Eudemian ethics of Aristotle is not so popular as his Nicomachean ethics partly because it describes an analytical model of virtue — concept of the Mean. The virtues of being and ethical approaches to virtues have been considered by philosophers since early times. Courage is one of classical examples in ethical models, and Aristotle used courage as one of the best examples to describe his concept of the Mean. Evidences of this approach can be found throughout the texts of Plutarch. Usually, it is common to claim that this philosopher outlined several types of courage, according to reasons which raise it.
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Related Entries 1. Both treatises examine the conditions in which praise or blame are appropriate, and the nature of pleasure and friendship; near the end of each work, we find a brief discussion of the proper relationship between human beings and the divine. Though the general point of view expressed in each work is the same, there are many subtle differences in organization and content as well.
Clearly, one is a re-working of the other, and although no single piece of evidence shows conclusively what their order is, it is widely assumed that the Nicomachean Ethics is a later and improved version of the Eudemian Ethics. Perhaps the most telling indication of this ordering is that in several instances the Nicomachean Ethics develops a theme about which its Eudemian cousin is silent.
The remainder of this article will therefore focus on this work. It ranges over topics discussed more fully in the other two works and its point of view is similar to theirs. Why, being briefer, is it named the Magna Moralia? Because each of the two papyrus rolls into which it is divided is unusually long. Just as a big mouse can be a small animal, two big chapters can make a small book.
A few authors in antiquity refer to a work with this name and attribute it to Aristotle, but it is not mentioned by several authorities, such as Cicero and Diogenes Laertius, whom we would expect to have known of it.
No one had written ethical treatises before Aristotle. The Human Good and the Function Argument The principal idea with which Aristotle begins is that there are differences of opinion about what is best for human beings, and that to profit from ethical inquiry we must resolve this disagreement. He insists that ethics is not a theoretical discipline: we are asking what the good for human beings is not simply because we want to have knowledge, but because we will be better able to achieve our good if we develop a fuller understanding of what it is to flourish.
In raising this question—what is the good? He assumes that such a list can be compiled rather easily; most would agree, for example, that it is good to have friends, to experience pleasure, to be healthy, to be honored, and to have such virtues as courage at least to some degree. The difficult and controversial question arises when we ask whether certain of these goods are more desirable than others.
To be eudaimon is therefore to be living in a way that is well-favored by a god. But Aristotle never calls attention to this etymology in his ethical writings, and it seems to have little influence on his thinking.
No one tries to live well for the sake of some further goal; rather, being eudaimon is the highest end, and all subordinate goals—health, wealth, and other such resources—are sought because they promote well-being, not because they are what well-being consists in.
But unless we can determine which good or goods happiness consists in, it is of little use to acknowledge that it is the highest end. One important component of this argument is expressed in terms of distinctions he makes in his psychological and biological works.
The soul is analyzed into a connected series of capacities: the nutritive soul is responsible for growth and reproduction, the locomotive soul for motion, the perceptive soul for perception, and so on. The biological fact Aristotle makes use of is that human beings are the only species that has not only these lower capacities but a rational soul as well. The good of a human being must have something to do with being human; and what sets humanity off from other species, giving us the potential to live a better life, is our capacity to guide ourselves by using reason.
If we use reason well, we live well as human beings; or, to be more precise, using reason well over the course of a full life is what happiness consists in.
Doing anything well requires virtue or excellence, and therefore living well consists in activities caused by the rational soul in accordance with virtue or excellence. No other writer or thinker had said precisely what he says about what it is to live well.
But at the same time his view is not too distant from a common idea. As he himself points out, one traditional conception of happiness identifies it with virtue b30—1.
He says, not that happiness is virtue, but that it is virtuous activity. Living well consists in doing something, not just being in a certain state or condition. It consists in those lifelong activities that actualize the virtues of the rational part of the soul. At the same time, Aristotle makes it clear that in order to be happy one must possess others goods as well—such goods as friends, wealth, and power.
But why so? Someone who is friendless, childless, powerless, weak, and ugly will simply not be able to find many opportunities for virtuous activity over a long period of time, and what little he can accomplish will not be of great merit. To some extent, then, living well requires good fortune; happenstance can rob even the most excellent human beings of happiness.
Nonetheless, Aristotle insists, the highest good, virtuous activity, is not something that comes to us by chance. Although we must be fortunate enough to have parents and fellow citizens who help us become virtuous, we ourselves share much of the responsibility for acquiring and exercising the virtues. Methodology 3. Suppose we grant, at least for the sake of argument, that doing anything well, including living well, consists in exercising certain skills; and let us call these skills, whatever they turn out to be, virtues.
