HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY

ARISTOTLES  ETHICS AND ESTHETICS.

 

The end of human activity, or the highest good for man, is happiness. This depends on the rational or virtuous activity of the soul throughout the whole of its life. With activity pleasure is joined, as its blossom and natural culmination.

Virtue is a proficiency in willing what is conformed to reason, developed from the state of a natural potentiality by practical action. The development of virtue requires the existence of a faculty of virtue, and requires also exercise and intelligence. All virtues are either ethical or dianoetic. Ethical virtue is that permanent direction of the will (or state of mind), which guards the mean proper for us, as determined for us by the reason of the intelligent; hence it is the subordination of appetite to reason.

Bravery is the mean between cowardice and temerity; temperance, the mean between inordinate desire and stupid indifference; generosity, the mean between prodigality and parsimony, etc.

The highest among the ethical virtues is justice or righteousness. This, in the most extended sense of the word, is the union of all ethical virtues, so far as they regard our fellow-men; in the narrower sense, it respects the equitable in matters of gain or loss.

Justice in this latter sense is either distributive or commutative; the former respects the partition of possessions and honors, the latter relates to contracts and the reparation of inflicted wrongs. Equity is a complementary rectification of legal justice by reference to the individuality of the accused.

Dianoetic virtue is the correct functioning of the theoretical reason, either in itself or in reference to the inferior psychical functions. The dianoetic virtues are reason, science, art, and practical intelligence. The highest stage of reason and science is wisdom in the absolute sense of the term, the highest stage of art is wisdom in the relative sense. A life devoted only to sensual enjoyment is brutish, an ethico-political life is human, but a scientific life is divine.

Man has need of man for the attainment of the practical ends of life. Only in the state is the ethical problem capable of solution. Man is by nature a political being. The state originated for the protection of life, but ought to exist for the promotion of morally upright  living; its  principal business is the development of moral capacity in the young and in all its citizens. The state is prior to the individual in that sense in which in general the whole is prior to the part and the end prior to the means. Its basis is the family.

He who is capable only of obedience and not of intelligence must be a servant. The concord of the citizens must be founded on unanimity of sentiment, not on an artificial annihilation of individual interests. The most practicable form of the state is, in general, a government in which monarchical, aristocratic, and democratic elements are combined; but in all individual cases this form must be accommodated to the given circumstances. Monarchy, Aristocracy, and Timocracy (or a Republic) are, under the appropriate circumstances, good forms of government; Democracy, Oligarchy, and Tyranny are degenerate forms, of which the latter, as being the corruption of the most excellent form, is the worst. The distinguishing mark of good and bad forms of government is found in the object pursued by the rulers, according as this object is either the public good or the private interest of the rulers. It is right that the Hellenes should rule over the barbarians, the cultured over the uncultured.

 

In accordance with his general-metaphysical doctrines respecting the relation of essence to end, Aristotle can determine the essence of morality only by considering what is the object or aim of moral activity: the fundamental conception of his Ethics is accordingly that of the highest good, or rather, since ethics relates to human conduct, of the highest practical good attainable by man as an active being; it is unnecessary, he observes, for the purposes of ethics, to speculate, after the manner of Plato, about the idea of the Good.

The aim of all moral action, says Aristotle, is admitted on all hands to be happiness. Happiness results from the performance of the peculiar work which belongs to man as man. The peculiar work of man can not consist in merely living, for plants also live, nor in having sensations, for these are shared by man with the brute creation; it can only consist in a life of action, under the control of reason. Since now it is in the sphere of the characteristic activity of each living being that we are to search for its peculiar excellence, it follows that man's rational activity, and none other, is at the same time honorable and virtuous activity. The greatest happiness is connected with the highest of the virtues. Nevertheless, for complete happiness a sufficient provision of external goods is essential, since these are necessary for the active manifestation of virtue, just as the equipping of the chorus is necessary for the representation of a dramatic work of art.

Morality presupposes freedom. This exists whenever the will of the agent meets no obstacles and he is able to deliberate intelligently. It is destroyed by ignorance or constraint.

The reason must, on the one hand, be obeyed by the lower functions (especially by the passions), and, on the other, must rightly develop its own activities; on this double requirement is founded the distinction of the two kinds of virtues, the practical or ethical and the dianoetic. The inclusion of the dianoetic or intellectual in the sphere of virtue is explained by the broader signification of the latter term in Greek (as equivalent to ability),(whence the English ethics), which denotes originally the natural bent of man in mind and disposition (temperament), signifies here the moral character.

In enumerating the particular virtues, Aristotle follows the order of the rank or dignity of the functions to which they have reference, advancing from the necessary and useful to the beautiful. These functions are 1) physical life, 2) sensuous, animal enjoyment, 3) the social life of man in its various relations (possession and honor, social community in word and action, and, above all, political community), 4) tho speculative functions.

