Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics /Table of Virtues and Vices

In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle dissects the arenas in which man acts and explores the vices (either a deficiency or an excess) and virtues of each normal human action or feeling (i.e. "Fear and Confidence," "Pleasure and Pain," etc.). This chart presents Aristotle's conclusions in a compact manner.

Library Topic
Library Topic: Aristotle
Library Topic: What is Fortitude?
Library Topic: What is Justice?
Library Topic: What is Prudence?
Library Topic: What is Temperance?
Library Topic: What is Virtue?

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An quick course overview on the meaning of justice as described in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics.

"Continence is not virtue, and incontinence is not vice. But they are related (they belong to the same 'genus')."

A study guide and overview of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics.

"Since taking office in 2002, Bloomberg has unleashed a tsunami of public health initiatives ... cutting sodium in prepared meals, ordering that menus in chain restaurants carry calorie counts, posting restaurants' health department grades, as well as limiting the use of tobacco products.

His first acts included a ban on smoking in restaurants and workplaces. In 2011, the restriction...

This article tackles self-restraint from a social scientific angle, chronicling a childhood behavioral experiment and its implications.

"In contrast to the works of the flesh described by Paul in Galatians 5:19-21, the fruit of the spirit in verses 22-23 stands out as character traits all Christians must have. It is these things that Paul said, 'against such there is no law.' In other words, there is nothing to condemn such a one who practices the virtues mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23. Contrasted here, are the works of verses...

"Sex is permissible only within the context of a marriage. In Judaism, sex is not merely a way of experiencing physical pleasure. It is an act of immense significance, which requires commitment and responsibility. The requirement of marriage before sex ensures that sense of commitment and responsibility. Jewish law also forbids sexual contact short of intercourse outside of the context of...

This blog post discusses the Biblical context of temperance, in contrast to the vice of envy.

"As the feminist movement evolved in the late 1960s, women started challenging their exclusion from politics and the workplace. They also began to question traditional sexual roles."

This psychology article argues for a difficult but necessary return to self-control in the interest of our futures and those of our children.

"By 1830, the average American over 15 years old consumed nearly seven gallons of pure alcohol a year – three times as much as we drink today – and alcohol abuse (primarily by men) was wreaking havoc on the lives of many, particularly in an age when women had few legal rights and were utterly dependent on their husbands for sustenance and support."

The author laments the absence of temperance in young girls.

This blog post discusses different translations of temperance and occurrences in the Bible.

"As discussed in our last reflection, temperance is the virtue that moderates our desire for pleasure – especially the pleasure attached to food, drink, and sex. Temperance also moderates the sorrow and frustration we might experience when we have to go without those pleasures and our appetites are left unsatisfied.

Without temperance, we tend to become grumpy, angry, or short with...

This blog post discusses temperance in response to The Progressive Policy Institute’s call for a government shaming of childbirth out of wedlock. This leads to a wider discussion of the role temperance ought to play in society.

This article explains America's three "temperance" movements, each of which featured a health-conscious push for the elimination of alcohol and other drugs.

"Temperance is perhaps the least understood, and most hidden, of the virtues in our day. We're apparently too worldly and sophisticated for temperance!

"The oracle at Delphi is a figure of great historical importance that was, and still is, shrouded in mystery. She spoke for the god Apollo and answered questions for the Greeks and foreign inquirers about colonization, religion, and power. By her statements Delphi was made a wealthy and powerful city-state."

"Hardly anyone talks of the table of virtues and vices anymore — which includes the Seven Deadly Sins — but in reviewing them, we find that they nicely sum up the foundation of bourgeois ethics, and provide a solid moral critique of the modern state."

"What is it about self-control that makes it so difficult to rely on? Self-control is a skill we all possess (honest); yet we tend to give ourselves little credit for it. Self-control is so fleeting for most that when Martin Seligman and his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania surveyed two million people and asked them to rank order their strengths in 24 different skills, self-control...

This social scientific study tracks the health and behavioral implications of poor self-control in children as they grow into adults. The results indicate that poor self-control leads to a host of problems including substance abuse, lower socioeconomic status, and below average physical health.

This blog post discusses temperance specifically in the modern understanding, highlighting the examples of Benjamin Franklin and Robert E. Lee.

This brief blog post explores ancient thought of sophrosune, highlighting the contributions of Neo-Platonist philosopher Proclus.

