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Goodness Gracious, Aristotle

Aristotle-QuotesIf virtue is equated with happiness then one must define what makes up happiness.  In Nichmachean Ethics, Aristotle suggests “virtue… is of two kinds intellectual and moral”. In this sense, the virtue of an action must begin with the “inception” of the idea and follow through with the performance of the action as habitual. Thus, one must have the experience necessary to think and behave virtuously. It is argued that to be virtuous is unnatural but Aristotle suggests that this is not the case but merely a misconception of the easy way out. Aristotle insists that we have the natural tendency to take the most personally beneficial option when it comes to choices, but that we are “constituted by nature to” choose the most virtuous option if we consciously choose to train ourselves to act morally. In this way, with intellectual fervor we can naturally mature into virtuous, happy, people, but it is our personal responsibility to assume those behaviors as a life style. In this sense, it is understandable that Aristotle defines happiness as an attribute to describe one’s lifetime as opposed to one’s temporary disposition because it is the accumulation of one’s decisions to become virtuous that instills happiness not one’s instant or intermediary gratification. Therefore, the question is no longer what is virtue, happiness, or goodness but instead how do we as humans become good?

aristotle_quote_2According to IMT, the premise of becoming good is impossible to achieve. We are only what we are born to be. The concept that we train ourselves to become good seems unlikely. Training ourselves would mean that we are constantly making decisions about ourselves and that would require undue stress and thinking. If we were to simplify Aristotle’s teaching in terms of IMT, I believe the lesson would be more direct.

Happiness is a characteristic developed over one’s lifetime because one who lives simply without stress does not fight the event. Virtue is intellectual and moral because it is intrinsic. It is in one’s mind and soul that they find goodness. I don’t believe that one becomes good. Instead, the developmental process that Aristotle is seeing is merely one maturing into an understanding that he/she cannot be influenced. For this person, the easy way out is by being a virtuous person.

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