Virtue and Happiness

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There are so many different circumstances under which someone will perform an action that it can be confusing when to determine if an action is virtuous. There can be factors of ignorance or factors of pressure to do certain actions. Pressure, ignorance, or reward can have a various affects on a person’s choices about virtuous acts but when it causes his or her moral actions to be compromised, then only certain situations can pressure or ignorance be an excuse. Courage is a virtue that can be determined by choices that a person can make. A person that only does an act because he sees some personal gain from the act such as saving a child from a fire may not have committed a virtuous act because of the motive behind it such as fame or honor. However, a person who has done a virtuous act can still be honored and glorified with the act still being virtuous. If that person were held at gunpoint and told to save the child, if he performed the act it would be hard to determine if it was truly virtuous. It does not mean that it was not a virtuous act, but it would be hard to tell what the motive was behind the action.

Near the end of Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle talks about the range of peoples characteristics. Aristotle states that the: “…of the moral states to be avoided there are three kinds-vice, incontinence, brutishness.” (Aristotle. Page 157.) Aristotle states that there are the opposites of these which are virtue, continence, and the super-virtue. Vice would mean the person knows what they are doing is wrong but does it regardless. Incontinence would mean that a person has an incorrect moral that they act on, causing them to act in a manner that was not virtuous. And brutishness would be a person acting purely on urge and having no emotional or rational or even irrational thought behind what they are doing. It would be primarily animalistic in nature.

Looking at Aristotle’s view on “the best life” or a “happy life,” it can be seen that virtue is...
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