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Thursday, April 7, 2016

Aristotle life and works

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Biju P R

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Aristotle was born in 384 BC, in Stagira, near Macedonia at the northern end of the Aegean Sea. His father, Nicomachus, was the family physician of King Amyntas of Macedonia. It is believed that Aristotle's ancestors had been the physicians of the Macedonian royal family for several generations. Having come from a long line of physicians, Aristotle received training and education that inclined his mind toward the study of natural phenomena. This education had long-lasting influences, and was probably the root cause of his less idealistic stand on philosophy as opposed to Plato. Aristotle's father died when he was a boy, and Aristotle was left under the care of his guardian Proxenus.
When Aristotle was seventeen, Proxenus sent him to study at Plato's Academy in Athens, the heart of the intellectual world at the time. Aristotle remained at the Academy for twenty years, until Plato's death in 347 BC. Although Aristotle was Plato's most promising student, Aristotle did not succeed Plato as head of the Academy because of their opposing views on several fundamental philosophical issues, specifically regarding Plato's theory of ideas. As has already been noted, Aristotle was more concerned than Plato with the actual material world, and did not believe that the only thing that mattered is the realm of ideas and perfect forms.
After leaving the Academy, Aristotle was invited to go live in the court of his friend Hermeas, ruler of Atarneus and Assos in Mysia. Aristotle remained there for three years, during which time he married Pythias, the niece and adopted daughter of the king. Later in life Aristotle married Herpyllis, with whom had a son, named Nicomachus after his father. When Hermeas' kingdom was taken over by Persians, Aristotle moved to Mytilene. King Amyntas invited Aristotle to tutor his thirteen-year old son, Alexander. Aristotle tutored Alexander for five years until King Amyntas died and Alexander came to power. In gratitude for Aristotle's services, Alexander provided Aristotle generously with means for the acquisition of books and for the pursuit of scientific inquiry. While the extent to which Aristotle's tutoring influenced Alexander's successes in conquering an empire is disputable, Alexander did try to organize much of his empire along the model of the Greek city-state.
In 335 BC Aristotle went back to Athens, where he found the Academy flourishing under Xenocrates. Aristotle founded his own school, the Lyceum, and ran it for twelve years. The school is often called the Peripatetic School, because Aristotle used to like walking around and discusses his ideas with his colleagues. Peripatetics are "people who walk around." Aristotle would have detailed discussions with a small group of advanced students in the mornings, and larger lectures in the evenings. During his time at the Lyceum, Aristotle wrote extensively on a wide range of subjects: politics, metaphysics, ethics, logic and science.
Aristotle agreed with Plato that the cosmos is rationally designed and that philosophy can come to know absolute truths by studying universal forms. Their ideas diverged, however, in that Aristotle thought that the one finds the universal in particular things, while Plato believed the universal exists apart from particular things, and that material things are only a shadow of true reality, which exists in the realm of ideas and forms. The fundamental difference between the two philosophers is that Plato thought only pure mathematical reasoning was necessary, and therefore focused on metaphysics and mathemtics. Aristotle, on the other hand, thought that in addition to this "first philosophy," it is also necessary to undertake detailed empirical investigations of nature, and thus to study what he called "second philosophy," which includes such subjects as physics, mechanics and biology. Aristotle's philosophy therefore involved both inductive and deductive reasoning, observing the workings of the world around him and then reasoning from the particular to a knowledge of essences and universal laws. In a sense, Aristotle was the first major proponent of the modern scientific method. The Lyceum was an unprecedented school of organized scientific inquiry. There was no comparable scientific enterprise for over 2,000 years after the founding of the Lyceum.
In 323 BC Alexander the Great died unexpectedly and the government of Athens was overthrown by anti-Macedonian forces. Having had close connections with the Macedonian royal family, Aristotle was associated with the Macedonians and was unpopular with the new ruling powers. The new government brought charges of impiety against Aristotle, but he fled to his country house in Chalcis in Euboea to escape prosecution. Aristotle commented that he fled so that "the Athenians might not have another opportunity of sinning against philosophy as they had already done in the person of Socrates." About a year later, Aristotle died after complaints of a stomach illness.
Aristotle's writings were preserved by his student Theophrastus, his successor as leader of the Peripatetic School. Theophrastus' pupil Neleus and his heirs concealed the books in a vault to protect them from theft, but they were damaged by dampness, moths and worms. The books were found around 100 BC by Apellicon, who brought them to Rome. In Rome, scholars took interest in the works and prepared new editions of them. The writings of Aristotle that we have today are based on this collection. Overall, Aristotle wrote three types of works: dialogues or other works of a popular character, collections of scientific data and observations, and systematic treatises. His philosophy can be divided into four main areas: 1) Logic; 2) Theoretical Philosophy, including Metaphysics, Physics and Mathematics; 3) Practical Philosophy, such as Ethics and Politics; and 4) Poetical Philosophy, covering the study of poetry and the fine arts.

