Eudemian Ethics 1:5 1216

Socrates, then, the elder, thought the knowledge of virtue to be the end, and used to inquire what is justice, what bravery and each of the parts of virtue; and his conduct was reasonable, for he thought that all the virtues are kinds of knowledge, so that to know justice and to be just came simultaneously; for the moment we have learnt geometry and architecture, we are architects and geometricians; therefore he inquired what virtue is, but not how and from what sources it arises. This is correct with regard to theoretical sciences, for there is no other part of astronomy or physics or geometry except to knowing and contemplating the nature of the things that are the subjects of those sciences; although it is true that they may quite possibly be useful to us incidentally for many of our necessary requirements. But the end of the productive sciences is something different from science and knowledge, for example the end of medicine is health and that of political science ordered government, or something of that sort, different from mere knowledge of the science. Now to know anything that is noble is itself noble; but regarding goodness, at least, it is not to know what it is,  but to know out of what it arises is most precious. For our aim is not to know what bravery is but to be brave, not to know what justice is but to be just, in the same way as we want to be healthy rather than to know what being in health is, and to have our body in good condition rather than to know what good bodily condition is.

 

Aristotle – Eudemian Ethics 1:5 1216b2-1216b25

Nichomachean Ethics 2:6 1106b

If it is thus, then, that every art does its work well – by looking to the intermediate and judging its works by this standard (so that we often say of good works of art that it is not possible either to take away or to add anything, implying that excess and defect destroy the goodness of works of art, while the mean preserves it; and good artists, as we say, look to this in their work), and if, further, virtue is more exact and better than any art, as nature also is, then virtue must have the quality of aiming at the intermediate. I mean moral virtue; for it is this that is concerned with passions and actions, and in these there is excess, defect, and the intermediate. For instance, both fear and confidence and appetite and anger and pity and in general pleasure and pain may be felt both too much and too little, and in both cases not well; but to feel them at the right times, with reference to the right objects, towards the right people, with the right motive, and in the right way, is what is both intermediate and best, and this is characteristic of virtue. Similarly with regard to actions also there is excess, defect, and the intermediate. Now virtue is concerned with passions and actions, in which excess is a form of failure, and so is defect, while the intermediate is praised and is a form of success; and being praised and being successful are both characteristics of virtue. Therefore virtue is a kind of mean, since, as we have seen, it aims at what is intermediate.

 

Aristotle – Nichomachean Ethics 2:6 1106b7-1106b28

Nichomachean Ethics 2:4 1105a

The question might be asked; what we mean by saying that we must become just by doing just acts, and temperate by doing temperate acts; for if men do just and temperate acts, they are already just and temperate, exactly as, if they do what is in accordance with the laws of grammar and of music, they are grammarians and musicians…

Again, the case of the arts and that of the virtues are not similar; for the products of the arts have their goodness in themselves, so that it is enough that they should have a certain character, but if the acts that are in accordance with the virtues have themselves a certain character it does not follow that they are done justly or temperately. The agent also must be in a certain condition when he does them; in the first place he must have knowledge, secondly he must choose the acts, and choose them for their own sakes, and thirdly his action must proceed from a firm and unchangeable character. These are not reckoned in as conditions of the possession of the arts, except the bare knowledge; but as a condition of the possession of the virtues knowledge has little or no weight, while the other conditions count not for a little but for everything, i.e. the very conditions which result from often doing just and temperate acts.

Actions, then, are called just and temperate when they are such as the just or the temperate man would do; but it is not the man who does these that is just and temperate, but the man who also does them as just and temperate men do them. It is well said, then, that it is by doing just acts that the just man is produced, and by doing temperate acts the temperate man; without doing these no one would have even a prospect of becoming good.

But most people do not do these, but take refuge in theory and think they are being philosophers and will become good in this way, behaving somewhat like patients who listen attentively to their doctors, but do none of the things they are ordered to do. As the latter will not be made well in body by such a course of treatment, the former will not be made well in soul by such a course of philosophy.

