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Janine Leano
Prof. Gusich
Ethics for Service Org Members
24 September 2015
Does Writing Three Pages Instead of Five Count as a Virtuous Act if I Say I Did It to
Save Paper?: An Aristotelian Outlook on Moral Virtue and Loyalty
The Greek philosopher Aristotle in his book Nicomachean Ethics defines moral
virtue as a characteristic concerning choice, is relative to the individual, and determined
by the rational (43). A man known to have practical wisdom for example is able to
determine the standard or median that those who do not have the same practical wisdom
should strive for. This implies that only humans have the capacity to be morally virtuous
because they are the only animals that can rationally think and evaluate. Moral virtue is
also separated from other virtues and excellence (which also belong to its genus of
characteristic) by its specificity in its involvement with emotions and actions.
Moral virtue as a virtue in general requires one to be self-aware of the acts
categorized as virtuous or vicious, must choose to act willingly, and must act from a basis
of consistency. These are the requirements for someone to be considered morally
virtuous. Consistency is important because simply doing a virtuous act does not make one
virtuous. It is through constant habit that one becomes virtuous. At that point, one will
automatically desire and know virtuous acts because they have habituated themselves to
the point where anything contrary is inconceivable or less desired.
It is important to note that while moral virtue involves choice that does not mean
one can choose to be morally virtuous. He or she can have the capacity for it and nurture

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habits that will make them morally virtuous but a person cannot choose to be a
characteristic. Aristotle defines choice as the result of rational deliberation in response to
a deliberate desire for things within our power (58). Therefore, a person cannot choose to
have a moral virtue since that is not within their power but can choose to express actions
of that moral virtue within their power.
Moral virtue is categorized and exists in a spectrum where the mean or median is
considered virtuous, and deficiency and excess are considered vicious. The median is not
defined as clear-cut like in arithmetic where for example the median between 1 and 5 is 3.
It is relative to us as humans and is defined by people who already have that virtue or are
practically wise already (someone who has all the virtues).
Loyalty, for example, is a moral virtue that exists in a spectrum between being
treacherous and deceitful (as the deficiency) and being passive or blinded (as the excess).
As the mean, loyalty is characterized as a willing, sincere devotion and belief in an
object, which can be a person, country, cause or ideal. One must be loyal for the right
reasons, to the right objects and at the right time. Like with all moral virtues, loyalty must
be expressed in actions rather than words. It is one thing to say that you are loyal to
someone but it is an entirely different concept to actually express proof of that loyalty.
Loyalty is also a two-way street. It is not considered to be part of the mean if the object
one is loyal to has the capacity for loyalty but refuses to return the favor. This emphasizes
the fact that the object must be right in order for ones loyalty to count as virtuous.
Treachery counts as the deficiency of loyalty at the left end of the spectrum. One
who does not give enough devotion, lies about the amount of devotion they have or
expresses what might be sincere devotion in inappropriate and wrongful ways can all be
construed as treacherous. One who is treacherous constantly takes back what they

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initially said or promised, says one thing but does another, or expects enough or too much
loyalty but does not return the same amount to those who are devoted to them. How this
affects the other person depends; they can either be aware or not aware of the treachery
taking place but it does not change the gravity of the vice. Even a sincere person with
sincere intentions and sincere loyalty can be treacherous if their means are not
appropriate and cohesive with their ends. Again, awareness of this does not matter. A
person can be aware that what they are doing is wrong and will be justified in the end or
they could be misguided into thinking that their means are for the best. Either way, it does
not change the gravity of the vice.
Passive or blind loyalties are two forms of excess at the other end of the spectrum.
Ones loyalty can far outweigh the object of their devotions respective loyalty. It is a
foolish and blinded act to follow someone who does not and would not treat their
followers with the same loyalty and devotion given to them. It is also a blinded act to turn
a blind eye and follow a person who might be exploiting ones loyalty or acting more
vicious than virtuous for the sake of some other reason (i.e. they love them) instead of
following them for the virtue they represent and express. Passive loyalty come into play
when one is aware that their loyalty is skewed or the object of their loyalty is unworthy
yet choose not to do anything about it.
Moral virtue operates under choice, human capacity and the rational. It is nurtured
through consistent habit and can be chosen through expressions. Loyalty as an example
of a moral virtue is much like the others in that it exists in a spectrum containing a mean,
excess and deficiency. It can be argued that loyalty is one of the most important virtues
for if one cannot be loyal to their other virtues and beliefs how can they be virtuous in the
first place?

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Works Cited
Aristotle. The Nicomachean Ethics. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 1999. Print.