September 6, 2012

A False Sense of Good

I really enjoyed that Aristotle not only defined good, but also brought up the many different ways men falsely define good in Nicomachean Ethics.  He mentions that a man of good morals will live his life with goodness because he knows the principles of goodness and seeks to live his life this way. He goes on to state that only vulgar men mistake good with pleasure. An obvious false sense of good as pleasure is wealth- yet, many people still seek out wealth more than anything else in life. Aristotle does acknowledge that wealth can help make Good useful—but he makes sure to distinguish that although it can enable good, wealth is in no way good inherently. I think what he means by this is that wealthy men have more opportunities to inspire goodness, because their wealth allows them more power and influence in a community. If they choose to live a life seeking goodness, they can spread lots of good with their fortune. I like that Aristotle distinguishes the two, because so many people mix up leading a good life with leading a successful one.

A more interesting contrast Aristotle discussed was the idea that positive character traits, such as courage and bravery, aren’t necessarily “good”. Courage and glory are too superficial, too self-appreciating, to be good in and of themselves. If a man seeks out courage and along the way inspires goodness, such as a war hero who stands up to a tyrant, is he actually good? If goodness was not his main motivation, can he really call himself good? Surely he cannot consider his courage and glory supreme goodness. Can self-inspired motives ever be truly good? I think that Aristotle believes that for someone or something to be truly good, it must have good as its main motivation. 

1 comment:

KLatch said...

After the reading, I came to the same conclusion about the difference between what man generally thinks of as "goodness" and what is really "good." The rhetorical questions you ask are good as well, and I think he goes into it a bit more when he is talking about virtue and wht is considered voluntary, involuntary, and non-voluntary. I think that in the end, if someone had bad intentions then they cannot be fully considered "good." However, if they did something that had a good result unknowingly, it is considered non-voluntary, although, possibly good. That's where I follow it, and see where Aristotle was going, which you mentioned already-- to be truyly good, one really must have goodness as a main motivation.

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