19 March, 2000
Author: George Irbe
Back to George's Views
ARISTOTLE'S NICOMACHEAN ETHICS
TI- Terence Irwin, Hackett Publishing Co.
DR - David Ross, Oxford University Press 1980
JT - J.A.K. Thomson, Penguin Books 1955
|[JT, DR] There are in the soul three things that control action and the attainment of truth - sensation, reason, desire.
|The attributes of the soul.
|[DR, JT] Since moral virtue is a state of character concerned with choice, and choice is deliberate desire, therefore both the reasoning must be true and the desire right, if the choice is to be good; and the desire must pursue the same things that the reasoning asserts. Now this kind of intellect and of truth is practical; of the intellect which is contemplative, not practical nor productive, the good and the bad state are truth and falsity respectively (for this is the work of everything intellectual), but the function of practical intellect is to arrive at the truth that corresponds to right desire.
|The connection between reasoning, desire, and choice. We use both the contemplative and practical intellect to discern what is naturally good for us so that we desire that which is right for us.
|[DR] The origin of action -- its efficient, not its final cause -- is choice, and that of choice is desire and reasoning with a view to an end. Good action is an end, and desire aims at this.
|The relationship between desire, reasoning, choice, and action.
|[JT] The attainment of truth is the task of both the intellectual parts of the soul; so their respective virtues are the states that will enable them to arrive at the truth.
|The soul seeks the truth using the contemplative and practical intellectual parts.
|[DR] The states by virtue of which the soul possesses truth by way of affirmation or denial are five in number, i.e. art, scientific knowledge, practical wisdom, philosophic wisdom, intuitive reason.
|The soul seeks truth via art, scientific knowledge, practical wisdom, philosophic wisdom, intuitive reason.
|[DR] Practical wisdom is a true and reasoned state of capacity to act with regard to the things that are good or bad for man. Practical wisdom, then, must be a reasoned and true state of capacity to act with regard to human goods. Plainly, then, practical wisdom is a virtue and not an art.
|Practical wisdom is a virtue.
|[JT, DR] Demonstrable truths, and every kind of scientific knowledge (because this involves reasoning), depend upon first principles. It follows that the first principles of scientific truths cannot be grasped either by by science or by art or by prudence. Nor are these first principles the objects of philosophic wisdom. If, then, the states of mind by which we have truth and are never deceived about things invariable or even variable are scientific knowledge, practical wisdom, philosophic wisdom, and intuitive reason, and it cannot be any of the three (i.e. practical wisdom, scientific knowledge, or philosophic wisdom), the remaining alternative is that it is intuitive reason that grasps the first principles.
|First principles are products of intuitive reason.
|[DR] Wisdom must plainly be the most finished of the forms of knowledge. It follows that the wise man must not only know what follows from the first principles, but must also possess truth about the first principles. Therefore wisdom must be intuitive reason combined with scientific knowledge.
|Wisdom is intuitive reason combined with scientific knowledge.
|[DR, JT] Philosophic wisdom is scientific knowledge, combined with intuitive reason, of the things that are highest by nature. Practical wisdom, on the other hand, is concerned with things human and things about which it is possible to deliberate. Nobody deliberates about things that cannot be otherwise, or that are not means to an end, and that end a practical good. And the man who is good at deliberation generally is the one who can aim, by the help of his calculation, at the best of the goods attainable by man.
|A wise person applies reason in deliberating about choices to obtain the goods best for him.
|[DR] Of the wisdom concerned with the city, the practical wisdom which plays a controlling part is legislative wisdom, while that which is related to this as particulars to their universal is known by the general name 'political wisdom'.
|Political wisdom concerns the particulars of legislative wisdom.
|[DR] Excellence in deliberation in the unqualified sense is that which succeeds with reference to what is the end in the unqualified sense, and excellence in deliberation in a particular sense is that which succeeds relatively to a particular end. If, then, it is characteristic of men of practical wisdom to have deliberated well, excellence in deliberation will be correctness with regard to what conduces to the end which practical wisdom apprehends truly.
|Practical wisdom excels in deliberation about the means and the end.
