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
                        Full Idea: Wisdom is scientific and intuitive knowledge of what is by nature most precious.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1141b03)
                        A reaction: Precious for what? Theoretical or practical? Note the implied rational and empirical routes to wisdom.
Wisdom does not study happiness, because it is not concerned with processes
                        Full Idea: Wisdom studies none of the things that go to make a man happy, because it is not concerned with any kind of process.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1143b20)
                        A reaction: This seems to be a very Platonic view, and not really consistent with Aristotle's overall metaphysics. It strikes me as simply wrong. Maybe all of reality is a process, and wisdom is then a maximum understanding of that process.
1. Philosophy / A. Wisdom / 2. Wise People
Aristotle thinks human life is not important enough to spend a whole life on it
                        Full Idea: Aristotle believes, in short, that human life is not important enough for humans to spend their lives on.
                        From: comment on Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE]) by Thomas Nagel - Aristotle on Eudaimonia p.12
                        A reaction: The explanation of why Aristotle values contemplation more highly than the moral virtues.
Wise people can contemplate alone, though co-operation helps
                        Full Idea: The wise man can practise contemplation by himself (though no doubt he does it better with fellow-workers).
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1177a32)
                        A reaction: It is hard to argue with this balanced view of the individual versus team concept of philosophy.
1. Philosophy / D. Nature of Philosophy / 7. Despair over Philosophy
Most people are readier to submit to compulsion than to argument
                        Full Idea: Most people are readier to submit to compulsion and punishment than to argument and fine ideals.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1180a05)
                        A reaction: How perceptively pessimistic. We must hope that the picture has changed now that we have fairly universal education. Some people may submit to argument, but NOT to fine ideals.
1. Philosophy / F. Analytic Philosophy / 7. Limitations of Analysis
Trained minds never expect more precision than is possible
                        Full Idea: It is the mark of the trained mind never to expect more precision in the treatment of any subject than the nature of that subject permits.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1094b18)
                        A reaction: An excellent remark in the context of moral philosophy. There is a dream that moral principles might derive from pure reason, or consist of a single rule expressible in a few words, but daily life isn't like that, and morality is not likely to be.
1. Philosophy / G. Scientific Philosophy / 1. Aims of Science
The object of scientific knowledge is what is necessary
                        Full Idea: The object of scientific knowledge is what is necessary.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1139b24)
                        A reaction: This is diametrically opposed to the Humean view, which takes the nature of each thing, and the laws which guide it, to be contingent. Kripke has pointed us towards necessities in nature.
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
                        Full Idea: Assume the rational soul has two parts, one to contemplate things with invariable first principles, one to contemplate variable things.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1139a06)
                        A reaction: 'Assume' is interesting. He presumably isn't asserting this division as a fact. So his methodology is make assumptions - probably as aids to clear thinking.
2. Reason / B. Laws of Thought / 4. Contraries
Contraries are by definition as far distant as possible from one another
                        Full Idea: Contraries are by definition as far distant as possible from one another.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1108b33)
                        A reaction: A nice concept and definition. Note that it is being used about ethics (the mean), not just about pure logic or mathematics.
3. Truth / A. Truth Problems / 3. Value of Truth
Piety requires us to honour truth above our friends
                        Full Idea: While both are dear, piety requires us to honour truth above our friends.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1096a16)
                        A reaction: Interesting that 'piety' requires it. Piety doesn't figure much in Aristotle. He has just been talking about Platonic Forms. It would be an odd person who sacrificed a friendship for a trivial truth.
3. Truth / C. Correspondence Truth / 1. Correspondence Truth
A statement is true if all the data are in harmony with it
                        Full Idea: A statement is true if all the data are in harmony with it.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1098b12)
                        A reaction: I think being 'in harmony' is a better than 'corresponds' as an attempt at pinpointing the truth relationship. It seems impossible to pin down how 'the bus is coming' relates to the bus coming.
8. Modes of Existence / D. Universals / 6. Platonic Forms / d. Forms critiques
How will a vision of pure goodness make someone a better doctor?
                        Full Idea: How will one who has had a vision of the Idea itself become thereby a better doctor or general?
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1097a12)
                        A reaction: Plato might reply that it would motivate them. Why would a doctor learn of the skills of their craft if they didn't care about the end result?
Eternal white is no whiter than temporary white, and it is the same with goodness
                        Full Idea: Nor will the Good be any more good by being eternal, if a long-lasting white thing is no whiter than an ephemeral one.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1096b05)
                        A reaction: A powerful point, made with a hint of sarcasm. You can't add extra Form of White to increase the whiteness of your paint. And the paint is no whiter because it endures for years.
It is meaningless to speak of 'man-himself', because it has the same definition as plain 'man'
                        Full Idea: One might ask: what on earth do you mean by speaking of the thing-itself? - assuming the definition of man is one and the same both in man and in man-himself; for qua man they will not differ at all.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1096a32)
                        A reaction: Effectively applies Ockham's Razor to the Forms. Do they add anything to our ability to explain? A particular man will have red hair, but a definition of man will mention properties shared by all men. But doesn't man-himself indicate what is essential?
11. Knowledge Aims / A. Knowledge / 4. Belief / c. Aim of beliefs
Opinion is praised for being in accordance with truth
                        Full Idea: Opinion is praised for being in accordance with truth.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1112a07)
                        A reaction: This presumably makes Aristotle a realist, and it seems to me that the concepts of 'opinion' or 'belief' are incomprehensible without the concept of truth.
11. Knowledge Aims / B. Certain Knowledge / 4. The Cogito
To perceive or think is to be conscious of our existence
                        Full Idea: To be conscious that we are perceiving or thinking is to be conscious of our existence (for we have seen that existence is sensation or thought).
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1170a32)
                        A reaction: A lovely glimpse of Descartes' Cogito, which was made more explicit by Augustine. Is an animal (which presumably perceives) conscious of its existence?
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 6. Inference in Perception
Particular facts (such as 'is it cooked?') are matters of sense-perception, not deliberation
                        Full Idea: Deliberation is not concerned with particular facts, such as 'is it a loaf?' or 'is it properly cooked?'; these are matters of sense-perception.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1112b33)
                        A reaction: This seems to be Aristotle's commitment to direct cognition through perception, though if pressed he might concede that concepts (such as 'cooked') are involved in perception.
12. Knowledge Sources / E. Direct Knowledge / 1. Common Sense
If everyone believes it, it is true
                        Full Idea: What everyone believes is so.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1173a01)
                        A reaction: Would you think me terribly unfashionable if I agreed with this? Huge numbers of people can be wrong, but if 'everyone' believes something it seems crazy to go against it.
It is enough if we refute the objections and leave common opinions undisturbed
                        Full Idea: If we both refute the objections and leave the common opinions undisturbed, we shall have proved the case sufficiently.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1145b05), quoted by Stephen Boulter - Why Medieval Philosophy Matters 3
                        A reaction: This quotation is a sacred text for philosophers who place a high value on the consensus of thinking among the majority of people. I hate it when philosophers hijack an ordinary word and assign it a different meaning.
12. Knowledge Sources / E. Direct Knowledge / 2. Intuition
Intuition grasps the definitions that can't be proved
                        Full Idea: Intuition apprehends the definitions which cannot be logically demonstrated.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1142a25)
                        A reaction: Nice to see that (like me) he has a positive view of intuition. I'm not sure how you would 'prove' a definition of the hidden nature of a thing (which is usually taken to be hidden).