The Athenian Constitution
   Written 350 B.C.E
   Translated by Sir Frederic G. Kenyon

   Written 350 B.C.E
   Translated by E. M. Edghill

On Dreams
   Written 350 B.C.E
   Translated by J. I. Beare

On the Gait of Animals
   Written 350 B.C.E
   Translated by A. S. L. Farquharson

On Generation and Corruption
   Written 350 B.C.E
   Translated by H. H. Joachim

On the Heavens
   Written 350 B.C.E
   Translated by J. L. Stocks

The History of Animals
   Written 350 B.C.E
   Translated by D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson

On Interpretation
   Written 350 B.C.E
   Translated by E. M. Edghill

On Longevity and Shortness of Life
   Written 350 B.C.E
   Translated by G. R. T. Ross

On Memory and Reminiscence
   Written 350 B.C.E
   Translated by J. I. Beare

   Written 350 B.C.E
   Translated by W. D. Ross

   Written 350 B.C.E
   Translated by E. W. Webster

On the Motion of Animals
   Written 350 B.C.E
   Translated by A. S. L. Farquharson

Nicomachean Ethics
   Written 350 B.C.E
   Translated by W. D. Ross

On the Parts of Animals
   Written 350 B.C.E
   Translated by William Ogle

   Written 350 B.C.E
   Translated by R. P. Hardie and R. K. Gaye

   Written 350 B.C.E
   Translated by S. H. Butcher

   Written 350 B.C.E
   Translated by Benjamin Jowett

Posterior Analytics
   Written 350 B.C.E
   Translated by G. R. G. Mure

Prior Analytics
   Written 350 B.C.E
   Translated by A. J. Jenkinson

On Prophesying by Dreams
   Written 350 B.C.E
   Translated by J. I. Beare

   Written 350 B.C.E
   Translated by W. Rhys Roberts

On Sense and the Sensible
   Written 350 B.C.E
   Translated by J. I. Beare

On Sleep and Sleeplessness
   Written 350 B.C.E
   Translated by J. I. Beare

On Sophistical Refutations
   Written 350 B.C.E
   Translated by W. A. Pickard-Cambridge

On the Soul
   Written 350 B.C.E
   Translated by J. A. Smith

   Written 350 B.C.E
   Translated by W. A. Pickard-Cambridge

Virtues and Vices
   Translated by H. Rackham
   From the Perseus Project

On Youth and Old Age, On Life and Death, On Breathing
   Written 350 B.C.E
   Translated by G. R. T. Ross

