Connection Aristotle on Flourishing

Aristotle on Flourishing

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Thought Experiment Introduction to Aristotle

Book 2, Chapter 2

Now, since the present subject is taken up, not for the sake of contemplation, as are others -- for we are conducting an examination, not so that we may know what virtue is, but so that we may become good, since otherwise there would be no benefit from it -- it is necessary to examine matters pertaining to actions, that is, how one ought to perform them…

Donec rutrum congue leo eget malesuada.

Let it be agreed to in advance that every argument concerned with what ought to be done is bound to be stated in outline only and not precisely… Matters of action and those pertaining to what is advantageous have nothing stationary about them, just as matters of health do not either.  And since such is the character of the general argument, still less precise is the argument concerned with particulars, for it does not fall under any art or any set of precepts.  Instead, those who act ought themselves always to examine what pertains to the opportune moment [when it presents itself], as is the case with both medicine and piloting.

WebdevMauris blandit aliquet elit, eget tincidunt nibh pulvinar a. Sed porttitor lectus nibh.  

Mauris blandit aliquet elit, eget tincidunt nibh pulvinar a. Sed porttitor lectus nibh. Donec rutrum congue leo eget malesuada. Vivamus magna justo, lacinia eget consectetur sed, convallis at tellus. Cras ultricies ligula sed magna dictum porta. Vestibulum ac diam sit amet quam vehicula elementum sed sit amet dui. Donec rutrum congue leo eget malesuada.

Mauris blandit aliquet elit, eget tincidunt nibh pulvinar a. Sed porttitor lectus nibh. Donec rutrum congue leo eget malesuada.

Vivamus magna justo, lacinia eget consectetur sed, convallis at tellus. Cras ultricies ligula sed magna dictum porta. Vestibulum ac diam sit amet quam vehicula elementum sed sit amet dui. Donec rutrum congue leo eget malesuada. Mauris blandit aliquet elit, eget tincidunt nibh pulvinar a. Sed porttitor lectus nibh. Donec rutrum congue leo eget malesuada. Vivamus magna justo, lacinia eget consectetur sed, convallis at tellus. Cras ultricies ligula sed magna dictum porta. Vestibulum ac diam sit amet quam vehicula elementum sed sit amet dui. Donec rutrum congue leo eget malesuada.

Divider 1

You can only learn to be good by trying to do good things.

Key Principle The Power of Habit

What is Virtue

Virtues = stable personality traits that reliably dispose a person to act well.
 
Vices = stable personality traits that reliably dispose a person to act badly.

Example

The virtues are excellences of human character, and possessing them all is -- for Aristotle -- necessary to live a good life.

The Habituation Argument

So what is Aristotle's argument in this section? First of all, he's making the following revolutionary (and still controversial) claim:
Virtues and vices are properties of persons (character traits) that can be acquired
 
Thus, for Aristotle, we are not just naturally morally good or bad. We have some control (via learning, habituation, the communities and groups we choose to be a part of) over whether we live morally good or morally bad lives.
He supports this claim by arguing that:
 
(1) No natural properties can be changed by habituation (for example: you can't teach a stone to fall upwards)
 
(2) Virtues can be changed by habituation (for example: you can teach a soldier to be courageous, or a child to be moderate in their consumption of candy)
 
(3) Therefore virtues cannot be natural properties
 

The Rest of Book II, Ch 1

Further, in the case of those things present in us by nature, we are first provided with the capacities associated with them, then later on display the activities, something that is in fact clear in the case of sense perceptions.  For it is not as a result of seeing many times or hearing many times that we come to have those sense perceptions; rather, it is, conversely, because we have them that we use them, and not because we use them that we have them.  But the virtues we come to have by engaging in the activities first, as is the case with the arts as well.  For as regards those things we must learn how to do, we learn by doing them---for example, by building houses, people become house builders, and by playing the cithara, they become cithara players. So too, then, by doing just things we become just; moderate things, moderate; and courageous things, courageous.  What happens in the cities too bears witness to this, for by habituating citizens, lawgivers make them good, and this is the wish of every lawgiver; all who do not do this well are in error, and it is in this respect that a good regime differs from a base regime.

What's the secret to becoming a good cithara player?
Practice, practice, practice!

Pleasure and the Virtues

Moral virtue is concerned with pleasures and pains: it is on account of the pleasure involved that we do base things, and it is on account of the pain that we abstain from noble ones.  Thus one must be brought up in a certain way straight from childhood, as Plato asserts, so as to enjoy as well as to be pained by what one ought, for this is correct education…

Pleasure has been a part of the upbringing of us all from infancy; it is difficult to remove this experience, since our life has been so ingrained with it.  We also take pleasure and pain as the rule of our actions, some of us to a greater degree and some to a lesser.  It is on account of this, then, that one’s entire concern necessarily pertains to pleasure and pain, for taking delight and feeling pain make no small contribution our actions being well or badly done.

Summary

For Aristotle, philosophy is a deeply practical enterprise.  He's a particularist -- he does not think you can live well by reading books or studying a general theory.  Instead, you need practice solving real problems and dealing with complexity.  He thinks you learn virtue by developing the right kinds of habits and by having a good community around to support to you.  To master the virtues, you need lots of practice and feedback.  And he thinks that living well is more than just finding pleasure in your life -- it is developing your talents, including growing in virtues like courage, moderation, and generosity.