“Ethics Book 6” by Aristotle (349 BC)

“Ethics Book 6” by Aristotle (349 BC)

Ch. 1

  • It’s right to choose the mean & avoid excess & deficiency
    • With all virtues, there’s a mark to aim for & this requires conformity with the right principle [It’s nothing new to say that]
    • We know the truth of that statement but we have to define what the right principle is & the standard that determines it
    • We’ve divided virtues of the soul in virtues of character & intellect
      • Of character, we’ve talked about moral virtues
  • We’ve already divided the soul into the rational & irrational where we contemplate one thing whose 1st principles are invariable & one thing that varies a lot
    • Parts of the soul have adapted to knowing the qualities of the varation
      • Scientific faculty
      • Calculative faculty deliberates on variable things


Ch. 2

  • 3 parts of the soul that control action & attainment of truth
    • 1 – Sensation – never originates action – animals have it but aren’t capable of “action”
    • 2 – Intellect – pursuit & avoidance come from affirmation/denial from Intellect
    • 3 – Desire – choice is deliberate desire
      • If choice is to be right, principle must be true & desire must pursue what principle affirms
      • Attainment of truth is the function of every part of intellect
      • Practical part corresponds to right desire
  • Cause of action is choice, cause of choice is desire & reasoning directed at a goal
    • Choice requires intellect & a disposition of character
  • Thought does nothing on its own & only deals with goals & action
    • It’s the cause of productive activity
  • Choice can be called a thought related to desire or desire related to thought
    • Man, originator of action, is a union of desire & intellect
  • Attainment of truth is the function of both parts of the soul


Ch. 3

  • Assume there are 5 qualities by which the mind achieves truth in affirmation/denial – Art/Technical skill, Scientific Knowledge, Prudence, Wisdom & Intelligence
  • Scientific Knowledge – objects can’t vary & things beyond our observation we don’t now exist
    • Object of Scientific knowledge exists of necessity
    • Everything existing out of necessity of eternal, doesn’t come into existence, doesn’t die
    • Scientific knowledge communicated by teaching & must be learned
      • But teaching is communication of things already learned, since it comes from induction or deduction
      • Induction gives a first principle or universal
      • Deduction starts from universals
      • There are first principles deduction starts from that can’t be proved by deduction & must be by induction
      • Must say if a man knows something when he has a conviction arrived at in certain way when the first principles that conviction rests on are known to him with certainty


Ch. 4

  • Doing & making things is where variation comes in
    • They aren’t the same with respect to rational quality
  • Art in general uses the “making” quality because it brings things into existence that may or may not exist [Architecture}
    • It deals with same things as chance by reasoning truly
    • Lack of art concerns making but reasons falsely


Ch. 5

  • Prudence – being able to deliberate well about what’s good & advantageous as a means to the good life in general
    • Often used as a synonym of “wise” in a particular thing while calculating well with a goal in mind
    • A prudent man is good at deliberation
  • We don’t deliberate on invariable things or things not in our power or are of necessity
    • Not the same as art or science
    • Not the science because matters of conduct are variable
    • Not art because doing & making are different
      • Art’s end is better than its mean [making]
      • Doing’s end isn’t better than its means
        • Doing well is the end itself
  • Men with prudence are so because they have a discerning faculty for what’s good for oneself & manking
    • Expert in Domestic or Political Science
  • Temperance signifies preserving prudence that pleasure & pain don’t destroy or pervert our beliefs or capacity to reason & deliberate
  • Prudence is a truth-attaining quality with respect to action in relation to good things for people
  • We can talk about excellence in art but not in prudence because excellence in prudence in a virtue – not true with art
  • Of the 2 parts of the rational soul prudence is the virtue of the opinion-forming side
    • Opinion deals with variation as does prudence
    • Failure of prudence isn’t a lapse of memory, so it isn’t a purely rational faculty


Ch. 6

  • Scientific knowledge deals with universals & things of necessity
    • Demonstrated truths & all scientific knowledge come from first principles
    • First principles deriving scientific knowledge can’t be reached by science, art of prudence – must be deduced from other truths
      • Art & Prudence deal with variation
      • Wisdom isn’t knowledge of first principles because a philosopher must arrive at some things by demonstration
  • If qualities with which we get truth & never get falsehood [regarding scientific knowledge, prudence, wisdom & intelligence] it only remains that first principles come from intelligence


Ch. 7

  • Wisdom means men who are masters of their art
    • Signifies excellence in one’s field
    • We also say people are wise in general, not just one department
  • Wisdom must be the most perfect form of knowledge
    • Not only only knowing the conclusions stemming from first principles themselves
    • Combination of intelligence & scientific knowledge – a consummated knowledge for the highest objects
  • It’s silly to think of political science or prudence is the highest form of knowledge because man’s not the highest thing in the world
    • “Wholesome” & “good” mean different things for fish & men
    • “White” & “straight” keep their meanings no matter what they’re applied to
      • “Wise” keeps its meaning but the meaning of “prudent” can vary because a prudent man will look out for his welfare which can vary from person to person, while “wise” is universal
    • Wisdom isn’t a political science because there are man forms of it not relative to politics
      • It’s a scientific knowledge & intuitive intelligence beyond the scope of only human affairs
  • Prudence is purely on human affairs with things you can deliberate on
    • No a knowledge of general principles alone
    • Must consider particular facts because it’s concerned with actions & they rely on particulars


