I've been reading through the Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle, translated by Terence Irwin. I have found his work far more to my liking than that of Mills in Utilitarianism and the work of Kant.

What I can't seem to nail down is the Virtue & the Vices which Aristotle associated with Pleasures in the daily life. This is the relevant excerpt I am examining:

In Book II, Chapter 7 [The Particular Virtues of Character], S13 - In sources of pleasure in amusements let us call the intermediate person witty, and the condition wit; the excess buffoonery and the person who has it a buffoon; and the deficient person a sort of boor and the state boorishness. In the other sources of pleasure, those in daily life, let us call the person who is pleasant in the right way friendly, and the mean state friendliness. If someone goes to excess with no [ulterior] aim, he will be ingratiating; if he does it for his own advantage, a flatterer. The deficient person, unpleasant in everything, will be a sort of quarrelsome and ill-tempered person.

Is he saying that for each pleasure it is the motive which dictate the action a virtue or a vice?

1 Answer 1


Well, my understanding is that when defining different degrees of pleasure in amusement, he evidently doesn't make any reference to motive. But as for pleasure in relations, it seems that he had to bring in motive into equation in order to be able to differentiate between degrees of friendship as in friendly, ingratiating and flatterer. So motive as far as this excerpt alone indicates seems not to have been the central idea or implication meant by Aristotle, just an element to help him formulate the virtues and vice in respect to friendship.

However, generally one can argue that what in essence dictates the virtue and vice of an action/pleasure is indeed the motive, that's what, for a random example, turns eating just enough to alleviate one's hunger to be a virtue (subsequently justifying/sanctifying the pleasure felt therefrom), but eating for the mere pleasure of appetite to be a vice.

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