Ideas from 'Eudemian Ethics' by Aristotle [333 BCE], by Theme Structure

[found in 'Eudemian Ethics I,II and VIII' by Aristotle (ed/tr Woods,Michael) [OUP 1992,0-19-824020-1]].

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8. Modes of Existence / E. Nominalism / 1. Nominalism / b. Nominalism about universals
The thesis of the Form of the Good (or of anything else) is verbal and vacuous
                        Full Idea: The thesis that there is a Form either of good or indeed of anything else is verbal and vacuous.
                        From: Aristotle (Eudemian Ethics [c.333 BCE], 1217b20)
                        A reaction: This is clear evidence for suggesting that Aristotle is a nominalist. Elsewhere his essentialism suggests otherwise, but clearly on grumpy days he thought that universals were mere verbal conventions.
15. Nature of Minds / C. Capacities of Minds / 1. Faculties
Whether the mind has parts is irrelevant, since it obviously has distinct capacities
                        Full Idea: It makes no difference if the soul is divided into parts or lacks parts, as it certainly has distinct capacities.
                        From: Aristotle (Eudemian Ethics [c.333 BCE], 1219b32), quoted by Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski - Virtues of the Mind II 3.1
                        A reaction: I take this to endorse my view that the mind-body problem is of limited interest to philosophers. The focus should be on what the mind does, not how it is constructed. But then I presume the latter issue is revealed by neuroscience.
22. Metaethics / A. Value / 1. Nature of Value / f. Ultimate value
No one would choose life just for activities not done for their own sake
                        Full Idea: If we put together all the things that are ....not done or undergone for their own sake ...no one would choose, in order to have them, to be alive rather than not.
                        From: Aristotle (Eudemian Ethics [c.333 BCE], 1215), quoted by Christine M. Korsgaard - Aristotle and Kant on the Source of Value 8 'Finality'
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 1. Goodness / g. Consequentialism
We judge people from their deeds because we cannot see their choices (which matter more)
                        Full Idea: It is because it is not easy to discern what sort of choice it is that we are forced to judge from the deeds what sort of person someone is; the activity is more worth having, but the choice is commended more.
                        From: Aristotle (Eudemian Ethics [c.333 BCE], 1228a15)
                        A reaction: This shows why Aristotle is the most important opponent of consequentialism. It is hard to see how one could praise a self-interested deed simply because it benefited others. Greed is never good.
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 2. Happiness / a. Nature of happiness
Horses, birds and fish are not happy, lacking a divine aspect to their natures
                        Full Idea: No horse or bird or fish is happy, nor any other thing that there is which does not have a share by its nature in the divine.
                        From: Aristotle (Eudemian Ethics [c.333 BCE], 1217a26)
                        A reaction: Pet owners will all feel their beloved companions have been insulted, but I agree with this. 'Happy' does not here mean 'in a state of pleasure'. A fully successful bird does little more than the four f's (feed, fornicate, flee, fight).
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 2. Happiness / d. Routes to happiness
Happiness involves three things, of which the greatest is either wisdom, virtue, or pleasure
                        Full Idea: To be happy, and to live the fine and divinely-happy life, would seem to reside in three things above all, ..for some say that wisdom is the greatest good, others virtue, others pleasure.
                        From: Aristotle (Eudemian Ethics [c.333 BCE], 1214a30)
                        A reaction: Aristotle is well-known for his pluralist answer to this question: virtue is crucial, wisdom is perhaps the greatest of the virtues, and pleasure improves everything in life.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 1. Virtue Theory / a. Nature of virtue
Virtue is different from continence
                        Full Idea: Virtue is different from continence.
                        From: Aristotle (Eudemian Ethics [c.333 BCE], 1227b17)
                        A reaction: Basic to Aristotle - in that continence leads to right action, but that is not enough for virtue, which requires inner harmony, reason, and pleasure in doing what is right. Hence Aristotle is quite distinct from deontological or consequentialist views.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 1. Virtue Theory / b. Basis of virtue
Excellence is the best state of anything (like a cloak) which has an employment or function
                        Full Idea: Excellence is the best disposition, state or capacity of anything that has some employment or function; this is evident from induction. For example, a cloak has an excellence - and a certain function and employment also; its best state is its excellence.