Chart or Graph

In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle dissects the arenas in which man acts and explores the vices (either a deficiency or an excess) and virtues of each normal human action or feeling (i.e. "Fear and Confidence," "Pleasure and Pain," etc.). This chart presents Aristotle's conclusions in a compact manner.

"Children under age 18 who live with their own single parent either in a family or subfamily."

Based upon a scientific study, this graph tracks the long-term consequences fostered by poor self-control.

A drawing of a tombstone referencing the temperance/Prohibition movement.

Analysis Report White Paper

For Aristotle, practical wisdom and the virtues of character—courage, temperance, liberality, and the rest—are intimately bound up with one another. Virtue of character, he says, consists 'in a mean state…that is defined by principle (logos), that is, by the principle by which the practically wise person would define it'

Standard interpretations of Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics usually maintain that Aristotle (384-322 BCE.) emphasizes the role of habit in conduct. It is commonly thought that virtues, according to Aristotle, are habits and that the good life is a life of mindless routine.

Few studies have examined the effects of over-controlling parenting, or 'helicopter parenting,' in college students. Some studies have found that college students of over-controlling parents report feeling less satisfied with family life and have lower levels of psychological well-being.

Aristotle argues that temperance is the mean concerned with pleasure and pain. Most commentators focus on the moderation of pleasures and hardly discuss how this virtue relates to pain. I consider the place of pain in Aristotle’s discussion of temperance and resolve contradictory interpretations by turning to the following question: is temperance ever properly painful?

The aim of this essay is not to compare Hume and Kant on all matters ethical. Instead, we examine several key areas of ethics in which we can reasonably see Kant as responding to or influenced by Hume, or in which comparisons between their theories are particularly interesting.

Peter Geach is reported to have said that temperance is far from being an interesting subject, but 'rather a humdrum common sense matter'. I hope to show that his opinion proves that he did not know the early history of the concept, nor what Nietzsche did on it. My subject will therefore be 'temperance', or sophrosyne, or in Nietzsche's language: measure.

The present study does not intend to give a solution to all the problems mentioned above. It is concerned with one of the central aporetic early dialogues, the Charmides, which deals with the definition of the meaning of [sophrosune], one of the Platonic cardinal virtues.

I will argue in this thesis for a prominent position of sophrosyne in the Platonic dialogues commonly considered early and middle, with the Charmides as a point of departure and as the spine in the main body of the study and with the Republic as the main contender.

This article examines the treatment of sophrosyne in the Platonic dialogues (the Charmides in particular) as well as the historical background for Socrates' analysis on the subject.

In what follows I will first say a bit more about what temperance is, starting with Aristotle. Then I will discuss the psychology of temperance by ruminating about how it is possible for a physical or 'animal' appetite to become rational, and say a little about how a person becomes temperate.

"'Temperance,' we are solemnly instructed, 'is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods. It ensures the will’s mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable. The temperate person directs the sensitive appetites toward what is good and maintains a healthy discretion.'

"In The Four Cardinal Virtues, Josef Pieper delivers a stimulating quartet of essays on the four cardinal virtues. He demonstrates the unsound overvaluation of moderation that has made contemporary morality a hollow convention and points out the true significance of the Christian virtues."

But sophrosyne is the most multifaceted of all the Greek virtues, and some of its aspects belong exclusively to men. What is the sophrosyne of women? When did it emerge as their proper characteristic? And what does it tell us about the way women were regarded in antiquity? It is the purpose of this paper to suggest answers to these questions.

In this paper I explore the meaning of the Greek word ‘sophrosune’. I rely on Plato’s early dialogue Charmides to establish its meaning. I then explore how our understanding of ‘sophrosune’ helps illuminate the meaning of certain New Testament texts in which it is used. Finally, I discuss the relationship between ‘sophrosune’, sanctification, and self-hatred.

"'The Sophrosune Problem' attempts to define the meaning of sophrosune as it was understood by the ancient Greeks using the philosophical texts of Plato, Homer’s Iliad, and Thucydides’ the Peloponnesian War. Although the ancient Athenians were preoccupied with the notion of sophrosune, very few of the historical figures measure up to the ideal."

Video/Podcast/Media

"In this lecture/discussion video from my Spring 2012 Ethics class at Marist College, we examine Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics book 7, exploring the distinctions and connections he makes between virtue, vice, self-control and lack of self-control, brutality and super-human virtue. We discuss in particular the forms lack of self-control and brutality take, and how they differ from vice."

"The Puritan's work ethic may be hard to find in the US, but it helped create this country. CNN's Farheed Zakaria reports."

