Aristotle Essay

Philosophy 130 – Introduction to Philosophy

Prof. Evans

Second essay: Aristotle’s Ethics

Your essay should be approximately 500 words.  This gives you an idea of the length I expect, but I don’t count words or pages.  Write the best essay that you can.  Answer all questions in bold type, meaning, answer the questions below that are in bold, not that your answers have to be in bold.  Please type your essay in MS Word and send it to me by email attachment.  Please don’t use any other word processing programs, because I may not be able to open them.

Your essay should be double-spaced, with margins about 1 inch all the way around.  I do expect that you will proofread your essay and correct typos and grammatical errors.  The date the essay is due is absolutely no later than Tuesday, February 15, at 9 pm.

Please include your name in the document name of your essay. This is just for my convenience.

This is not a research assignment.  I strongly recommend that you do not search online for help in writing this essay.  Most of what is online is either junk or simply not relevant for us.  I have designed this assignment so that you need only consult our reading and notes on the chapter and what we discussed in class in order to write a fine essay.  If you have any questions, just ask me.

I also remind you about the policy on plagiarism as stated on our syllabus.


So here’s your assignment. There are two parts

Part 1.    For Aristotle, virtues are learned in the way that skills are learning: by doing the appropriate thing in the appropriate circumstances, for the sake of something good.  But which activities promote the learning of virtues?  We have seen that some things you learn when you are young can do that, such as learning to swim or learning to ride a bicycle, which can help in the learning of courage.  Let us now consider Socratic dialogue: in order to participate well in that activity, some virtues are needed – intellectual honesty, humility, and courage.  Euthyphro, as you should recall, lacked these virtues; these virtues are needed in order to learn, and Socratic dialogue can help promote the learning of these virtues. First question  So why are those virtues necessary in order for one to continue to seek the truth?  (Hint: a good place to start in thinking about this topic is this: in Socratic dialogue, one’s ignorance about what one thought one knew might be exposed.  In order to deal well with the truth of one’s own ignornace, as Euthyphro did not, what virtues are necessary?)

            Second question:  if one seeks the truth in Socratic dialogue (or in anything else), there is no guarantee that one will find it.  Would that mean that the search was a waste of time, or is there some good even in a search that ends in failure?

            Part 2 is on page 2.

Part 2.  I mentioned this example in the notes on Aristotle.  Suppose that I, a teacher, think that the good of teaching is the pleasure I get from it. Aristotle would argue that, while I should take pleasure in teaching, I am objectively wrong about the good of teaching.  So what is that good?  Do you agree with Aristotle?  Or do you think that the good of teaching is relative to the individual teacher, so that if one teacher thinks it is one thing, and another teacher disagrees, then there is nothing to be objectively right or wrong about when it concerns the good of teaching?  Again, be sure to explain your answers.