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Aristotle and Nicomachean Ethics

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Aristotle provides the teleological approach of how to live well in his collection of lectures, Nicomachean Ethics. In Book II of Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle presents his definition of virtue in which it is "a kind of mean" (N.E. 129). According to Aristotle, moral virtue is a means to an end, happiness. By using Sophocles's Antigone, I will support Aristotle's theory of virtue in which he reasons it to be a state of character between two extremes. A virtue that remains relevant today as it did during Aristotle's era is that of courage. By using Aristotle's account on what represents the virtue of courage, I will demonstrate how it could be applied to the dilemma the characters of Antigone encounter. Even his definition of justice is based on the notion that rule and legal doctrine should lie somewhere in between a spectrum of two polar ideologies. Nonetheless, Aristotle's statement, "virtue is always concerned with what is harder; for even good is better when it is harder" illustrates his belief that usually what is morally correct stands closer to the side of excessiveness than that of deficit (N.E. 136).

Aristotle holds the view that the goal of a human life is to be happy. He rationalizes this to be so because humans, unlike plants and animals, hold the ability to reason (N.E. 129). This is clearly evident in mundane situations such as picking what color shirt to wear as well as the thought processes that occur when life defining decisions are to be made. Let us consider the position in which Antigone and Ismene found themselves in the tragedy of Antigone. Neither decided how to act simply based on internal impulse, both found reasons from peripheral sources to defend their decisions. In the quote, "it was not Zeus that made that proclamation; nor did Justice", demonstrates that Antigone based her decision on what she interprets to be heavenly rule (Antigone 450-451). On the contrary, when Ismene states "we are only women, not meant in nature to fight against men", she clearly delegated that her decision was based on earthly laws that will affect her livelihood now (Antigone 61-62). Although one sister's decision was motivated by what she believed would happen to her in the after life and the other worried about the consequences she would encounter in her existing life; it is clear that both rationalized their decisions by what they believed to be right. Not to say what they did is good or right in relation to Aristotle. What is obvious is that as human beings we have the capacity to deliberate and decide how an action will affect our ability to flourish and prosper.

Consider again the virtue of courage. You may ask why courage is referred to as a virtue. According to Aristotle courage is a means between cowardice and rashness. His theory can be clearly applied to Antigone in regards to Antigone and Ismene. These sisters were equally faced with the dilemma of upholding their brother's honor or unquestionably obeying King Creon, their uncle. However, neither decided to act virtuously and choose the mean of the situation. On one side we have Antigone which chooses to completely disregard the law and secretly bury her brother. Her rashness can be manifested in her statement, "I know that I will die, of course I do, even if you had not doomed me by proclamation" (Antigone 460-461). It is clear that Antigone was not even considering

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