I just recently ran into Aristotle’s work on ethics while looking for his work on logic, and found it to be extremelly refreshing: really glad to have found this field of research (i.e. ethics as the attempt to offer a rational response to the question of how humans should best live) outside of the context of religion.
Sad that it took me 37 years to run into it (or maybe this much time to be sensitive about it), but here are some notes I took.
Aristotle defines virtue in terms of the habit of choosing the mean between the extremes of excess and deficiency with regards to your actions and emotions.
He defines the following virtues as the mean between their corresponding vices:
- courage: the mean between cowardice and recklessness, moderation with respect to feelings of confidence and fear.
- continence: temperance, self-control, moderation, patience. the mean between overindulgence and insensitivity. the ability to control your temper, neither going too angry or fail to react when one should.
- liberality: charity, the mean between miserliness and giving more than you can afford
- magnificence: the mean between stinginess and vulgarity.
- magnanimity: relating to pride, the mean between not giving yourself enough credit and delusions of grandeur.
- truthfulness: the virtue of honesty, the mean between habitual lying and being tactless or boastfull.
- wittness: having a good sense of humour, the mean between buffonery and boorishness.
- friendliness: friendship as a part of a life well lived, the mean between not being friendly and being too friendly towards too many people.
- shame: the mean between shyness and shameless.
- justice: the mean between selfishness and selflessness.
- prudence: also known as practical wisdom.
Aristotle goes over happiness and how that connects with the virtues, but I think I failed to understand that. I’ll come back to this when I re-read it, because it matters to me most.
Still, pretty neat read.