"Chuck admitted it, if he'd been old enough he would have been a prohibitionist, but not for the reason you think. For society to flourish, we need people who can say no to 'wrong action.'"

Primary Document

Early in his political career, Abraham Lincoln addressed members of the Springfield Washington Temperance Society with praise of the early prohibition movement and suggestions of future tactics. In this speech, Lincoln primarily uses "temperance" to refer to abstinence from alcohol.

"Adam Smith developed a comprehensive and somewhat unusual version of moral sentimentalism in his Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759, TMS). He did not expressly lay out a political philosophy in similar detail, but a distinctive set of views on politics can be extrapolated from elements of both TMS and his Wealth of Nations (1776, WN); student notes from his lectures on jurisprudence (1762–1763...

In this work, David Hume puts forth his theory of the origin, development and utility of human morality. His method is to apply "an inviolable maxim in philosophy, that where any particular cause is sufficient for an effect, we ought to rest satisfied with it, and ought not to multiply causes without necessity." With respect to morals then, he claims that "in the course of nature that though...

As one of the four Cardinal Virtues, the Catholic Church and the early Church Fathers spent several centuries studying the concept of temperance. This encyclopedia entry discusses temperance and relates it to other virtues and vices in accordance with Catholicism.

In one of Plato's early dialogues, Socrates attempts a dialectic on the meaning of the Greek word "sôphrosunê," which we translate as "temperance." Socrates is joined in this discussion by Charmides—Plato's uncle—and Critias in his first of several appearances in Plato's dialogues. Like most of Plato's early dialogues, the conversation consists of Socrates' conversational partner suggesting...

Tocqueville's famous analysis of the American economic and political system, as he observed during his travels of the country in the 1830s.

"Gorgias is an important Socratic Dialogue in which Plato sets the rhetorician, whose specialty is persuasion, in opposition to the philosopher, whose specialty is dissuasion, or refutation. The art of persuasion was necessary for political and legal advantage in classical Athens, and rhetoricians promoted themselves as teachers of this fundamental skill. Some, like Gorgias, were foreigners...

"The work of which we now give an account, though complete in itself, brings down the history of Greek philosophy only to Plato and his generation; but a continuation is promised, embracing at least the generation of Aristotle; which, by the analogy of the concluding chapters of the present work, may be construed as implying an estimate of the Stoics and Epicureans."

A representation from the Committee of the County of Augusta was presented to the Convention, setting forth the present unhappy situation of the country....

"Marcus Fabius Quintilianus was born at Calagurris, now called Calahorra, a town of Spain on the Ebro. The time of his birth is uncertain, but as he was, while still young, a hearer of Domitius Afer at Rome, who died A.D. 59, we may reasonably suppose him to have been born about A.D. 40. …

After spending twenty years in the forum and in his school, he seems to have retired, partially or...

Founding Father James Wilson reflects upon the American government and people as occasioned by the Fourth of July while the Constitution is still being considered for ratification. In his address, Wilson discusses features of American society and compares the new civilization to the examples of ancient Greece and Rome.

Marcus Aurelius argues for a government of service and duty, arguing "that one can reduce oneself very close to the station of a private citizen and not thereby lose any dignity or vigor in the conduct of a ruler's responsibility for the common good."

"In my education, as in that of every one, the moral influences, which are so much more important than all others, are also the most complicated, and the most difficult to specify with any approach to completeness. Without attempting the hopeless task of detailing the circumstances by which, in this respect, my early character may have been shaped, I shall confine myself to a few leading...

The first of Sophocles' three Thebian Plays, Oedipus Tyrannus (alternatively translated as Oedipus Rex or Oedipus the King but not to be confused with the sequel Oedipus in Colonus) has stood since its creation as an exemplar toward which all tragedies aspire. In this edition, the translator's notes and preface discusses sophrosyne extensively, alternatively...

"It is laid down at the outset that the customs of the holy life of the Church should be referred to the chief good of man, that is, God. We must seek after God with supreme affection; and this doctrine is supported in the Catholic Church by the authority of both Testaments. The four virtues get their names from different forms of this love. Then follow the duties of love to our neighbor."

In his final philosophical work, Marcus Tullius Cicero, the great Roman statesman and admirer of Greek culture, writes to his son of Roman virtues and responsibilities during the chaos following the assassination of Julius Caesar. Amongst the wisdom that Cicero calls his son to recognize and embody, the orator discusses the cardinal virtues.

