Linking Aristotle’s virtue with character sample essay

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Aristotle’s virtue ethics is often considered to be founded on character such that an individual’s character defines his or her virtues. It is important to note that Aristotle gives emphasis to the idea that virtue is acquired through habit. In this regard, it can be presumed that there is a connection between character and virtue in the context of Aristotle’s philosophy. This is especially interesting to look into precisely because human beings think and act at least in terms of one’s consciousness or idea of ethics, specifically through one’s moral precepts.

If it is indeed true that individuals think and act in ways related to one’s moral inclinations in their daily lives, then it is a strong reason to contend that virtue and character are all the more important elements in the life of humanity. The point that I would like to raise—and agree with Aristotle—is the idea that our ‘habits’, the way in which we do things on a regular basis, form a large sum—if not all—of our character. And since character builds our very virtues, it can be presumed that the things that we do on a regular basis define our virtues.

That is, if we continue to harbor the ‘bad’ or ‘evil’ elements in the society, then it is most likely the case that our character develops into something ‘bad’ or ‘evil’. In the end, there will be little or no room for us to acquire virtues. The task of this assignment is to identify what is the connection between character and virtue in the context of Aristotle by providing Aristotle’s description of how we acquire virtues and why choice is an important component of these virtues.

In the Book III of Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics, I found out that one basic notion in Aristotelian ethics that occupies a central significance is Aristotle’s belief in the role of man’s activities in order for one to acquire ethical knowledge. That is, for one to become virtuous or to obtain virtues one should not merely confine himself to mere studying of these virtues but rather one should, more importantly, actualize this knowledge of the virtues. Thus, for one to become good, one should do good. I also found out in the same work of Aristotle the “doctrine of the mean”.

The essence of this doctrine dwells on the basic precept that one ought to avoid the extremes and, instead, settle for the “mean”. The actions of men, more specifically, ought to be framed upon the “mean” which is the virtue. For example, the virtue of courage rests on the mean between two extremes: cowardice or the “lack” of courage, and rashness or the “excess” in courage. All of these things answer the central question being asked, specifically the identification of the connection between virtue and character.

For the most part, the thought of the acquisition of virtue requires a form of a ‘good’ act which, when constantly repeated or enacted on a regular basis, forms the character of the individual. The individual should not only be inclined towards a theoretical understanding of these good acts but should also be inclined to enacting them, of living them on purpose and free will. It is not enough that the individual should simply live the theoretical perspectives of doing good acts for it does not suffice to forming the character of the individual.

Moreover, these ‘good’ acts are founded on the principle of the “mean” wherein the individual is supposed to be acting not within the extremes but between these extremes because they are the ‘evils’. Hence, character is connected to virtue through one’s good—or “middle”—actions performed habitually. I figured out that Aristotle implies the idea that man is indeed a social being in the sense that one cannot sufficiently do ‘good’ without the presence of other people.

That is, without other people to whom our ‘good’ deeds will be enacted to, our actions may hardly be conceived as ‘good’ in the first place precisely because we may only be helpful if there are people to help, we may only be kind if there are people to whom we will be kind, or we may only be loving if there are other people to love just to name a few. Of course, my thoughts may be unacceptable to other people for they may also have their own thoughts about the ethics of Aristotle.

But more to this, I figured out that those people who surround us have a large role in the formation of our character. Social isolation does not give room for the moral development of an individual. On the other hand, I have arrived at a question concerning Aristotle’s virtue ethics, especially with his doctrine of the mean. Exactly how are we to know when we are acting in the middle such that we avert from the extremes or the vices? Granted that we may be able to identify the vices that we should avoid, when can we say that we are truly in the middle path?

How can too much ‘knowledge’ be a vice or an evil when Aristotle gives a substantial account and importance to knowledge? While there may still a handful of questions that may have been left untouched, it can hardly be doubted that our actions share a significant role in defining our characters as human beings. Whether or not an individual believes in virtue ethics or in morality in general, it remains a fact that our actions have consequences to us and to other people.


Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. Trans. Martin Ostwald. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1962.