Aristotle`s Notion of Virtue essay

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Aristotle’s Notion of Virtue

Aristotle’s Notion of Virtue

When a person is in a position of attaining the supreme good, and arational soul, he or she is considered to be virtuous. Accordingly,having excellence, which defines and directs the state of happiness,makes one virtuous. Also, when a person can perform the activities ofa distinctive human, he or she is said to be virtuous. Whiledistinguishing humans from other living things, rationality makesthem virtuous. Consequently, according to Aristotle’s ideology,people have souls that govern their locomotion and instincts.However, virtuous people are those who have a rational soul that isdedicated to the supreme good.

Aristotledescribes the mean as the desirable middle-point, which lies betweentwo extremes (Miller 256). On one end of the extreme is excess, andon the other end is a deficiency. Mean determines the response of aperson to various stimuli, and guides one to developing a habit andpractice that is desirable, and focused towards the supreme good. Inanother perspective, the mean is what determines a person’s abilityto have a moral judgment of the environment and its stimuli. Becausechoices are independent, the function of the mean is to help makerational choices. Given the fact that people are often ignorant ofwhat is good and what is bad, the mean plays a key role of guidingthem to making moral choices.

TheGreek word ethos means ethics, or character ((Miller, 141).Ethos is a central key point in explaining excess anddeficiency in Aristotle’s notion of virtue. The objective ofvirtues is to help people to achieve righteousness as per thestandards of humanity. The Greeks had a different concept ofmorality, which was focused on defining the way that humans aresupposed to perform their function of being human. According to thenotion of virtue, excess and deficiency destroy moral virtue. At themidpoint of these two extremes is excellence. If a person lacks abalance of a certain virtue, he or she will act while leaning toeither of the two extremes. However, the mean, which is the literalmiddle-point of the two extremes, helps people to moderate theirmorals, hence achieve excellence in performing their functions ashumans. Therefore, the mean preserves virtue by helping person toavoid the excess or deficiency of character.

Oneof the main spheres of action that has a virtue, excess anddeficiency (vices) is obtaining and spending. The manner that peopleobtain and spend determines their social character. Within thissphere of action, the mean is magnificence. Magnificence can beassociated with the virtue of being glorious or noble. The excess ofthis virtue is vulgarity. Vulgar people lack the moral virtue ofbeing refined, instead, are often offensive. On the other extreme,the deficiency of magnificence is pettiness. Petty people areconsidered unimportant, majorly because they lack the mean to uplifttheir dignity.

Asper the principle of the notion of virtue, people can only be heldresponsible for their voluntary actions, instead of unavoidableignorance (Sipiora and Baumlin 230). From the examples given above, aperson who attains the right balance of obtaining and spending isconsidered magnificent. However, when they overdo it, they lack themean of controlling their virtue of magnificence, hence areconsidered as being vulgar. However, lacking the means to achievemagnificence passes one to be judged as petty. Both two extremes lackthe mean, which balances their sphere of action for obtaining andspending.


Miller, Jon, ed.&nbspAristotle`sNicomachean Ethics: A Critical Guide.Cambridge University Press, 2011. Print.

Sipiora, Phillip, and James S.Baumlin, eds.&nbspRhetoricand Kairos: Essays In History, Theory, And Praxis.SUNY Press, 2012. Print.