The most extreme penalties attach to anyone who spells this 'Nichomachean' in Washington University
Aristotle's Metaphysics Background
The Metaphysic or Metaphysics is a canonical collection of various writings by Aristotle which were collected and featured in the order they now appear, although there are historical-critical debates about whether this was the original intended format for the works, whether this was the original arrange of them and perhaps most concerning, whether Aristotle is even the author of the work in its entirety or at all. But, although academic debate continues on the issues, the important fact of the matter is that the arrangement that we now have is historically important in the bedrock of Western thought, and the work is historically attributed to Aristotle. 
After the fall of Greece, many writings were confiscated or burned and many were re-discovered by Islamic nations who translated them and reintroduced them to the Western world after many years where Aristotle was not readily available. Since many works that were available in the West referrenced Aristotle's writings as authoritative and helpful, the reintroduction of the Metaphysics and many others spurred a philosophical revolution which laid the foundation for the French Renaissance
The work is offered as a collection of related arguments thematically centered around the "first philosophy," which is the philosophy governing truths that were not physical or natural. The natural sciences were discussed by Aristotle as the "second philosophy." Aristotle's understanding is often contrasted with that of Plato, whose philosophy is generally governed by his belief in transcendental forms which were the basis for the existence of the physical world. 
Aristotle by contrast concedes that the metaphysical world is real and important, but philosophy ought not to be governed by hypotheses about metaphysical truths, but rather through inference based on observable truths. This doesn't render his philosophy naturalistic, but it does change his conclusions in an important schematic way. Aristotle is considered as a forefather of philosophy and still remains authoritative in syllogistic philosophy despite having written thousands of years ago.
Aristotle's Poetics Study Guide
Though the precise origins of Aristotle's Poetics are not known, researchers believe that the work was composed around 330 BCE and was preserved primarily through Aristotle's students' notes. Despite its vague beginning, the Poetics has been a central document in the study of aesthetics and literature for centuries, proving especially influential during the Renaissance; it continues to have relevance in scholarly circles today.
Over the years the Poetics has been both praised and disparaged. Some critics object to Aristotle's theory of poetics and regret that the work has held such sway in the history of Western literature. One contemporary critic argues that Aristotle "reduces drama to its language," and the "language itself to its least poetic element, the story, and then encourages insensitive readers...to subject stories to crudely moralistic readings that reduce tragedies to the childish proportions of Aesop-fables" (Sachs 1). Other critics have argued against such views and reclaimed the Poetics for their own times; often these critics emphasize the importance of reading the Poetics in its historical context - it was, after all, written an awfully long time ago - and stress that despite this historical barrier the insights contained in the work still hold true. Whichever side of the debate you end up on, it is important when studying the Poetics to take time to decode its dense text. The Poetics is widely considered one of Aristotle's most demanding but rewarding texts, requiring commitment in its study, but offering profound returns to the diligent reader.
The Poetics is Aristotle's attempt to explain the basic problems of art. He both defines art and offers criteria for determining the quality of a given artwork. The Poetics stands in opposition to the theory of art propounded by Aristotle's teacher, Plato. In his Republic, Plato argues that "poetry is a representation of mere appearances and is thus misleading and morally suspect" (Critical, 1). In the poetics, Aristotle, Plato's student, attempts to refute his teacher by exploring what unites all poetry: its imitative nature and its ability to bring an audience into its specific plot while preserving a unity of purpose and theme. The tone of the Poetics reflects its argumentative spirit as Aristotle attempts both to explain the "anatomy" of poetry and to justify its value to human society.
Despite its broad goals, however, Aristotle's arguments are quite concrete. He is less interested in the abstract "existence" of art than he is in looking at specific artworks by specific playwrights. Aristotle wants to explain why effective poetry has stayed with audiences for so long. He tends to look for "empirical evidence" - i.e. sensory proof through past observation - that art is both good and useful, no matter how philosophers like Plato try to dismiss it.
Aristotle's Politics Study Guide
Aristotle's Politics is one of the most influential and enduring texts of political philosophy in all of history. The Aristotelian tradition, following from the philosophy of Plato and continuing in the writings of Cicero, Augustine, Aquinas and other medieval theorists, has formed the backdrop against which all subsequent political and moral philosophy has found its orientation. Early modern political philosophers such as Machiavelli and Hobbes, as well as modern Enlightenment theorists and even postmodern authors have?either explicitly or implicitly?defined themselves against the Aristotelian model. While writers in the Aristotelian tradition believed that politics has to be based on a fundamental conception of the good as an objective ultimate end for human beings, political theorists from the pre-moderns to today have tried to base politics on anything but a shared idea of the good. The initial reason for this change is perhaps the fear that claiming the existence of one objective end for human life is too likely to lead to serious conflicts like the Wars of Religion. Coupled with this fear is a profound philosophical skepticism originating with Descartes that questions the existence of any intrinsic human nature, objective end for human life, and even objective truth in general.
