Aristotle’s Virtue

Another one of Aristotle’s most impactful works was Ethics. According to Aristotle, the purpose of ethics is to discover the purpose of life. Aristotle comes to realize that happiness is the ultimate and final good and that people pursue good things in order to achieve happiness. Aristotle claimed that the way to attain happiness (and therefore the very purpose of life) is through virtue.

Virtue requires both choice and habit. Unlike other ways to attain happiness, such as pleasure or honor, with virtue, when an individual makes a decision, the decision comes from that individual’s disposition, which is determined by that person’s past choices.

A virtuous choice is, then, the mean between the two most extreme choices. Between acting cold to someone and being overly subservient or attentive is the virtuous choice, friendliness.

To Aristotle, the ultimate type of happiness is living a life of intellectual contemplation, and using reason (which is what separates humans from other animals) is the highest form of virtue. However, for one to achieve such a level of virtue, a person needs the proper social environment, and a proper social environment can only be attained by an appropriate government.