. External goods
It is nonsense to say a good person is happy even if they are being tortured or suffering disaster
A man can't be happy if he is ugly, or of low birth, or alone and childless
The fine deeds required for happiness need external resources, like friends or wealth
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 4. External Goods / c. Wealth
The virtue of generosity requires money
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 4. External Goods / d. Friendship
Bad men can have friendships of utility or pleasure, but only good men can be true friends
Aristotle does not confine supreme friendship to moral heroes
A bad political constitution (especially a tyranny) makes friendship almost impossible
For Aristotle in the best friendships the binding force is some excellence of character
23. Ethics / D. Deontological Ethics / 1. Deontology
'Enkrateia' (control) means abiding by one's own calculations
24. Applied Ethics / A. Decision Conflicts / 2. Dilemmas
A man should sooner die than do some dreadful things, no matter how cruel the death
24. Applied Ethics / C. Death Issues / 1. Death
For the great-souled man it is sometimes better to be dead
The more virtuous and happy a person is, the worse the prospect becomes of ending life
24. Applied Ethics / C. Death Issues / 4. Suicide
A suicide embraces death to run away from hardships, rather than because it is a fine deed
25. Society / A. State of Nature / 1. A People / a. Human distinctiveness
Society collapses if people cannot rely on exchanging good for good and evil for evil
Even more than a social being, man is a pairing and family being
Man is by nature a social being
25. Society / B. The State / 1. Purpose of a State
Political science aims at the highest good, which involves creating virtue in citizens
25. Society / B. The State / 6. Government / b. Legislature
We hold that every piece of legislation is just
25. Society / C. Political Doctrines / 5. Democracy
Democracy is the best constitution for friendship, because it encourages equality
25. Society / C. Political Doctrines / 8. Communitarianism
The mark of a good legislator is that they make their citizens good by habituation
Friendship is based on a community of sharing
Friendship holds communities together, and lawgivers value it more than justice
25. Society / E. State Functions / 2. The Law / b. Natural law
Natural justice is the same everywhere, and does not (unlike legal justice) depend on acceptance
25. Society / E. State Functions / 5. Education / c. Teaching
Intellectual virtue arises from instruction (and takes time), whereas moral virtue result from habit
26. Natural Theory / A. Heart of Nature / 2. Natural Purpose
Aristotle needed to distinguish teleological description from teleological explanation
The nature of any given thing is determined by its end
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 1. Causation / b. Types of cause
Types of cause are nature, necessity and chance, and mind and human agency