Topic 2. Aristotle – Nicomachean Ethics Code:001
According to Aristotle a person should only have that which he needs, and in this way he would reduce the chances of wronging himself and society. He should allow himself only a moderation of all passion and pleasure that he is offered and thus limit the unlimited possibilities of sin. That which for a person is not an essentiality should not be desired and by doing this he differentiates between good and evil and chooses the harder path, one that requires abstention before all else. Or as Aristotle said “calos meros” – everything should have temperance. This meaning that everything we do should be governed by our need and not our wants. Our inability as human beings to live by this rule is seen from the same inability to resist the excess of what we are offered but have no need for. If a person restrained himself from taking that which he doesn’t need he won’t take what someone else needs. As an example let’s say that there are five apples. One person comes and eats two until he is full, but out of greed and not hunger he takes another half of the third one and throws away the rest, then leaves. A second person comes, who is not hungry but decides to take an apple, so when he too leaves there is only one apple left from the bunch. When at the end come two men even if they are as hungry as the first one and more than the second they only have one apple to split. If the first two would have known that the last ones would have appreciated the apples more than they did they would have left the apples they didn’t need. This goes to show even if we have no bad intentions we can never know if what we don’t need is really ours to take.
To be considered good in a world of universal bad is what it means to be a victor among men. It is easy to succumb to the spoils of the earth, and to the gluttony and self-love that is dormant in every living creature, but what is hard is to choose what is right and what is selfless, because among all options there is always only one right answer, but many wrong. Aristotle believed that this is what all people should aim for, and disregard all instances and possibilities of evil. For a person to lose, there are a myriad of different ways for him to do that and another endless vices that can aid him to it. A wise man would not put himself into danger without need, because there are not a lot of things he cares for enough to risk his life. Even a person’s affections should not be of excess as they can harm the person giving them amongst all else. If we feel too much in a world where we are restricted by the range of our wifi signal it is more than likely that our feelings are found as excess by society and are cast away. Whereas if we were to experience life with moderation of our reactions we would be much happier by not being too happy. On the other hand if we were to restrict ourselves from all emotions we wouldn’t be living at all.
A person’s deeds are always judged by his environment, the same being – he is always defined by it, and thus the image perceived of a person is subject to the perception of those around him. So if a king ever attacked another kingdom and won, his people would praise him and honor him for his victory, but those he defeated would look upon him a tyrant. Although the king’s decision for war would be the prosperity of his land and treasures for his kingdom he would bring suffering to the others. Because of this a person cannot make a mistake on purpose, but as Socrates said that all wrongs committed by a person are caused by lack of knowledge. Still even if the king knew of the destruction his war would cause the opposing kingdom he would still knowingly perpetrate it, as his first goal and main concern is to ensure the lives and wellbeing of his people and not his rivals’. This brings relativity to question. How does someone do what is right for himself without harming anyone else? Should the decision be led by his moral compass? An even more simple example for this would be something we see everyday. When a boy, namely, let’s say Sammy, cheats on his girlfriend, Sue with another girl, Penny. Usually what happens is that Penny is blamed for seducing another woman’s boyfriend. Even if she is in love with Sammy and didn’t even know about Sue, she is still at fault with everyone but herself (and possibly Sammy). Again we can look at the problem with excess emotions. Here if Sammy was able to restrict himself to loving only one girl (which would have been enough) none of the later problems would occur, but as such he is harming not only Sue and Penny, but also risks losing both girls. So does this mean that we should give up on what we believe is right for ourselves to please everyone else, or is it acceptable to do wrong by everyone if it means that you are satisfied with your actions. A person’s intention should always be apparent trough his decisions and those should always be of clear conscience and unobstructed by foreign moral values, because it is him that will be assessed and no one else.
But how does someone find the reason behind a man’s deeds? According to Aristotle’s studies we need to find the answer to four questions to derive this truth from a person’s actions: What is it(the action) made of?; What is the idea?; Where does it come from?; Where does it end?. The last one is the main cause of the motion, and the one that at the end is put across to the world to be evaluated, and it is that end result that becomes what is right or what is wrong. For a simple example if we take a television we can derive its four cause – the material cause is that it is made of plastic, glass and metal, the formal cause is that those materials are arranged in a certain way and are programmed to work as it does, the efficient cause refers to the reason why something exists, a TV exists because someone has the idea to build one and put all the parts together to make it work, the final cause is the reason why something is the way it is, to continue with our example – the television exists so that we can watch it. The final cause is the reason why a thing exists in the first place, why does it function. If the final cause of the television was not thus there would have been dozens of different outcomes that a box of plastic, glass and metal would exist but not with it’s right purpose, there is only one real reason for a television to exist and that is so that we can watch the Kardashians on it. So when is a person free to make his choice? Is freedom of our thoughts limited by those exact notions of morality and idealism that we wish to conform to? And when are the persons deeds driven by good though?
If a man ever considered himself evil he would be going against his own design – so a man trapped by the conflicts of his desire and actions can never be free. In fact Aristotle defined freedom as the obedience of self-formulated rules. But what is truly hard for a person is to live, for there are unlimited number of ways for him to end his conscious life, many of which don’t necessarily demand his death. A person’s spirit is strengthened when doing good and vice versa, he experiences inner loss when committing a wrong doing or something he finds that goes against his moral consciousness. For Aristotle the most important part of every realization of an idea is the earthly form it receives. A person’s life is not secluded to his mortal body, but rather it is through his deeds and decisions that his soul loses its ethereal form and takes a more practical one. Living requires the risk to make mistakes and also the knowledge on how to avoid them. And happiness is something to which our actions are directed, meaning the object of the human life must be something that is in itself completely satisfying, an end pursued for its own sake. And this, he concludes, and so do I, is happiness.