15. Nature of Minds / A. Nature of Mind / 2. Psuche
Everything that receives nourishment has a vegetative soul, with it own distinctive excellence
                        Full Idea: One can assume a vegetative part of the soul in everything that receives nourishment, even in embryos; thus the excellence of this faculty is common and not confined to man; ...because of its nature it has no part in human goodness.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1102a33)
                        A reaction: Presumably the excellences of this part of the soul would be strength, health and appropriate size. If plants have psuché, then neither 'soul' nor 'mind' seem very good translations. 'Vitality' seems a possibility - humans having it in a conscious form.
In a controlled person the receptive part of the soul is obedient, and it is in harmony in the virtuous
                        Full Idea: One element of the soul is irrational but receptive to reason; it struggles and strains against reason. ...In the continent (controlled) man it is obedient to reason, and is more amenable in the virtuous man, as it is in harmony with rational principle.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1102b16)
                        A reaction: The very core of Aristotle's theory, with an image of psychic harmony derived from Plato (who likens in to a well-tuned musical instrument). Aristotle's merely controlled man ('enkrateia') sounds like Kant's truly moral man, following duty.
The irrational psuché is persuadable by reason - shown by our criticism and encouragement of people
                        Full Idea: That the irrational part of the psuché is in some way persuaded by reason is indicated by our use of admonition, and of reproof and encouragement of all kinds.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1102b33)
                        A reaction: These attempts to influence people include disapproval of people's feelings, as well as their principles, or their interpretation of the facts. This doesn't prove that feelings can be changed, but it certainly shows that we sometimes want to change them.
If beings are dominated by appetite, this can increase so much that it drives out reason
                        Full Idea: In an irrational being the appetite for what gives it pleasure is insatiable and indiscriminate, and the exercise of the desire increases its innate tendency; and if these appetites are strong and violent, they actually drive out reason.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1119b09)
                        A reaction: The end-result of this would be a person Aristotle describes as 'brutish'. The remark seems significant because, even though man is essentially a 'rational animal' (man's 'proper function'), it is actually possible to annihilate our 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
                        Full Idea: The rational and irrational parts of the soul are either separate like parts of the body, or are distinguishable only in definition and thought, like the convex and concave aspects of the circumference of a circle.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1102a27)
                        A reaction: Whether or not the soul is unified was a clear issue for Aristotle, explored further in De Anima (408a15 and 411b10). He appears to say the soul is not a unity, thus disagreeing with Descartes (Med. 6).
16. Persons / D. Continuity of the Self / 7. Self and Thinking
It would seem that the thinking part is the individual self
                        Full Idea: It would seem that the thinking part is, or most nearly is, the individual self.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1166a25)
                        A reaction: It seems that where Socrates identifies the self with the whole of the psuché (and hence is interested in its immortality, in 'Phaedo'), Aristotle considers the self to be merely the thinking and rational part of the psuché.
16. Persons / F. Free Will / 1. Nature of Free Will
Aristotle never discusses free will
                        Full Idea: Aristotle never gets involved in the riddles of later philosophers about free will.
                        From: report of Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE]) by Alasdair MacIntyre - A Short History of Ethics Ch.7
                        A reaction: Note that this is a very great philosopher who was intensely interested in the well-springs of human action. 'Free will' never crossed his mind. This is because free will is nonsense. Owen Flanagan is best on this subject (Ideas 5345 and 5332).
For an action to be 'free', it must be deliberate as well as unconstrained
                        Full Idea: Aristotle has rightly noted that we are not prepared to call an action 'free' unless as well as being unconstrained it is also deliberate.
                        From: report of Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1111b06) by Gottfried Leibniz - New Essays on Human Understanding 2.21
                        A reaction: This is quite an important message for David Hume. I love the respect which Leibniz accords Aristotle, at a time when he was becoming thoroughly unfashionable. This is the nearest Aristotle gets to discussing so-called 'free will'.
A human being fathers his own actions as he fathers his children
                        Full Idea: A human being fathers his own actions as he fathers his children.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1113b18)
                        A reaction: Ultimately Aristotle believes that free will is an absolute fact, once influences are stripped away. He should have questioned more deeply.
16. Persons / F. Free Will / 5. Against Free Will
Aristotle assesses whether people are responsible, and if they are it was voluntary
                        Full Idea: Aristotle makes the concept of moral responsibility more fundamental than the concept of the voluntary, the reverse of the typical contemporary approach. Given that we hold persons responsible, such acts must be voluntary.
                        From: report of Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1110-ish) by Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski - Virtues of the Mind 4.2
                        A reaction: Good for Aristotle. Whether we hold people responsible or not is widely understood, but whether they are 'free' to act is obscure, and may even be incoherent. We should look at praise and blame, and (above all) excuses.
18. Thought / A. Modes of Thought / 1. Thought
The attainment of truth is the task of the intellectual part of the soul
                        Full Idea: The attainment of truth is the task of both the intellectual parts of the soul (calculation and deliberation).
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1139b10)
                        A reaction: Obviously true, I would have thought, and equally true of the evolved brain, though there are plenty of people out there who try to deny it.
18. Thought / A. Modes of Thought / 5. Rationality
Aristotle gives a superior account of rationality, because he allows emotions to participate
                        Full Idea: Aristotle gives a superior account of human rationality, because he allows emotions to participate in reason, rather than being mere animal, non-rational impulses.
                        From: comment on Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE]) by Rosalind Hursthouse - On Virtue Ethics Intro
                        A reaction: This is obviously helpful in virtue ethics, but it is a bit questionable, if the core of rationality is 'giving reasons'. A feeling might be a reason, but only once it has been conceptualised. "For RLS, his feelings were his reasons", said Henry James.
20. Action / B. Preliminaries of Action / 1. Intention to Act / a. Nature of intentions
Not all actions aim at some good; akratic actions, for example, do not
                        Full Idea: Aristotle does not fully endorse the famous first sentence of the 'Ethics'; he does not think every action aims at some good - for one thing akratic action does not.
                        From: comment on Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1094a03) by Myles F. Burnyeat - Aristotle on Learning to be Good p.91 n25
                        A reaction: Nice point. Aristotle's claim never sounded right, and yet vice presumably aims at what it perceives as good. Socrates presumably endorses the opening sentence, though Aristotle wouldn't.
20. Action / B. Preliminaries of Action / 2. Willed Action / c. Agent causation
An action is voluntary if the limb movements originate in the agent
                        Full Idea: In cases where the movement of the limbs that are the instruments of action has its origin in the agent himself, it is in his power either to act or not, and therefore such actions are voluntary.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1110a15)
                        A reaction: He asserts this to show that an action is voluntary even under extreme compulsion or pressure. This seems right, and moves the focus to the concept of an 'excuse', which covers forgivable voluntary actions.
Deliberation ends when the starting-point of an action is traced back to the dominant part of the self
                        Full Idea: In every case a man stops inquiring how to act when he has traced the starting-point of action back to himself, i.e. to the dominant part of himself; for it is this that makes the choice.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1113a06)
                        A reaction: A footnote says the 'dominant part' of the soul is reason. If we dispense with 'free will' (and we should), this is the core of moral responsibility. Responsible actions are those caused by the dominant part of the mind.
20. Action / B. Preliminaries of Action / 2. Willed Action / d. Weakness of will
Aristotle seems not to explain why the better syllogism is overcome in akratic actions
                        Full Idea: Aristotle's discussion of akrasia seems to leave the vital point unexplained, which is why the better syllogism is overcome.
                        From: comment on Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1102b14) by Myles F. Burnyeat - Aristotle on Learning to be Good p.85
                        A reaction: The problem is where exactly the action originates within us - is it sometimes from deliberation, and sometimes from some irrational force? Either akrasia is easy and action baffling, or vice versa.
