Nicomachean Ethics is a collection of ten books authored by Aristotle. The Nicomachean Ethics book attempts to advance the understanding of ethics. As a matter of fact, both book one and two intensely explore the concept of moral virtues.
In book one, Aristotle asserts that an individual can have certain moral virtues and lack others. He goes further to explain how the concept of ‘good’ is defined in human life (Bartlewtt and Collins 12). He claims that every pursuit, action, thought or enquiry should be aimed at achieving some good. However, the fact that there are many actions that people engage in, Aristotle argues that their ends are countless. Moreover, every individual carry out his or her activities where the end results are expected to be good, a factor that secures the highest end of human life (Pakaluk 13).
According to Aristotle, happiness is the supreme goodness of life. He notes that different people hold diverse opinions on what constitute happiness. There are those who argue that honor is the greatest benefit of human life. Therefore, Aristotle asserts that anything good is most likely to be impressive in the same manner. Nevertheless, there is a considerable diversity of things which people perceive as good. He concludes that anything that constitutes happiness is a virtue (Bartlewtt and Collins 15). In this case, for an individual to be considered good, he or she has to demonstrate some moral virtues. Aristotle divides the human soul into two distinct parts whereby one is rational and the other is irrational (Pakaluk 46).
In this case, he will be able to display external goods characterized by pleasant and noble acts that bring happiness to others. Aristotle also argues that politics is the highest level of good since it cultivates dispositions that lead to noble actions. He confirms that an individual full of reason get to be happy since the person may act in accordance to reason (Bartlewtt and Collins 19). Apparently, virtuous individuals are able to endure external misfortunes and end up living a happy life that ignorant people. Aristotle concludes that happiness is the key principle that causes people to practice virtues such as confidence, respect, prudence and wisdom. In book II Aristotle discusses and defines how virtue should be understood.
According to the author, there are two types of virtues namely intellectual and moral virtues. Aristotle comprehends that people are born with the potential for moral virtuousness and this is enhanced by constant practice. Therefore, ethical virtues are gained by habituation since we have the ability to cultivate and nurture them. For Aristotle, a good government should help its citizens to habituate virtuous acts and make them proper to every occasion (Bartlewtt and Collins 26). Additionally, he laments that education can play vital role in making people take pleasure in good acts. Arguably, Aristotle declines the assumption that virtues and vices are feelings. He comments that the aspects are acquired through deliberate choices since they are natural.
He suggest that though ethical virtues are determined by actions and feelings people should try to have the right feeling to act for the right purpose. Still on the argument, Aristotle identifies a crucial distinction between acting virtuously and being virtuous. He argues that one can only become virtuous after learning to behave virtuously (Pakaluk 46). However, he claims that since circumstances vary, there is no distinct rule to follow while exercising virtuousness.
Instead, one can develop a mean policy between two extremes where one is excess and the other is scarce. As an example, Aristotle points of that the level of courage might vary depending on circumstances.
Bartlewtt, Robert, and Susan Collins. Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Chicago, USA: Chicago University Press, 2011.Print.
Pakaluk, Michael. Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2005.Print.