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Aristotle’s View on the Polis

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Aristotle’s View on the Polis

Aristotle is known for his ideas and beliefs in Nichomachean Ethics. Aristotle sates the individual should be thought of and taking care of first. If we are to take care of the few individuals, then the whole society should be taking care of.

Aristotle uses politics and ethics together to explain the good life. People generally disagree as to the nature and conditions of happiness. Some people believe that happiness is wealth, honor, pleasure, or virtue. Aristotle thinks that wealth is not happiness because wealth is just a monetary value, but can still be used to gain some happiness. Not directly of course, money can only buy a person objects that can bring them happiness for a short period of time. Just like wealth, honor is not happiness, because honor focuses more on the people, rather then the honoree. Pleasure is not happiness, because "the life of gratification" is "completely slavish", since most of the people in the polis decided to live their life based on the way animals live. The people are punished for things not accepted and reward for actions excepted. The last is virtue, and virtue is not happiness either, since one could be virtuous and not use it. Instead, Aristotle says that happiness is a combination of the four. Thus, Aristotle describes the good life by saying that, "the happy person is one who expresses complete virtue in his activities, with and adequate supply of external goods, not just for anytime but for a complete life". Aristotle believes that virtues are states of character.

Aristotle presents his idea of moral and intellectual virtue out of the fact that they can only be achieved through excellence or virtue. Virtue is referred to as all of the characteristics that are required for a human being to carry out its proper function.

Moral virtue consists of character traits like courage, generosity, temperance, justice, and so on. It is the kind of excellence having to do with the relationship between the rational part of the soul and the appetitive part of the soul. The appetitive part of the soul refers to the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. The rational part of the soul deals with a human body and the functions that it needs to survive. Moral virtues can be obtained by imitating the responses (acts and feelings) of a virtuous person. This is done best by habitation. The relationship between the appetitive and the rational part of the soul shows moral virtue. A sign of a person possessing the qualities of moral virtue would be a person taking pleasure in acting virtuous in everything they do.

Now, Aristotle's definition of intellectual virtue offers less of a challenge to understand. Intellectual virtues are the excellences proper only to the rational part of the soul. The work or function of the rational part of the soul is to use deep thinking in arriving at judgments about what to do or to believe. These excellences are those qualities that enable a person to think well about a various subject matter. This can be achieved through the teachings of the polis. Teaching is the main way citizens of the polis learn intellectual virtue. They do this by discussing their thoughts and ideas with other citizens of the polis and learning from their wisdom.

Both moral and intellectual virtues must be present for a citizen of the polis to posses a good life. The polis was formed out of virtue that a man possessed while he was in the polis. A citizen of the polis was to behave at his or her highest potential in nature and to posses a virtuous life. The polis can be used to train the excellences of the individual. If there was no polis there would be no excellence of the individual. In addition, the polis provides a field for the operation of these excellences. Moral action is possible only within the polis. Man exists for living well, and the good life just like an individual in the polis. As you can see, virtue is based on choice, but making the right choice depends on habituation. One must live away

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