The akrates acts from desire not choice, and the enkrates acts from choice not desire
                        Full Idea: The incontinent man (weak-willed, 'akrates') acts from desire but not from choice, but the continent man (controlled, 'enkrates') acts from choice but not from desire.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1111b14)
                        A reaction: These two categories are contrasted with the truly wicked and the truly good, in both of whom choice and desire work together. The akrates and the enkrates include most people, hovering in the middle ground of moral apprenticeship.
Virtue is right reason and feeling and action. Akrasia and enkrateia are lower levels of action.
                        Full Idea: Morality rises from vice (bad reason, bad feeling, bad action), to akrasia ('no control', but get the reason right), to enkrateia (wrong feeling, but right reason and action), culminating in virtue (right feeling, as well as right reason and action).
                        From: report of Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1111b15) by John Cottingham - Reason, Emotions and Good Life p.1
                        A reaction: Very illuminating, especially for showing the importance of feeling in Aristotle's account. True virtue is effortless, not steely control. This has to be right, and seems to differ from Kant.
Akrasia merely neglects or misunderstands knowledge, rather than opposing it
                        Full Idea: According to Aristotle, the incontinent person never acts against active knowledge of particulars, but either acts against knowledge that is possessed but not exercised, or knowledge that is not fully possessed, or against knowledge of universals alone.
                        From: comment on Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1111b15) by Deborah Achtenberg - Cognition of Value in Aristotle's Ethics 2.1
                        A reaction: This comments aims to bring Aristotle closer to Socrates (who says virtue IS reason), and it certainly fits with the high value which Aristotle normally places on reason.
Some people explain akrasia by saying only opinion is present, not knowledge
                        Full Idea: Some thinkers say that when some people are unable to resist pleasures then what they have is not knowledge but only opinion.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1145b33)
                        A reaction: You would have thought that people take their own opinions for knowledge, but Aristotle seems to refer to weakly held beliefs. Aristotle allows that this might excuse mild misbehaviour, but not true vice.
A person may act against one part of his knowledge, if he knows both universal and particular
                        Full Idea: It is quite possible for a person who has knowledge of both universal and particular to act inconsistently with his knowledge, if he is exercising knowledge of the universal but not of the particular.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1147a01)
                        A reaction: In this way Aristotle says (at 1147b15) that he can agree with Socrates about akrasia. I.e. that the evil deed does indeed arise from some sort of ignorance (perhaps of the relevant particular), and not just from desire.
Licentious people feel no regret, but weak-willed people are capable of repentance
                        Full Idea: The licentious man is unrepentant, because he abides by his choice; but the incontinent (weak-willed) man is always capable of repentance.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1150b28)
                        A reaction: This is the very important feature of virtue theory - that what happens AFTER the action is almost as important as what happens before and during it. Character can be revealed just as much by pride or regret for an action.
20. Action / C. Motives for Action / 3. Acting on Reason / a. Practical reason
We deliberate about means, not ends
                        Full Idea: We deliberate not about ends, but about means.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1112b12)
                        A reaction: A young person choosing a career path probably ought to deliberate about ends, as well as means. Is he implying at ends are irrational? That sounds unlikely.
Practical intellect serves to arrive at the truth which corresponds to right appetite
                        Full Idea: The function of practical intellect is to arrive at the truth that corresponds to right appetite.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1139a28)
                        A reaction: And right appetite may well have to be educated by theoretical intellect.
Seeing particulars as parts of larger wholes is to perceive their value
                        Full Idea: For Aristotle, practical perception is perception of particulars as parts of larger wholes, which involves the perception of their value (as in seeing my food as part of bodily health, and all action as part of a flourishing life).
                        From: comment on Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE]) by Deborah Achtenberg - Cognition of Value in Aristotle's Ethics Intro
                        A reaction: An appealing idea. Hume (who separates facts from values) would call it rubbish, but with the addition of premiss like "life is good", this seems plausible and appealing.
Prudence is mainly concerned with particulars, which is the sphere of human conduct
                        Full Idea: Prudence ('phronesis') is not concerned with universals only; it must also take cognizance of particulars, because it is concerned with conduct, and conduct has its sphere in particular circumstances.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1141b14)
                        A reaction: Note that 'phronesis' is partly concerned with universals, although it is crucial to Aristotle's theory that each particular situation is different, and so no rules can actually dictate moral action.
Virtue ensures that we have correct aims, and prudence that we have correct means of achieving them
                        Full Idea: Virtue ensures the correctness of the end at which we aim, and prudence that of the means towards it.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1144a07)
                        A reaction: I'm not wholly clear about how virtue identifies correct aims. Virtue finds the mean, but how? Prudence is busy with strategy. Theoretical reason stands back from the world. A gap in the theory?
One cannot be prudent without being good
                        Full Idea: One cannot be prudent (have practical reason) without being good.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1144a33)
                        A reaction: I suspect that for Aristotle this is more of a tautology than an observation. We might think of a very clever criminal as having 'phronesis' (practical reason), but Aristotle simply wouldn't, though he has no simple explanation for his view.
The one virtue of prudence carries with it the possession of all the other virtues
                        Full Idea: The possession of the single virtue of prudence will carry with it the possession of them all.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1145a02)
                        A reaction: Prudence is phronesis, of which I prefer the translation 'common sense', thought he scholars call it 'practical wisdom'. People can be sensible in one are, and stupid in another.
Practical reason is truth-attaining, and focused on actions good for human beings
                        Full Idea: Practical reason [phronesis] is a truth-attaining intellectual quality concerned with doing, and with the things that are good for human beings.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], II 5.1), quoted by Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski - Virtues of the Mind II 5.1
                        A reaction: That sounds suspiciously like wisdom to me. Or maybe wisdom also has a contemplative aspect.
20. Action / C. Motives for Action / 3. Acting on Reason / b. Intellectualism
Bad people are just ignorant of what they ought to do
                        Full Idea: Every bad man is ignorant of what he ought to do and refrain from doing.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1110b29)
                        A reaction: This sounds more like the view on akrasia of Socrates than that of Aristotle. Aristotle thinks bad people can also know what is good, but be pulled away from it by strong desires.
Some people are good at forming opinions, but bad at making moral choices
                        Full Idea: It seems that the same people are not equally good at choosing the best actions and forming the best opinions; some are comparatively good at forming opinions, but through a moral defect fail to make the right choices.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1112a09)
                        A reaction: It is not enough to say that they CAN be separate. What type of opinions? Wise actors rarely have stupid opinions, and the opinions of bad actors usually contain error. See Jane Austen.
For Socrates virtues are principles, involving knowledge, but we say they only imply the principle of practical reason
                        Full Idea: Whereas Socrates thought that the virtues are principles (because they are forms of knowledge), we say they imply a principle (practical reason).
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1144b30)
                        A reaction: It is hard to pin down how rational an Aristotelian virtue is supposed to be. Is a virtue a quasi-platonic vision of 'the good', but in each specific area, rather than in general?
20. Action / C. Motives for Action / 3. Acting on Reason / c. Reasons as causes
Our reasoned acts are held to be voluntary and our own doing
                        Full Idea: It is our reasoned acts that are held to be in the fullest sense voluntary and our own doing.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1169a01)
                        A reaction: This seems to me crucial in morality. Morality concerns important decisions made by the core of a person. If we ask how 'core decisions' are known, their hallmark will be reasons, because reasons are the peak of human awareness.
20. Action / C. Motives for Action / 4. Responsibility for Actions
If you repent of an act done through ignorance, you acted involuntarily, not non-voluntarily
                        Full Idea: When a man repents of an act done through ignorance, he is considered to have acted involuntarily; but a man who does not repent of such an act is another case, so he may be said to have acted non-voluntarily.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1110b22)
                        A reaction: It strikes me as crucial to virtue theory that how you acted could be partly decided by your attitude AFTER the event. There is a 'residue' (Hursthouse) to every action, of guilt, pride etc. 'Voluntary' evidently has internal/external components.
