I have several questions regarding virtue ethics:

  1. Let us imagine a person who says something like "money, not virtue makes me happy", and this conclusion is based on one's experience or even rational thought. From Aristotle's point of view, this conclusion is certainly wrong. Does it mean that happiness is objective and it is not up to a person to decide? Then it is completely unclear how to become happy because you can not trust your own feelings anymore.
  2. Aristotle claims that all people strive to be happy because it is a natural end of human beings. But If a person says "I don't want to be happy". Is this person mistaken again?

From a religious point of view, these two questions can be easily answered. We can say that God gave humans a certain purpose(which is not up to a human to decide). Fulfilling this purpose(being virtuous) is the only way to become happy. It is more obvious now that the first and second individuals are mistaken.

I am curious how would Aristotle answer these questions, without using any religious arguments?

  • 1
    The point of virtue ethics is not happiness, but acting justly, as a virtuous person would. One can be made completely miserable while being virtuous, like reporting the crime of their next of kin to the authorities, solely comforted by the knowledge they act as is required of them. If one is greedy and made happy by hoarding money, they simply are not virtuous. What a virtuous conduct is is determined by reason, by contemplating the form (the pure idea) of a human being. Judging one's action's mortality based on whether it makes them happy is hedonism, a completely different moral philosophy.
    – armand
    Commented Oct 15, 2022 at 0:57
  • Religion seems to be orthogonal to health, happiness, community and many other things. As a yardstick, it doesn't seem to cast a shadow.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Oct 15, 2022 at 13:54
  • you are surely right that Aristotle thinks we can be mistaken, and mistaken about what happiness is. that is why he's a philosopher, why he feels the need to present arguments for what would otherwise be trendy greek opinions
    – user65758
    Commented May 4, 2023 at 11:54

1 Answer 1


Aristotle argued for the existence of various virtues, characterized by the notion of the golden mean. He places each virtue in between two vices, either in excess or in deficiency. Virtues are character traits or dispositions, but we must take active use in exercising them too.

That is just to recap. I think Aristotle would argue that if money is what makes you happy, your current disposition is properly situated between the two vices of extreme frugality and avarice. The exact amount in which a virtue is supposed to be present in a person differs from person to person, depending on their own emotional and psychological makeup. So it would not necessarily be objective.

As for your second point I think he would argue that the person is simply mistaken. He points out that in order for us to make a proper judgment about the virtues we need practical wisdom, which is only acquired through life experience. So you might just not be "seeing the light" yet, if you were to say you don't want to be happy.

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    This is part of the reason parents and other older people are supposed to guide younger people towards better choices. Many poor marriage choices could have been averted with some calm discussion. "Learn from others' mistakes, you won't live long enough to make them all yourself."
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Oct 15, 2022 at 13:50

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