These motivations are relatively clear at least in the case of Hobbes, who lived through both the Wars of Religion and the English Civil War, both of which were highly ideological conflicts, although concerns for power and material gain were also at the forefront. Hobbes attacks Aristotle vehemently in his writings, precisely because he is afraid that having such a clear-cut and universal conception of the good will inevitably lead to further ideological warfare. It is because the core assumptions of Hobbes' and Aristotle's thought are directly opposed to one another that Hobbes believes Aristotelian ideas sufficiently dangerous to merit such strong condemnation. While Hobbes constantly emphasizes the absolute necessity of acting rationally for self-preservation, Aristotle looks beyond the mere goal of living to the higher aim of living well, in accordance with the natural function of man. This emphasis on living well is a danger in Hobbes' view, for he believes that any lofty ideals for which one may be willing to sacrifice one's life can lead to rebellion and the dissolution of the commonwealth. From Aristotle's perspective, what Hobbes fails to understand is that the goal of self-preservation will not suffice to motivate people to moderate their desires and restrain their actions. Hobbes, however, a skeptic who had been highly influenced by the writings of Descartes, simply did not believe in the existence of an ultimate good, or even for that matter in the existence of objective reality outside the human mind.
The Enlightenment was likewise largely a reaction against the Aristotelian tradition. All liberal political theories, no matter how far-ranging in specific tenets and prescriptions, hold in common one fundamental premise: the freedom and equality of human beings. To safeguard this hallowed bedrock of liberalism, liberal philosophers shrink from the metaphysical view of virtue proposed by Aristotle. For with a fixed standard of human excellence, how can one say that all are equal when some are clearly more virtuous than others? Liberals saw the tendency toward hierarchy and inequality in the teleological view of man presented by ancient philosophy. At the same time, however, liberals still recognized the need for virtue in order to form and sustain a well-functioning society and government. Consequently, liberal political theory claims the ability to separate the virtues necessary for politics from an agreement on the foundations of those virtues. To effect this separation, liberals in the end must rely on a utilitarian conception of virtue based on enlightened self-interest, arguing that unless people act with at least a minimal amount of virtue, the society will collapse and all will be worse off. Yet in doing so, have liberals, proverbially speaking, thrown the baby out with the bath water? For by severing their political theories from objective foundations, liberals actually undermine their own goals and leave the premise of human freedom and equality vulnerable to attack.
Liberals do have some reason to fear the hierarchical tendencies of metaphysically-based theories of virtue. Aristotle's theory, for example, seems to justify vast inequality and class stratification. Unlike the liberal philosophers, Aristotle believes that there is a summum bonum toward which all human actions are consciously or unconsciously directed. Arguing from a metaphysical basis, Aristotle assumes that man must have a specific function and that human excellence and human happiness consist in performing that function well. That function must be something unique to man; therefore it is related to man's rational capacity. Man's ability to contemplate and reflect?that is, "activity of the soul according to reason"?is what separates him from other creatures (Nicomachean Ethics 1098a). Thus it is his highest action and the use of that action in contemplating the highest things is what constitutes man's perfection. Reason, aside from being able to contemplate the highest things, can also discover rules for human behavior. In this way the moral virtues come into play as a secondary but nonetheless important aspect of human excellence.
By setting up objective criteria for human excellence, Aristotle prepares the basis for his aristocratic political views. Perhaps the part of Aristotle's Politics most offensive to the liberal sensibility is his defense of slavery. Aristotle posits the existence of natural slaves, "those who are as different [from other men] as the soul from the body or man from the beast, . . . who [participate] in reason only to the extent of perceiving it, but [do] not have it." This justification of slavery, however, does not follow from Aristotle's logic but rests on an empirical claim that such slaves by nature actually exist. Aristotle's presentation of the best regime further demonstrates the aristocratic leanings of his theory on virtue. In this regime, the aristocracy of gentlemen, only a small class of elites are citizens and share in the responsibilities of ruling, while the majority of the people are slaves, doing manual work to maintain the city and produce the necessary goods. With such elements as these forming a part of Aristotle's political theory, it is clear why liberals want to avoid such a view. Still, the liberal project fails to resolve the problem of safeguarding freedom and equality in that it attempts to justify individual rights without providing any underlying philosophical basis for those rights.