For Aristotle responsibility seems negative, in the absence of force or ignorance
                        Full Idea: Aristotle seems to define responsibility negatively: I am responsible for an action if and only if I do it neither by force nor because of ignorance.
                        From: comment on Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1114b13) by Terence Irwin - Reason and Responsibility in Aristotle p.117
                        A reaction: Reminiscent of David Hume, suggesting that Aristotle may at heart be a determinist, because he lacks any positive notion of free will?
20. Action / C. Motives for Action / 5. Action Dilemmas / a. Dilemmas
A man should sooner die than do some dreadful things, no matter how cruel the death
                        Full Idea: Presumably there are some things such that a man cannot be compelled to do them - that he must sooner die than do, though he suffer the most dreadful fate.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1110a27)
                        A reaction: This is a central concept for virtue theory - that no possible 'utilitarian calculation' could allow a virtuous person to do some awful thing because of a cool assessment that it will eventually add up to increased happiness.
21. Aesthetics / A. Aesthetic Experience / 4. Beauty
We choose things for their fineness, their advantage, or for pleasure
                        Full Idea: (roughly) Three pairs of factors cause choice or avoidance: fine/base, advantageous/harmful, pleasant/painful.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1104b29)
                        A reaction: I love the Greek idea that we choose actions for their 'fineness' [kalos, nobility, beauty]. We sometimes celebrate fine deeds in the media, and even award honours for them, but we don't about them much.
22. Metaethics / A. Value / 1. Nature of Value / a. Nature of value
For Aristotle 'good' means purpose, and value is real but relational
                        Full Idea: In my view, 'good' for Aristotle means 'telos', and value is real, but relational.
                        From: comment on Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE]) by Deborah Achtenberg - Cognition of Value in Aristotle's Ethics Intro
                        A reaction: Interesting. Hence Aristotle is pursuing a naturalist project in ethics, since he connects purpose to function, which is natural and self-evident.
22. Metaethics / A. Value / 1. Nature of Value / e. Means and ends
We desire final things just for themselves, and not for the sake of something else
                        Full Idea: We call final without qualification that which is always desirable in itself and never for the sake of something else.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1097a), quoted by Christine M. Korsgaard - Aristotle and Kant on the Source of Value 8 'Finality'
                        A reaction: This is such a simple and neat test for dividing what you value into two groups. You end up with things like art, philosophy, gardening, sipping wine, looking at beautiful views, talking to friends.
How can an action be intrinsically good if it is a means to 'eudaimonia'?
                        Full Idea: A question for Aristotle is, how can an action be good in itself if it is valued as a means to 'eudaimonia'?
                        From: comment on Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1101a15) by J.L. Ackrill - Aristotle on Action p.93
                        A reaction: A good question, but one which shouldn't trouble Aristotle. There is no short cut to eudaimonia (e.g. a pill); it is a state of accumulated good actions.
22. Metaethics / A. Value / 2. Values / c. Health
Excess and deficiency are bad for virtue, just as they are for bodily health
                        Full Idea: Excessive and insufficient exercise or food destroy one's strength or health, whereas the right quantity produces, increases and preserves them. It is the same with temperance, courage and the other virtues.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1104a15)
                        A reaction: An example of Aristotle's philosophy originating in his biological background. This appears to be true of health, but he notes exceptions in morality. Adultery has no mean. In health a middle way is needed, but in morality it is what is 'appropriate'.
Disreputable pleasures are only pleasant to persons with diseased perception
                        Full Idea: One may argue that disreputable pleasures are not pleasant; they may be pleasant to persons of unhealthy disposition, just as things may seem sweet or bitter or white to persons with unhealthy taste or vision.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1173b20)
                        A reaction: Aristotle's analogy gives quite good support for what seems a rather implausible view. Bentham disagrees. It certainly seems odd to deny that a sadist is obtaining pleasure. Surely that is what we object to? Is pleasure a value?
22. Metaethics / A. Value / 2. Values / d. Death
The more virtuous and happy a person is, the worse the prospect becomes of ending life
                        Full Idea: The more completely a man possesses virtue, and the happier he is, the more he will be distressed at the thought of death, for to such a man life is supremely worth living.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1117b11)
                        A reaction: Virtuous people are also, of course, brave. There is a horrible logic which says that you try to be less happy as death becomes more probable. Maybe happy people should pretend they are immortal.
22. Metaethics / A. Value / 2. Values / e. Altruism
All altruism is an extension of self-love
                        Full Idea: All friendly feelings for others are extensions of a man's feelings for himself.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1168b06)
                        A reaction: I'm not sure what his evidence is for this. The love of parents for their children doesn't seem to be based on self-love.
22. Metaethics / A. Value / 2. Values / f. Love
Only lovable things are loved, and they must be good, or pleasant, or useful
                        Full Idea: It is generally accepted that not everything is loved, but only what is lovable; and that this is either good, or pleasant, or useful.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1155b16)
                        A reaction: It needs the great analyst himself to explain to us the ingredients of love. He, of course, goes on to say that good things are the most lovable. It is hard to disagree.
Most people want to be loved rather than to love, because they desire honour
                        Full Idea: Most people seem to want to be loved rather than to love, the reason being their desire for honour.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1159a13)
                        A reaction: The footnote says 'honour' here is 'esteem'. In other words, wanting to be loved is a type of vanity, which sounds right. Most people would like being loved from afar, by a person who could do nothing to benefit or please them.
22. Metaethics / A. Value / 2. Values / g. Fine deeds
Oxen, horses and children cannot be happy, because they cannot perform fine deeds
                        Full Idea: We do not speak of an ox or a horse as happy, because none of them can take part in fine deeds; similarly, no child is happy, because its age debars it as yet from such activities.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1099b32)
                        A reaction: This is a place where 'happy' is not a very good translation for 'eudaimon', as we universally acknowledge a 'happy childhood'. We can have a 'successful' life, but not a successful childhood. I'm not convinced that even Greeks understood 'eudaimonia'.
Good people enjoy virtuous action, just as musicians enjoy beautiful melodies
                        Full Idea: The good man, qua good, takes pleasure in morally virtuous actions and dislikes vicious ones, just as a musician enjoys beautiful melodies and is pained by bad ones.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1170a09)
                        A reaction: This is the best illustration of the Greek love of 'fine' [kalon] actions. 'That was a beautiful thing you just did'.
Slaves can't be happy, because they lack freedom
                        Full Idea: Nobody attributes happiness to a slave, unless he also attributes to him a life of his own.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1177a08)
                        A reaction: Give them freedom then! In 'Politics' he allows a degree of friendship between masters and slaves, and recognises that not all slaves are stupid.
22. Metaethics / A. Value / 2. Values / h. Self interest
The best people exercise their virtue towards others, rather than to themselves
                        Full Idea: The best person is not the one who exercises his virtue towards himself but the one who exercises it towards another, because this is a difficult task.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1130a07)
                        A reaction: This is an importance counterbalance to the view that Greeks are concerned with self-development, and we are concerned with altruism. Above all, Aristotle wants us to be good citizens, and this implies a great deal of altruism.
Self-love benefits ourselves, and also helps others
                        Full Idea: It is right for the good man to be self-loving, because then he will both be benefited himself by performing fine actions, and also help others.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1169a12)
                        A reaction: This is the simple and correct defence of self-love. If everyone develops their own character and abilities, we all benefit. Selfishness is the excess, not the mean.
For Aristotle, true self-love is love of the higher parts of one's soul
                        Full Idea: Aristotle thinks that those who think self-love is bad are identifying the self with the lower, irrational parts of the soul.
