September 4, 2012

Aristotle - Virtue

Aristotle proposes that virtue is a greater good than honor, because honor is granted by other people while virtue is intrinsic. Even though virtue is intrinsic, it is built upon voluntary actions. At the same time it seems like actions can not purposely create virtue.  This makes me wonder if virtue can be earned at all, similar to the way that Aristotle says honor is earned. Perhaps virtue is merely a byproduct of voluntary acts and a person cannot conciously control how virtuous they are. That doesn't seem right though, because Aristotle goes on to say that a voluntary action is a choice. Perhaps it is that a person cannot choose to perform a virtuous action because there is a motive behind their choice, and if there is a motive then the action is no longer virtuous. The action may gain them honor, but it will not gain them virtue. If this is true, then virtue is an inherent good that cannot purposefully be changed.

This still raises the question of how virtue is determined. If virtue is a greater good than honor because it is intrinsic, then how can virtue be judged by anyone other than oneself? The reading makes it seem like judgement degrades the quality of virtue. If virtue can be judged, then it seems like virtue can hardly be seen as a greater good than honor. It is still motivated by external validation.

1 comment:

eking09 said...

Aristotle makes honor sound shallow, like a trophy granted to you by your peers who will think highly of you because of it. I do not think that virtue can be earned; I believe it is something that is naturally a part of you. According to Aristotle, you can even possess virtue "while you are asleep, or without putting it into practice throughout the whole of your life." (Page 15) Of course voluntary action is a choice, but virtuous people make positive choices without thinking twice. I believe that even if a non-virtuous person makes a conscious effort to be virtuous, their true nature will come out eventually.

Perhaps virtues are determined by what you do when you think nobody is watching. This way, you are not trying to earn it to boost your reputation, but are truly doing it for the greater good.

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