The Concept of Human Activities in Aristotle’s Ethics

InMind Institute Researcher Meilia Irawan, S.Hum., M.Si. summarized the concept of human activities and ethics based on Aristotle in his book tittled Nichomacean Ethics (edited by Roger Crisp).

This notion was conveyed by Aristotle in his book tittled Nichomacean Ethics (edited by Roger Crisp). In the explanation regarding of ethics, Aristotle has different conceptions from Socrates and Plato. It is because of his background in which was born in Stagira, Macedonia in 384 BCE and moved to Athens in 367, he adopted ethics from the culture where he lived, and observe the society despite he believed certain morality in Athens were deeply mistaken. In that sense Aristotle’s ethics is not egoistic. He emphasized self awarness, process, self seeking behaviour and respecting as human characteristic activities.

Human characteristic activities consist of intellectual and moral. Intellectual is the highest thing in human, and the object that contemplation apprehends are the highest things that can be known, while moral according to Plato is related on the soul in ordering the emotions and appetites to take adventage or being beneficial as virtous person, in contrats to Aristotle’s emphasis of moral and ethic on good action. This is the esense of humanity to establish a balance.

Aristotle tried to connect human action with a goal or purpose. In his idea, every action has a purpose whose is thought to aim at some good and so the good has been aptly described as that at which everything aims. Aristotle views that with a lot of activites, skills and science, there are many goals as well as in the end such as every military action needs to be under military science. Like a wise expertise in dispensing medicines is necessary under pharamaceutical science. Reflection about Aristotle thought is a justice where put something in its place or another definition: Justice is the quality of being just, righteous or morally right.

For all these things to work, Aristotle suggests to for a person to need knowledge. Knowledge is a habit and habit does not belong to God, since it is the mean between potentiality and act. Aristotle thinks that knowledge of the good would seem to be the concern of the most authoritative science, the highest master science. This poin Aristotle emphasizes the skills and actions carried out in his faculty under the science and it is human good.

Concluding this text according to author’s approach is to actually return human activities to their nature. By returning to human nature, human will produce justice and justice will give happiness. Happiness (eudaimonia) is the spirit emitted by human virtues related to goodness as activities of the soul. The soul consists of two parts, one irrational part of the soul and the other rational part of the soul, whereas human virtues is intellectual and moral. Intellectual is highest thing in human and moral is related on goodness.

Aristotle considers a happiness as the primary or dominant good among several others. He appears to claim that happiness is to be identified with just one good, that of Philosophical contemplation and it can be found in excercising the moral virtues. Moral virtues in the view of Aquinas is a thing that is not bound by passion.

“Moral virtue cannot be a passion. This is clear for three reasons. First, because a passion is a movement of the sensitive appetite, as stated above: whereas moral virtue is not a movement, but rather a principle of the movement of the appetite, being a kind of habit. Secondly, because passions are not in themselves good or evil. For man’s good or evil is something in reference to reason: wherefore the passions, considered in themselves, are referable both to good and evil, for as much as they may accord or disaccord with reason. Now nothing of this sort can be a virtue: since virtue is referable to good alone, as stated above. Thirdly, because, granted that some passions are, in some way, referable to good only, or to evil only; even then the movement of passion, as passion, begins in the appetite, and ends in the reason, since the appetite tends to conformity with reason. On the other hand, the movement of virtue is the reverse, for it begins in the reason and ends in the appetite, inasmuch as the latter is moved by reason. Hence the definition of moral virtue states that it is “a habit of choosing the mean appointed by reason as a prudent man would appoint it.”

The happiness depends on excercise of virtue and that is identified with only one good, namely philosophical contemplation (contemplation or theoria is both the highest form of human activity and also the most continous because we are more capable of continous contemplation than we are of any other practical activity) Contemplation is the ultimate activity of the intellect. Intellect is the highest thing in human. Object of contemplation is the highest object. Contemplation can be carried out continously thus human can achieve happiness continously by continous contemplation.

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