                        From: report of Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE]) by Julia Annas - The Morality of Happiness 12.1
                        A reaction: That seems to imply love of (and developmen of) one's intellect, but surely the less bookish person can develop their social virtues in a self-loving way?
22. Metaethics / A. Value / 2. Values / i. Successful function
Each named function has a distinctive excellence attached to it
                        Full Idea: An individual distinctive excellence is attached to the name of the function (e.g. a good 'harpist').
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1098a09)
                        A reaction: This is the core idea of Aristotle's metaethics. It seems hard to deny that a function implies the values of success and failure. The debate is likely to focus on the exact meaning of 'distinctive'.
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 1. Goodness / a. Form of the Good
Each category of existence has its own good, so one Good cannot unite them
                        Full Idea: Things are called good in as many senses as they are said to exist (e.g. substance, quality, quantity, relation, place, time); clearly, then, there cannot be a single universal common to all cases.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1096a23)
                        A reaction: It doesn't follow that because you can divide the substratum, that therefore the superstructure lacks unity. One tree has many roots. We must ask whether a good substance and a good quantity have anything in common.
There should be one science of the one Good, but there are many overlapping sciences
                        Full Idea: Of things that come under one Idea there is one single science, so there should be some one science of all good things; but in fact there are more than one science even of those that fall under one category (e.g. opportunity in medicine and in war).
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1096a27)
                        A reaction: The reply might be that there are many sciences because humans are confused. A truly wise person would see that the science of opportunity is the same in medicine and war. If the good was pleasure, or the glory of God, this would be obvious.
The good is 'that at which all things aim'
                        Full Idea: The Good has rightly been defined as 'that at which all things aim'.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1094a02)
                        A reaction: So it is logically impossible to aim at evil? Maybe in practice people always aim for what they take to be good, but it must be possible to deliberately do evil, just to prove a point.
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 1. Goodness / b. Types of good
Intelligence and sight, and some pleasures and honours, are candidates for being good in themselves
                        Full Idea: What sort of things can one posit as good in themselves? Everything that is pursued even when considered in isolation - intelligence, for example, and sight, and some pleasures and honours?
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1096b15)
                        A reaction: He means good-for-man, of course. If only 'some' pleasures are good, that implies a further good which is used to judge the pleasures. For Aristotle what is 'fine' (kalon) is the ultimate self-evident good.
Goods are external, of the soul, and of the body; those of the soul (such as action) come first
                        Full Idea: Goods have been classified (by Plato) under three heads, as external, or of the soul, or of the body; of these we say that goods of the soul are good in the strictest and fullest sense, and we rank actions as goods of the soul.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1098b13)
                        A reaction: Aristotle is famous (or notorious) for allowing external goods in his theory, but it is important that he always makes them subordinate to the central goods. Wealth and glamour could never compensate for vice.
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 1. Goodness / f. Good as pleasure
Pleasure is not the Good, and not every pleasure is desirable
                        Full Idea: It is clear, then, that pleasure is not the Good, and that not every pleasure is desirable.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1174a08)
                        A reaction: This is the culmination of a length discussion. Despite all of Aristotle's efforts, it may well be impossible to demonstrate that pleasure is not the Good. All the rivals, such as knowledge, intelligence, sight, excellence etc. give great pleasure.
The masses believe, not unreasonably, that the good is pleasure
                        Full Idea: The masses…seem - not unreasonably - to believe that the Good or happiness is pleasure.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1095b15)
                        A reaction: Since Aristotle seems to see the pursuit of understanding, through various types of philosophy, as the supreme good, then this is 'understandable' because the masses lack the education for such a thing.
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 1. Goodness / g. Consequentialism
Clearly perfect conduct will involve both good intention and good action
                        Full Idea: It is disputed whether the intentions or the actions have greater importance; …clearly the perfection of conduct will involve both.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1178a32)
                        A reaction: This seems right, so choosing one or the other as prior seems misguided. What to make of attempted murder? What of moral luck?
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 1. Goodness / h. Good as benefit
Wealth is not the good, because it is only a means
                        Full Idea: Wealth is obviously not the good we are seeking, because it serves only as a means.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1096a06)
                        A reaction: So what are we to say to someone who considers wealth to be an end? Someone who has no desire to spend their horde.
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 2. Happiness / a. Nature of happiness
You can be good while asleep, or passive, or in pain
                        Full Idea: The possession of goodness is thought to be compatible with being asleep, or…with inactivity, or…with atrocious suffering.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1096a02)
                        A reaction: This helps to distinguish eudaimonia from the pleasant view of happiness. Pain probably annuls most immediate happiness, but has little to do with long-term flourishing.
Happiness seems to involve virtue, or practical reason, or wisdom, or pleasure, or external goods
                        Full Idea: Candidates for the required constituents of happiness are said to be virtue, or practical reason, or wisdom; others say it is these with the addition of pleasure, and others include favourable external conditions.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1098b21)
                        A reaction: Characteristic of Aristotle to start from what both ordinary people and philosophers have previously said. By the end of his book (remarkably) wisdom is the only one of these which is excluded from normal human happiness. Wisdom transcends life.
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 2. Happiness / b. Eudaimonia
Eudaimonia is said to only have final value, where reason and virtue are also useful
                        Full Idea: For Aristotle, what sets eudaimonia apart from things like reason and virtue is that it is exclusively finally valuable; ...reason and virtue are valuable also for contributing to other things, such as happiness.
                        From: report of Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE]) by Francesco Orsi - Value Theory 2.2
                        A reaction: This makes it sound as if eudaimonia is a super-value, and superior to virtue, but I don't think that is right. Eudaimonia just seems to be success in the areas that matter.
Does Aristotle say eudaimonia is the aim, or that it ought to be?
                        Full Idea: We can distinguish at least two possible interpretations of Aristotle's thesis that eudaimonia is the chief good: either eudaimonia is that for the sake of which all action IS undertaken, or that for which all action OUGHT to be undertaken.
                        From: comment on Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1097b22) by John McDowell - Role of Eudaimonia in Aristotle's Ethics §1
                        A reaction: It seems to me Aristotle is describing how people DO behave (they all want ot flourish), and then goes on to describe how they OUGHT to behave to achieve the end they all want. His theory does not describe convention, which mostly concerns pleasure.
Some good and evil can happen to the dead, just as the living may be unaware of a disaster
                        Full Idea: It is popularly believed that some good and evil, such as honours, or disasters of children, can happen to a dead man, inasmuch as they can happen to a live one without his being aware of them.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1100a17)
                        A reaction: This suggests 'internalist' and 'externalist' accounts of happiness, with eudaimonia being the externalist view. If an architect designs a spectacular building, and it collapses the day after they die, that has to be a disaster for the architect.
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 2. Happiness / c. Value of happiness
Aristotle is unsure about eudaimonia because he is unsure what people are
                        Full Idea: Aristotle shows an indecision between an intellectualist and a comprehensive account of eudaimonia. …It is because he is not sure who we are that he finds it difficult to say unequivocally in what our eudaimonia consists.
                        From: comment on Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE]) by Thomas Nagel - Aristotle on Eudaimonia p.8
                        A reaction: Aristotle is quite right to be unsure about what people are, given the fluidity of human nature, in comparison with other animals. He needs a stable core to human nature, and I think that exists.
Goods like pleasure are chosen partly for happiness, but happiness is chosen just for itself
                        Full Idea: Happiness more than anything else is thought to be a final end without qualification, because we always choose it for itself, and not for any other reason. Pleasure, intelligence and good qualities generally we choose partly for the sake of our happiness.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1097a32)
                        A reaction: The obvious reply is that happiness might be chosen because it gives us pleasure. Imagine if a sense of happiness resulted in an instant feeling of guilt. If we could ONLY have intelligence, we would choose that just for itself.
