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Aristotle Nichomachaen Ethics Book II

1. What are the two kinds of virtue (excellence)? (1103a15)  

2. According to Aristotle, how does one acquire intellectual virtue? (1103a15-16)  

3. According to Aristotle, how does one acquire moral virtue? How does one’s state of character get shaped and formed? (1103a17)  

4. What does Aristotle mean when he states that virtue is something we “learn by doing”? (1103a33) How is becoming an excellent person similar to becoming an excellent musician? (1103b1)  

5. At the beginning of chapter 2, Aristotle states his purpose in writing about virtue. (1103b27) Is he hoping his readers (and students) acquire theoretical understanding, or is his hope to help form the activity of soul of his readers and students so they can live good lives?  

6. What two things destroy virtue? (1104a12) How is this shown in the example of excellent strength or health?  

7. At the beginning of chapter 3, what does Aristotle mean when he says that the pleasures or pains that follow an act are signs of an individual’s character? (1104b5) How does one’s character alter whether an action is pleasant or painful?  

8. In chapter 4, Aristotle considers a puzzle. It’s a puzzle about actions and the person doing the action. Explain the puzzle and Aristotle’s solution.  

9. In chapter 5, Aristotle makes a first pass on considering what virtue is. (He tries to determine its general category.) Is it a passion, a faculty, or a state of character? What does he mean by each of these? In particular, what is a “state of character”?

10. In chapter 6, Aristotle refines the definition of virtue. (Having established that it is a state of character, what makes a virtue an excellent state of character? How is it related to human function?  

11. Still in chapter 6 (1106b26), Aristotle draws a distinction between the numerical mean and the mean relative to an individual person. Explain the distinction with regard to how much food is healthy.  

12. Near the end of chapter 6, Aristotle provides a careful (six part) definition of moral virtue. What is his definition? (1107a1)  

13. At the end of chapter 6, Aristotle points out that some actions (adultery, theft, murder) are bad in themselves (1107a11). How does virtue differ from simply avoiding such actions?  

14. In chapter 7, Aristotle refers to a table that lists nine moral virtues. What virtues and vices are includes on this list? Is it possible to reconstruct this table? How is each virtue a “mean” between two extremes?  

15. Several of the virtues that Aristotle lists have to do with proper desires and feelings. In particular, he mentions feelings of fear and confidence; desires related to taste and touch; the desire to give; and the feeling of anger. He suggests that through habit, we can change what we desire. Is this true? Can we educate our desires and feelings? Isn’t education just aimed at the intellect and theoretical understanding?  

16. Aristotle begins chapter 9 by summarizing his teaching on the virtues. What conclusion does he draw about the ease of acquiring excellent moral habits? (1109a26)  




17. Aristotle gives several pieces of practical advice on how to achieve the mean. What should be avoided? (1109b5) What should we guard against? (1109b8)

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