Aristotelian ethics definition/elaboration

Aristotle’s ethics (384 BC – 322 BC) is a theory of virtue , that is to say that the ethical principles are determined by the character, or better, by the virtuous character of a person. The Aristotelian ethical theory is present in the work Ethics to Nicomachus , one of the fundamental works of the classical Greek philosopher. Aristotelian ethics definition

In it, Aristotle affirms that human beings have an essence, a nature and also a purpose. This purpose would be the meaning of life, which in human beings would be eudaimonia, which means a life well lived or happiness.

Thus, Aristotelian ethics is a teleological (search for an end) and eudaimonic (the end is identified as happiness) ethics. For Aristotle, happiness is the highest good, the ultimate goal of human actions.

Aristotle compares eudaimonia to the target that guides an archer’s aim. Thus, happiness is the target that guides human actions.

For him, the search for happiness is part of human nature and this happiness can only be achieved through virtue. Good deeds lead human beings to good and bad deeds are only done out of ignorance, because they go against their own nature.

That is, human beings are naturally good and if they act according to their nature they will seek good, and their actions will be virtuous actions. Aristotelian ethics definition

Virtue can only be achieved through prudence ( phrónesis ), pondering and deliberating about the fair measure (or fair means), the median between vices by omission or by excess.

The virtue of courage, for example, is the fair measure between cowardice (omission) and temerity (excess).

For Aristotle, virtue, even being related to a person’s character, could be developed and exercised, as it was acquired through habit.

To develop a habit of virtue it was necessary to be prudent and have people and behaviors that could serve as examples of good deeds.

Thus, with a lot of rational thought, it was possible to achieve a well-lived and happy life (eudaimonia).

Aristotle’s Table of Virtues

Throughout the Ethics for Nicomachus, Aristotle gives several examples about the virtues based on his observations about people. It defines what is virtue and vices by omission and excess. Aristotelian ethics definition

Some examples are:

Default AddictionVIRTUEExcessive Addiction
AvariceGenerosity (liberality)Waste (prodigality)
Undue humilityjust prideVanity
false modestyveracityboasting
ServilityKindnessBad mood

Justice in Aristotelian ethics

For Aristotle, justice is the virtue that links ethics and politics. This happens because justice is responsible for submitting the individual interest to the common interest.

Thus, justice guides the creation of laws that can guide actions for the common good and happiness of the community. Aristotelian ethics definition

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