 

Aristotle – Nichomachean Ethics 2:4 1105a18-1105b17

Nichomachean Ethics 2:1 1103a

Virtue, then, being of two kinds, intellectual and moral, intellectual virtue in the main owes both its birth and its growth to teaching (for which reason it requires experience and time), while moral virtue comes about as a result of habit, whence also its name (ethike) is one that is formed by a slight variation from the word habit (ethos). From this it is also plain that none of the moral virtues arises in us by nature; for nothing that exists by nature can form a habit contrary to its nature. For instance the stone which by nature moves downwards cannot be habituated to move upwards, not even if one tries to train it by throwing it up ten thousand times; nor can fire be habituated to move downwards, nor can anything else that by nature behaves in one way be trained to behave in another. Neither by nature, then, nor contrary to nature do the virtues arise in us; rather we are adapted by nature to receive them, and are made perfect by habit.

Again, of all the things that come to us by nature we first acquire the potentiality and later exhibit the activity (this is plain in the case of the senses; for it was not by often seeing or often hearing that we got these senses, but on the contrary we had them before we used them, and did not come to have them by using them); but the virtues we get by first exercising them, as also happens in the case of the arts as well. For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them, e.g. men become builders by building and lyre-players by playing the lyre; so too we become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.

This is confirmed by what happens in states; for legislators make the citizens good by forming habits in them, and this is the wish of every legislator, and those who do not effect it miss their mark, and it is in this that a good constitution differs from a bad one.

Again, it is from the same causes and by the same means that every virtue is both produced and destroyed, and similarly every art; for it is from playing the lyre that both good and bad lyre-players are produced. And the corresponding statement is true of builders and of all the rest; men will be good or bad builders as a result of building well or badly. For if this were not so, there would have been no need of a teacher, but all men would have been born good or bad at their craft. This, then, is the case with the virtues also; by doing the acts that we do in our transactions with other men we become just or unjust, and by doing the acts that we do in the presence of danger, and being habituated to feel fear or confidence, we become brave or cowardly. The same is true of appetites and feelings of anger; some men become temperate and good-tempered, others self-indulgent and irascible, by behaving in one way or the other in the appropriate circumstances. Thus, in one word, states of character arise out of like activities. This is why the activities we exhibit must be of a certain kind; it is because the states of character correspond to the differences between these. It makes no small difference, then, whether we form habits of one kind or of another from our very youth; it makes a very great difference, or rather all the difference.

 

Aristotle – Nichomachean Ethics 2:1 1103a14-1103b26

Nichomachean Ethics 6:2 1139a

Thinking (dianoia) itself moves nothing, but only thinking for the sake of something and practical (praktike); for this is the governing source (arche) also of productive activity (poietike)…. Now, regarding the thing done (to prakton) acting-well is the end, and desire (or appetite; orexis) is for this. Therefore, choice (proairesis)- [the source of action] – is either appetitive intellect (orektikos nous) or thoughtful appetite (orexis dianoetike), and a human being (anthropos) is such a principle (or source; arche).

 

Aristotle – Nichomachean Ethics 6:2 1139a36-1139b7

The History of Western Philosophy p.178

As a result of Christian dogma, the distinction between moral and other merits has become much sharper than it was in Greek times. It is a merit in a man to be a great poet or composer or painter, but not a moral merit; we do not consider him the more virtuous for possessing such aptitudes, or the more likely to go to heaven. Moral merit is concerned solely with acts of will, i.e. with choosing rightly among possible courses of action. I am not to blame for not composing an opera, because I don’t know how to do it. The orthodox view is that, wherever two courses of action are possible, conscience tells me which is right, and to choose the other is sin. Virtue consists mainly in the avoidance of sin, rather than in anything positive. There is no reason to expect an educated man to be morally better than an uneducated man, or a clever man than a stupid man. In this way, a number of merits of great social importance are shut out from the realm of ethics. The adjective “unethical,” in modern usage, has a much narrower range than the adjective “undesirable.” It is undesirable to be feeble-minded, but not unethical.

Many modern philosophers, however, have not accepted this view of ethics. They have thought that one should first define the good, and then say that our actions ought to be such as tend to realize the good. This point of view is more like that of Aristotle, who holds that happiness is the good. The highest happiness, it is true, is only open to the philosopher, but to him that is no objection to the theory.

