The Exercise of Virtue: Aristotle’s Argument

Many philosophers have addressed the subject of virtue, but Aristotle’s argument appears to stand out. Virtue focuses on moral philosophy and the role of character rather than doing or acting in a certain way in order to achieve positive results. When faced with similar circumstances, a virtuous person acts in the same way that another of the same standard would. Aristotle’s work is used by most philosophers and ordinary people who attempt to explain virtue. This paper with thus clarifying on Aristotle’s argument for the exercise of virtue, then summarize by stating how he fails to presents us with a compelling framework for meaning and happiness.

Aristotle’s Argument for The Exercise of Virtue

Virtue, according to Aristotle, is an all or nothing at all issue. Human beings cannot choose or pick their virtues. For instance, people cannot decode to be temperate and courageous and yet decide not to be magnificent. People cannot be called virtuous if at all they fail to exhibit all virtues in totality. According to Aristotle, there are many virtues, which all originate from a mutual source. To him, a virtues person is one who naturally disposed to display all the attributes in equal measures. In Books 1,2 and 10 of Aristotle about Nicomachean Ethics, he lists three types of life that are associated with happiness; servile pleasure, common confused with happiness, intellectual speculation ordinarily known as contemplation and lastly a refined political entity which is associated with higher divinity and honor that is common among wise men (Book 1).

Of the three lives that Aristotle mentions, he picks that of contemplation as the best and goes ahead to validate it with virtue and happiness. Only a virtuous man can attain true happiness which can only be achieved through contemplative life. The happiest life experience is one that is of the highest moral standards, and only a life of contemplation befits the description. As he continues to argue, the contemplative life is only bestowed with human beings and not any other form of life since they are the only ones disposed with rational and logical reasoning, and most of all the virtues (Book X). Man, being a part of God and an animal, possesses both parts of rationality and of uncontrolled desires and actions. In his arguments, Aristotle seeks to strike a mean between excesses of the virtue (rashness) and its deficit(cowardice), and only those who hit a balance can be considered as virtuous.

In contrast to other forms of activities where the human thoughts are directed towards acting in the way they wish not to; the contemplation activity leads human thinking to activities they ought to do during leisure times. He goes on to maintain that if happiness is part of human operations by virtue, then it is an activity in accord with the highest virtue which is the best part of a person. Perfect happiness exists, but only through the highest degree part of virtue can it be achieved, which should be nous or intellect honed in the form of contemplation or speculative thinking.

Aristotle makes a distinction between reasoning (ethical) and contemplation (intellectual) virtues and goes ahead to select and validate them with the theory that it puts into practice man’s highest part (Book 2). Additionally, he says that the most pleasantly and self-sufficient virtuous activity is contemplation as it constitutes the complete version of happiness. Therefore, to explain the exercise of virtue, Aristotle defines happiness as getting the soul to behave by best and perfect virtue of speculative intellect which endures the length of seasons and is borne out of the simplest form of the surrounding. The more human beings indulge in a contemplative living through virtuous reasoning, the more their happiness is fulfilled and the closer they become to gods.

Analysis of Whether Aristotle Presents Us with A Compelling Framework for Meaning and Happiness.

In his argument, Aristotle presents a detailed explanation of the concept of happiness and virtue, but it is somehow confusing since what he proposes was and still impossible to achieve in any standard form of society and environment. Nevertheless, the aspect of virtue cannot be standardized as it varies from one culture to the other. That is to mean that it carries a different meaning from one community to the other, and only it can determine whether it is considered to cause happiness or not. Humans are subject to the natural law of will as they can do reasonable judgment of truth. To be virtuous is thus to have the willingness to apply it. Since people are susceptible to evil, being able to acknowledge that aspect allows them to be captive of various virtues like charity, love, and hope which do not go hand in hand with those of Aristotle.


Aristotle argues that only through virtues that happiness can be achieved which is in turn obtained through contemplative life when a man strives to live on the highest plane of consciousness. However, despite his theory on virtue and happiness being the best we have so far, I consider it impractical since humans have the will and are susceptible to evil, making some virtues unachievable while still allowing for other like love and charity.

Work Cited

“Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle.” Classics.Mit. Edu, 2009,

“Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle.” Classics.Mit. Edu, 2009,

“Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle.” Classics.Mit. Edu, 2009,

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