Free «Nicomachean Ethics» Essay

Nicomachean Ethics

Aristotle claimed that happiness “comes as a result of virtue and some process of learning or training.”[1] If the “virtue” is the essential component of happiness, it is vital to understand what he meant by this concept. In “Nicomachean Ethics” Aristotle covers the meaning of the concept “virtue”, names its components, sources, and measures. In the paper, the essence of this concept is explained on liberality example.

According to Aristotle, people “with superior refinement and of active disposition identify happiness with honour.”[2] Thus, as in the ancient Greece honor was related to the concepts of duty and goodness, it can be said that people identified happiness with pleasure.[3] The “pleasure finds realization it the soul.” [4] This “state of soul”[5] was made of the feelings that could help it be better or worse,[6] as “human good turns out to be the activity of a soul in accordance with virtue.”[7]

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The scholar explained the virtues as the models of choice or the ones that involve choice.[8] He considered human passions and facilities impossible to be virtues, as people feel them even unwillingly. It means that virtue is the “state of character.”[9] Aristotle claimed that the “virtue belongs to virtuous activity”, [10] the one that has a useful purpose. Moreover, all the deeds have to be caused by “firm and unchangeable character”[11] of the doer. Thus, all the deeds must be temperate.

Aristotle divided virtue into intellectual and moral, as well as he explained to what extent it should be measured. Intellectual virtue is a process that can be possible only because of teaching and training while the moral virtue is the one that involves habit results. Despite the origin, all states of character that bring people happiness must be measured. At this point it is important to keep to the middle ground, “thus master of any art avoids excess and defect.”[12] The reason is when something is very good, it is impossible to add or remove something, without destroying the essence of it.

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To explain the concept of virtue, liberality may be considered as a very useful example. Liberal people are praised “with regard to the giving and taking of wealth, and especially in respect of giving.”[13] It means that the virtue of liberality includes desire of wealthy people to give their money for some honorable occasions. This brings wealthy people the sense of happiness.

Liberty implies the state of soul when wealth accumulation is not the primary principle, as liberal people do not depend on money and willingly give it away. As the matter of fact, liberal character involves spending the wealth, taking and keeping it for some time rather than possessing it. Thus, the main purpose of the liberal person is to spend money for the “right” people and “right” occasions, not for the personal benefit.

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“Prodigality and meanness are excesses and defects with regard to wealth.”[14] It means that people should not be prodigal and spend money on irrational ideas or self-indulgence, and at the same time they should not consider only taking, but also giving the money away. The best thing is to find the middle ground, for, as any other virtue, liberality is considered to be happiness only in reason.

Summing up, Aristotle in “Nicomachean Ethics” explained the concept of “happiness” using the concept of “virtue”. The last one he described as state of character that that needs training and limiting to bring people real pleasure.

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