The Moral Values for Aristotle
“Some identify happiness with virtue, some with practical wisdom, others with a kind of philosophical wisdom, others add or exclude pleasure and yet others include prosperity. We agree with those who identify happiness with virtue, for virtue belongs with virtuous behavior and virtue is only known by its acts (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics). In Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics, the subject if inquiry that Aristotle focuses on is that all human actions aim at an end, purpose, or goal, and that end will be good.
According to Aristotle, there are two types of ends. The first end that he discusses is a master end. A master end is an end in itself. For example; happiness. A master end does the most general good for as many people as possible. The other type of end that Aristotle examines is a subordinate end. A subordinate end is an end for something else. A way to understand this concept is a subordinate end would be finishing highs school, then going on to college and graduating from college, and then going to medical school and completing it. A master end to that example would be after one completely finishes all of their schooling and finally becomes a doctor. Another example that Aristotle gives is the master end of shipbuilding is a completed vessel. A question that Aristotle brings up is do we have many master ends or just one?
“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence. (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics). A common end for all is happiness, according to Aristotle. So, it would be a master end. If one is poor, they may see being rich as happiness. If one is sick, they may see being healthy as happiness. Everyone has a different definition of happiness. A frequent word that Aristotle uses to describe this is “eudemonia. The “eu in that word means good or happy, while the “demonia means “demon or a spirt soul. Therefore “eudemonia loosely means “the good soul. Aristotle goes on to discuss the types of life. There are three, sort of four, types of life according to Aristotle. The first one is a life of pleasure, which is bodily or physical pleasures such as food, sex, and clothes. Second, the political life, which is driven by honor, the opinion of others and how other perceive you. The third one is the contemplative life, which is driven by knowledge and wisdom. Aristotle then states one that could be perceived as a type of life but is not technically one. It is wealth. Aristotle states that wealth makes everything easier and can be used as a tool to reach the other types of life. Even though these are all in categories of their own, there is room to balance all and that is how you have an equalized and fulfilled life. Action is driven by happiness. There are two types of reality. Non-physical reality hold truth like ideas. Physical reality is human nature like our soul or body.
Aristotle asks how does one know “good exists? How does one know it brings happiness? Happiness is the only end in itself. It is self-sufficient, and it drives action. Doing something good leads to happiness. Aristotle virtues are justice, generosity, courage, and temperance (practical wisdom). When one has virtue consistency it means they have a virtuous character. Some question that Aristotle asks are where does happiness come from? What is the origin of happiness? How do me “get happiness? Happiness comes from habituation and learning, not from good or chance.
Not everything that brings us pleasure or joy is a good thing, so good is not necessarily directly correlated with pleasure or joy. For example, drugs. A good way of testing one’s soul is going through hardships and adversity. Having experiences, is a way of learning though trial and error. It builds your character.
According to Aristotle, the structure of the soul has two parts, rational and irrational. The irrational part of the soul is action without thought. The irrational part of the soul consists of the nutritive, food and growth, the desirous, and the appetitive which is a will, feelings, and emotions. The rational part of the soul is the side that thinks with logic. Like the irrational, rational is broken down into two parts. The first part is calculative, which thinks about what is variable. The variable is knowledge that mostly comes from experience and effects choices. The second part of the rational is the contemplative, which thinks about the invariable. The invariable is knowledge that doesn’t change. An example that will show the difference between the calculative and the consultative would be the difference between history and math. History would be the calculative because it is always changing, while math would be the contemplative because two plus two will always be four no matter what way you put it. Even though the irrational and rational are two separate part of the soul, they will always have a connection. They bounce off of each other to make decisions. For example, the irrational part of the soul will tell you to eat the cake that is on the table, while the rational part of the soul will tell you to eat an apple instead. The two parts of the soul help us understand Aristotle’s moral theory of virtue because they are in the irrational part of the soul. The moral values are courage, justice, temperance, and generosity, while the rational is the intellectual values like practical wisdom and philosophical wisdom.