Chapter 14: The Nature of Virtue
- Happiness is the end of all our pursuits, an intrinsically desirable
- good for the sake of which we desire all other things. Aristotle seeks
- to give material content to this formal definition by identifying the
- "function" or characteristic action of human beings. A happy or
- flourishing human being is one who performs his or her function well.
- Now, the characteristic action of the human being is to exercise reason;
- human happiness, therefore, consists in the excellent, or virtuous,
- activity of the rational part of the soul, in both its theoretical and
- practical dimensions. Intellectual virtue is acquired by birth and by
- teaching, whereas moral virtue is acquired as a result of habit; that
- is, by performing virtuous acts until these becoming a kind of "second
- nature" to us. Virtuous acts strive to realize a mean of feeling an
- action between the extremes of excess and defect. The standard of virtue
- is given not by an abstract rule but by the example of the excellent
- person: A virtuous act is that act that the virtuous person would do in a
- given set of circumstances.
According to Aristotle, an activity of the soul exhibiting moral and intellectual virtue over the course of a complete life.
- Synonymous with 'excellence' in Aristotle; comes in
- two forms in humans: intellectual virtue, which is acquired by birth
- and teaching, and moral virtue, which comes about by habituation.
- That function the performance of which defines a
- being as the kind of being it is; humans' characteristic function is an
- activity of soul involving reason.
In Aristotle, the virtuous intermediate state between the two extremes of excess and defect in passions (feelings) and actions.