Nichomechean Ethics and one critique

Essay by bentassieUniversity, Master'sA-, June 2014

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Critically discuss the work of Aristotle and one critical response to this approach to ethics

Aristotle's work The Nicomachean Ethics serves as the basis for the Western system of moral philosophy known as virtue ethics. He establishes the notion of eudaimonia and uses teleological reasoning combined with notions of essentialism and the doctrine of the mean to create a system of moral philosophy based on the character of the moral agent. This essay will first outline Aristotle's main arguments in The Nicomachean Ethics which underpin his theory of virtue ethics before discussing one critical response.

Aristotle argues that the value of ethical enquiry is to resolve disagreements about what is good for humans - not for the sake of simply knowing, but because a better understanding of what is good would allow humans to better achieve it. When considering whether some goods are better or more desirable than others, or whether a hierarchy of goods can be established, Aristotle claims that the search for the good is a search for the highest good.

Aristotle argues that the highest good must, by definition, have three characteristics: first, that it be desirable for itself, second, that it not be desirable for some other good, and third, that all other goods be desirable for its sake.[-1: Korsgaard C. Aristotle's function argument. In The Constitution of Agency: Essays on Practical Reason and Moral Psychology. 2008. New York: Oxford University Press, 129-150.][0: Stanford Encyclopedia]

The term Aristotle uses to describe as the highest good for humans is eudaimonia, which has been translated as 'happiness' or 'flourishing'. Aristotle claims that all other goals (such as health, wealth and beauty) are sought because they promote happiness, not because these goals constitute happiness per se. Thus, all other goals are subordinate to eudaimonia. [1: Korsgaard...