Philosophy Aristotle

Topics: Virtue, Courage, Ethics Pages: 6 (1898 words) Published: October 13, 2013
A. A brilliant young attorney comes to you. She is employed as a new counsel in the state Department of Justice. According to her, however, her workplace is a political nightmare. While hiring seems to be done on the basis of genuine merit and skills, promotion seems to go to people who politic well and make strong connections with senior staffers. Those promoted are not by any means the best litigators, but are certainly the best “brown-nosers.” Furthermore, the head of the Department is an appointed political hack who has turned it into a support system for his own political party. There are a few good attorneys in senior positions, but they do not seem to be able to override the general culture of the Department. What, she asks you, should she do? Should she stay, or leave? If she stays, how should she comport herself?

Sometimes, Aristotle notes, the end in one activity-end formula can become an activity in another.

If the pursuit of happiness is never pursued for the sake of some other thing, then according to Aristotle it is the "highest of all goods" or the "complete good" or the "good that is self-sufficient".

1. You practice carpentry (activity) in order to build wooden objects (end). 2. You build wooden objects (activity) in order to sell them for money (end). 3. You acquire money (activity) in order to buy things that are needed like food, clothes (end). 4. You acquire things that are needed (activity) like food, clothes, in order that you do not starve or freeze (end). 5. You strive not to starve or freeze (activity) in order that you are not in pain (end). 6. You strive to not be in pain (activity) in order that you may achieve a state of pleasure (end). 7. You strive to acheive a state of pleasure in order that you may be happy (end).

According to Aristotle,
(a) All activities -- if we proceed on to ask "why?" in the sense answered by 1 to 7 -- have happiness as their eventual aim and goal. (b) Happiness itself is the final goal, so it never serves itself as an activity for some other end.

A. Aristotle claims that in any "activity -- end" formula (usually referred to as a "means --> end" formula) two things are true:

(a) the end is more valuable than the activity
(b) the end pursued in itself (the end not pursued for the sake of something else) is more complete than an end pursued for the sake of something else.

So since happiness is the only thing we pursue for itself, (1) it is more valuable than any activity and (2) it must be the most complete good, since we pursue it for itself, and so it is more complete than all other ends which exist. **** MORE THAN HONOR or justice at work.

B. The Virtues (like courage, understanding, benevolence, etc), stand midway between happiness and craft.

This means:

1. We sometimes choose them for themselves. So we choose honor because it is good to be honorable. In this sense the virtues seem to be a part of what happiness is, since Aristotle seems to imply that we choose them for their own sake, and this quality is only found with respect to happiness itself.

But, he also says:

2. We always choose the virtues to be happy. Here it sounds as if the virtues are an activity, and the end is happiness. ** Everything that is animate, Aristotle contends, has a "function". A function is “what the thing is meant to do, or what is good for the thing”. Talk about functions is of central importance for Aristotle, since “what X is meant to do with respect to X's function” and “what is good for X”/"what X ought to do" are the same. So morality becomes an expression of one's function. If it turns out (as Aristotle believes) that the completion of man's function requires that the man live virtuously, then the man ought to be virtuous.

Aristotle is more concerned, however, with man himself. What about the function of man? To discern this you need to figure out the function that is particular to human beings. Whatever the human function...
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