Even so, that point does not by itself allow us to infer that such qualities as temperance, justice, courage, as they are normally understood, are virtues. They should be counted as virtues only if it can be shown that actualizing precisely these skills is what happiness consists in. What Aristotle owes us, then, is an account of these traditional qualities that explains why they must play a central role in any well-lived life. But perhaps Aristotle disagrees, and refuses to accept this argumentative burden.
In one of several important methodological remarks he makes near the beginning of the Nicomachean Ethics, he says that in order to profit from the sort of study he is undertaking, one must already have been brought up in good habits b4—6. The audience he is addressing, in other words, consists of people who are already just, courageous, and generous; or, at any rate, they are well on their way to possessing these virtues.
Why such a restricted audience? Why does he not address those who have serious doubts about the value of these traditional qualities, and who therefore have not yet decided to cultivate and embrace them? Addressing the moral skeptic, after all, is the project Plato undertook in the Republic: in Book I he rehearses an argument to show that justice is not really a virtue, and the remainder of this work is an attempt to rebut this thesis.
He does not appear to be addressing someone who has genuine doubts about the value of justice or kindred qualities. Perhaps, then, he realizes how little can be accomplished, in the study of ethics, to provide it with a rational foundation. Perhaps he thinks that no reason can be given for being just, generous, and courageous. These are qualities one learns to love when one is a child, and having been properly habituated, one no longer looks for or needs a reason to exercise them.
One can show, as a general point, that happiness consists in exercising some skills or other, but that the moral skills of a virtuous person are what one needs is not a proposition that can be established on the basis of argument. This is not the only way of reading the Ethics, however. For surely we cannot expect Aristotle to show what it is about the traditional virtues that makes them so worthwhile until he has fully discussed the nature of those virtues.
He himself warns us that his initial statement of what happiness is should be treated as a rough outline whose details are to be filled in later a20— His intention in Book I of the Ethics is to indicate in a general way why the virtues are important; why particular virtues—courage, justice, and the like—are components of happiness is something we should be able to better understand only at a later point.
His point, rather, may be that in ethics, as in any other study, we cannot make progress towards understanding why things are as they are unless we begin with certain assumptions about what is the case.
Neither theoretical nor practical inquiry starts from scratch. Someone who has made no observations of astronomical or biological phenomena is not yet equipped with sufficient data to develop an understanding of these sciences. The parallel point in ethics is that to make progress in this sphere we must already have come to enjoy doing what is just, courageous, generous and the like.
We must experience these activities not as burdensome constraints, but as noble, worthwhile, and enjoyable in themselves. Then, when we engage in ethical inquiry, we can ask what it is about these activities that makes them worthwhile. We can also compare these goods with other things that are desirable in themselves—pleasure, friendship, honor, and so on—and ask whether any of them is more desirable than the others.
We approach ethical theory with a disorganized bundle of likes and dislikes based on habit and experience; such disorder is an inevitable feature of childhood. But what is not inevitable is that our early experience will be rich enough to provide an adequate basis for worthwhile ethical reflection; that is why we need to have been brought up well.
Yet such an upbringing can take us only so far. We seek a deeper understanding of the objects of our childhood enthusiasms, and we must systematize our goals so that as adults we have a coherent plan of life. We need to engage in ethical theory, and to reason well in this field, if we are to move beyond the low-grade form of virtue we acquired as children. His project is to make ethics an autonomous field, and to show why a full understanding of what is good does not require expertise in any other field.
There is another contrast with Plato that should be emphasized: In Book II of the Republic, we are told that the best type of good is one that is desirable both in itself and for the sake of its results da. Plato argues that justice should be placed in this category, but since it is generally agreed that it is desirable for its consequences, he devotes most of his time to establishing his more controversial point—that justice is to be sought for its own sake.
By contrast, Aristotle assumes that if A is desirable for the sake of B, then B is better than A a14—16 ; therefore, the highest kind of good must be one that is not desirable for the sake of anything else. To show that A deserves to be our ultimate end, one must show that all other goods are best thought of as instruments that promote A in some way or other.
He needs to discuss honor, wealth, pleasure, and friendship in order to show how these goods, properly understood, can be seen as resources that serve the higher goal of virtuous activity. He vindicates the centrality of virtue in a well-lived life by showing that in the normal course of things a virtuous person will not live a life devoid of friends, honor, wealth, pleasure, and the like.
Virtuous activity makes a life happy not by guaranteeing happiness in all circumstances, but by serving as the goal for the sake of which lesser goods are to be pursued.
That is why he stresses that in this sort of study one must be satisfied with conclusions that hold only for the most part b11— Poverty, isolation, and dishonor are normally impediments to the exercise of virtue and therefore to happiness, although there may be special circumstances in which they are not. The possibility of exceptions does not undermine the point that, as a rule, to live well is to have sufficient resources for the pursuit of virtue over the course of a lifetime.
