2019-01-23T10:40:10+00:00 Assignments

Topic: Aristotle: Virtue, Voluntary and Involuntary Ignorance

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Topic: Aristotle: Virtue, Voluntary and Involuntary Ignorance


Paper 3 Topics (Papers should be three pages in length -- FYE 201)

Due on Friday, November 4 at the start of class. Paper formatting guidelines are to be found in the syllabus.At 1106b8–1107a25 (II.6), Aristotle defines virtue and then claims that, while virtuous activity is generally governed by the mean, “not every action nor every passion admits of a mean”; that is, Aristotle appears to think there are some acts that are by their very nature bad or good.

Summarize and explain Aristotle’s definition of virtue at 1106b36–1107a (hint: look at each component of the definition and explain what Aristotle means by “state of character,” why choice is involved, what he means by “the mean/intermediate,” and how virtue is determined by a “rational principle” – look at what he says earlier in the chapter about each of these components in order to understand/explain the definition).

Then, explain what Aristotle means when he says that certain activities/actions don’t admit of an intermediate state.

Finally, argue for or against Aristotle’s claim that there can be certain actions just good in themselves or bad in themselves – should what constitutes a virtuous act be determined solely on the basis of a mean relative to the individual, or are there certain actions prohibited or praised no matter the individual person or circumstance?

 At 1110b17–1111a21 (III.1), Aristotle explains what it means to act by reason of ignorance such that your action itself becomes involuntary, and hence, not a part of moral activity (i.e. a certain kind of ignorance prevents an action from being virtuous or vicious).

Summarize and explain the types of ignorance that are voluntary (the wicked man is ignorant, but his ignorance is voluntary) and the type of ignorance that is involuntary (the kind for which men are to be pitied, and not blamed).

In this explanation, be sure to discuss the “nature and number” of the kinds of voluntary ignorance and involuntary ignorance, treated at 1111a3–1111a20.

Finally, argue for or against Aristotle’s characterization of the “wicked man’s ignorance” – should men always be characterized as “wicked” when they are mistaken in their purpose or don’t know what is truly to their advantage? That is, is Aristotle right to think that we are always to be blamed for not knowing the proper purpose of our actions or not knowing what is good universally for human beings?


Citations* (Footnotes):

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, trans. W. D. Ross (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 1111a3

Citations (Bibliography):

Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. Translated by W. D. Ross. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

*Please use footnotes if you are quoting the primary text in your paper.


Name Instructor Course Date Aristotle: Virtue and Ignorance Virtue A virtue is a trait or state of character associated with making rational choices, lying in the mean and includes intellectual virtues and moral virtues. The moral virtues in turn are the traits of excellent character, which determines how well people stand depending on the choices, emotions and desires. Aristotle further argued that virtues and associated actions either lie between, too much’ or too little. This perspective holds that virtuous actions are compared with the two intermediate points. However, Aristotle also supposed that this is not arithmetical in the sense that they are associated with feelings towards people and objects at the right time and motive. There can be vices of deficiency and vices of excess depending on whether the virtue is low or excess


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