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Week 7 - The Virtuous Life Aristotle NE.docx

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Peter King

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Philosophy The Virtuous Life Reading:Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics Books 1-2 Book 1 Chapter 1 • Every skill and every inquiry, and every action and rational choice is thought to aim at some good • Therefore good is at which everything aims • Difference in ends: some are activities, other are products, which are additional to the activities where the products are by nature better than the activities • Because there are many actions, sciences, and skills, therefore there are many ends, e.g. end of medicine is health • But when any of these actions, skills, or sciences come under some single faculty, then in all these cases the end of the master science is more worthy of choice than the ends of subordinate sciences, since these too are pursed for the sake of the former Chapter 2 • If what is done has some end that we want for its own sake, and everything else we want is for the sake of this end; and if we do not choose everything for the sake of something else, then this will result in the chief good. • Knowledge of good is concern of the most authoritative science—the science of politics, because it lays down which of the sciences there should be in cities, and which each class of person should learn and up to what level • Political science’s end will be the human good, because it employs other sciences, lays down the laws about what we should do and refrain from, and its end will include the end of others • The good of an individual is desirable, but good for people and city is more godlike thing Chapter 3 • Each person judges well what he knows, and is a good judge of this • In any subject, and the person educated in all subjects is a good judge without qualifications • One can gain knowledge only when they are living and engaging in each of his pursuits according to his feelings. • Knowledge of the matters that concern political science will prove very beneficial to those who follow reason both in shaping their desires and in acting Chapter 4 • All knowledge and rational choice seek good • Aim of political science: of all the good things to be done, what is the highest— happiness? Philosophy • What is happiness? Masses: something straight forward, obvious, e.g. pleasure, wealth, honour. Sometimes differ based on situation for same person, e.g. when he is ill, it is health, and when he is poor, it is wealth • Plato – way to go was from first principle or to first principle? • We are known in two senses: known by us, and known without qualification • Begin from things known by us • First principle – the belief that something is the case, and if this is sufficiently clear, he will not need the reason why as well • Hesoid: person who understand everything for himself is the best, and the person who needs advice is noble, but person who is neither understand or takes to heart is a worthless man Chapter 5 • 3 types of life: life of enjoyment, life of politics, and life of contemplation • Sophisticated men, men of action, see happiness as honour, since it is almost the end of political life • Pursue honour to convince themselves of their goodness; seek to be honoured by people with practical wisdom—to these people, virtue is superior Chapter 6 • It is best to ignore one’s personal feelings when preserving the truth, especially for philosophers • It is sacred to prefer the truth to one’s friends • Good is spoken of in categories of substance, quality and of relation • Good is spoken of in that of quality – the virtues in that of quality – the right amount in that of relation – the useful, in that of time – the right moment, and in that of place – the right locality, etc • Therefore no common universal good • Things which are pursued and valued for their own sake are called good, while these that tend to be instrumental to these things or in some way preserve or prevent their contraries are called good for the sake of these • Therefore things should be called good in 2 senses: things good to themselves, and things good for the sake of thing good to themselves • Things good to themselves, those that are sought even on their own, include: understanding, sight, certain types of pleasure, and honours Chapter 7 • Good varies b/w actions and skills • If everything that is done has some end, this will be the good among things done, and if there are several ends, these will be the goods • The chief good manifestly is something complete Philosophy • So if there is only one end that is complete, this will be what we are looking for, and if there are several of them, the most complete • That which is worth pursuing for its own sake is more complete than that which is worth pursuing only for the sake of something else and that which is never worth choosing for the sake of something else is more complete than things that are worth choosing both in themselves and for the sake of this end • Therefore which is always worth choosing in itself and never for the sake of something else is complete without qualification • E.g. happiness is complete without qualification, because we always choose it for itself and never choose for the sake of anything else, whereas honour, pleasure and virtue we choose for themselves, but we also choose them for the sake of happiness, believing they will lead us to happiness. Yet we do not choose happiness for the sake of these or anything else. • Self-sufficient: something that which on its own makes life worthy of choice and lacking in nothing • The good, or the doing well of a sculptor or any practitioner of a skill, or whatever has some characteristic activity or action lies in its characteristic activity, so is said for a human being, if he has a characteristic activity • Searching for characteristic activity in a human being – rule out life of nourishment and growth, because we are looking for something that is unique to a human beings and plants/animals live just like humans do • Also rule out sentiment, because it is shared by all animals • Finally life remains, concerned in some way with action, of the element that possesses reason (of this element, one part of reason in being obedient to reason, the other in possessing it and engaging in thought) • If the characteristic activity of a human being is an activity of the soul in accordance with reason, and if the characteristic activity of anything is the same in kind as that of a good thing of the same type, e.g. in the case of a lyre-player and a good lyre-player, the superiority of the good one in virtue being an addiction to the characteristic activity (e.g. characteristic activity of a lyre-player is to play, and of a good lyre-player is to play it well), and if this is true, we take the characteristic activity of a human being to be a certain kind of life, and if we take this kind of life to be activity of the soul and action in accordance with reason, and the characteristic activity of the good person to be to carry this out well and nobly, and a characteristic activity to be accomplished well when it is accomplished in accordance with the appropriate virtue, then the human good turns out to be the activity of the soul in accordance with the best and most complete, where this must be a complete life Chapter 