John Stuart Mill is one of the clearest examples of the liberal desire to separate the goal of politics from a teleological conception of human nature and objective conception of the good, because he believes that dogmatism and conformism, the greatest impediments to freedom and enlightenment, are the worst things possible for society. (In "What is Enlightenment?", Kant also expresses a highly similar view.) In On Liberty, Mill asserts that above all society ought to preserve the freedom "of pursuing our own good in our way." Metaphysically speaking, the idea of "our own good" is a strange concept; for, as in Aristotle's theory, there is only one greatest good, which is the ultimate end for human existence. Yet for Mill, the idea of such a universal end is extremely dubious, for "there is no such thing as absolute certainty" except in subjects like mathematics. Because Mill cannot base virtue on metaphysical or religious considerations, he adopts a utilitarian framework: "I forego any advantage which could be derived to my argument from the idea of abstract right, as a thing independent of utility. I regard utility as the ultimate appeal on all ethical questions; but it must be utility in the largest sense, grounded on the permanent interests of man as a progressive being."
Though the phrase "permanent interests of man as a progressive being" seems to have some sort of metaphysical tone to it, it is far from the idea of an ultimate good in the Aristotelian sense. For while Aristotle's conception of the good?and the classical metaphysical conception in general?rests upon universal principles of human nature, applicable to all human beings, Mill's idea of the good presupposes that each person has a unique "individual nature" and therefore a unique individual good. As a result, for Mill human perfection takes a relativistic turn, and is attained through cultivation of one's own unique powers and abilities. To achieve this end, Mill considers proper education and intellectual formation to be extremely important, as well as self-discipline in order to develop one's individual potential to the fullest. Crucial as well is toleration of differing points of view and open-mindedness, especially the ability to see the partial truth in different perspectives. The essence of a good existence in Mill's opinion is choice, irrespective of the correctness of that choice: "If a person possesses any tolerable amount of common sense and experience, his own mode of laying out his existence is the best, not because it is the best in itself, but because it is his own mode" (67).
Mill's theory demonstrates that in order for liberals to sever the tie between religious or metaphysical absolute conceptions of the good without completely eliminating considerations of virtue, liberal societies must make virtue and the good dependent on utilitarian considerations. This outcome is a result of liberals' dilemma regarding virtue. For while liberals recognize that a well-functioning government and society require virtue, they cannot use the standard of objective human excellence as the basis of that virtue because they believe it necessarily creates hierarchy and inequality. Liberals also shrink from this objective standard because it seems to go against a person's individual freedom to choose his own good in accordance with his individual nature. Yet there are reasons to doubt that Mill's typically liberal approach to virtue and the good, based on utility and highly dependent upon the individual, really does provide a framework which can uphold the human freedom and equality which is both the foundation and goal of liberalism.
Mill's words remind us of Aristotle's critique of democracy, which provides some insight into this central dilemma of liberalism. Aristotle describes democracy's defining principle much like Mill: "to live as one wants." The problem with this principle, however, is its false conception of freedom: "[Democracies] define freedom badly. . . . [E]veryone lives as he wants and ?toward whatever [end he happens] to crave,' as Euripides says. But this is a poor thing. To live with a view to the regime should not be supposed to be slavery, but preservation." There are two crucial implications of the philosopher's assertion. First, it is the incorrect definition of freedom, not freedom itself, which is the problem. Second, this definition is incorrect because it leads one to slavery, and consequently even acts as a danger to the preservation of the regime. True freedom, as opposed to democracy's conception of it, entails one objective end?happiness defined as activity of the soul according to virtue or reason?and necessitates that any manner of action incompatible with this end be considered inferior, for such an action would in fact defeat freedom itself.
One could therefore conclude that Aristotle's emphasis on living virtuously as the central goal of politics actually stems from a desire to preserve freedom. When examined in this light, Aristotle's position that "the city exists not only for the sake of living but rather primarily for the sake of living well" and his consequent belief that "virtue must be a care for every city" are actually a means to protect the citizens' true freedom. Therefore it is Aristotle's emphasis on virtue, rather than the modern liberals' emphasis on unqualified freedom, which truly upholds the cherished value of liberty. This view is not unique to Aristotle, but was held by the most renowned ancient and medieval philsophers?Plato, Cicero, Augustine, Aquinas and others?who all agreed that true freedom is inextricably connected to the proper end of human existence, and that severing it from this end leads one to the worst form of slavery?slavery to one's own whims, passions, and appetites.
Whether one agrees with Aristotle's political philosophy or not, a knowledge of its underlying principles is essential for a clear understanding of nature of all future political philosophy. The project of modern and postmodern philosophers cannot be fully appreciated or objectively analyzed without a basic knowledge of the fundamental ideas against which they were arguing. Even though they do not all criticize Aristotle directly, as do some authors like Hobbes and Nietzsche, modern and postmodern philosophy is largely a critique of the Aristotelian world-view and an attempt to provide new bases and justifications for politics.
Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics Study Guide
Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics was written around 340 BC. It is probably named after either his father or son, who were both named Nicomachus. Nicomachean Ethics is Aristotle's most mature work on ethics. That the argument as presented in the book sometimes seems to flow very poorly is due to the fact that the work is actually a series of lectures and was later pieced together (probably by Aristotle's son) and published as a complete work. Still, it is considered to be one of the most accessible of Aristotle's works.
