Aristotle described a remarkable set of criteria to delineate between good and bad people in his work entitled, Ethics. Aristotle believed that the pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain were important yard sticks in measuring virtuous and continent people, whom he believed were of strong moral character, and vicious and incontinent people, whom he described as dangerous and immoral. 100 pages into Ethics, Aristotle finally provides his definition of virtue:
So virtue is a purposive disposition, lying in a mean that is relative to us and determined by a rationale principle, and by that which a prudent man would use to determine it. It is a mean between two kinds of vice, one of excess and the other of deficiency; and also for this reason, that whereas these vices fall short of or exceed the right measure in both feelings and actions, virtue discovers the mean and chooses it (101102).
This essay will examine this definition and offer a brief criticism regarding its validity.
Aristotle believed that citizens who achieved eudaimonia (happiness, peace, felicity, and prosperity) were those who attained a morally good or virtuous state in their lives (78). However, Aristotle noted that it was not enough just to be virtuous, one had to exercise virtuous activities in order to reach pure moral goodness. He wrote:
Now our definition is in harmony with those who say that happiness is virtue, or a particular virtue; because an activity in accordance with virtue implies virtue. For it is possible for the state to be present in a person without effecting any good result (e.g. if he is asleep or quiescent in some other way), but not for the activity: he will necessarily act, and act well (78).
In Aristotle's system of moral goodness, virtue was divided into two forms known as the intellectual and the moral (90). According to Aristotle, to be intellectually virtuous one had to exhibit wisdom, understanding and prudence. Inte...