Nicomachean Ethics and Today

ariMadison Wiederecht

Mr. Aparicio

Aristotle and Today

Nicomachean Ethics, by Aristotle is about his inner quest to seek and define the guidelines for human beings to achieve happiness as a community. While happiness is distorted from what it really is today Aristotle’s view of pure happiness don’t really match up with our. “Happiness is something that human beings must constantly work for and not a state that can just exist forever without struggle.” –Aristotle. When beginning in Mr. Aparicio’s class I wasn’t entirely enthralled to be learning about all economics because it’s a very difficult subject to understand and such but when I started reading Aristotle I really started understanding why economics was important and the points of views that have influenced this subject. While each book and chapter of the Ethics is focused on a different subject that can all be related to today the overall theme that I get from it the sense that we have our own definition of happiness.

In Book I, Chapter 1, Aristotle thinks that all human life consists of doings, and in the doings there is a moral purpose and at some point have an end. I think that as people we hope that the end is going to be good therefore that’s why we do it. Next, Aristotle defines “political science as the science that rules over all of the other sciences.” (N.E. 110) He believes that political science decides what people should study and what’s good for them to study. In one of his examples he talks about a person who is kind of dump and can’t study politics because they don’t know how too, which is completely relatable to today because in this generation not everyone is informed of certain things. But this person doesn’t understand because of the science behind is what I think he is trying to say. Today it’s hard to have a conversation with a person about economics or politics because almost everyone is ill-informed or is just mad about the subject based on the party that they belong to. I think that if people were more aware of the political side of things, the science behind it, and the purpose we would be able to agree more on concepts and be happier.

In Aristotle’s view the highest good of human activity is happiness. Therefore, all of the other stuff is below that of the point of science which again to him is happiness. While Aristotle argues that there is no end more complete than happiness, I would like to argue because people can arrive that their own end and not be happy at all, we live in a society where everyone is happy; or so we think because we are all so good at putting on these masks that hide our true feelings.

In the book, Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle uses his collection of lecture notes to establish the best way to live and acquire happiness. But again I disagree there is not book on how to be or to establish this new-found happiness that he craves. His views of happiness are extremely different from mine and that’s difficult to understand because he makes such a case for happiness being the final end. Today I can get by and through life being very unhappy but still fulfilling my purpose. It’s hard to make a concrete connection between happiness, purpose, and the final end. According to Aristotle, to live a happy fulfilling life, you must obtain these to become morally good. I think that it’s possible to achieve these entire but not all at once. We live and learn nowadays and learn from the mistakes that we make, and therefore are never really at complete equilibrium with our full-selves. Aristotle thinks that moral character involves more than a basic understanding of the good. He believes that it involves virtue in order to have harmony between reasoning and emotional elements of the person. A person is good if he has virtues and lacks vice. Aristotle holds the view that the goal of a human life is to be happy. He rationalizes this to be so because humans, unlike plants and animals, hold the ability to reason (N.E. 129). A series of good choices can change a ferocious character but does that really change the person? “We become just by performing just acts, and temperate by performing temperate acts” (N.E.18-19).

The fair displays their virtues at times but not always in the best of ways. This does mean that we are inclined to act in a virtuous way for the right reasons of course. Not to intentionally screw things up. Man acclimates to his surroundings where he is honorable but not boastful in his actions. Aristotle argues the character of a person is acquired through habits an individual develops when he or she imitate his or her environment. He further believes it is only possible to attain happiness within a political organization because happiness represents living well without being concerned with others; they solely live for the truth and not approval. Aristotle’s definition of virtue is “a kind of mean” (N.E. 129). Aristotle’s view of moral virtue is a means to an end. Aristotle maintains virtues are formed by a repeated action and it is by doing just acts that a just man is produced. And by doing just acts without the kind of habit formation “no one would have even the prospect of being good.” (N.E. 40) Aristotle believes to make a citizen good he has to form good habits which can form virtues. Aristotle holds the view that the goal of a human life is to be happy. He rationalizes this to be so because humans, unlike other different thing, hold the ability to reason. Another point here is that while he can rationalize this we may not be able to.

Aristotle claims moral virtue becomes a result of habit. We all have different habits that affect our functions in life. We are habit forming humans and to an extent the habits we are subject to make us happy, to an extent at least. It is very hard to break a habit because it makes you happy usually.  Anything contradicting the actions of habit would call wrong and understood as awkward of course. Aristotle views choice in relation to the end or good of all our actions which he calls happiness. The attainment of happiness depends upon when you receive and gain specific virtues which are attained through practice and which make the human function in its proper way. We all have different functions to an extent meaning that we all have different meanings in life. We all have different aspirations. Some want to be doctors, others want to be macro-economic teachers and we all go about achieving our aspirations in all different ways. We do this because all the different ways make us happy.  Aristotle defines choice as a “deliberate appetite” which involves a dispositional directedness toward some end (a good or apparent good) and the rational deliberation of how to achieve that end (N.E. 205). These are actions that are done in the spur of the moment and what feel right. These things are driven by desire and spirit and not what we would normally call true choice. It is rational and according to the understanding of Aristotle choice can be the opposite of desire. So a true choice in the case of moral action is one that is both a good judgment call and is a response to the right desire. Choice “either appetitive intellect or intellectual appetite” is not simple to do with opinion because our choices make us the type of person we are (N.E. 206). This isn’t just true or false but what distinguishes choices is before a choice is made there is a rational deliberation “free will” or thinking before the act is done.


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