October 12

Monday, October 12, 2020
Plenary – Chapel

The Elements of Virtue

In this class we continue our study of Aristotle's understanding of the good life in the Nicomachean Ethics, focusing on what virtue is and how we develop a virtuous state of character in selections from Books II, III, VIII, and IX. As part of this focus, we'll examine Aristotle's "particularist" approach to moral philosophy, his "doctrine of the mean," and his views on the role of pleasure, volition, and friendship in a good life.

  • Develop a better sense of Aristotle’s notion of virtue (aretē) and how we become virtuous
  • Explore how our nature as rational animals is continuous for Aristotle with our nature as emotional and pleasure-seeking animals
  • Understand the sense in which Aristotle is a “particularist” when it comes to ethical reasoning
  • Consider blindspots in Aristotle’s thinking and challenges for his understanding of the good life

Before Class

  • Begin by watching the excerpt from the interview above between Martha Nussbaum and Bryan Magee, filmed for the BBC in 1987 (N.B. notice at the beginning that Magee contrasts Aristotle’s approach to moral philosophy with a utilitarian approach that focuses on “happiness,” where by this Magee means “pleasure,” which is not Aristotle’s view of happiness as eudaimonia)
  • Next, please do the reading ⟹
  • As you do the reading, see if you can get a good sense of the various components of a life of virtue for Aristotle.

After Class