8 • Goods have been classified into 3 groups: external goods, goods of the soul, and goods of the body • Goods of the soul – most strictly and most especially good, and the actions and activities of the soul may attribute to the soul Philosophy • Our account is right that ends consist in certain actions/activities; the end thus turns out to be a good of the soul and not an external good • Those who act rightly ill attain what is noble/good—the life of these people is pleasurable in itself; experiencing pleasure is in the soul, and each person find pleasure in that of which he said to be fond • Therefore the pleasures of those who are fond of noble things are pleasant by nature • Their lives have no need for pleasure because it already consist of pleasure in itself, because the person who does not enjoy noble action is not good • Happiness is the best, the noblest, and the pleasantest things, and these qualities are not separate as in the inscription at Delros: Noblest is that which is the most just, and best is being healthy. But more pleasant is obtaining what one longs for. • The best activities have all of these qualities and happiness consists in them • However happiness needs external goods, it is impossible to perform noble actions without resources, e.g. friends, wealth, and political power • Some identify happiness with good fortune, while other with good virtue, because in the case of a person who is ugly, of low birth, or solitary and childless is not believed to be happy, still perhaps if he has children or friends who are bad, or good but dead, therefore additional need for prosperity like this Chapter 9 • The prize and end of virtue is clearly the chief good, something both divine and blessed • Widely shared, since anyone who was not incapacitated with regard to virtue can attain it through some kind of learning and personal effort • And if it is better to be happy in this way than chance, therefore happiness should be attained in this way, because what is in accordance with nature is by nature as noble as it can be, and so is what is in accordance with skill and every other cause, especially that in accordance with the best cause • It is inappropriate to entrust what is most noble to chance • Happiness: it is a certain kind of activity of the soul in accordance with virtue; and of the goods, some are necessary conditions of happiness, and others are naturally helpful and serve as useful means to it • The end of political science is the chief good, and political science is concerned most of all with producing citizens of a certain kind, those who are both good and the sort to perform noble actions • E.g. baby cannot be happy, because his age makes him incapable of doing such actions. He is called blessed because of the amount of potential he has, since happiness requires complete virtue and life Chapter 10 • Good and evil is thought to happen only to the dead, because it can happen to those alive however they will are not aware and possible changes in their fortunes Philosophy • Happiness is understood as something permanent and not at all liable to change, while the living experience ups and downs • What matters for happiness are activities in accordance’s with virtue, and for the contrary of happiness the contrary of activities • Chance may also effect one’s life, where the way the person deals with them can make them noble/good or the opposite and can hinder activities • If activities are what really matter in life, no one blessed could become wretched, since he will never do hateful/petty actions • The truly good/wise person bears all the fortunes of life with dignity and always does the noblest thing in the circumstances Chapter 11 • When friends do well/badly it ahs some effect on the dead Chapter 12 • Anything that is praised seems to be praised for its being of a certain kind and its standing in a certain relation to something else: the just person and virtue in general we praise for their actions and what they bring about • Praise applies to something greater/better, e.g. gods and the most godlike people we call blessed/happy • Happiness is something honourable and complete—therefore first principle • It is because of this that we all do all the rest of our actions, and the first principle and cause of goods we take to be something honourable and divine Chapter 13 • Human virtue is of the soul not of the body • One element of the soul has reason, while the other lacks it • Of the element without reason, one part seems to be common: the vegetative, the cause of nutrition’s and growth; should assume such a capacity of the soul takes place in everything that takes nutrition (like an embryo), and to be the same in fully grown beings, since this is more reasonable than to assume that they have a different capacity • Thus the virtue of this element is clearly shared, not specific to human beings • This part more active than others during sleep, and the good/bad person is hardest to distinguish when they are asleep—the saying that the happy are no different than the wretched for half their lives, which makes sense since sleep is a time when the soul is not engaged in things that lead to being called good/bad • Except some certain movement reach the soul, and make the dreams of good people better than those of ordinary people • Yet we can ignore this nutritive capacity since it plays no role in human virtue • We praise the reason of the self-controlled and incontinent, the part of the soul with reason, because it urges them in the right direction, towards what is best • But there is another natural element besides reason within them, which conflicts and resists it Philosophy • The element in the soul of the self-controlled person obeys reason and it is more ready to listen in a brave person, since it is in total harmony with reason • The element without reason is in some way persuaded by reason is indicated as well by offering advice, criticism and encouragement • If we must say this element possesses reason, therefore element with reason has 2 parts: one in strict sense, possessing in itself, and the other ready to listen to reason • Virtue is distinguished the same way: some virtues are intellectual, e.g. wisdom, judgment, and practical wisdom, while others are virtues of characters, such as generosity and temperance • We praise the wise person for his state, and the state worthy praise is virtues Book 2 Chapter 1 • 2 kinds of virtue: intellect and character • Intellectual virtue is attained through teaching, requiring time and experience • Virtue of character is result of habituation, where none of such virtues arises in us by nature, because nothing natural can be made to behave differently by habituation • Nothing can be naturally behave in one way and be habituated to behave differently • Virtues do not arise in us by nature or contrary tot, but nature gives us the capacity to acquire them and completion comes through habituation • In all cases where something arises in us by nature, we first acquire the capacities and later exhibit the activities • E.g. in the case of senses, we do not acquire them by seeing/hearing often, we had them from before we used them, and did not acquire them by using them • We acquire virtues and skills by first exercising them, since what we learn before doing, we learn by doing, e.g. becoming builders by building,
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