Happiness is perfect and self-sufficient, the end of all action
                        Full Idea: Happiness is found to be something perfect and self-sufficient, being the end to which our actions are directed.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1097b21)
                        A reaction: This will be eudaimonia, so while this sounds like an announcement of the secret of life, eudaimonia is only really a placeholder for things going very well, in some way or other.
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 2. Happiness / d. Routes to happiness
Happiness needs total goodness and a complete life
                        Full Idea: Happiness demands not only complete goodness but a complete life (e.g. final misfortune of King Priam of Troy).
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1100a05)
                        A reaction: Eudaimonia may be ruined if a serious defect of character emerges near the end, but surely not if they are merely the victim of misfortune?
The happy life is in accordance with goodness, which implies seriousness
                        Full Idea: The happy life seems to be lived in accordance with goodness, and such a life implies seriousness.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1177a03)
                        A reaction: There are far more jokes in the talk of Socrates than in the writings of Aristotle. Presumably seriousness is required by anything which turns out to be difficult.
If happiness can be achieved by study and effort, then it is open to anyone who is not corrupt
                        Full Idea: If happiness is not a divine gift, it will be something widely shared; for it can attach, through some form of study or application, to anyone who is not handicapped by some incapacity for goodness.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1099b17)
                        A reaction: This is a non-elitist view, even though he is saying that study and effort are needed. The explanation of this is that happiness is not achieved through wisdom, but through practical reason (phronesis), which does not require advanced education.
Happiness is activity in accordance with complete virtue, for a whole life, with adequate external goods
                        Full Idea: We define the happy man as 'one who is active in accordance with complete virtue, and who is adequately furnished with external goods, and that not for some unspecified period but throughout a complete life'.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1101a13)
                        A reaction: The only plausible objection to this definition is that it sounds worthy but dull. There is some exciting, romantic, Nietzschean ingredient missing - but the happy man will routinely perform 'fine deeds', and these may involve novelty and boldness.
The best life is that of the intellect, since that is in the fullest sense the man
                        Full Idea: The best and most pleasant life is the life of the intellect, since the intellect is in the fullest sense the man.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1178a08)
                        A reaction: He would say that, wouldn't he? He's Aristotle, after all. The question of what is a human's essential nature is the nub of the Aristotelian project.
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 3. Pleasure / a. Nature of pleasure
For Aristotle, pleasure is the perception of particulars as valuable
                        Full Idea: For Aristotle, pleasure is the perception of particulars as valuable.
                        From: comment on Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1173b20) by Deborah Achtenberg - Cognition of Value in Aristotle's Ethics 5.6
                        A reaction: This never strikes me as very plausible. Pleasure may be a side-effect of the perception of value, but we can experience pleasure (e.g. a taste) without even knowing what the cause is, let alone whether we value it.
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 3. Pleasure / b. Types of pleasure
There are pleasures of the soul (e.g. civic honour, and learning) and of the body
                        Full Idea: We must distinguish pleasures of the soul from pleasures of the body; examples of the former are love of civic distinction and love of learning.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1117b28)
                        A reaction: An example of where enthusiasm for analysis leads to oversimplification, and of how dualism about mind can colour the rest of one's views. There is a physical pleasure in learning something, and some physical pleasures are almost spiritual.
God feels one simple pleasure forever
                        Full Idea: God feels one simple pleasure forever.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1154b25)
                        A reaction: Compare Idea 382.
Intellectual pleasures are superior to sensuous ones
                        Full Idea: Intellectual pleasures are superior to sensuous ones.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1176a02)
                        A reaction: This claim, for which he here offers no support, depends on the idea that pleasure can have a value, as well as an intensity. Mill agreed with him, but Bentham disagreed (Idea 5271)
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 3. Pleasure / c. Value of pleasure
There are many things we would want even if they brought no pleasure
                        Full Idea: There are many things which we should be eager to have even if they brought no pleasure with them, e.g. sight, memory, knowledge, and several kinds of excellence.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1174a06)
                        A reaction: I think he suggests eyesight, which implies that we want the knowledge that brings. Many things we want give us security, which seems to be an unconscious pleasure.
If we criticise bodily pleasures as licentious and bad, why do we consider their opposite, pain, to be bad?
                        Full Idea: Those who hold that bodily pleasures, which are the concern of the licentious man, are not desirable, ought to consider why in that case the pains that are contrary to them are bad.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1154a08)
                        A reaction: This seems a simple and effective argument against 'puritanical' views, which sometimes appear in Plato, and in the Stoics (where bodily pleasures are 'indifferent'). Still, I think most people overvalue bodily pleasure.
Nobody would choose the mentality of a child, even if they had the greatest childish pleasures
                        Full Idea: Nobody would choose to live his life with the mentality of a child, even if he continued to take the greatest pleasures in the things that children like.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1174a02)
                        A reaction: This seems absolutely right, but I'm not sure why. Presumably we are strongly attached to our own nature, but what if we could start again with a different nature?
It is right to pursue pleasure, because it enhances life, and life is a thing to choose
                        Full Idea: It is reasonable that people should be eager for pleasure; because it perfects life for each individual, and life is a thing to choose.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1175a15)
                        A reaction: It is so nice to hear that pleasure is a good thing. Compare Socrates in 'Gorgias', who tries to prove that pleasure is not at all what we want. Life with no pleasure is not much of a thing.
If happiness were mere amusement it wouldn't be worth a lifetime's effort
                        Full Idea: Happiness is not amusement; it would be paradoxical if we toiled and suffered all our lives just for that.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1176b28)
                        A reaction: So he promotes contemplation above pleasure as the end of life, on the grounds that it motivates a lifetime of effort? Maybe happiness is quite easy for a lot of people.
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 3. Pleasure / d. Sources of pleasure
Some things are not naturally pleasant, but become so through disease or depravity
                        Full Idea: Some things are not naturally pleasant but become so, either through injury, or through habit, or through congenital depravity.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1148b16)
                        A reaction: We might say that there are indeed 'unnatural pleasures' (e.g. sadism?), but still have to admit that we have no clear way of distinguishing the natural from the unnatural. What about gambling? Or watching horror films?
While replenishing we even enjoy unpleasant things, but only absolute pleasures when we are replenished
                        Full Idea: People do not enjoy the same things while their natural state is being replenished as they do when it is complete; in the restored state they enjoy things that are absolutely pleasant, but while it is being replenished they enjoy even unpleasant things.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1152a03)
                        A reaction: This is a nice distinction, which ties in with the dictum "never go to the supermarket when you are hungry". It is also a nice illustration of Aristotle's vital moral view that there is a 'natural state' for a human being.
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 3. Pleasure / e. Role of pleasure
Character is revealed by the pleasures and pains people feel
                        Full Idea: The pleasure or pain that accompanies people's acts should be taken as a sign of their dispositions.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1104b04)
                        A reaction: Nice. Nothing reveals a person quicker than their apparently finding rather strange sources for pleasure or dislike. A nice short cut for novelists wanting to reveal character.
Feeling inappropriate pleasure or pain affects conduct, and is central to morality
                        Full Idea: To feel pleasure or pain rightly or wrongly affects our conduct, so our whole enquiry must be concerned with them.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1105a07)
                        A reaction: Apparently the Nazi staff at Auschwitz said that they all felt largely 'indifferent' to what they were doing. Aristotle hopes you can teach these right feelings, but children can develop very unpredictably.
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 3. Pleasure / f. Dangers of pleasure
The greater the pleasure, the greater the hindrance to thought
                        Full Idea: Pleasures are a hindrance to thinking, and the more enjoyable the greater the hindrance (e.g. sex).
