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Virtue According to Aristotle

I will describe to you Aristotles theories about virtues, how to achieve them, and also the ultimate end that they are said to bring; Eudaimonia.

Virtue as we may see it today varies from person to person. Almost all too common today is the christian version of virtue, which i myself believe hits upon interesting points, however my full support goes to Aristotle. Aristotle is an ancient greek philosopher who is dated to have lived from 384-322 BC. He was a student to Plato, and a teacher to Alexander the great. Aristotle was also very well versed in subjects studying many different areas, but this isn’t a biography so I am not pursuing his life further. Now then, Aristotle had a very interesting theory on virtue. He believed that virtue has to do with the proper function of a thing, a primary example is an eye is only good for it’s sight, because an eye is made to see. He also stated that virtues can lead to the ultimate end; eudaimonia, but that is something to get into later.

Virtues in modern day are perhaps simply an action or something people can be born with, however just because one does a virtuous act it doesn’t make them a virtuous person. According to Aristotle you must practice virtues untill they become second nature to be virtuous; in fact virtue only can come to exist in a person through repetition to form them as habits. In short he didn’t believe you can simply turn virtuous over night, nor could you be born with virtue, but you must practice it. “Practice makes perfect” i guess is how we can say it in a way we all understand best. Now if you are curious about what are virtues and how to act in a way to obtain them well lucky you Aristotle explains his theories. He believes that between two vices (a defect and an excess, also known as extremes) would lie a virtue. This is his “Virtue as a Mean” theory. An example of this would be between cowardice and rashness would lie courage. Also note that just because the virtue is a mean, does not necessarily mean that it is at the middle of the two vices, rather just a healthy balance of the two averaged out.

Aristotle poses somewhat of a guidline to help us find these virtues in case we have trouble. As he stated a virtue is a mean of two vices however what if you are more prone to one side of the scale. Going back to the example of courage, let us say you are a coward; a coward cannot shoot for courage for he may fall short. So we can conclude that aiming a bit towards the opposite extreme may better have a chance of falling into the virtue or mean. To put it simply if you ever did fairly poor in school and you wanted to get a ninety, don’t aim for a mere ninety because you may fall short. Aim for 100 so this way you can better fall to meet your intended mark. So if you are rash aim to be a tad cowardice, or if you are a coward aim to be a little rash. Simply put, aim a little above (or below the mean depending which vice you lie closest to) in order to achieve the goal, and then afterwards practice the virtue untill you become virtuous.

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