“…simply make things better for someone else, as if I were to be born again, and that someone else, and it doesn't have to be me, but it could be someone like me, that they would have a better life than I had, that everyone was better. There is something seriously wrong with everyone, and that is something I observed when I was very young. We are the problem, and we need to become better, because we are fucking everything up.”
“So this is who I am. There is something seriously wrong with everyone and we need to fix it, if not for us, then for the future generations."
"Everything I have done in this life, and everything I will do, is for this purpose.”

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics: How to live the good or virtuous life. Day 189

So Im continuing with the ethics series, and after I plan on making a series where I qualify the theories and bring up some common objections or problems with them. Today we'll look at Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. Here's the wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicomachean_Ethics#Synopsis I won't copy and paste the entry this time, simply because there is no quick and dirty section that explains the heart of the philosophy well. I must also remind the reader that this text was written a long time ago, about 2000 years ago, and it was written what was then Greek. So it of course had been translated, and so their will always be translation issues, as with the original bible, for example. Having said that, the text does provide some useful insights into human nature, as well as uses some commonsense points to express how to act/live, which is my opinion/perspective (from here on out I won't express this, since it should be assumed that this blog is my perspective entirely.)

Ok so I will explain what I remembered the heart of this piece of work consisted as, based on what I remember from my introduction to ethics class in Reed College. So everyone has heard of virtues, right? Some virtues could be telling the truth (honesty), or being hard working, for example. So basically Aristotle said to cultivate or develop virtues, as living these virtues is what leads to the happy life. More importantly, one must aim towards the center of the virtues, and not go into one extreme or another. This was called hitting the bulls-eye, like with an arrow. You want to hit the dead center of a virtue and not go into an extreme. So essentially this is the message of balance. Practically, if you tell the truth too much, this will lead to consequence. Similarly, if you tell the truth not often enough, this will lead to consequence. As one philosopher put it (I forgot who) that if someone came to your door and wanted to murder your friend who was hiding there, and you would be honest when the assailant asked if your friend was home, then he would try to murder your friend, which is something you obviously don't want. So while honesty is a virtue, it is something you want to apply in balance, so its not about applying a virtue blindly in every circumstance automatically, but to be aware of and sensitive to the context, and seeing what would be best, or the best outcome, and aim for that. The word mistake originally meant to miss the mark, like missing the bulls-eye of a target with an arrow.

So to provide some more examples of virtues and hitting the mark. If a man lives the virtue of courage in extreme, he may make reckless decisions that endanger his life for no purpose or reason. And while living courage may sometimes be what is best, it depends on the situation. Like a burning building where a friend is caught, you could be courageous and go inside without protective clothing or you can take the time to put on the clothing. Personally, every virtue I have looked at, the same applies. You can apply it in an extreme and so missing the mark. And practically speaking, it all has to do with How you apply a virtue. So its not really a virtue is made extreme, rather how it is applied was not leading to the best for all outcome. So in essence the Aim or target is only one : what is best for all or the best for all outcome. So whatever actions/steps that lead to that, well then that is best, which we have seen is context based. So I cannot give you a rule of how to act, and that rule will work every time, but I can tell you what your aim or goal should be, which is what is best for all, and you will need to develop commonsense, awareness and practical understanding on what it takes contextually to live that, which I can share my own experiences on that. There are a vast number of contexts and situations, and every person has lived a particular set of circumstances or situations, so each has something we can learn from. In many ways, Aristotle's Ethics can be more easily understood and applied than the other philosophies that we looked at because it admits to the limitations of practical living and philosophy. In my personal opinion, its the closest that a work of philosophy was applied within the physical restraints or practicality of reality, simply because it admits to the limits of applying a virtue, that you need to be sensitive and aware of the context, and what your real aim/goal is.

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