Aristotle Ethics 1-4

Aristotle’s Ethics: Books 1-4
Friday, February 13th, 2009
Taylor Black
Summary of Entire Work:
An examination of ethics grounded in the exigencies of human activity. Aristotle begins by
pointing out that everything we do is done for a final end, that of happiness. He goes on to
define happiness, how it is obtained, and how it differs from other conceptions of happiness. He
illuminates the role of virtues and delineates them in a comprehensive manner. In the second
part of the work he illuminates the role of justice as the virtue of virtue, using this as a segue
into a discussion of political science and the role of friendship in the happy life.
Take Aways in Books 1-4: See Attachment
Book I: The Good for Man
Each art or science has a sort of master art that serves as its end. All of these eventually point to
a final end, that for which we do everything else. (Chief Good) 1094a
It would be good to know more about this, and in a general way so that it might apply to all.
Judging correctly is key in this pursuit, hence young persons are not fit for this ethics-indiscernment. Happiness presented as the highest of all goods, however it requires definition.
Thus the most popular views will be examined. 1095a
Argue from known to unknown, important that prior studies were comprehensive and the
individual has a good deal of life experience. Possibilities for happiness include: pleasure, honor,
wealth, contemplation. 1095b
The first three possibilities show themselves to be intermediaries and contemplation needs
further explanation. The good is predicated in substance, quality, and relation. There is an idea
of the Good, must be final, self-sufficient, and the end of action. Happiness then, is essentially
excellence pursued over the course of one’s life in all areas of human endeavor. 1098b
How is it acquired? Training and habit over the whole of life. 1099b
Happiness is only possible to ascertain retrospectively, if the definition is to be used properly.
Virtue is praiseworthy and more appropriate for intermediary but happiness is beyond praise.
Kinds of virtue: division of faculties and virtues rational soul/vegetative soul; intellectual/moral
Book II: Moral Virtue
Moral Virtue is acquired by acts, like the arts. The acts themselves cannot be prescribed
precisely but the rule of the mean helps determine what one should do. 1104a
Pleasure and pain are interlinked with virtue and its performance. 1104b
The increments in performance of the arts are less complex than those of moral virtue because
of four things: knowledge, free choice, for their own sakes, from the actor’s character.
Passion – feeling w/pleasure or pain
Faculties – things capable of feeling
States of Character – where we’re at with reference to mean and passion 1105b disposition to
choose mean
Long discussion of examples and not that this pursuit of the Good is not just a rational process
but one that involves the whole person.
Book III: Moral Virtue Continued…
Conditions of responsibility: not under compulsion and with knowledge of circumstances. Moral
virtue implies action is performed by choice and the object of that choice is previous
Deliberation expresses choice of desire of things in our own power with good as end.
We are responsible for all our actions, as rational beings.
Discussion of virtues: courage and temperance – not sure if it is too relevant… Madigan seemed
to think not in his lecture last fall. I’ll amend if needed as determined by questions lists.
Book IV: Moral Virtue Continued…
Further discussion of virtues