Aristotle's Ethics by James Urmson

By James Urmson

Aristotle's moral writings are one of the world's maximum, yet are simply misunderstood via the green. Professor Urmson, after 50 years of analysis, offers a transparent account of the most doctrines in an simply intelligible manner and with no residing on concerns of customarily scholarly curiosity.

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But it is hard to see it as a successfully organized whole, and in so far as it aims to depict justice as an excellence of character exemplifying the doctrine of the mean - as a mean state with regard to feeling and exhibiting some specific emotion - it fails on his own admission (1133b 33—34). But it is, nonetheless, fruitful reading. Aristotle begins by correctly pointing out that the Greek words we translate by 'justice' and 'injustice' are ambiguous. Since these English words are not ambiguous, or, at least, not in the way the Greek words are, this claim is not immediately convincing in translation.

But if we choose the other alternative and say that wish is not for the good but only for the apparent good, there is an equally potent difficulty; if asked whether what we want, what we wish for, is just what seems to us to be good or what really is good, we should surely answer that it was the truly good. If, on a journey, one chooses what seems to be the best route, loses one's way, but luckily hits on a better one, one will be glad. One wanted to travel the best route and hit on it by chance.

From this it appears that he who fears too little and is nameless is different from him who exceeds in confidence and is rash; the rash man is not nameless and must be different. But it appears that the coward is the opposite of both of these. N o w Aristotle's regular doctrine is that if a term has two different opposites it must be ambiguous; this is clearly stated in the Topics (106a 9 - 2 2 ) , with two illustrations, and found frequently elsewhere. So, since the coward has two opposites, one the rash man, the other nameless, the term 'coward' ought to be ambiguous.

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