In the Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle provides a definition of virtue which has been discussed and disputed by many thinkers.
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In particular, he writes that virtue is “a state that decides, consisting in a mean, relative to us, which is defined by reference to a reason, that is to say, to the reason by reference to which the prudent person would define it” (Aristotle as cited in Cahn 273).
This paper is aimed at discussing this interpretation in more detail because Aristotle highlights very important aspects of ethics.
First of all, Aristotle emphasizes the point that virtue is a temporary state of mind, and it is not an inherent quality of an individual. This definition may imply that vice and virtue may be characteristics of every human being.
Secondly, the philosopher sets stress on the idea of the mean or balance. This is probably the most crucial part of his argument because Aristotle extremism is not appropriate for ethical judgment.
Provided that this section had been absent, this definition might have led to the belief that there is a sharp distinction between ethical and unethical judgments or decisions. This section highlights the necessity of moderation and ability to avoid intolerance.
Furthermore, in the Nichomachean Ethics Aristotle adds the phrase “relative to us” (Aristotle as cited in Cahn 273).
This part of the definition should not be disregarded, because it implies that there is not universal standard of virtue since ethical norms are set by different individuals and communities and they may not be the same.
This is one of the key issues that should be taken into consideration by people who speak about ethics.
Apart from that, Aristotle adds two important components to his definition of virtue. In particular he mentions that virtue always refers to reason. Although this argument seems self-evident, for many people ethics is based on emotions, rather than rationality.
This is why the philosopher chose to include this point in the definition. Finally, it is important to mention that Aristotle refers to such a concept as prudence.
In this case, the word prudence means the ability to understand ones interests and goals. Again in this way, Aristotle shows the strong connection between the rationality of a human being and virtue.
Overall, by defining virtue in this way, Aristotle strived to explain how people should think about ethics, moral norms. He emphasizes such aspects as rationality, prudence, and absence of universal standards. These are the main points to which the philosopher attracts the readers’ attention in his works.
Cahn, Steven. Classics of Western Philosophy, New York: Hackett, 2002. Print.