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PHIL-P140 Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics Book I Notes

by: Kathryn Brinser

PHIL-P140 Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics Book I Notes PHIL-P 140

Marketplace > Indiana University > PHIL-P 140 > PHIL P140 Aristotle s Nicomachean Ethics Book I Notes
Kathryn Brinser
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About this Document

Covers the introduction to the idea of happiness and its role as the highest good for humans.
Introduction to Ethics
Daniel Linsenbardt
Class Notes
phil-p140, ethics, Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
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This 4 page Class Notes was uploaded by Kathryn Brinser on Sunday October 2, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to PHIL-P 140 at Indiana University taught by Daniel Linsenbardt in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 6 views.


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Date Created: 10/02/16
P140 Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics Book I Notes- Happiness 9-21-16 Chapter 1- Ends and Goods  Actions/decisions always seek some good  Different ends (goals) possible o Highest ends- ends in themselves; desired for their own sakes o Lesser ends- means to higher ends; products apart from other acts  Highest ends considered highest good Chapter 2- The Highest Good and Political Science  Suppose there is some end we want to achieve because of nothing but itself o We do not choose things because of other things o This end is the best good o Knowledge of highest good makes us more capable of achieving it  Studying goodness part of political science- dictates which lesser sciences should be studied in what contexts o Politics wants to achieve highest ends for people- includes use of other sciences, states what should be done and avoided o Good of the many > good of individuals; collective good greater/more complete  Find and good to preserve individual goods; better, more divine to preserve collective (for peoples/cities) Chapter 3- The Method of Political Science  Political science- not empirical science; essentially moral philosophy (discipline that discerns what is good for “the city”) o Ethics not an exact method- often uncertain, hard to figure out, not always true o Not subjective, but what is objectively true can be variable and difficult to identify o Can only get rough idea of highest good o Best thing for each person can be different (goods for some can hurt others) o Claims about what is good should be taken as usually true  Good judge on given topic- person educated in that subject  Unqualified good judge- person educated on everything  Youth cannot learn moral philosophy o Have not lived enough to have experience- cannot know about claims/arguments about goods and happiness o Tend to act on feelings o Does not necessarily depend on age- could be immaturity, meaning knowledge about topic does not serve him a benefit 1 o Must be brought up in good moral standing/given “fine habits” (fine = worthy of moral praise), young people do not have them yet Chapter 4- Common Beliefs  Since actions pursue some good, must identify end of political science (highest good possible) o Eudaimonia- “flourishing,” living well; happiness in broader sense o People agree happiness is highest good, disagree about what makes happiness  Ideas can change given circumstances- pleasure, wealth, heath, friendship, etc.  According to “the wise,” there is some highest good, existing independently, that makes all other goods good 1  Start with ordinary ideas of goodness (“things known to us” ), see what happens when applying to more theoretical ideas o Must have belief something is true (could be a priori) o Must have been brought up well, learned fine habits from others Chapter 5- The Three Lives  Life of gratification- typically preferred by “the many”; involves pleasure, considered animal- like  Life of political activity- chosen by educated people; seen as honor 1 o Depends more on “those who honor than on the one honored” o Pursued to convince oneself he/she is good o Want to be honored by friends for virtue (seen as superior to honor) o Virtue is not the end of politics- can be virtuous and inactive or go through misfortunes  Life of study- not having to do with wealth; must have end-in-itself Chapter 7- An Account of the Human Good 1 1  Highest good is “complete without qualification” (end in itself), “most choiceworthy” (we choose it over any other good), self-sufficient (do not need to add anything to make it better) o Clarification: self-sufficien≠ being happy in isolation; need other people and goods to be happy o More than just bodily/sensual pleasures and growing/getting nutrition- humans have higher ends than animals and plants o Different in each area of life (ie. medicine, soldier life, etc.) o Something for the sake of which we do other actions  “…if there is some end of everything achievable in action, the good achievable in action will be this end” o If more than one complete end exists, we want most complete one o Claim: everyone will be able to agree that happiness satisfies all 3 properties above  We choose happiness for itself, not anything else  Can choose virtues (ie. honor, pleasure, understanding) for themselves, but also for happiness (less complete ends)  Happiness does not lack anything- self-sufficient  Not considered one good among many other equal ones- most choiceworthy  Enough to state some principles without explaining why they are so o Do not need same degree of exactness in all areas (ie. mathematicians studying right angles vs. carpenters using them without inquiring further)  The Function Argument o Ex. Body parts like ears have functions; what makes an ear good is doing its function (hearing) well  Hearing is its essential function- main purpose; what it was made to do by nature  Goodness of things linked to fulfilling their main purposes o (1) Highest good for beings is doing their essential functions well o (2) From (1), highest good for human beings is doing their essential functions well o (3) Highest good for humans is happiness o (4) From (2) and (3), happiness for humans is essential function of humans functioning well o (5) Essential function of humans is reason-based use of soul (mind)- thinking rationally about how to act and acting as such o (6) From (4) and (5), humans have