Lecture 11- Aristotle’s virtue ethics
✤ Virtue and excellence!
✤ Human function and what it takes to be excellent!
✤ Virtue ethics: the mean as a moral standard!
Virtue and functional excellence
✤ What is function?!
✤ Consider the function of a knife!
✤ What if the knife is dull, and can’t cut…!
✤ It’s a bad knife!
✤ A good knife is one that fulﬁlls its purpose!
Virtue lies in performing perfectly
✤ “the excellence of the horse makes a horse both good in itself and good at running and at
carrying its rider and at awaiting the attack of the enemy. Therefore, if this is true in every case,
the virtue of man also will be the state of character which makes a man good and which makes
him do his work well.” (628)!
✤ Does being virtuous mean being an excellent human?!
✤ If so, what does that mean?!
It will have something to do with our function • We must discover our speciﬁc function
• That which uniquely deﬁnes us!
• Recall the knife !
• we don’t judge the knife on how well it runs or cooks, but on how well it cuts—that’s its
• Of all our functions rationality is the action that deﬁnes us!
• “the function of man is the activity of the soul which follows or implies a rational principle”
• “the function of a good man to be the good and noble performance of [activities of the
soul, or mind]” (626)!
Aiming at the mean
✤ We are constantly trying to be happy!
✤ But many of us miss the mark!
✤ We aim at the wrong target!
✤ Happiness comes from expressing our natures to the most perfect degree possible!
✤ Achieving balance!
✤ Too much or too little of anything will be disruptive to our general well-being!
Virtue is excellence
• Excellence lies is in the most appropriate expression of function! • If the knife is too sharp or too dull it doesn’t work!
• It has to be just right !
• For humans, it means acting reasonably at all times!
• “a master of an