Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Aristotle's Ethics

Are Aristotle's Virtues Achievable in Practice?

es, Aristotle's virtues are achievable in practice, but there are several obstacles in achieving them. One of the problems is that virtuous activities are not an "exact science" because it is a practical science that requires choosing wisely. There are many obstacles to choosing wisely. Aristotle says that virtues "are expressions of our choice, or at any rate imply choice" (1106a). Many thinks can influence bad choices. For one thing, a person must have the right knowledge to choose wisely. One hindrance to this is that a "young man is not a fit person to attend lectures on political science, because he is not versed in the practical business of life from which politics draws its premises and subject matter. Besides, he tends to follow his feelings" (1095a). Another thing the intended purpose of this knowledge is action and the youth needs the knowledge from experience to know how to choose wisely. Another thing is that having the virtues come from creating habits from continual practice. The way to be just is to do just actions, but one needs to be just to do just actions from virtue. Another problem is that there is one way to do it right and many ways to do it wrong. To practice virtuous acts requires fulfilling many conditions: doing the right thing in the right way with the right motivation in the context of the right circumstances. How does one do virtuous acts without being virtuous? No one is born with virtue because it is something developed from practice. Another problem Aristotle thinks that might hinder the development of virtue or make it more difficult to achieve is unfortunate circumstances. Since one is not born with virtue and a child does not have parents who cultivate virtue in their children, it can be difficult for children to develop virtue. In addition, it is sometimes hard for a poor man to be virtuous or a poor man or a person in limited circumstances might find it hard to develop virtue. Another problem might be that all the role models are examples surrounding a young person are examples of vice. Aristotle states that the "moral virtues, then, are engendered in us neither by nor contrary to nature; we are constituted by nature to receive them, but their full development in us is due to habit" (1103a). In other words, it requires hard work. It takes years to form in us. Many might not be willing to do the hard work to develop virtue. In addition, they might want immediate gratification, instead of working for a good life that requires many years. Another problem could be that the habits (vices) we formed early in life hinder us from developing virtue later. Aristotle says, "So it is a matter of no little importance what sort of habits we from from the earliest age--it makes a vast difference, or rather all the difference in the world" (1103b20). Aristotle argues that it might be difficult to overcome a lifetime of bad habits. Aristotle thinks that "a bad moral state, once formed, is not easily amended" (Book III). One other problem I like to mention and it concerns the mean. Virtous actions requires hitting the mean between deficiency and excess and doing this is quite difficult. For one thing one has to take in considerations one's own inclinations and hit toward the mean close to the extreme of one's inclinations. For example, if I have a tendency to be over confident, the mean will lie closer to being cautious. So, yes, Aristotle's virtues are achievable, but with great difficulty.   

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