October 15 2009
General Aspects of A’s Virtue Ethics
Rules v. Norms
Rules tell you what to do in a detail fashion. Norms are not rules but things that are action
guiding without there being an actual rule for it.
Conventional v. Arbitrary
Conventions are arrived at through practice. They are relatively fixed. They make things
Habit v. Knowledge
Being virtuous is not about acquiring more knowledge but by imitating someone who is virtuous
thus learning the habits of one who is virtuous.
This is a kind of effective know how in getting things done. They know how to respond correctly
to any circumstance. This is a key element in being virtuous.
Being virtuous is dynamic; it comes out of virtuous character that originates from virtuous
Virtue and Human Flourishing
Good = end of action (1097a15)
A good is an end of an action but only applies to entities capable of acting, so not a tree for they
cannot act, but we as human beings can. Acting is a discrete undertaking within the world of
human possibility. A good is actually the end of a PROPER action.
Happiness is complete/self-efficient/choice worthy(1097b)
Our desire to be happy does not need justification; it is an end unto itself. You can’t not want to
be happy in the joy-joy sense. You want to flourish.
Human function is the soul’s activity
That activity expresses reason (ef. ‘featherless bipeds’)
We have the capacity in our soul to reason. We are the reasoning political animals.
That expression is excellence (1098a) We call that excellence virtue (arête)
External (moral luck; material condition)
Cf. Solon’s warning: “Call no man happy until he is dead”
In fact: Call no person happy even after he or she is dead!
Dispositions to act
Character traits (1107a)
Imitation and habit
V. Deontological (duty- or rule-based)
V. Consequentiality (results-based)
CHARACTER -> ACTION -> CHARACTER -> ACTION etc.
Hitting the Mean
- Phronesis; deficiency and excess Deficiency Mean Excess
(cowardice) courage (rashness)
(feelings) temperance; self restraint un restrained
(external goods) Generosity
the virtue of throwing your money around
one should not become a slave to external goods
Re: small honours;
take honours as they come but don’t