St. Augustine reflects that marriage for the purpose of procreation is a gift of nature, while marriage merely for the purpose of satisfying lust is not.

His work profoundly influenced the Catholic canon and Church attitudes toward marriage.

"Though almost forgotten today, Herbert Spencer ranks as one of the foremost individualist philosophers. His influence in the latter half of the nineteenth century was immense. Spencer’s name is usually linked with Darwin’s, for it was he who penned the phrase, 'survival of the fittest.' Today in America he is most often admired for his trenchant essays in The Man Versus the State....

This portion of the Summa Theologica contains the "Treatise on Prudence and Justice."

"Although these pieces may appear fully to express their own real intrinsic value, as bearing the image and inscription of that great man Mr. Hobbes; yet since common usage has rendered a preface to a book as necessary as a porch to a church, and that in all things some ceremonies cannot be avoided, mode and custom in this point is dutifully to be obeyed.

That they are genuine, credible...

"In The Birth of Tragedy Nietzsche expounds on the origins of Greek tragedy and its relevance to the German culture of its time. He declares it to be the expression of a culture which has achieved a delicate but powerful balance between Dionysian insight into the chaos and suffering which underlies all existence and the discipline and clarity of rational Apollonian form. In order to...

John Stuart Mill discusses temperance at numerous points throughout his works. He credits this as his father's primary virtue in his autobiography (found in Volume I of his Collected Works). In a book review in this chapter, he most clearly offers a meaning for the term in the context of his commentary on Plato.

Dante Alighieri's infamous poem, The Divine Comedy, tells the story of the author's own salvation by journeying to the bottom of Hell, up the mountain of Purgatory, and finally through the heavens in Paradise. Along the way, Dante meets famous figures from history and literature who tell him of their own sins and virtues in life as well as the corresponding judgments of these.
...

"The Oeconomicus is unique in Greek literature in combining a discussion of the proper management of a family or household and didactic material on agriculture within a Socratic dialogue. One of the richest primary sources for the social, economic, and intellectual history of classical Athens, it has been largely neglected despite the current widespread interest in the subjects discussed." -...

"I. BY that which is self-caused, I mean that of which the essence involves existence, or that of which the nature is only conceivable as existent.

II. A thing is called finite after its kind, when it can be limited by another thing of the same nature; for instance, a body is called finite because we always conceive another greater body. So, also, a thought is limited...

Reformation theologian John Calvin launched the Calvinism denomination with this gigantic work.

The Laws, Plato's last and longest dialogue, is written as a conversation between three old men from different Greek cities.

"THE special value of the writings of Kant is so fully acknowledged, that there is no need to insist upon it here. In the literature of Moral Philosophy there is certainly nothing more important than the contributions which Kant has made to Ethical Science. Even those who hold a Utilitarian theory of morals, must wish to see the works of the great upholder of Intuitionalism placed within the...

In one of the most influential and enduring works in Western philosophy and ethics in particular, Aristotle defends the concept of eudaimonia (happiness or flourishing as befitting the nature of the subject) and explains the implications of this position.

Specifically, he discusses the concept of temperance in...

"Compiled in the 3rd century AD by his student Porphyry, 'The Enneads' unfolds Plotinus' study of the principles of the universe. This work is organized into 54 treatises, which are in turn more largely grouped into six books, which form the foundational concepts of Neo-Platonism. The first Ennead deals principally with ethical topics and human subjects, such as happiness, virtue, beauty, and...

As the title suggests, this book draws from the Bible's discussions of drinking to present the case against alchohol. This ebook is available in full as a free download through the linked website.

"Smith expresses his general system of morals, exploring the propriety of action, reward and punishment, sense of duty, and the effect of numerous factors on moral sentiment.

In so doing, Smith devised innovative theories on virtues, conscience, and moral judgment that are still relevant and accessible today. Though somewhat surprising to find a philosopher of Smith's abilities...

"It was about this time that I conceiv’d the bold and arduous Project of arriving at moral Perfection. I wish’d to live without committing any Fault at any time; I would conquer all that either Natural Inclination, Custom, or Company might lead me into. As I knew, or thought I knew, what was right and wrong, I did not see why I might not always do the one and avoid the other. But I...

"The writer says that his object is to impress upon those whom he has ordained the lessons which he had previously taught them. Like Cicero, he treats of that which is right, becoming, or honourable [decorum], and what is expedient [utile]; but with reference not to this life but to that which is to come, teaching in the first book that which is becoming or honourable; in the second, what is...

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