Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics

Aristotle’s Introduction to Function, Reason, and Virtue College

In the first two books of Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle asserts that the function of humans is to practice rational activity, which completed over a lifetime makes a good life. Aristotle first explores the function and ends of all actions and things, defines the function of humans as rational activity, more closely defines the human capacity for reason in relation to the human soul, and then begins to connect rational activity to the all-important practice of virtues. In this essay, I will explore these topics more fully while looking for alternative conclusions and weaknesses in Aristotle’s train of reasoning, which starts with the claim that all things have ends and a function, and culminates in an ethics grounded in virtues. For the sake of brevity, I will not address Aristotle’s argument about ends as a means to the highest end of happiness.

Actions have ends (1094a1-5 and 1097a1)

Aristotle claims that all actions have ends, the completion of which being the function of said action. He gives examples: “health is the end of medicine, a boat of boat building, victory of generalship, and wealth of household management” (Nicomachean Ethics, 1094a.3). The ends of each action is considered the good of that action (1097a1), and so...

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