This is an extract of our Virtue Ethics Aristotle And Well Being document, which we sell as part of our Ethics Notes collection written by the top tier of Oxford University students.
The following is a more accessble plain text extract of the PDF sample above, taken from our Ethics Notes. Due to the challenges of extracting text from PDFs, it will have odd formatting:
Happiness, well-being & the meaning of life Nichomachean Ethics - Aristotle
? "[W]e call final without qualification that which is always desirable in itself and never for the sake of something else." o "Now such a thing happiness, above all else, is held to be; for this we choose always for self and never for the sake of something else."
? Human good is "activity of soul in accordance with virtue, and if there are more than one virtue, in accordance with the best and most complete."
? "The happy life is thought to be virtuous; now a virtuous life requires exertion, and does not consist in amusement."
? "Happiness extends, then, just so far as contemplation does, and those to whom contemplation more fully belongs are more truly happy, not as a mere concomitant but in virtue of the contemplation; for this is in itself precious." o "Happiness, therefore, must be some form of contemplation."
? "But, being a man, one will also need external prosperity; for our nature is not self-sufficient for the purpose of contemplation." 'Virtues and Vices' - Philippa Foot I "Justice, in the wide sense in which it is understood in discussions of the cardinal virtues and in this paper, has to do with that to which someone has a right - that which he is owed in respect of non-interference and positive service - and rights may stand in the way of the pursuit of the common good."
- "Or so at least it seems to those who reject utilitarian doctrines." Virtue belongs to the will. What does this mean?
"In the first place we observe that it is primarily by his intentions that a man's moral dispositions are judged." Can also judge by actions if we think that their previous intentions have caused certain outcomes, e.g. failing to help someone despite best (present) intentions because they haven't learned basic first aid. "[W]isdom is to be contrasted with cleverness because cleverness is the ability to take the right steps to any end, whereas wisdom is related only to good ends, and to human life in general rather than to the ends of particular arts."
- Also, "there belongs to wisdom only that part of knowledge which is within the reach of any ordinary adult human being". There is always an element of false judgement about vices, "since the man who is vain for instance sees admiration as more important than it is, while the worldly man is apt to see the good life as one of wealth and power." II Wants to discuss the thesis that the virtues are 'corrective', "each one standing at a point at which there is some temptation to be resisted or deficiency of motivation to be made good."
- Justice is different from virtue because there is "no corresponding moderation of a passion implied in the idea of justice".
This claim might be "disputed on the ground that a man's courage is measured by his action and not by anything as uncontrollable as fear; and similarly that the temperate man who must on occasion refuse pleasure need not desire them any less than the intemperate man." Is this really true?
- Justice + charity instead correspond to a "deficiency of motivation". Issue of whether a person has shown more virtue in an action if he has found it difficult to resist the alternative, or whether the opposite is the case. "[I]f natural virtue cannot be the whole of virtue this is because a kindly or fearless disposition could be disastrous without justice and wisdom, and because these virtues have to be learned, not because natural virtue is too easily acquired." But some people think "that it is for moral effort that moral praise is to be bestowed".
[emphasis added]. Need to add in the fact that it is relevant where the difficulty of resisting actually comes from, e.g. with stealing whether the person is poor, or just unlikely to be found out, or just with an innate tendency to steal if there can be such a thing. She just seems to be making lots of claims about when an action is praiseworthy and when it isn't, and they don't seem to be consistent as much as simply drawn from common-sense morality. Suggests that virtues only come into play when there is some (internal?) obstacle to be overcome, so with Kant's prudent (or even benevolent) grocer there was no virtue necessary. "It is not that suicide is 'always wrong', whatever that would mean, but that suicide is sometimes contrary to virtues such as courage and hope." III "[A]n action with 'positive moral worth', or as we might say a positively good action, was to be seen as one which was in accordance with virtue, by which I mean contrary to no virtue, and moreover one for which a virtue was required." Notes that nothing's been said about cases of conflicting virtues.
- "a virtue such as courage or temperance or industry which overcomes a special temptation, might be displayed in an act of folly or villainy."
- Not so much thinking about cases where two virtues go head to head. "It is quite natural to say on occasion 'P does not act as a poison here' though P is a poison and it is P that is acting here. Similarly courage is not operating as a virtue when the murderer turns his courage which is a virtue, to bad ends." Doesn't this suggest that simply possessing the virtues is not sufficient to be a virtuous or moral person? So something is missing from virtue ethics that tells you when an application of the virtues leads to a virtuous action ?
Well-Being - J. Griffin
? "[O]ften we just rank options, period...these desires are not ranked by independent quantities of satisfaction."
? "[W]e do seem to desire things other than states of mind, even independently of the states of mind they produce."
? Nozick thought experiment where you are offered the chance to be plugged into a machine that gives you (a simulation of) the best experiences you could want. Q of whether you would plug in.
"Although 'utility' cannot be equated with actual desires, it will not do, either, simply to equate it with informed desires." The trouble with dropping the 'experience requirement' "is that one's desires spread themselves so widely over the world that their objects extend far outside the bound of what, with any plausibility, one could take as touching one's own wellbeing." "[W]e should try saying, to introduce more breadth, that what count are what we aim at and what we would not avoid or be indifferent to getting." "[I]t is impossible to separate self-regarding and otherregarding desires." Utilitarianism "assumes that we value only one kind of thing, whereas we value many irreducibly different kinds of things." "We can never reach final assessment of ways of life by totting up lots of small, short-term utilities." "Pleasure, accomplishment, autonomy, loving relationships are all valuable. A life with only one or two of them, even in large quantities, would not be the best life." But isn't utility just synergistic?
What We Owe to Each Other - T. Scanlon
? "The difference between true and false friends...is only one obvious example of the ways in which the quality of a life, for the person who lives it, depends on factors that go beyond its experiential quality."
? "Insofar as desire-based theories of well-being are modelled on the preference-based accounts of individual utility that flourish in social choice theory, or are taken to derive support from such theories, this involves mixing up two quite different things: personal conceptions of well-being and explicitly moral ones." 'Recent Work on the Meaning of Life' - T. Metz
? "Note that these theories are not committed to saying that life is in fact meaningful. They are instead accounts of what would constitute a meaningful life, were it to exist."
? 2 types of theory: o Supernaturalism: one's existence is meaningful only if one has a certain relation with some purely spiritual realm. o Naturalism: denies that life's meaning is contingent on the existence of a purely spiritual order.
? "The traditional answer that continues to dominate supernaturalist thinking is that meaning in our lives would come from fulfilling a purpose that God has assigned to us."
Buy the full version of these notes or essay plans and more in our Ethics Notes.