Character Is Grounded in Virtue and This Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

character is grounded in virtue and this is one notion that originates from centuries old wisdom of Aristotle. Our contemporary idea of a good character is also based on moral and spiritual virtues and philosophy largely supports this picture of a sound character because virtue has always occupied a significant place in moral philosophies. Aristotle defined good character in Nicomachean Ethics II.7 in these words:

Excellence [of character], then, is a state concerned with choice, lying in a mean relative to us, this being determined by reason and in the way in which the man of practical wisdom would determine it. Now it is a mean between two vices, that which depends on excess and that which depends on defect. (1106b36-1107a3)

Simply stated, Aristotle believed that when a person can choose the middle path between excess and defect, he is said to have followed virtue. But only a man who is virtuous is capable of doing the right thing when it is ought to be done. A person with a good character is something who chooses the path of virtue and sticks to it regardless of circumstances. On the other hand, a person who lacks virtue is someone who knows what the right path is but ignores it for various reasons.

Aristotle maintains that while a good person also encounters temptations but because he is basically virtuous, he doesn't succumb to them. For example people with a good character would often face the desire to lash out at others in times of tension and stress or if something goes wrong but since he is a virtuous person, he decides to control his temper and chooses the middle path, which is neither too soft nor too harsh. A person with good character is thus not a fool in any sense but neither is he evil and thus he does what needs to be done and not more.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) had a more complex theory of virtue and good character. Kant's good person is someone who has the courage and strength to fight against the forces that oppose the natural moral laws of the world. In other words, he maintains that every person is aware of what is right and what is not, but in our everyday life, we come across numerous instances when we have to fight temptations and impulses, which oppose our views and the moral law. In this situation, a person with good character is someone who can fight off these immoral forces and emerge victorious. Like Aristotle, Kant also maintained that good character is grounded in virtue which he defined as containing " a positive command to a man, namely to bring all his capacities and inclinations under his (reason's) control and so to rule over himself . . . For unless reason holds the reins of government in its own hands, man's feelings and inclinations play the master over him." (Kant 1991, 208)

For Kant, a…

Sources Used in Document:


1) Aristotle, 1984, Nicomachean Ethics (cited in text as NE) and Politics, in The Complete Works of Aristotle, J. Barnes (ed.), 2 vols, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press

2) Kant, Immanuel, 1991, The Metaphysics of Morals, M. Gregor (tr.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

3) Mill, J.S., 1975, On Liberty, D. Spitz (ed.), New York W.W. Norton.

4) Mill 1988, The Subjection of Women, S. Okin (ed.), Indianapolis: Hackett.

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