In his dissertation Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle discusses his views of an ethically virtuous person. He asserts three conditions exist for the moral agent to attain ethical virtue. First, the moral agent must "have knowledge."Ã¯Â¿Â½ Aristotle does not make it clear whether he means such knowledge as either knowledge of the elements of a situation or universal moral knowledge. Most likely, Aristotle means knowledge of both forms, so the moral agent is well-informed on both accounts. What he does make clear, however, is that accidental virtue due to ignorance or error is clearly not allowed. Therefore, a soldier attempting to flee battle but instead runs into the front lines is clearly not displaying courage, but rather stupidity or cowardice.
Secondly, the agent must choose to act in a particular way and choose it for its own sake.Ã¯Â¿Â½ This maxim illustrates that a moral action must be chosen voluntarily, and for the sake of the end appropriate to that particular virtue, not as a means for the end of another.
Subsequently, eating temperately one day (i.e. the day before Thanksgiving) in order to facilitate a gluttonous next day (i.e. Thanksgiving) would not be exercising temperance at all. In fact, this situation would be the exact opposite of exercising virtue - the application of "temperance" is directed at an inappropriate end, only allowing for gluttony - an excess, and the true end of the application of the virtue.
Thirdly, and lastly, Aristotle enumerates that the agent's decision to practice the virtue must "proceed from a firm and unchangeable character."Ã¯Â¿Â½ By this statement, Aristotle means that a truly virtuous person is virtuous all the time - not simply when it is convenient and easy. Surely, practicing the virtue of generosity only when money is readily available does not possess the virtue of generosity...