Aristotle Define Moral Virtue

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How does Aristotle define moral virtue? Aristotle defines moral virtue as a deposition to behave in the right manner and by recommending its relation to happiness. Aristotle defines moral virtue into subcategories, but he defines virtues as being exemplified by courage, temperance, liberality, etc.; the key intellectual virtues are wisdom, which governs ethical behavior, and understanding, which is expressed in scientific endeavor and contemplation. These virtues can also be vices depending on action. Every virtue has a vice in which Aristotle defines as two extremes called the Golden Mean. He experiences these different virtues and vices in everyday life. Trying to be morally balanced is almost as being perfect in a sense, so he tends to be excessive or deficient.

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Courage can be very difficult for him to find a balance and often find its more of a vice than a virtue at times. In examining specific virtues, such as courage, Aristotle defined them as a mean between two extremes. The vices consist of fearfulness and hastiness. One tends to run from a situation whereas the other tends rush into a situation. Courage is a mean about feelings of fear and confidence. (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 3.6) Having courage can be a great moral to practice but also very dangerous. In example, take for instance a burning house. He sees the house burning and feel he’s left with only two choices, either run away or go in to see if anyone needs help. If he runs away he just experienced fearfulness, but if he rushes in without calling for help then he just showed hastiness.


Aristotle defines temperance as a mean concerned with pleasure whereas concerning less with pain. He then distinguished the pleasures of the soul from those of the body. Pleasures of the soul are associated with love of honor and of learning in which such pleasures are neither temperate or intemperate. Temperance, then, will be about bodily pleasures, but not even about all of these. (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 3.10) Things such as food, drinks, and sex are good examples of temperance. He who eats and drinks too much until full is being excessive.


Liberality can be defined as generosity. It seems, then, to be the mean about wealth; for the generous person is praised not in conditions of war, nor in those in which the temperate person is praised, nor in judicial verdicts, but in the giving and taking of wealth, and more especially in the giving. (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 4.1) He who gives back and take when prompted practices liberality. Giving more than needed he’s being prodigal, and on the other hand giving nothing is being stingy. These are the vices


Magnanimity can be defined as prideful. The magnanimous person, then, seems to be the one who thinks himself worthy of great things and is really worthy of them. (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 4.2) He who has worth but thinks less of himself is being timid. This vice is deficient. He who makes excessive claims about himself tend to come off as conceited or narcissistic.


When one thinks about truthfulness he thinks of himself as an honest person to others but that’s not all what it’s about. Truthfulness can relate to magnanimity in a way and these are through its vices; boastfulness and understating. The boaster seems to claim qualities that win reputation, though he either lacks them altogether or has less than he claims. The self-deprecator, by contrast, seems to disavow or to belittle his actual qualities. (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 4.7) Therefore, being straightforward and honest with himself about his qualities will give him balance.


Being friendly isn’t about just showing others you call friends kindness. There’s an even bigger meaning to it. It differs from friendship in not requiring any special feeling or any fondness for the people we meet. For this person takes each thing in the right way because that is his character, not because he is a friend or an enemy. (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 4.5) He must be respectful to all, not just acquaintances. If someone is a stranger doesn’t mean you behave in a different manner nor treat them differently. He must act without distinction.
Every day they experience these different virtues. Finding a balance between each one is the key to being and acting moral. They will find that some of these moral virtues go hand and hand not being able to perform one without performing the other.

Work Cited

  • Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics.
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Aristotle Define Moral Virtue. (2019, Nov 27). Retrieved September 27, 2022 , from

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