Friday, October 2, 2009

Nicomachean Ethics - Doctorine of the Mean

Aristotle thought that the highest form of "good" was happiness. This should be the end goal of any endeavor. The only way to be happy is by living a virtuous life, which depends on maintaining a mean between oppossing feelings or behaivors which lie on the extremes.

For example, we should show Temperance by not giving in too easily to physical pleasure while still being able to enjoy physical sensations. Courage is to not be a coward but also not be brash; Shame is being modest but also not overly shy or shameless. Patience is being "angry with the right person and to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way".

The highest ends are ends in themselves, which is why happiness is more important than money or honor. Money and honor are only means to an end, and that end is happiness, to which we should all strive. Virtue comes through habit and education. We need to know the right way, but we only become good by acting good. Knowing how to swim is not the same as swimming, and does not make you a swimmer. Aristotle says that hitting the correct mean is difficult, but we can get close if we give up pleasure for its own sake. We must instead get pleasure by being virtuous, which will bring us true happiness in the end.

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