Nichomachean Ethics: The Mean Virtue Analysis

Superior Essays
Catherine Shea
Dr. Stephens
Philosophy of Human Nature
13 October 2017

The Mean Virtue in Nichomachean Ethics

In Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle outlines the importance that virtuous actions play in one’s life. Specifically, he relates reasoning well and acting virtuously as the proper functions of a man who aims to reach success and happiness. Aristotle’s theory of virtue as a mean provides a useful framework to interpret how to live a good life.
To begin, it is necessary to understand this argument with the assumption that happiness is the highest life goal. Aristotle states that all actions aim towards a single end. This single end is eudaimonia, translated as ‘happiness’. This sort of happiness is actually describing an individual
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While Aristotle gives an in-depth analysis of twelve virtues accompanied with their vices and passions, a major part of this theory is the acknowledgement that it is impossible to state the correct mean for every situation. Because of this, critics may argue that it is far too theoretical to be useful. This, however, can be disproven with the admittance of practical wisdom. While we build habits through our early virtuous actions, we gain this type of practical wisdom, which allows us to reason and thus informs our conduct. The presence of practical wisdom in this theory is vital to effectively explaining the proper way to live well. If Aristotle was able to outline the mean virtue in all the infinite situations that could possibly be encountered, individuals would not be living virtuously. Doing the right thing cannot be considered virtuous if it is not done in the right way or from the right disposition. This is because the proper function of a man is to reason well. Reasoning well builds the character of this man, allowing him to fulfill his purpose through excellent activity of the soul, thus reaching eudaimonia. Putting forth such an explicit guide would not only be useless in aiding individuals to live well and reach this end goal, but it would also completely contradict points key to this …show more content…
While there are many counterarguments, it is important to note that the rejection of certain aspects of the theory should not fully invalidate it. The argument of the mean, while complicated and yet seemingly vague, is easy to get caught up in. Instead, it is useful to appreciate the relevant points and take it as a way of making judgements. Through it, individuals can use their acquired wisdom from learning and experiences and apply such wisdom to make reasonable judgments. In this way, we can be safe from blindly following theories of living, and thus, invalidating the major points of the theories

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