Philosophy 130 – Ethics (Spring 2003)
[Students and professors, please read.]
Journal 1: Questions from Lecture
1. Do you agree that the function of man is to reason well?
In my intro. to philo. class, I read Sartre’s “There is no human nature” and pretty much don’t think we come equipped with a proper function. If virtue is determined by what we do best, some folks who can’t reason well, but do something else best, would not fit Aristotle’s view of reason being humanity’s virtue.
2. Can humans learn to be virtuous?
Practice makes virtuous, ha ha. In other words, yes. That whole deal about natural virtue… I was thinking that could be possible if you never experience anything negative in life… nothing to contribute to a vice… But that would be rare, I think.
3. Can humans be virtuous even if they don’t achieve the “golden mean”?
Achieving the golden mean would be achieving perfection, and achieving perfect virtue. No one achieves the golden mean to perfection, and no one achieves perfect virtue (my opinion). The closer to the golden mean, though, the higher your virtue. According to Aristotle, a perfectly virtuous person is possible, one who is virtuous in every respect (rather than failing in certain respects), but he allows for slight deviation.
Journal 2: Questions from Text
1. Explain Aristotle’s theory of the four causes.
A material cause is what a thing is made of. An efficient cause is the creative force acting upon the material. A formal cause (remnant of Plato’s theory of forms) is the shape or idea of the effected material. A final cause is the purpose of the effected material. In the theory of the evolution of humans (into the future), the human body and all its systems is the material cause, or what we start out with. The efficient cause is the environment which shapes (like sandpaper to wood) the body and what it is used for. A formal cause is what the body is shaped into, or how it changes to better suit its environment. A final cause is how the newly shaped body is actually used in its environment, or the reason it was shaped.
2. What is Aristotle’s Golden Mean? Does it imply that the virtuous person is an average person of average talents and intelligence?
The Golden Mean is the proper response… not too excessive, not too deficient… but in between the two (mid-range between two extremes). Temperance. No, it does not imply an average person… it implies a balanced person.
3. Explain Aristotle’s theory of virtue.
Aristotle believed “everything on earth has its own virtue, meaning that if it ‘performs’ the way it is supposed to by its nature, then it is virtuous,” (p. 369). The way a thing is supposed to perform is determined by what it does best. Aristotle believed that what the human species does best is to reason, so that virtue is found in reasoning well, in developing a rational character. Aristotle also believed that part of reasoning well involves the Golden Mean, described in #2. He believed that developing and maintaining a rational character is what is ‘good for man’ (contemplation, unlike pleasure, fame, or fortune, can be ours forever, can not be lost, nobody can take it away, and is beneficial) and so would result in happiness.