A further difficulty in understanding the work results from the inability to express the full meaning of certain key terms when translating them from Greek into English. The most of these terms are eudamonia and arete, which highly connected. Eudamonia is usually translated as happiness. As understood by the Greeks, eudamonia was not a state but a way of living, and it was inextricably tied to goodness. The Greeks had a teleological view of human life, meaning that there is a natural end toward which human life is directed (telos=end or fulfillment). This end is determined by the function proper to human beings, and consists in performing that function well. Thus the word which we translate as virtue comes from the Greek arete which is the proper excellence or skill of a particular thing. The arete of a knife is to cut well, just as the arete of a human being is to act according to reason.
Nicomachean Ethics is a philosophical inquiry into the nature of the good life for a human being. Aristotle begins the work by positing that there exists some ultimate good toward which, in the final analysis, all human actions ultimately aim. The necessary characteristics of the ultimate good are that it is complete, final, self-sufficient and continuous. This good toward which all human actions implicity or explicitly aim is happinessin Greek, "eudaimonia," which can also be translated as blessedness or living well, and which is not a static state of being but a type of activity.
To discover the nature of human happiness it is necessary to determine what the function of a human being is, for a person's happiness will consist in fulfilling the natural function toward which his being is directed. This natural function must be something which is specific to human beings, which is essential to being human. A person is primarily his intellect. While the spirited and desiring parts of the soul are also important, the rational part of the soul is what one can most properly consider a person's identity. The activity which only human beings can perform is intellectual; it is activity of the highest part of the soul (the rational part) according to reason. Human happiness, therefore, consists in activity of the soul according to reason. In practical terms, this activity is expressed through ethical virtue, when a person directs his actions according to reason. The very highest human life, however, consists in contemplation of the greatest goods. More will be said later on this topic, which is the culmination of the Ethics.
Ethical virtue "is a habit disposed toward action by deliberate choice, being at the mean relative to us, and defined by reason as a prudent man would define it." Each of the elements of this definition is important. Virtue is not simply an isolated action but a habit of acting well. For an action to be virtuous a person must do it deliberately, knowing what he is doing, and doing it because it is a noble action. In each specific situation, the virtuous action is a mean between two extremes. Finally, prudence is necessary for ethical virtue because it is the intellectual virtue by which a person is able to determine the mean specific to each situation.
Before going into a discussion of the individual virtues it is necessary to clarify what it means for an action to be voluntary, since only voluntary actions can be virtuous. For an action to be involuntary, there must be some external principle causing the action and the person must not contribute anything to the action. An action done through fear is only partially voluntary, and an action done through ignorance may have different degrees of voluntariness, depending on whether or not the person would have wanted to do it if he had known what he was doing. A proper intention is necessary for virtuous action. Intention is not a desire, a wish or an opinion. It is something previously deliberated upon, and is formed with reason or thought. One can only intend something which one has the power to do.
The first virtue discussed is bravery. It is a mean between rashness and cowardice. A brave man is one who faces and fears what he should for the right reason, in the right manner and at the right time. A brave man performs his actions for the sake of what is noble. A brave man is thus one who is fearless in facing a noble death.
The next virtue is temperance. It is a mean with regard to bodily pleasures. The intemperate man desires pleasurable things and chooses them because they are pleasurable; he is pained when he fails to get what he desires. A temperate man is moderately disposed with regard to pleasures and pains. He loves such pleasures as right reason dictates. Temperance keeps the desiring part of the soul in harmony with reason.
Generosity is the third virtue which Aristotle examines. With regard to property, generosity is a mean between wastefulness and stinginess. A generous man will give to the right person, the right amounts and at the right times. He will also take proper care of his possessions. Generosity does not depend on the quantity of the giving but on the habit of the giver, which takes into account the amount which the giver himself has and is able to give away.
The next virtue is munificence, which consists giving large amounts for suitable occasions. The deficiency of this virtue is called meanness and the excess is ostentation. A munificent man spends gladly and lavishly, not calculating costs, but always for a noble purpose.
Magnanimity, the fifth virtue Aristotle discusses, is one of the peaks of virtue. A magnanimous man claims and deserves great honors. Someone who deserves honors but doesn't claim them is low-minded, and someone who claims honors but doesn't deserve them is vain. It is better to be vain than low-minded, because vanity will be naturally corrected by life experience. A magnanimous man is great in each of the virtues, and is a sort of ornament of virtues because he shows how good a virtuous life is.
The next virtue concerns honor, specifically small and medium honors. It is a mean between too much and too little ambition which can be described as right ambition.
