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Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics

An effective moral education, then, will teach the individual to experience "the noble, the beneficial, and the pleasurable" aspects of virtue, while avoiding "the base, the harmful, and the painful" aspects of vice (38). Vice brings pleasure, but that pleasure is short-lived and is sullied with shame and the other painful results of excess. Pain can be experienced in virtuous action, such as the pain of self-control, of self-denial, but that pain brings the greater and enduring pleasure of victory over the baser desires.

Aristotle's prescription for moral virtue seems simple to understand, but as he points out, that which is simple is not always easy to put into action. The child may be properly educated in a moral sense, but the adult is free to behave as he will regardless of his education. Such an education does not necessarily guarantee a morally virtuous adult, but without such an education as a moral foundation in a world (then and now) with such a plenitude of temptations to vice and excess, the adult will have little chance to live a virtuous life. The modern era reflects the Greek era in that most people speak of virtue but few put it into action:

Most men do not perform such acts, but by taking refuge in argument they think that they are engaged in philosophy and that they will become good in this way. In so doing, they act like sick men who listen attentively to what the doctor says, but fail to do any of the things he prescribes (40).

An individual in our society who personifies viciousness--the opposite of virtuousness--is Charles Manson. With respect to cowardice, grouchiness, boastfulness, brutishness, anger, self-indulgence, vanity, short temper, shamelessness (all vices named by Aristotle), and general evil-doing, Manson stands in the pantheon of infamy in our society.

Manson is an excellent example of an individual who had none of the requisite moral education so urgently prescribed by Aristotle. To th...

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Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 21:06, November 30, 2015, from
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