The ethical virtues are courage, temperance, liberality and magnificence, high-mindedness and love of honor, mildness, truthfulness, urbanity and friendship, and justice.

Courage is a mean between fearing and daring; but not every such mean is courage, at least not courage in the proper sense of the term. In the strict sense, he only is courageous who is not afraid of an honorable death, and, in general, he only who is ready to face danger for the sake of the morally beautiful. Genuine courage does not flow from passionateness, although the latter may co-operate with the former, but from giving to the befitting (which depends on the moral end) the preference over life. The extremes, between which courage is the mean, are represented by the foolhardy man and the coward.

Temperance guards the proper mean in respect of pleasures and pains, but rather in respect of pleasures than of pains; and also not in respect of pleasures of every sort, but in respect of the lowest pleasures, which are common to man with the animal, those of touch and taste; and yet more particularly, in respect of the enjoyment which arises wholly through the sense of touch, whether in meats, in drinks, or in what are termed venereal pleasures. The extremes are intemperance and insensibility.

Liberality observes the proper mean in giving and receiving, especially in giving, and in cases where it is a question of comparatively small values; when greater values are involved, the right mean is magnificence or "princeliness." The extremes are prodigality and stinginess, and meanness and vulgarity.

The proper mean in matters of honor and dishonor, in cases of importance, is highmindedness; in cases of less consequence, ambition, or, more exactly, the correct mean between ambition and indifference. The high-minded or high-spirited man is he, who, being indeed worthy of great things, holds himself to be worthy of them. He who erroneously holds himself to be worthy of great things, especially he who incorrectly thinks himself deserving of high honor, is vain, while he who underrates his own worth is mean-spirited. The ambitious and the unambitious err in regard to the measure and manner in which, the reason for which, and the time when honor should be sought. Praiseworthy is only the correct mean, which, in opposition to the one or the other extreme, is termed sometimes ambition, sometimes indifference.

Truthfulness (or sincerity), facility in social intercourse, and are means in the management of one's words and actions in society. The first of these three virtues regards veracity in discourse and action; the other two end in the agreeable, the one being in place in social pastimes and the other (friendship) in all other social relations. The obsequious man praises and yields, in order not to render himself disagreeable to his companions, and the flatterer does the same from motives of self-interest. The fretful and the cross man care not, whether their conduct is offensive to others. The right mean of conduct in this respect has no particular name. It most resembles friendship, from which, however, it is distinguished, in that it is to be followed not merely among acquaintances and friends (whom we love), but also, so far as is becoming, in our intercourse with all whom we may meet. The candid man holds the mean between the braggart and the dissembler in that he gives himself out for just what he is and neither boasts nor belittles himself. Those who indulge in well-timed mirth, are and elegant; those who carry mirthfulness to excess, are buffoons and rude; while those who hate all mirth, appear uncultivated, clownish, and stiff.

Supplementary Aristotle treats of certain other "means," which are not regarded by him as properly virtues, and, in particular, of shame (which he considers as only relatively praiseworthy) and more becoming to youth than to riper age. Shame is the fear of ill-repute and is rather a passive emotion than a developed virtue. The extremes are represented hy the timid and the shameless. Nemesis, or just indignation, is a mean, whose extremes are envy and spitefulness.

To justice he devotes a minute consideration. Justice in the most general sense is the practice of all virtue toward others; it is "perfect virtue, yet not absolutely, but with refereuce to others". It is the most perfect virtue, because it is the perfect exercise of all (perfect) virtue and because he, who possesses it, is able to practice virtue as well in regard to others as in regard to himself. But justice, viewed as a single virtue among others, respects the equal and the unequal, and is further divisible into two species, of which the one is applied in the distribution of honors or possessions among the members of a society, while the other takes the form of commutation in intercourse or trade. Commutation may be either voluntary or involuntary; the former is settled by contract, the latter by the principles of penal justice.

Equity is a species of justice, not mere legality, but an emendation of legal justice, or a supplementing of the law, where the latter fails through the generality of its provisions. The provisions of the law are necessarily general, and framed with reference to ordinary circumstances. But not every particular case can be brought within the scope of these general provisions, and in such instances it is the part of equity to supply the deficiencies of the law by special action, and that, too, in the spirit of the lawgiver, who, if he were present, would demand the same action.

 

The dianoetic (intellectual) virtues are divided by Aristotle into two classes. These correspond with the two intellectual functions, of which the one exercised by the scientific faculty, is the consideration of the necessary, and the other, exercised by the faculty of deliberation, is the consideration of that which can be changed (by our action). The one includes the best or the praiseworthy of the scientific faculty, the other includes those of the deliberating faculty. The work of the scientific faculty is to search for the truth as such; the work of the practical reason, which subserves the interests of practical action or artistic creation, is to discover that truth, which corresponds with correct execution. The best or virtues of each faculty are therefore these, through which wo approach nearest to the truth. These are:

 A.- With reference to that which is capable of variation: art and practical wisdom, which are related to each other. Action has its end in itself, while creation ends in a positive product distinct from the productive act. Hence the value of the products of art is to be found in these products themselves, while the worth of the works of virtue lies in the intention. Art, as a virtue, is creative ability under true intellectual direction; practical wisdom is practical ability, under rational direction, in the choice of things good and in the avoidance ef things which are evil for man.

