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Reflection paper

on Virtue Ethics

Reflection paper on Virtue Ethics

The Nichomachean Ethics is a dense complex work of Aristotle in which he


elaborates the ideas of 'how should we live'. Here he discusses about some key terms such as
Eudaimonia, Functions of a human being, the virtues and the golden mean. Eudaimonia means a
happy and flourished life, it means a successful life. It is not for evaluating a certain moments
happiness, but to acknowledge someone's whole life. In a sense we cannot call someone's life
eudaimon until they are dead. Aristotle even considers that eudaimonia of one's life can be
affected to a limited extent by the events of his offspring after his death. Then he talks about the
functions of a human being, by which he means some characteristic functions of human being
that makes us distinctive and what we are. After that in the virtue part he describes how virtue is
different from morality. To him being virtuous doesnt mean being moral. Because morality is
something concerned for the interests of others. On the contrary, virtue is completely a selfcentered matter. It is about excellence of an individuals character. Lastly, Aristotle introduces the
doctrine of The golden mean which is an approach to make it easier to judge an action whether
it is virtuous or not.
The theory of this chapter is The golden mean. Basically it can be considered as the scale to
evaluate the excellence of ones action. To make his philosophy understandable he provides
some examples where he says that virtue of an action lies between two vices, deficiency and
excess. The virtue of courage lies between the deficiency of courage or cowardice and the excess
of it or recklessness. Similarly, wittiness lies between boorishness and buffoonery; Modesty
between the vices of shyness and shamelessness. So it can be said that according to his theory the
middle point among two vices is the virtuous one.
A common censure of the Doctrine of the golden mean is that the virtuous action is always the
moderate one. In this theory Aristotle is encouraging the moderation in every act. However, it is
not possible to calculate the excellence all the time by this theory because sometimes the
moderate reaction seems inappropriate. For an example, if a man sees a robber looting someone
and come forward to help, it might be risky for him to fight against the robber because he can be
hurt by the robber but if the man overlooks it, he will be nothing but a coward. According to the

golden mean, here the virtuous action would be to advice the robber to let the victim go which
sounds nuisance and the results can also be furious. So, it is clear that golden mean cannot
dictate the nature of any act.
From my perspective I also believe that it has some limitations. As, in every situation the
moderate action cannot be the virtuous one and it is sometimes hard to maintain different virtues
at a time. For an example, loyalty and truthfulness are two virtues. If my friend is taking help of
cheat means in the examination and the examiner asks me whether he did or not, it would be my
duty to tell the truth to do the virtuous deed. But it would not be right to tell the truth if I want to
be a loyal friend. That is how the mean is not enough to judge any action.