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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Essay on Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics - The Concept of Ultimate Good

The Nicomachean Ethics is the most comprehensive of Aristotle’s three ethical writings. It is regarded to be the most definitive statement of Aristotle’s ethical views. The title refers to Aristotle’s father whose name is Nichomachus. The entire book is divided into ten books. Book I talks about how good is going to be defined. Books II to V talk about the moral virtues. Book VI explains intellectual virtue. Book VII illustrate what moral continence and incontinence is. Book VIII-IX gives descriptions to the nature of friendship. The last book talks about the definition of pleasure and happiness.  (Aristotle)

According to Aristotle, every action of a human being is directed to the ultimate good. This raises the question on how good will be defined. Is there a single idea of “good”? There are some actions which are good in themselves and other actions which are good due to the fact that they are done for the objective of something good other than themselves. Aristotle argues that a virtuous person will enjoy acting good because it is his nature. It can also be the case that virtuous people accepts as true the fact that virtuous actions are intrinsically good.

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Aristotle also makes a distinction with moral virtue and intellectual virtue. He argues that moral virtue is not innate but they are attained by exercising them as much as possible like a habit. One has to have the habit of acting virtuously if a person wants to become virtuous. Some moral virtues are temperance, humility, truthfulness, moderation and courage. Justice as a moral virtue includes fairness. Injustice is a moral vice which includes unfairness. Virtue is in line with moderation and temperance. We should achieve being virtuous if we find the means between the excess and deficiency of the value. Some intellectual virtues include artistic knowledge, philosophic wisdom and scientific knowledge. Moral virtues can be combined with other intellectual virtues. A person can combine moral truthfulness and artistic knowledge.

Aristotle gives an explanation that says the ethics of friendship will be defined by goodness and richness of the person. A lot of people can become friends when they see virtues in that person. Only true friends can enjoy the interaction as well as the experiences of one another. This section of the book raises the question is friendship necessary for one to be happy? Aristotle answers this by saying that one has to have friends because it cannot be separated from being happy. It is a part of being happy.  (Aquinas)

Aristotle said that pleasure is not the ultimate goal of every human action. The reason for this is that pleasure is not always good. Pleasure and pain may be good or bad. Happiness is a virtuous activity of a human being which is guided by reason. In a way, it is also a contemplative activity. It is an end in itself. It is not merely a feeling of pleasure but of the fulfillment of a virtuous soul.

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