                        From: Aristotle (Eudemian Ethics [c.333 BCE], 1219a02)
                        A reaction: 'Employment' will be an assigned function, and 'function' will be a natural or intrinsic function, I presume. This is a nice clear illustration of the fact that for Aristotle virtue runs continuously from people to cloaks. See Idea 1663, though.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 2. Elements of Virtue Theory / e. Character
Character virtues (such as courage) are of the non-rational part, which follows the rational part
                        Full Idea: The virtues of character belong to the part that is non-rational, but whose nature is to follow the rational part; we do not say what a man's character is like when we say that he is wise or clever, but when we say that he is gentle or daring.
                        From: Aristotle (Eudemian Ethics [c.333 BCE], 1220a11)
                        A reaction: In the Nichomachean Ethics it appears that good character is the 'harmony' between the two parts; here it sounds more like obedience. It seems to me that our rational part is a failure if it is not sensitive to the needs of the irrational part.
Character (éthos) is developed from habit (ethos)
                        Full Idea: Character (éthos), as the word itself indicates, is developed from habit (ethos).
                        From: Aristotle (Eudemian Ethics [c.333 BCE], 1220a36)
                        A reaction: Aristotle goes in for dubious etymologies, but this one sounds quite significant, and supports his view that habit is central to virtue. We would lose nothing in English if we said 'what are her habits?' instead of 'what is her character?'.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 4. External Goods / a. External goods
Goods in the soul are more worthy than those outside it, as everybody wants them
                        Full Idea: All goods are either in the soul or outside it, and it is those in the soul that are more worthy of choice; for wisdom, virtue and pleasure are in the soul, and some or all of these seem to be an end for everyone.
                        From: Aristotle (Eudemian Ethics [c.333 BCE], 1218b34)
                        A reaction: An interesting reason for this assertion - that it is true because everybody agrees on it. See Idea 95. I would think that he might claim that our soul is our essence, whereas external goods pander to the non-essential in us.
26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 2. Natural Purpose / b. Limited purposes
It is folly not to order one's life around some end
                        Full Idea: Not to have ordered one's life in relation to some end is a mark of extreme folly.
                        From: Aristotle (Eudemian Ethics [c.333 BCE], 1214b10)
                        A reaction: A most interesting claim, not found in the Nichomachean Ethics. There the teleology is descriptive, but here it is prescriptive. It is tempting to rebel against Aristotle's injuncture. He was a driven workaholic. Why not float through life like gossamer?
Everything seeks, not a single good, but its own separate good
                        Full Idea: It is not true that everything that there is seeks some single good: each thing has an inclination for its own good, the eye for sight, the body for health, and so on.
                        From: Aristotle (Eudemian Ethics [c.333 BCE], 1218a30)
                        A reaction: Aristotle's pluralism. Elsewhere this pluralism arises from his function argument - that the good of each thing is the successful fulfilment of its function, which is different for each thing. This is basic to virtue theory, and has my approval.
26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 2. Natural Purpose / c. Purpose denied
Eyes could be used for a natural purpose, or for unnatural seeing, or for a non-seeing activity
                        Full Idea: One might wonder if it is possible to use each thing both for its natural purpose and otherwise - and that as itself or incidentally. E.g. twisting an eye so that one thing appear two, but also using an eye as something to sell or eat.
                        From: Aristotle (Eudemian Ethics [c.333 BCE], 1246a26)
                        A reaction: The important idea here is the core notion that there is a 'natural' purpose. Sceptics might say that all purposes derive from how a mind wishes to use something; otherwise there would be processes, but no 'functions' or 'purposes'.
26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 3. Natural Function
Each thing's function is its end
                        Full Idea: Each thing's function is its end.
                        From: Aristotle (Eudemian Ethics [c.333 BCE], 1219a08)
                        A reaction: Function and end are not the same, but this confirms how closely related they are for Aristotle. Can an inanimate object have an end, without having any apparent function? Could I construct a set of cogwheels which each had a function, but no end?