Aristotle

“Aristotle (384-322 BC), student of Plato at the Academy, teacher of Alexander the Great, and founder of the Lyceum, took up Plato’s ideas about politics as order towards the virtuous living of the citizens. In his Ethics he argued that all men seek one or other of three kinds of happiness: as sense pleasure or immediate satisfaction; as political honor or fame or glory; and as seeking to know the truth about what is highest and best or the whole (= contemplative or theoretic life). He defines habit as a good habit that enables one to act in the mean between the extremes of excess and defect easily, quickly, and with pleasure. (E.g. liberality as a virtue having to do with getting and giving wealth is the mean between extravagance which gives too much in relation to one’s getting, and stinginess which is too concerned with getting and does not give enough.) He deals with eleven moral virtues (starting with courage and ending with justice) which have to do with choosing to act rightly under the pressure of one’s passions. The peak of moral virtue is the magnanimity (greatsouledness) proper to the gentleman or great statesman. He then deals with the dianoetic (or intellectual) virtues that regard knowing in its various aspects: intellect (knowledge of first principle); science (knowledge of how to draw conclusions from premises); art (technical expertise or know-how in making products separate from oneself); prudence or practical wisdom (knowledge of how to deliberate well and decide how to act in particular situations); theoretical wisdom (knowledge of the whole, of what is highest and best, of the highest causes and all other things as ordered to them). The Ethics culminates in the treatment of the kinds of friendship (as based on utility, on pleasure, and on mutual virtue) which is willing the good for the sake of another; and of why the life in accord with theoretic virtue is the best, most self-sufficient way of life. [Realist account of knowing, with stress on universal ideas as being discovered by the use of observation and reasoning according to logic in sensible things themselves.]” (Frederick Lawrence, Philosophers and Theologians, Boston College).

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