Student number: 999091138
PHL 277 – Philip Clark
November 25 , 2013
Aristotle’sApproach On Good Judgment
In Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle discusses the makings of an excellent or
virtuous person and the good life. He states that an excellent person leads a good life in that he/
she fulfills his/ her function of existing as a human which is to choose well and make good
judgments (1107a). Aristotle states that humans have the capability to deliberate and through this
they can either gain or lose control on their emotions (1112a15). The strength of their
deliberation guides their choices in life and good choices are those which are balanced and fall in
between the extremes of excess and deficiency. It is the rational, calculative part of the human
soul which is involved in making good judgment. If one cannot deliberate upon their emotions
and properly reason (consider all aspects of the situation), then it is possible for him/ her to go
against his/ her better judgment.
The first section of this paper will discuss Aristotle’s understanding of good judgment.
The second section will argue and explain that the calculative part of the soul is mostly involved
in the exercise of good judgment. The third section will distinguish between the calculative and
emotional part of the soul and will advocate that it is possible for an individual to go against his/
her better judgment.
Good Judgement 2
In Plato’s Republic, Thrasymachus explains his concept of good judgment as acting in a
way which is in one’s own advantage. He believes it is intelligible to seek an advantage out of a
situation and strive towards it, even if it requires one to be unjust. By doing so, the individual is
making a good judgment as he/ she is benefitting from it. For Thrasymachus, being unjust is
good judgment (348d). It is evident that for Thrasymachus, the end is what matters and not the
means. He places more importance on the conclusion and less on how one achieved that
conclusion. However, in the Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle takes a different approach towards
“good judgment”. Firstly, Aristotle’s focus is towards the means and not the ends (1112b10). He
argues that while deliberating on how to go about a certain decision, one can also question
whether to even take that decision or not (1112b15-20). He does not believe in deciding upon a
desired end and then taking the most convenient route (mean) towards it. Aristotle argues that
one should deliberate the means and not the ends. Secondly, Aristotle states that a good life is
one in which an individual functions well as a human being and by functioning well he means
choosing well (1098a5-15). Understanding the situation and making the appropriate choices.
Therefore, it can be concluded that “good judgment” for Aristotle is having the capability of
proper understanding and choosing well, with all parts of the soul fulfilling their function.
Parts of the Soul
Aristotle analyzes the human soul as divided into two parts: one being the irrational part,
which comprises of a person’s capabilities to reproduce, grow, and move (1102b1-5). However,
these capabilities are not uniquely human as they are also found in plant and animals (1102b5).
Therefore, the second part of a human’s soul, the rational part, makes this distinction. The
rational part of a human’s soul is concerned with the uniquely human capabilities of feeling
emotions, desires and of deliberating upon them (1102b30-1103a1). These capabilities indicate a 3
person’s choices and allow one to function well. Since the rational part is uniquely human and
has the capability to deliberate, it is involved in the process of one exercising good judgment.
Aristotle further breaks down the rational part into two more components: the emotional
part which deals with one’s desires; and the calculative part’s function is to deliberate with the
emotions and desires, consider all options and then make a decision to act in the best way
possible. When deliberating, one has to answer practical questions such as how to achieve a
certain goal. One must weigh the reasons of acting in all ways possible, and then decide to act
accordingly to what situation calls for.
It is evident that the calculative part’s function is to guides one’s decisions. It is through
the calculative part that one is able to determine