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1152b15)
                        A reaction: The intellectual's objection to excessive pleasure. He means practical thought, as well as theorising.
22. Metaethics / C. Ethics Foundations / 1. Nature of Ethics / d. Ethical theory
We aim not to identify goodness, but to be good
                        Full Idea: We are studying not to know what goodness is, but how to become good men.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1103b27)
                        A reaction: How can a philosopher not want to know what goodness is? Can you fail to be good if you know what goodness is? Can you be a good man without understanding goodness?
We must take for granted that we should act according to right principle
                        Full Idea: That we should act according to the right principle is common ground and may be assumed as a basis for discussion.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1103b31)
                        A reaction: Hume grumbles that we can't prove values from facts, but Aristotle that is an absurd aspiration. His 'Ethics' is simply a handbook for people who wish to be good human beings.
There is no fixed art of good conduct, and each situation is different, as in navigation
                        Full Idea: Questions of conduct do not fall under any art or professional tradition, but the agents are compelled at every step to think out for themselves what the circumstances demand, just as happens in the arts of medicine and navigation.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1104a08)
                        A reaction: It is interesting that some areas of medicine, and a lot of navigation, have become much more precise in modern times. His thought sounds pessimistic, but it is a lynchpin of virtue theory. 'Have the right disposition, then attend to the details'.
22. Metaethics / C. Ethics Foundations / 2. Source of Ethics / e. Human nature
Perhaps we get a better account of happiness as the good for man if we know his function
                        Full Idea: Just saying that man's happiness is the supreme good seems a platitude, and some more distinctive account of it is still required. This might perhaps be achieved by grasping what is the function of man.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1097b22)
                        A reaction: Notice the 'perhaps', right at the heart of Aristotle's theory. The connection between happiness and function is not obvious. The connection is, of course, areté (virtue/excellence), which is known by the function, and generates the happiness.
If bodily organs have functions, presumably the whole person has one
                        Full Idea: As we see that eye, hand and foot have some function, should we not assume a human being has a function over and above these?
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1097b30)
                        A reaction: This seems to be a case of the fallacy of composition - you can't infer the function of the whole from the function of the parts. This error by the great man smacks of desperation, but it leaves untouched his general claim that man has a function.
To eat vast amounts is unnatural, since natural desire is to replenish the deficiency
                        Full Idea: To eat or drink indiscriminately until one is full to bursting is to exceed in quantity one's natural limit, since the natural desire is merely a replenishment of the deficiency.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1118b21)
                        A reaction: This illustrates nicely Aristotle's need for a concept of 'unnatural' to support his theory of virtues. A glutton could claim to have an enormous deficiency, and to counter that we must say that being overweight is unnatural. Etc.
22. Metaethics / C. Ethics Foundations / 2. Source of Ethics / f. Übermensch
For the great-souled man it is sometimes better to be dead
                        Full Idea: For the magnanimous or great-souled man there are some circumstances in which it is not worth living.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1124b08)
                        A reaction: He is not talking of suicide here, but of risking one's life. This seems to be a hallmark of the normally virtuous person, as well as of someone exceptional. Most people would agree with this, but for Aristotle it is a central issue.
22. Metaethics / C. Ethics Foundations / 2. Source of Ethics / j. Ethics by convention
Aristotle said there are two levels of virtue - the conventional and the intellectual
                        Full Idea: Conventional virtue was not dismissed by Aristotle, as it had been by some of the Socratic schools, nor seen as the substance of virtue, as it was by Protagoras. Instead Aristotle distinguished two levels of virtue - the conventional and the intellectual.
                        From: comment on Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE]) by Richard Taylor - Virtue Ethics: an Introduction Ch.9
                        A reaction: On balance I think Taylor is wrong about this. Aristotle is never going to concede a fully relativist view of social morality. Some things are 'just wrong', and the basis is the function of man as a political animal. Good citizenship is not conventional.
Moral acts are so varied that they must be convention, not nature
                        Full Idea: Morally fine and just conduct…involves so much difference and variety that they are widely believed to be such only by convention and not by nature.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1094b14)
                        A reaction: Relativists about morality do typically point to the very diverse standards in different cultures. Critics can point to the huge similarities, when basic human issues are concerned.
23. Ethics / A. Egoism / 1. Ethical Egoism
Nobody would choose all the good things in world, if the price was loss of identity
                        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
                        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.
23. Ethics / A. Egoism / 2. Hedonism
Licentiousness concerns the animal-like pleasures of touch and taste
                        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
The good for man is an activity of soul in accordance with virtue
                        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
                        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.
If virtues are not feelings or faculties, then they must be dispositions
                        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.
Aristotle must hold that virtuous King Priam's life can be marred, but not ruined
                        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
                        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?
Actions are not virtuous because of their quality, but because of the way they are done
                        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
                        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
                        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
                        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
                        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
                        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.
People who perform just acts unwillingly or ignorantly are still not just
                        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
                        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?
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
                        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.
How can good actions breed virtues, if you need to be virtuous to perform good actions?
                        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
                        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'.
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
                        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
                        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
                        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
                        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
                        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
                        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
                        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
                        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.
A person is good if they act from choice, and for the sake of the actions in themselves
                        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
                        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.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 2. Elements of Virtue Theory / d. Teaching virtue
True education is training from infancy to have correct feelings
                        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.
Associating with good people can be a training in virtue
                        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
                        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'.
Like activities produce like dispositions, so we must give the right quality to the activity
                        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.
We must practise virtuous acts because practice actually teaches us the nature of virtue
                        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
                        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
                        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.
We acquire virtues by habitually performing good deeds
                        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.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 2. Elements of Virtue Theory / e. Character
Character can be heroic, excellent, controlled, uncontrolled, bad, or brutish
                        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
                        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.
A person of good character sees the truth about what is actually fine and pleasant
                        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
                        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
                        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
                        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.
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
                        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?
The mean is relative to the individual (diet, for example)
                        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
                        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.
Virtues are destroyed by the excess and preserved by the mean
                        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
                        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?
One drink a day is moderation, but very drunk once a week could exhibit the mean
                        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
                        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
                        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 mean is always right, and the extremes are always wrong
                        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
                        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
                        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
                        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
                        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
                        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
                        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
                        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.
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
                        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
                        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
                        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.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / c. Justice
The word 'unjust' describes law-breaking and exploitation
                        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.
What emotion is displayed in justice, and what are its deficiency and excess?
                        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.
Justice concerns our behaviour in dealing with other people
                        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'.
Between friends there is no need for justice
                        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 is whatever creates or preserves social happiness
                        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.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / d. Courage
Strictly speaking, a courageous person is one who does not fear an honourable death
                        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
                        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
                        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
                        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
                        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 / g. Contemplation
The more people contemplate, the happier they are
                        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.
Only contemplation is sought for its own sake; practical activity always offers some gain
                        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.
Contemplation (with the means to achieve it) is the perfect happiness for man
                        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?
The intellectual life is divine in comparison with ordinary human life
                        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?
We should aspire to immortality, and live by what is highest in us
                        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
                        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.
The gods live, but action is unworthy of them, so that only leaves contemplation?
                        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?
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 4. External Goods / a. External goods
A man can't be happy if he is ugly, or of low birth, or alone and childless
                        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
                        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.
The fine deeds required for happiness need external resources, like friends or wealth
                        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.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 4. External Goods / c. Wealth
The virtue of generosity requires money
                        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.
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
                        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.
Aristotle does not confine supreme friendship to moral heroes
                        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
                        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.
23. Ethics / D. Deontological Ethics / 1. Deontology
'Enkrateia' (control) means abiding by one's own calculations
                        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.