B.  With reference to that which can not be changed by our agency: science and reason, the latter directed to principles, the former to that which is demonstrable from principles.

In connection with the dianoetic virtues, another conception, expressed by the word wisdom, is considered by Aristotle. This word, however, does not denote with him a fifth virtue distinct from those already named, but the highest potencies of three of them, namely, of art, science, and reason. In the sphere of art, it has a relative signification (wise, skilled in the art of sculpture, etc.); in the sphere of scienco and reason, it is taken absolutely, and is defined as the science and the reason of those things which have by their nature the highest worth or rank.

To practical wisdom belong prudence, which finds out the right means for the end fixed upon, and understanding, which is exercised in passing correct judgments on that respecting which gives practical precepts.

Friendship is of three kinds, according as it is based on the agreeable, the useful, or the good. The last is the noblest and most enduring. The love of truth should have precedence before love to the persons of our friends.

The natural community, to which the individual primarily belongs, is the family. The domestic economy includes, when complete, husband, wife, children, and servants. To the servants the master of the house should be an absolute ruler, not forgetting, however, to temper his rule with mildness, so that the man in the servant may also be respected. To the wife and children he must be as one who rules over freemen; to the former as an archon in a free commonwealth, to tho latter as a king by right of affection and seniority

 

The character of the family life is essentially dependent on tho character of the civil government. Man is by nature a political animal. The state is the most comprehensive human society. This society should not be an undifferentiated unity, but an articulated whole. The end of the state is good living, i.e., the morality of the citizens and their happiness as founded on virtue. The end of the state is of a higher order than are the actual causes which may have led to its existence.

 Since the highest virtue is intellectual, it follows that the pre-eminent duty of the state is, not to train the citizens to military excellence, but to train them for the right use of peace.

The various Forms of Government are ranked by Aristotle in the same order as by the author of the Politicus. But the point of view from which he enumerates them is not that of legality or illegality, but that of the measure in which, in each, the rulers seek the common advantage of all, or only their own profit. When the rulers seek rather the good of all, than their own profit, their government is good; otherwise it is bad. In either case three forms of government are possible, according as the number of rulers is one, a few, or many. Hence these six forms of government, whose names are monarchy, aristocracy, and polity, on the one hand; and tyranny, oligarchy, and democracy, on the other. The placing of the government in the hands of all the citizens is justified by the principle, that power belongs to the free as such. The rule of the few, or of only one, may result either from wealth or from education, or both. For every particular state, that form must be sought which corresponds with the given conditions. The very best form of government, is the aristocracy of intellectual eminence and moral worth, whether these qualities, in their highest development, be found in a few persons, or only in one.

None but a brave people is capable of freedom, and only among cultured nations is a comprehensive and enduring political union possible. It is only where courage and culture are combined (as in the Hellenes, who are thus distinguished from the Northern and Oriental nations), that a state can exist at once large and free, and it is only in this case that a nation is justified in extending its rule over peoples less advanced.

The laws must accord with the form of the government.

The lawgiver must care most of all for the education of the young. The supreme end of all discipline should be virtue. Things which are serviceable for external ends may, however, and should also be made a subject of instruction, except where they tend to render the learner vulgar (i. e., disposed to seek external gain on its own account). Grammar, gymnastics, music, and drawing are the general elementary topics of instruction.

Art, in the wider sense of the term, as signifying that skill in giving form to any material, which results from or at least depends on the knowledge of rules, has a twofold object: it has either to complete what nature has been unable to complete, or it may imitate. Nature has left man naked and unarmed, but has imparted to him the ability to acquire nearly all varieties of artistic skill, and has given him the hand, as the instrument of instruments.

 

Auxiliary and subordinate to Politics is Rhetoric, the art of persuasion. The business of Rhetoric is not so much to persuade, as to furnish a knowledge of those considerations which, in connection with any subject in hand, are persuasive. It is of no use to attempt to convince the masses of men by scientific arguments. The basis of one's argumentation must bo that which is known to all. The rhetorical art must indeed be able to give an appearance of equal credibility to contradictory assertions. But the intention of the orator must be to arrive at the true and the just. Tho rhetorical faculty, which may be developed and applied either in a good or in a bad sense, should be employed by us only in the good sense. The possibility of being perverted to wrong uses, belongs to rhetoric in company with every thing that is good, except virtue; but this fact does not destroy its