Aristotle’s Ethical Theory

Virtues results from human actions as perception of moral character of a person emanates from various activities he/she does. Human actions and activities aim at attainment of excellence, which is a virtue in every aspect of life. Synchronized actions focus on achieving one or more objectives as ends of excellence.

The difference between plants or animals and human being is the rational principle. The rational principle makes human being have ability to make decisions and act in a particular way. Through thoughts, human being can coordinate actions that determine ethics because actions underscore ethics.

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For instance, the goodness or badness of ‘a good player’ or ‘a bad player’, are descriptions of the act of playing, and they portray virtues of players. Actions are imperative in achieving virtues since no one can have virtues by mere theoretical understanding of what ethics are. Due to diversity and degree of actions, it is very complicated to attribute certain actions to specific virtues, thus humans do not have stable character traits.

There are two types of virtues, moral and intellectual virtues; moral virtues emanate from habits, while intellectual virtue is an innate characteristic that undergoes transformation in the course of life due to learning and experience. Nature gives primary moral virtues and through perfection by habitual activities, one attains a set of given moral virtues.

Therefore, habituation is a process of achieving ethics because learning and continued exercising is fundamental in achieving excellence in a certain field. For example, one becomes a runner by running, likewise, people become ‘good’ when they do good or ‘bad’ by doing bad deeds. The emphasis here is that, actions have direct relation with virtues for virtues cannot occur without actions. Consequently, some actions underscore certain virtues. Interestingly, same action produces both a virtue and vice.

For instance, in the act of playing there are both good and bad players. This shows that, deficiency or excess of an action results into vices, while intermediate actions give virtues. Some actions such as killing have no virtues, and therefore, if actions only determine moral virtues, there could be indefinite virtues in society proving that humans do not have stable characters.

The assertion that human beings do not have stable characteristics poses a serious threat to ethical theories because it demands continued teaching of morality. If human moral values changes constantly due the influence of actions, then it is a daunting task to control moral virtues.

The weakness of philosophical theories is that they are mere intellectual theories void actions or activities, which require habitual practice as a process of achieving moral virtues. Ethical theories need to incorporate flexible models that have actions to gather the unstable characters of humans.

Since humans do not have stable character traits, ethical theories provide basis of the understanding moral virtues, but achieving the virtues demands actions. Knowing what actions give certain moral virtues enables one to pursue morality by habitually exercising them.

However, one should also know that excesses or deficiencies of actions will result into vices and moderation of actions is vital in achieving desired virtues. Pleasures and pains accompany pursuit of actions because excessive pleasures results into overindulgence, which is a vice, while too much pain results into great fear, which is also a vice. Hence, moderation of actions enables one to achieve moral virtues, though it is hard to determine what are the actions, and the extent of exercising them.

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