24. Political Theory / A. Basis of a State / 1. A People / a. Human distinctiveness
Society collapses if people cannot rely on exchanging good for good and evil for evil
                        Full Idea: People expect either to return evil for evil, or good for good, and if this is impossible no exchange can take place, and it is exchange that holds people together.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1132b34)
                        A reaction: This is not far from a Thomas Hobbes contract view of society, with someone being needed to enforce the justice of contracts. Many societies, though, seem to have survived despite being riddled with injustices.
Even more than a social being, man is a pairing and family being
                        Full Idea: Man is by his nature a pairing rather than a social creature, inasmuch as the family is an older and more necessary thing than the state.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1162a20)
                        A reaction: Cf. Idea 5133. It seems that the family fulfils the most basic human function, but that political life arises from the next level of function, which is a combination of friendship and the wider needs of a family.
24. Political Theory / A. Basis of a State / 1. A People / b. The natural life
Man is by nature a social being
                        Full Idea: Man is by nature a social being.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1097b10)
                        A reaction: A famous idea traditionally translated (e.g. by Irwin) as "man is a political animal", but Thomson's translation seems better. Aristotle presumably means that man lives in a 'polis'. This is the natural function that gives the moral virtues.Cf Idea 5265.
24. Political Theory / B. Nature of a State / 1. Purpose of a State
A bad political constitution (especially a tyranny) makes friendship almost impossible
                        Full Idea: In societies with perverted political constitutions friendship is little found; in a tyranny there is almost no friendship.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1161a29)
                        A reaction: See 'Politics' for more on this. He wants a benign circularity between friendship and the good society. Friendship facilitates the good society, which in turn fosters friendship. I like it.
Political science aims at the highest good, which involves creating virtue in citizens
                        Full Idea: The end of political science is the highest good, and the chief concern of this science is to endue the citizens with certain qualities, namely virtue and readiness to do fine deeds.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1099b29)
                        A reaction: This seems to be the core of modern communitarianism, which is much more paternalistic than is normally acceptable in a liberal democracy. Freedom is downgraded, and there is an assumption that legislators are generally wiser than citizens.
24. Political Theory / B. Nature of a State / 3. Constitutions
The aim of legislators, and of a good constitution, is to create good citizens
                        Full Idea: Legislators make the citizens good by forming habits in them, and this is the wish of every legislator, and those who do not effect it miss their mark, and it is in this that a good constitution differs from a bad one.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1103b03), quoted by Michael J. Sandel - Justice: What's the right thing to do? 08
                        A reaction: I always admired the UK Race Relations Act, which made certain sorts of racism illegal, quite a long time before many of the population grasped the point. The legislation educated the citizens.
24. Political Theory / C. Ruling a State / 3. Government / b. Legislature
We hold that every piece of legislation is just
                        Full Idea: What is prescribed by legislation is lawful, and we hold that every such ordinance is just.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1129b12)
                        A reaction: This sounds astonishingly conservative, and doesn't seem to allow for the possibility of bad laws (even those made by tyrants, let alone those made by a misguided democracy). The basis is, presumably, society as a 'natural' institution.
24. Political Theory / D. Ideologies / 5. Democracy / a. Nature of democracy
Democracy is the best constitution for friendship, because it encourages equality
                        Full Idea: Friendships are most commonly found in democracies, because the citizens, being equal, have much in common.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1161b09)
                        A reaction: He also implies that friendship promotes democracy, presumably because friends prefer to be equals.
24. Political Theory / D. Ideologies / 7. Communitarianism
Friendship is based on a community of sharing
                        Full Idea: The proverb 'friends have all things is common' is quite right, because friendship is based on community.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1159b30)
                        A reaction: Thus communism is a kind of sentimental dream that everybody will be friends. The aspiration of all good people should be to spread the boundaries of the networks of friends to be ever more inclusive. This is the new left-wing of politics.
Friendship holds communities together, and lawgivers value it more than justice
                        Full Idea: Friendship seems to be the bond that holds communities together, and lawgivers seem to attach more importance to it than to justice.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1155a23)
                        A reaction: An interesting aspect of the Aristotelian view of society which we now call 'communitarian'. Even lawgivers should be concerned with friendship (how?). There is 'such a thing as society', because friendship networks overlap.
25. Social Practice / A. Freedoms / 1. Slavery
To be just, Aristotle thought slavery must be both necessary and natural
                        Full Idea: For slavery to be just, according to Aristotle, two conditions must be met: it must be necessary, and it must be natural.
                        From: report of Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE]) by Michael J. Sandel - Justice: What's the right thing to do? 08
                        A reaction: Aristotle thought it met both conditions, but no one now thinks it meets either condition.
25. Social Practice / D. Justice / 1. Basis of justice
For Aristotle, debates about justice are debates about the good life
                        Full Idea: Aristotle believes that debates about justice are, unavoidably, about honour, virtue and the nature of the good life.
                        From: report of Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE]) by Michael J. Sandel - Justice: What's the right thing to do? 08
                        A reaction: Nozick cannot deny that his desperate attachment to freedom is a vision of the good life, and social contract theories start from the ideal of equality, which is a vision of right living.
25. Social Practice / D. Justice / 2. The Law / c. Natural law
Natural justice is the same everywhere, and does not (unlike legal justice) depend on acceptance
                        Full Idea: There are two sorts of political justice, one natural and the other legal; the natural is that which has the same validity everywhere and does not depend upon acceptance.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1134b18)
                        A reaction: This I take to be the germ out of which Aquinas developed more fully the idea of 'natural law'. This remark is strong counterevidence that Aristotle was not merely describing convention in his theory of the virtues.
25. Social Practice / E. Policies / 5. Education / c. Teaching
Intellectual virtue arises from instruction (and takes time), whereas moral virtue result from habit
                        Full Idea: Intellectual virtue owes both its inception and its growth chiefly to instruction, and so needs time and experience; moral goodness, on the other hand, is the result of habit.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1103a15)
                        A reaction: If one adds to this his idea of practical reason as the intellectual virtue that makes the moral virtues possible, one has a good formula for running a school. The formula: 1) instruction about theory, 2) practical experience, 3) drilling good habits.
25. Social Practice / F. Life Issues / 4. Suicide
A suicide embraces death to run away from hardships, rather than because it is a fine deed
                        Full Idea: It shows weakness of character to run away from hardships, and the suicide endures death not because it is a fine thing to do but in order to escape from suffering.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1116a14)
                        A reaction: It is easy to construct a situation where suicide IS a fine deed. And when I put on a warm coat I am running away from hardships rather than pursuing fine deeds. He does have a point, though.
26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 2. Natural Purpose / b. Limited purposes
Aristotle needed to distinguish teleological description from teleological explanation
                        Full Idea: Aristotle does not distinguish teleological description and teleological explanation, or not as clearly as he should.
                        From: comment on Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE]) by Terence Irwin - Metaphysical and psych. basis of 'Ethics' p.40
                        A reaction: I assume the explanation has to be factual and true, but the description might be a convenient way of focusing our view of something.
The nature of any given thing is determined by its end
                        Full Idea: The nature of any given thing is determined by its end.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1115b23)
                        A reaction: A nice statement of the essence of the teleological view. A counterexample might be something which had a very unimpressive end, but was incidentally rather wonderful, like being a perfectionist about a menial task.
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 2. Types of cause
Types of cause are nature, necessity and chance, and mind and human agency
                        Full Idea: The accepted types of cause are nature, necessity and chance, and also mind and human agency.
                        From: Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics [c.334 BCE], 1112a28)
                        A reaction: Aristotle accepts this traditional analysis, but also has his own four types (material, formal, efficient and final). Presumably 'nature' would be contingent causes. 'Chance' seems the odd one out. 'Mind' seems to imply free will.