 

Bertrand Russell – The History of Western Philosophy p.178

Love and Its Place in Nature p.214

For Aristotle, every living organism is a composite of form and matter. Form is an active force in the organism for the development of structure. Form, that is, promotes the development of form in living things. Form thus exists at various levels of organization. In the embryo or youth, form exists as a potentiality or force for development. A mature adult’s form, by contrast, is a completed structure. It is an active mode of functioning which preserves that structure. Now, as the living organism acquires structure, it becomes more intelligible. It is in the healthy functioning adult that the inquiring scientist can discover the principles or organization of that species. Only then can he understand what the youthful striving to acquire form was a striving toward.

It is as though the developing organism is striving to be understood. Aristotle took this possibility seriously. As the scientist studies the principles of organization and functioning of a living organism, these principles impress themselves on the inquiring scientist’s mind. His mind comes to reflect the structure he has discovered in the organism. A mind that has understood the form and is actively thinking it has itself taken on the form it is thinking. And as he teaches others about this structure, he is expressing the form itself, now at the level of thought. Mind actively contemplating form is the form itself at its highest level of activity. Living creatures, in striving to grow and acquire form, are doing the best job they can to imitate God’s activity. In striving to imitate God, they are striving to be understood. Humans distinguish themselves from the rest of nature by the fact that they can participate in the divine activity of understanding.

 

Jonathan Lear – Love and Its Place in Nature p.214

The Angels and Us p.148

The third view, advanced by Aristotle, attempted to correct what he thought to be the errors in the two extreme views. In his conception of human nature, man is neither just a body or a collocation of atoms nor a union of two quite distinct and separable substances, one material and the other spiritual – one a body and the other a rational soul or mind.

In Aristotle’s view, man is a single substance and, in that respect, is like every other individual thing in the physical cosmos. However, unlike every other corporeal substance, man, as a single substance, is composite of matter and spirit, of material and immaterial aspects – the immaterial aspect consisting in the intellectual power that distinguishes man  from other animals.

According to this third view, man is neither entirely a material thing, composed of elementary particles of matter or quanta of energy, nor is he compounded of two substances as alien to one another as body and soul or matter and mind. He is a living organism like any other animal, but he is distinguished from all other animals by virtue of having a mind or intellect – the powers and operation of which cannot be explained by the action of the brain.

Brain action is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for the occurrence of mental operations or processes. There is, in short, something immaterial about man, something spiritual in the sense that it is not reducible to bodily parts or movements and not explicable entirely by reference to them.

 

Mortimer J. Adler – The Angels and Us p.148

Life, Liberty, and the Defense of Dignity p.68

As Aristotle noted long ago, thought – or speech or reason – itself moves nothing, especially, one can add, thought merely laid down next to appetite. Thought, to be effective, must be inseparable from appetite.

The true source of action is not abstract thought, nor even thought applied to some separate motor or motive force, but rather a concretion, a grown-togetherness, of appetite and mind, so intertwined that one cannot say for sure whether the human principle of action is a species of desire become thoughtful, or an activity of intellection suffused with appetite. How mind and desire become grown together is, of course, a great question, but it is rarely accomplished by applying purely rational doctrines or rules in a passionless way to human agents. On the contrary, the true beginning is rather with the direct but unreflective education of our loves and hates, our pleasure and pains, gained only in practice, through habituation and by means of praise and blame, reward and punishment. Anyone concerned with influencing conduct must be concerned with these in-between powers of the soul, themselves irrational (in the sense of nonreasoning) but fully amenable to reason (in the sense of being formed, to begin with, in accordance with the reasons of one’s parents, teachers and laws, and being open to further refinement through the exercise of one’s own powers of deliberation and discernment).

 

Leon R. Kass – Life, Liberty, and the Defense of Dignity: The Challenge for Bioethics p.68

Metaphysics: The Fundamentals p.241

Aristotle claimed that to deny metaphysics is to do metaphysics. We have seen some reason to agree with Aristotle. The arguments against metaphysics, whether Anti-Realist, Lightweight Realist, Skeptical, or Fictionalist, are all based on certain conceptions about truth, meaning, knowledge, and explanation that inevitably raise metaphysical questions.


Robert C. Koons & Timothy H. Pickavance – 
Metaphysics: The Fundamentals p.241