Virtues and Deficiencies, Continence and Incontinence Aristotle distinguishes two kinds of virtue a1—10 : those that pertain to the part of the soul that engages in reasoning virtues of mind or intellect , and those that pertain to the part of the soul that cannot itself reason but is nonetheless capable of following reason ethical virtues, virtues of character.
Intellectual virtues are in turn divided into two sorts: those that pertain to theoretical reasoning, and those that pertain to practical thinking a3—8. He organizes his material by first studying ethical virtue in general, then moving to a discussion of particular ethical virtues temperance, courage, and so on , and finally completing his survey by considering the intellectual virtues practical wisdom, theoretical wisdom, etc.
This does not mean that first we fully acquire the ethical virtues, and then, at a later stage, add on practical wisdom. Ethical virtue is fully developed only when it is combined with practical wisdom b14— A low-grade form of ethical virtue emerges in us during childhood as we are repeatedly placed in situations that call for appropriate actions and emotions; but as we rely less on others and become capable of doing more of our own thinking, we learn to develop a larger picture of human life, our deliberative skills improve, and our emotional responses are perfected.
Like anyone who has developed a skill in performing a complex and difficult activity, the virtuous person takes pleasure in exercising his intellectual skills. Furthermore, when he has decided what to do, he does not have to contend with internal pressures to act otherwise.
He does not long to do something that he regards as shameful; and he is not greatly distressed at having to give up a pleasure that he realizes he should forego. Aristotle places those who suffer from such internal disorders into one of three categories: A Some agents, having reached a decision about what to do on a particular occasion, experience some counter-pressure brought on by an appetite for pleasure, or anger, or some other emotion; and this countervailing influence is not completely under the control of reason.
Such people are not virtuous, although they generally do what a virtuous person does. But 2 others are less successful than the average person in resisting these counter-pressures. The explanation of akrasia is a topic to which we will return in section 7. In addition, B there is a type of agent who refuses even to try to do what an ethically virtuous agent would do, because he has become convinced that justice, temperance, generosity and the like are of little or no value.
Such people Aristotle calls evil kakos, phaulos. He assumes that evil people are driven by desires for domination and luxury, and although they are single-minded in their pursuit of these goals, he portrays them as deeply divided, because their pleonexia—their desire for more and more—leaves them dissatisfied and full of self-hatred. It should be noticed that all three of these deficiencies—continence, incontinence, vice—involve some lack of internal harmony.
Eudemian Ethics: Books 1, 2 & 8 (Clarendon)
Enter a Perseus citation to go to another section or work. Full search options are on the right side and top of the page. Hence accidentally, as was said, 1 opposites are dear to opposites also on account of the good. It has, then, been said how many kinds of friendship there are, and what are the different senses in which people are termed friends, and also givers and objects of affection, both in a manner that makes them actually friends and without being friends. Some think that every man is his own best friend, and they use this friendship as a standard by which to judge his friendship for his other friends. On theoretical grounds, and in view of the accepted attributes of friends, self-love and love of others are in some respects opposed but in others manifestly similar.
Aristotle Eudemian Ethics
After reading Henry Veatchs "Rational Man - a modern interpretation of aristotelian ethics" I got interested in going to the main sources in order to answer the question: Can Aristotle offer a real alternative ethical theory from Kant or Bentham? After reading EE my answer is yes and let me explain why. Contrary to modern ethical philosophers Aristotle often starts his inquiry by looking at what people actually tend to value and from there builds his theory. His main An under appreciated gem. His main point is that humans value happiness above everything else and that this is the only thing which has intrinsic value. By happiness he does not mean pleasure but rather the state of flourishing.
Eudemian Ethics of the topics is different but there is perhaps no striking discrepancy of view. In conclusion there is a glance at Theoria, the activity of Speculative Wisdom, as the highest life of man; at Book II. There is nothing corresponding to the full treatment of Theoria as the consummation of human well-being that is given in N. Text, MSS.
NICOMACHEAN ETHICS AND EUDEMIAN ETHICS
It is in the hands of each individual, he argues in these books on personal ethics, to develop a character which bases a life on virtue, with positive but moderate habits. The Nicomachean Ethics, the primary work, the title is said to come from his son Nicomachus and is generally regarded as having been essentially notes for lectures is divided into ten books. It opens with a statement on who should study ethics and why, and that the pursuance of moral virtue leads to happiness. Courage, temperance, magnanimity, honesty, friendship are among the many qualities considered. Aristotle also outlines some of the obstacles to developing virtue. Throughout, the emphasis is placed on the practical advantages of developing positive ethics — this is practical philosophy.