The virtue that is a mean with respect to anger is good temper. The excesses are irascibility or bitterness. If one is irascible he gets angry quickly and retaliates but then forgets about it. Someone who is bitter holds anger for a long time. A good tempered man is one who becomes angry on the right occasions, with the right people, at the right time and for the right length of time.
The next three virtues are friendliness, the mean between flattery or obsequiousness and quarrelsomeness; truthfulness, the mean between boastfulness and self-depreciation, and wit, the mean with regard to humor and amusement. Wit entails saying the right things in the right manner and also listening to things properly.
The last virtue, which unites and orders all of the other virtues, is justice. Justice can also be considered in a more specific sense, as one of the virtues. Both justice in the specific sense and justice as the whole of virtue are defined in relation to other people, but justice in the specific sense is concerned with honor, property, safety and similar things, while justice in the larger sense is concerned with virtue as a whole. Another subset of justice is distributive justice. Justice (in the narrow sense) is a mean between two extremes of unfairness. What is just in distribution should be in some way according to merit, but not all agree what that merit should be. Advocates of mob rule say that this merit is freedom, oligarchs say that it is wealth, others say that it is good ancestry and aristocrats say that is virtue.
Natural justice is that which is just in all times and places. Conventional justice is that which is made up of laws and customs. All laws are to some extent just because any law is better than no law, but are always at least slightly flawed in that they must be formulated universally and cannot take into account all specific circumstances. As a result, a judge should rule in accordance with the intention of the lawmaker or the idea behind the law when the law does not seem to properly fit the situation.
Prudence is the intellectual virtue of practical reason. It is concerned with human actions and gives a person the ability to choose what the virtuous mean is in specific situations. Acquiring prudence requires time and experience. Prudence and ethical virtue are both necessary for one another.
Continence and incontinence are concerned with bodily pleasures just like temperance and intemperance, but are distinct from them. The incontinent man is disposed to do what he knows is bad because of his passions. The continent man knows that his desires are bad but does not follow them because of reason. The difference between continence and temperance lies in the fact that for a temperate man his desires are in line with his reason.
Friendship is a necessary part of the good life. There are three types of friendship: friendship based on usefulness, friendship based on pleasure and friendship based on virtue. Only the last type is genuine friendship. Friendships based on usefulness and pleasure tend not to be very enduring, since they only last as the long as each party derives the usefulness or pleasure he desires from the relationship. Friendship based on virtue is based on wishing the good for the other person. This genuine friendship is necessary for self-knowledge and helps both of the friends to grow in virtue. Friendship presupposes justice and goes beyond it. The virtue of a friend is to love. The relationship one has with a friend is like the harmonious relationship between the different parts of the soul of a virtuous man.
In spite of what many philosophers may say, pleasure is a good. It perfects actions. The goodness of pleasure is determined by the goodness of the action which it accompanies. The highest good, happiness, must also involve pleasure.
Man's highest action and most complete happiness is a life of contemplation of the highest goods. Man's intellectual capacity is his highest capacity, and therefore his highest happiness resides in the use of that capacity. The life of contemplation is so sublime that it is practically divine, and man can achieve it only insofar as there is something divine in him. Contemplation is the action which best fulfills all the qualifications that the ultimate good should have, because it is the most continuous, complete and self-sufficient of all actions.
For most people, mere exhortation will not be enough to make them act virtuously. Consequently, good laws are necessary in order to make people virtuous. Laws and proper education are necessarily especially for the young, in order to train their passions and desires to be in accord with reason. Yet since such a great number of men are not virtuous, laws are necessary not just for the young, but for everyone.
The virtue of justice is one of the peaks of virtue, since being truly just requires having all the other virtues as well. In this sense, justice unifies and orders the virtues.
Aristotle also makes a distinction between natural justice and legal justice. Natural justice is the same in all times and places. It is, in a sense, comprised by the laws that order the universe and that order beings toward their ends. Aristotle does admit that from observation it may difficult to see the existence of this natural justice. The reason is that governments vary and no perfect regime exists; thus there seem to be different definitions of justice implied by the laws of each regime. Legal justice is that which is just according to law; it ought to be in accordance with natural justice.
In theory, then, there exists a universal standard of natural justice which is unchangeable, but in practice there must always be a mix of natural justice and legal justice in the laws of the city. Therefore while the principles of natural justice don't change, natural justice in action varies because in applying natural justice conventional justice needs to be added.
All laws are in some sense just, since any law is better than no law. Yet to be truly just a law must be in accordance with natural justice. A problem with laws is that they need to formulated in a universal way and thus are not able to take into account the particulars of each situation. Judges should make up for this shortcoming in the law by basing their decisions not necessarily on what the law actually says but on the reasoning behind the law.
