Aristotle Eucation, Spiritual Happiness , Virtue

BASIC IDEAS ABOUT ARISTOTLE’S BOOK ETHICS:

“The meaning of human life is Spiritual Pleasure.”

Book Divisions:

In this book the main concern of Aristotle is the Supreme good and that supreme good is called Spiritual Pleasure or Eudaimonia. According to Aristotle every human activity aims at some end that we consider good. A farmer cultivates because of the need of money, a cobbler mends shoes for the same reason. Thus, activities are directed towards goals. But one does not money for the sake of money itself, one needs it to make oneself happy. This makes happiness the supreme goal or the goal of the goals. Money is a goal, but its aim is to give happiness to a man. Thus money is an assisting aim, and the aim it assists is happiness.

These assisting ends are actually means towards the highest aim, and each of these aims or end should lead towards supreme good. For Aristotle, the supreme purpose of human life is spiritual pleasure. Humans are not born to run towards physical pleasures that are temporary, but they should strive for the spiritual pleasure which can give real happiness to the soul.  

Commonly, people equate happiness with sensual pleasure which is sufficient for the satisfaction of animal soul. Aristotle, however, considers human life as much higher than that of animals, and it should go for the spiritual happiness or Eudaimonia.
Plato’s Theory of Forms suggests that there is a single Form of Good and that all good things are good in the same way. In this theory Plato also talk about the highest good and how to achieve goodness. For him if a person has only one good and if he practices it in his life then  it is enough for him. 
Spiritual Happiness is the only good because it is the purpose of human existence. And this spiritual well  being is reserved for those who lead a virtuous life, who live according to their virtue, or virtues. We call people good because of their good actions. A person who plays good flute can not be called a good man, but a good fluti-player. The activitiy which distinguish us from other things is our rationality. Therefore, the supreme Good should be an activity of the rational soul in accordance with the virtue. And a good person will always behave in a virtuous manner. Even if faced with great misfortunes of life.


Aristotle divides the soul into a irrational and a rational part. The irrational soul has two aspects: the vegetative aspect, which deals with nutrition and growth and has little connection to virtue; and the appetitive aspect, which governs our impulses. The rational part of the soul controls these impulses, so a virtuous person with greater rationality is better able to control his or her impulses.
Virtues are of two types. These are intellectual and Moral virtues. He says we learn intellectual virtues by instruction, and we learn moral virtues by habit and constant practice. For him all human beings are born with the potential to be morally virtuous. But it is only possible when we practice virtues because virtues do not develop from thinking about them but by practicing them.
Further, he explains the mean of virtuesl, that right conducts consist of some sort of mean between the extremes of deficiency and excess. For instance, courage consists in finding a mean between the extremes of cowardice and rashness, though the appropriate amount of courage varies from one situation to another.
A person becomes virtuous by voluntarily choosing a definite course of action and not by accident: Virtuous people act for the sake of virtue. They know the way they act as the right way of behaving. And they act in a certain direction, because their souls are disposed to act in that direction.
He defines human virtue as a disposition to behave in the right manner and as a mean between extremes of deficiency and excess, which are vices. Aristotle lists some of the principle virtues along with their corresponding vices of excess and deficiency in a table of virtues and vices. Some extremes seem closer to the mean than others: for instance, rashness seems closer to courage than to cowardice. This is partly because courage is more like rashness than cowardice and partly because most of us are more inclined to be cowardly than rash, so we are more aware of being deficient in courage.
Aristotle explains person’s actions depend to some extent on whether those actions are voluntary, involuntary, or nonvoluntary. An action is involuntary when it is performed under compulsion and then it also causes pain to the person acting.
There are certain cases, when someone is compelled to do something dishonorable under threat, but we should generally consider such cases voluntary, since the person is still in control of his or her actions. Something actions are done in ignorance may be called involuntary but if the person later recognizes that ignorance, then those actions are called nonvoluntary. Ignorance can be seen only in particular cases, but not in general behavior, and for Aristotle the ignorance of general behavior precisely makes a person bad.
Moral goodness can be measured through choice, because unlike actions, choices are always made voluntarily. We make choices to achieve our desired end. These choices are made by our deliberation that proceeds according to analytical method. In which first we think about our desired end, and then we reason backward to the mean that we implement to bring the desired end.
Good character man will always aim for the highest good. And who are not of good character always takes things incorrectly. Both virtue and vice, therefore, lie within human power, because they are related to choices that we make voluntarily and deliberately. People who behave badly form bad habits that are difficult to change, but their lack of self-control is hardly an excuse for their badness.
For Aristotle virtue is an abstract and he examines each particular virtue, starting with courage. He says courage does not mean the fearlessness but it is an attitude towards the fear, as one worrier fighting in battlefield with confidence in the face of fear. He shows himself unafraid to die an honorable death. An excess of fearfulness constitutes the vice of cowardice, and a deficiency constitutes rashness.
Aristotle further gives one more example of virtue, temperance that is the mean state with regard to physical pleasure, while licentiousness is the vice of excessive yearning for physical pleasure. The licentious person feels not only excessive pleasure with regard to physical sensations, but also excessive pain when deprived of these pleasures. The temperate person will feel appropriate amounts of pleasure, and only toward those things that are encouraging to health and fitness.
Aristotle now moves through the rest of the virtues, discussing them one by one.
Liberality is the right disposition with regard to spending money, while prodigality and illiberality represent excess and deficiency respectively. The liberal person knows how to use money in a right way and how to manage resources then prodigal person. For Aristotle prodigality is more better then illiberality because it is the result of foolishness.
Magnanimity is the quality of the person who knows himself or herself to be worthy of great honors. The person who overestimates self-worth is conceited, and the person who underestimates self-worth is pusillanimous. Neither vanity nor pusillanimity is so much bad as mistaken, though pusillanimity is generally worse. The magnanimous person is great and knows it because he/she accepts honors knowing they are deserved, but does not take excessive pleasure in these honors. Being aware of his or her greatness and status, the magnanimous person is uncomfortable when put in a position inferior to anyone and always seeks his or her rightful superior place. Aristotle asserts of the magnanimous person that “his gait is measured, his voice deep, and his speech unhurried.”
Amiability, sincerity, and wit are important social virtues. Amiability is the virtuous quality of appropriate social conduct. An over eagerness to please exhibits itself in obsequiousness or flattery, while surly or quarrelsome behavior exhibits a deficiency of amiability.
Truthfulness or sincerity is a desirable mean state between the deficiency of irony or self-deprecation and the excess of boastfulness. Self-deprecation is acceptable unless it is overly pretentious, and it is certainly preferable to boastfulness, which is especially blameworthy when the boasting is directed at making undeserved gains.
Wit is important to good conversation. A person lacking in wit is boorish and will be uninteresting and easily offended. By contrast, buffoonery is the excessive vice of being too eager to get a laugh: tact is an important component of appropriate wit.

Modesty is not properly a virtue but rather a feeling that a well-bred youth ought to be capable of. Modesty consists of feeling shame at the appropriate times. A virtuous person will never do anything shameful and so will have no need of modesty, but a youth will learn to be virtuous only by feeling shame when shame is called for.

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