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Argument Analysis: Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle

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Danny Cross

Prof. Cecere

PHI 220-101M Ethics


Argument Analysis: Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle

In Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle proposes that there exists some ultimate good toward which human actions are actively aiming for. This common goal is happiness or “eudaimonia”, and Aristotle looks at two different paths of action, that of the person and that of an organization of people. The main argument is that every action or art is aimed at some good. These virtues are what allow people to act good, and to be in the middle of the two vices is the noble path.  These virtues decide if the actions of a person help or hinder their pursuit of eudaimonia.

Aristotle divides the soul into two categories, moral and intellect. intellect being the decisive characteristics and moral being the virtuous characteristics. Aristotle yet again uses an enumerative argument for the existence of virtues and their impact on happiness. Aristotle uses multiple enumerative arguments, a data set of examples given, and with each example Aristotle explains how each action has its own ends which is aimed at the goal, eudemonia or at least some good. Even the organizations of people have ends which move society towards eudemonia. The ends of medicine is better health, Military is strategy, economics is wealth, even that of politics is to move the people and city as a whole forward.

What determines how individuals act comes down to what he calls virtues. Virtues can be learned through repeated action and interaction with others. These virtues formed will determine how you act. He also tells us that we are responsible for those actions we do voluntarily and that the involuntary actions are those done out of ignorance or compulsion. He lists quite a few along with their vices. Courage being a virtue with foolhardy which at the time had no name and cowardly being vices, temperance being a virtue of controlling the volume of pleasure in your life where as too much and you become hedonistic and not enough is self-depredating, both vices. Generosity is another virtue listed where being stingy and being wasteful are the vices. Someone who is ready to entertain is ready witted but an excess is buffoonery and the deficiency of ready witted is to be boring. Truthfulness, where exaggerating the truth is boastfulness the person who understates the truth would be a liar. Pleasantness, where intermediate is friendly but in excess is a flatterer and someone who is deficient is unpleasant. Notice that each of these vices would cause unhappiness in one’s life. Aristotle states that the mean is praise worth and the extremes are worthy of blame.

 This is an inductive argument because the reasoning has premises that are viewed as supplying strong evidence for the truth of the conclusion. Deductive arguments need a guarantee of the truth, with premises that, when they are meet it is impossible for the conclusion to be false. There is no quite way to prove the premises but they are quite easy to agree with. This argument is very strong and valid. He uses the enumerative type of logic multiple times. Where he gives examples of all the human industries and all their ends, and where he lists virtues and vices of man. All of his logic is very simple and easy to grasp. Some of the concepts not quite as much but the bare bones of what he is saying makes sense and is understandable. The topic is on such a fundamental aspect of society that there is no implied needed to make this argument valid, only formal knowledge of society and its workings.

The premises of this argument are quite hard to argue with making this argument very strong. Trying to dispute that the ends of medicine is better health or that vices exist with their vices. His enumerative arguments seem to be endless in size and examples a plenty. All his premises he provides quite convincing evidence to make them believable making his claims strong. This is a cogent argument; sound arguments only apply to deductive reasoning. All of his claims about vices being the extremes of each virtue make perfect sense and his claims about the organizations of man also are for the purpose of good also are sound and understandable. Somehow, he manages to discuss occurrences there are no names for during his time and still is logical and comprehendible, courage is a good example of this. An excess in fearlessness has no name but a man who has too much confidence is foolhardy. But you can understand as to why someone being too fearless could be a bad thing, certain situations call for fear so a person knows when it is appropriate to withdraw. The only premises I could think of challenging would be that of politics. Politics is not always a positive contributor to society, perhaps during the time of Aristotle government was a much better figure in the public eye than it is today. Most people today view politics as the necessary evil, not necessarily something actively working towards making us happier as a society. Politicians in today’s world are viewed as criminals as much as they are positive members of society.  

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