Ch. 8

  • Prudence is similar to political science with a different essence
    • Prudence with respect to the state is legislative science [supreme & directive]
    • Dealing with particular occurrences is political science, concerned with action & deliberation as if it’s an industry
    • Also understood as a wisdom with oneself [individual] but can be applied to all the science
      • “Prudent” often means being wise in one’s own interest
      • But you can’t pursue your own welfare without domestic economics or politics
    • Those who are young experts in math & science don’t necessarily have prudence because it’s derived from experience & not abstractions
      • By this, the young can’t be metaphysicians or natural philosophers because it involves experience to correct one’s errors
  • Prudence isn’t scientific knowledge because it’s particular & not general
  • Prudence also not intelligence because intelligence involves definitions not proved by reasoning
    • Prudence involves particular not apprehended by science, only by intuitive perception


Ch. 9

  • Deliberative excellence – is it a knowledge, opinion, skill in conjecture or something else?
    • Not knowledge – you don’t investigate matters you already know
    • It implies investigating & calculating a particular subject
    • Not a skill in conjecture because that doesn’t require conscious calculation & can be done quickly
      • Deliberation takes a long time
  • Deliberative excellence isn’t the same as quickness of mind, which is a skill in conjecture
  • It isn’t opinion but a form of correctness
    • Good deliberators do so correctly & bad deliberators make mistakes
  • Correctness can’t be predicated of knowledge anymore than error can
    • Correctness of opinion is truth, but opinion is beyond the stage of investigation & is now affirmation
  • Deliberative excellence is a form of correctness in deliberation but not just any kind of correctness
    • Must be for good choices, not bad, to arrive at some good
  • But you can arrive at a good or bad conclusion by a false process of reasoning
    • You might find the right thing, but wrong reasons
    • This understanding is merely making judgments, judging rightly by learning


Ch. 10

  • Understanding is the virtue we apply to “men of understanding”
    • Not the same as scientific knowledge or any particular science
    • Doesn’t deal with things that are immutable but those that are in doubt & you can deliberate on
  • It’s not prudence, which issues commands “do” or “don’t do”
    • Understanding merely makes judgments
  • Understanding doesn’t mean possession or acquisition of prudence
    • When we use opinion to judge, we understand & then we can exercise prudence


Ch. 11

  • Consideration is to judging correctly what’s equitable
    • Equitable man is especially considerate to other & is showed in certain cases
    • Consideration is judging rightly what’s truly equitable
  • We usually refer to considerateness, understanding, prudence & intelligence in the same people
    • Deals with ultimate & particular things
    • A man with understanding is considerate for other when he’s a good judge of prudence
      • Because equitable actions are common to all good men in behavior towards others
      • Intelligence apprehends the ultimate not by reasoning
  • We say old men are naturally gifted in this but really their opinions & assertions are right because their experience has given them an eye for these things


Ch. 12

  • What’s the point of all these intellectual virtues?
  • Wisdom isn’t there for happiness because it doesn’t ask how anything comes into existence
    • Prudence does so but we need it to find out what’s good & just for a man
  • Knowing these doesn’t make us more able to do them since these are qualities of character
    • Knowing what good health is doesn’t make you any healthier
  • If prudence doesn’t help us act virtuously & helps us to become virtuous, then it’s no use to the already virtuous
    • Would be strange if an inferior faculty like prudence had more authority than wisdom because wisdom governs & orders it
  • Both Prudence & wisdom are desirable & parts of the intellect
  • Wisdom is the cause of happiness & a part of virtue as a whole
    • Its possession & exercise make a man happy
  • Prudence [& moral virtue] determine complete performance of man’s proper function – the rightness of the means to the end we aim for
    • Doesn’t make us more capable of performing just acts
    • We know people can perform just acts without being just
      • But there’s a state of mind of a good man has when he performs just acts – out of choice & for the act’s own sake
  • Cleverness is the capacity to perform acts we’ve chosen
    • If acts are noble – cleverness can be good
    • If acts are bad – cleverness can be bad


Ch. 13

  • Let’s reconsider the nature of virtue
    • We’ve got moral qualities given to us by nature – being just, temperate & bravery – & others given at birth
  • True goodness is different & comes to us differently
    • Even children & animals have natural dispositions but intelligence allows us to none these natural dispositions to perform excellence in conduct
  • True virtue can’t exist without prudence, but it isn’t prudence because virtue isn’t just a disposition conforming to the right principle but one cooperating with the right principle
    • Prudence is the right principle with respect to conduct
  • Since virtue requires action, prudence plays a large role in it because it allows us to adopt the right means to our ends

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