Aristotle's Ethics

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Stewart Martin
08/06/2012

Aristotle's Ethics

According to Aristotle happiness is the highest or self-sufficient good. Happiness is the end toward which all other ends are directed. Happiness is attained by living a virtuous life. Moral virtue is a relative mean between extremes of excess and deficiency. Virtuous acts require conscious choice. Moral virtue requires moral action in a social environment.

The term “happiness” as used by Aristotle is “eudaemonia ” and can be translated many ways. More directly translated it can mean “good spirit” or “good demon.” It is commonly translated as happiness or welfare but “human flourishing” has been proposed as a more accurate translation. For every action a human makes there is a purpose or a goal. For every goal there is an end to that goal and for every end, another end. Therefore Aristotle proposes that “eudamonia” is the ultimate end of all ends and goal of all goals. He calls it the the ultimate or highest “good” and the end toward which all human activity is directed. The highest good has three characteristics. It is desirable for itself, it is not desirable for the sake of some other good, and all other goods are desirable for its sake.

One attains eudaemonia by living a virtuous life in accordance with reason and prudence. The ultimate human good is uniquely human because we are capable of guiding our actions by reason where other animals are not. By properly using reason to guide our actions over the course of our entire lives we live well as humans. Virtues enable us to better fulfill that goal. There are two kinds of virtues, intellectual and moral. Intellectual virtues are learned, and moral virtues are the result of habit and practice. Man is neither born moral nor immoral but has the capacity for morality which can only be developed through habit. It is therefore important for children to learn morality and be disciplined at a young age so that they may develop the habits of...
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