|[JT, TI] What is called judgment, in virtue of which we say that people are considerate and have sympathetic judgment, is the faculty of judging correctly what is equitable. A sign of this is our saying that the decent person more than others is considerate, and that it is decent to be considerate about some things. Considerateness is the correct consideration that judges what is decent; and correct consideration judges what is true.
|A decent person judges considerately and equitably.
|[TI] We ascribe consideration, comprehension, intelligence and understanding to the same people, and say that they have consideration, and thereby understanding, and that they are intelligent and comprehending. For all these capacities are about the last things, i.e. particulars. Moreover, someone has comprehension and good consideration, or has considerateness, in being able to judge about the matters that concern the intelligent person; for what is decent is the common concern of all good people in relations with other people.
|All good people are considerate of others.
|[DR] Not only must the man of practical wisdom know particular facts, but understanding and judgment are also concerned with things to be done, and these are ultimates. And intuitive reason is concerned with the ultimates in both directions. The intuitive reason which is presupposed by demonstrations grasps the unchangeable and first terms, while the intuitive reason involved in practical reasonings grasps the last and variable fact, i.e. the minor premiss. For these variable facts are the starting-points for the apprehensions of the end, since the universals are reached from the particulars; of these therefore we must have perception, and this perception is intuitive reason. Hence intuitive reason is both beginning and end; for demonstrations are from these and about these. That is why these states are thought to be natural endowments -- why, while no one is thought to be a philosopher by nature, people are thought to have by nature judgment, understanding, and intuitive reason.
|Judgment, understanding, and intuitive reason are natural endowments.
|[JT] We have now explained what prudence and wisdom are, and what the sphere of each is; and that each is a virtue of a different part of the soul.
|Prudence (practical wisdom) and intellectual wisdom are virtues of different parts of the soul.
|[DR] Practical wisdom is the quality of mind concerned with things just and noble and good for man.
|The concerns of practical wisdom.
|[TI, JT] Both intelligence and wisdom must be choiceworthy in themselves, even if neither produces anything at all; for each is the virtue of one of the two rational parts of the soul. Wisdom produces happiness in the way that health produces health. For since wisdom is a part of virtue as a whole, it makes us happy because it is a state that we possess and activate. The full performance of man's functions depends upon a combination of prudence and moral virtue; virtue ensures the correctness of the end at which we aim, and prudence that of the means towards it.
|To achieve happiness, a person must have moral virtue to chose the right ends and prudence to chose the right means to the end.
|[DR, TI] Some people who do just acts are not necessarily just. In order to be good one must be in a certain state when one does the several acts, i.e. one must do them as a result of choice and for the sake of the acts themselves. Now virtue makes the choice right; but the actions that are naturally to be done to fulfill the decision are the concern not of virtue, but of cleverness. If, then, the goal is fine, cleverness is praiseworthy, and if the goal is base, cleverness is unscrupulousness; hence we call even men of practical wisdom clever or smart. Intelligence is not the same as this capacity of cleverness, though it requires it. Intelligence, this eye of the soul, cannot reach its fully developed state without virtue.
|A good person chooses virtuous ends but needs cleverness (smartness) to attain them. The bad person also uses cleverness (unscrupulousness) in pursuit of base ends. Intelligence -- the eye of the soul -- requires both virtue and cleverness.
|[DR, JT] The syllogisms which deal with acts to be done are things which involve a starting point 'Since the end or supreme good is such-and-such'. Now only a good man can discern this; for wickedness perverts us and causes us to be deceived about the starting-points of action. Therefore it is evident that it is impossible to be practically wise without being good.
|Only a good person has the practical wisdom to choose the right means (starting points of action).
|[TI] Socrates thought that the virtues are instances of reason because he thought they are all instances of knowledge, whereas we think they involve reason. We cannot be fully good without intelligence, or intelligent without virtue of character. Even if intelligence were useless in action, we would need it because it is the virtue of this part of the soul, and because the decision will not be correct without intelligence or without virtue. For virtue makes us reach the end in our action, while intelligence makes us reach what promotes the end.
|Intelligence in combination with virtue is essential for selecting the right actions to reach good ends.
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