happiness when their ability to think rationally and act that way is functioning well o (7) Fulfilling a function well means to do it in virtuous way o (8) From (6) and (7), humans have happiness when they think rationally about how to act and act rationally and virtuously Chapter 8- Defense of the Account of Good  3 types of goods- external, of the soul (most complete), of the body o Actions are ends, if those ends are goods of the soul instead of external  Happy people live well- living/doing well is an end  Features of happiness that people identify match with earlier claims o Can be seen as virtue, prudence, wisdom, pleasure, prosperity, etc. o Some views held by masses, others by wise few; no one view completely wrong, but one can be right on most accounts over other(s)  Happiness is virtue (in general or regarding particular virtue) o “…activity in accord with virtue is proper to virtue” o Difference between having and using virtue- only people who act virtuously get rewarded (moral praise?)  Life of virtuous, active person is pleasant- pleasure is condition of soul o People not pleasant by nature- pleasing things differ o Virtuous actions pleasant by nature (without qualification) o Do not need pleasure to be added from other sources  Person not good if he/she does not enjoy doing good things (ie. being 1enerous, acting justly) o Just actions “good, fine, and pleasant more than anything else is”  Need complete life to develop virtues o Being virtuous requires work- not easy to be happy, given that happiness based on virtue o Need surrounding circumstances to allow happiness- external goods like health, money, friends, political power, etc. o Happiness does not depend only on being good person- need other things to live best possible life o Cannot be virtuous, good person without external goods; cannot do just actions without resources Chapter 9- How is Happiness Achieved?  Reasonable to have happiness innately- highest human good  Better to say happiness results from virtue and learning; intention of virtue is still divine even if happiness not given to all humans by divine beings o Anyone without damaged capability to develop virtues can be happy o Better than happiness due to fortune o Does not seem right to leave finest good to chance/fortune o Happiness is activity of soul in accordance with virtue (ie. not up to fortune) o Do not regard animals or children as happy- cannot take virtuous actions  Life has many changes in fortune; suffering large misfortunes (like Priam losing his son in Trojan stories) means one cannot be happy Chapter 10- Can We Be Happy During Our Lifetime?  Solon: wait until end of someone’s life to judge if he was happy in lifetime o Aristotle: being happy after death seems absurd; happiness considered activity o Do not say someone is happy after death, but when someone dies, we can say he was happy before death assuming he no longer experiences misfortune o Arguable claim; dead people can receive honor/dishonor that affects descendants and family  Even if someone lives virtuously and dies, descendants can still go through misfortunes o Dead person’s condition should not change along with fortunes of the living; would lead to differing conclusions on whether he was happy in lifetime  We suppose happiness not prone to change, though fortunes in life change o If we decide whether someone was happy in life based on fortunes, we would call him happy sometimes and unhappy other times o Doing well or not does not depend on fortunes; should not base conclusions on them  Most honorable virtue endures more than others o Virtuous people more committed to them o Happy people have stability, keep characteristics throughout life  People can still be virtuous if bad things happen to them, but not major misfortunes (result in being too sad to be happy)  Minor misfortunes do not affect happiness; uses conclusion of function argument to show why o Virtues are stable- hard for virtuous person to lose virtuous character traits; so, hard for someone to lose their happiness; so minor misfortunes do not affect happiness o Virtuous people strong enough to go on in life of virtue even if fortune changes; since happiness based on virtue, happy person can deal with minor misfortunes Chapter 11- How Happiness Can Be Affected After One’s Death  Considering lives as wholes, not just moments, suggests people can only be happy after death o Aristotle: after death, honors/dishonors and behavior of children do not significantly affect happiness  Some misfortunes greater than others o Matters whether they affect living or dead people o Leads to considering whether dead can experience good/evil o Good/evil affecting dead, even if not small, not enough to change happiness/misery of living Chapter 12- Praise and Honor  Temporarily consider happiness as deserving of praise instead of honor o Praise is for “character and…state in relation to something” 1 o Praise good/virtuous person because of actions and characteristics that relate to good things  Praise depends on reference to things like happiness- greatest things get something more than praise o Gods, holy people counted as blessed o Happiness is similar- do not praise like other things (ie. justice); count it as something more divine than things deserving of praise o Give praise to virtue- makes us do just things  Conclusion: happiness is honorable and complete principle which we center all actions around achieving Chapter 13- Introduction to the Virtues  Human virtue- of the soul (mind); happiness is activity of the soul o Political scientists must know about soul to examine virtue  Soul has rational and irrational parts o Rational- controls impulses; virtuous person with more rationality has better control  Directs us toward right thing o Nonrational- nutrition, growth (vegetative aspect) and general desires (appetitive aspect); not much to do with virtue  Common to all organisms; not human  Does not differentiate between good/bad  Has small part in rationality- obeys reason, does not give reasons o Categories/divisions of virtues aligns with differences in parts of soul  Virtues of thought- wisdom, comprehension, prudence  Virtues of character- generosity, temperance Work Cited 1Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics: Translated, with Introduction, Notes, and Glossary, by Terence Irwin. Second Edition. 1999, United States of America.


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