Law is also crucial for the moral education of citizens. Since "passion seems to yield not to argument but to force," laws are necessary in order to habituate citizens in virtuous action. Laws are thus especially necessary for the young, so that at an early age their passions will be properly trained and they will learn to take pleasure in what is virtuous. Yet since in any city there will be a great number of adults who are not virtuous, laws are necessary for one's entire life.
The Good
Aristotle begins Nicomachean Ethics by asserting that there is some ultimate good which is both final and self-sufficient, and he defines this good as happiness. There must be one final end of all human actions, because a human action by definition is one which is done on purpose and for a definite goal. An action may be performed for a limited goal, but that goal is a means to larger goal which is a means to another even larger goal, and so on, until one reaches the final goal which is desired for its own sake. All lesser goods, such as wealth, honor, fame, glory, pleasure, et cetera are not desired for themselves but in order to attain happiness. That this supreme good is happiness has never really been a cause of dispute, for according to Aristotle, "we may almost say that the great majority of mankind are agreed about this; for both the multitude and persons of refinement speak of it as Happiness, and conceive Œthe good life' or Œdoing well' to be the same thing as being happy."
Aristotle holds that the happiness of man can be defined by determining the function proper to man. This function cannot be one which plants and animals also perform, because it must be particular to human beings. Therefore, man's function must be a part of the practical life of the rational part of man, the term practical implying purposeful conduct, which is possible only for rational beings. It follows, then, that happiness consists in the action of the rational part of man, the soul. The ultimate good of man should naturally flow from performing his function well; therefore, as Aristotle theorizes, "the Good of man [and, by extension, the definition of happiness] is the active exercise of his soul's faculties in conformity with excellence or virtue, or if there be several human excellences or virtues, in conformity with the best and most perfect among them." To constitute true happiness this action must persist with continuity throughout a lifetime. The highest happiness for a human being is a life of contemplation, but secondary happiness is achieved through ethical virtue.
In Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle discusses eleven virtues: courage, temperance, generosity, magnificence, magnanimity, right ambition, good temper, friendliness, truthfulness, wit, and justice. Virtue is a mean by two extremes, and its exercise thus requires prudence in order to determine what the mean is for specific circumstances. Virtues are acquired by habituation. Acting virtuously is not the same as being virtuous, but acting virtuously is the means to become virtuous. The four requirements for virtue are that the person (1) know what he is doing, (2) intend the action for its own sake, (3) take pleasure in it and (4) do it with certainty and firmness. When a person performs a virtuous action but does it in opposition to his desires, he is continent but not virtuous.
Human Nature
All human beings naturally desire the good, which is happiness. The highest faculty of a human being is the ability to reason. Through reason humans, unlike animals, can examine things beyond the material and sensible level and can reach conclusions about the nature of things. Human beings have the ability to choose their actions freely, an ability which is a prerequisite for morality. The end or goal of human life can be discovered through a rational analysis of human nature by examining the highest faculties of a human being. The best life for a human being is one which is in accord with a person's highest ability, which is reason. Human beings are also social by nature, as shown by the natural desire for friendship and by the ability of human beings to speak and communicate with others.
While some live as if wealth were the ultimate aim of human life, they are incorrect in doing so, for wealth is only an instrumental good and is not an end in itself. Some external goods are necessary for happiness, though for the highest happinessthat is, the contemplative lifea moderate amount of wealth sufficient to provide a person's physical needs is better than superfluous wealth. Generosity and munificence are both virtues which direct the use of wealth. A person should use his wealth liberally in the service of others and of good causes, but should not spend beyond his means.
The virtue which one must develop in order to attain moral virtue and to find the correct mean in all of one's actions is prudence. Prudence is an intellectual virtue, and is the ability to deliberate well regarding human actions. Concerned with particulars of action, prudence is absolutely necessary in order to find the mean, or in Aristotle's words, "to know what is good for oneself" (1142a). The philosopher even goes so far as to say that "without prudence virtues cannot exist," but that where there is prudence, "all the others are present" (1144b). Prudence and ethical virtue are in fact inseparable, much like two sides of the same coin, "for while virtue makes the end in view right, prudence makes the means towards it right" (1144a).
Friendship is necessary for a happy life, because human beings are social beings. There are three types of friendshipthose based on useful, those based on pleasure, and those based on virtue. Only the third type of friendship is friendship in the complete sense. Friendship requires that the friends wish the good for one another and share in some of life's activities together. A friend is another self, and the love one has for a friend is analogous to proper self-love. Friends help one another to grow in self-knowledge and in virtue. The disposition proper to a friend is to love.

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