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Human Nature Essay, Research Paper

ESSAY CATEGORY: Philosophy

Human nature

Grade:

B

Language:

English

System:

Country:

Taiwan

Authors Comments:

Teachers Comments:

11/6/96

Our life is full of problems. Reasoning is a usual way to response to problems which we

concern about. We reason in response to everyday problems. For instance, asked by

friends to go out dinner at a time when we have planned something else, we must decide

which one is more important for us at that moment of time, and whether to decline or to

adjust our schedule. Reasoning appropriate to problems like this has often been called

practical. Practical reasons might be said to be reasons for acting, and it is in some sense

point toward action. Practical reasoning has been much discussed by philosophers, and it

is catalogued under Moral Philosophy. For Aristotle?s moral philosophy, as it appears in his

document now called the Nicomachean ethics, reflects his teleological (goal-oriented)

metaphyics. In the Nicomachean ethics, where Aristotle considers a science of doing, and

acting in certain way to seek rational ends. The notion of Goal, or Purpose, is the principal

one in his moral theory.

Aristotle noted that every act is performed for some purpose, which he defined as the

"good" of that act, the end at which the activity aims. We perform an act because we find

its purpose to be worthwhile. Either the totality of our acts is an infinitely circular series:

Every morning we get up in order to eat breakfast, we eat breakfast in order to go to

work, we got to work in order to get money, we get money so we can buy food in order to

be able to eat breakfast, etc., etc., etc., in which case life would be a pretty meaningless

endeavor because this is just bunch of repeated and vain activities practicing if without a

purpose. Or there is some ultimate good toward which the purpose of all acts are

directed. If there is such a good, we should try to come to know it so that we can adjust

all our acts toward it in order to avoid that saddest of all tragedies ? the wasted and vain

life

According to Aristotle, there is general verbal agreement that the end toward which all

human acts are directed is happiness; therefore, happiness is the human good since we

seek happiness for its own sake, not for the sake of something else. In a sense, realizing

the end of attaining happiness is an activity of making, and it?s the activity aims to make a

certain kind of man, living in a certain kind of society. Happiness might be explained as the

fruition of a man?s way of life, in the truly human aspect of that way of life. The good of

each thing is its own function; thus, vision is the good of the eye and walking is the good

of the foot. As Aristotle said in the Nicomachean ethics, "Every art and every inquiry, and

similarly every action and pursuit, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the

good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim." (11) However, unless

we philosophize about happiness and get to know exactly what it is and how to achieve it,

it will be stereotyped simply to say that happiness is the ultimate good. To determine the

nature of happiness, Aristotle turned to his metaphysical schema and asked, "What is the

function of the human?" In the same way he would ask about the function of a knife or a

cloth. He came to the conclusion that a human?s function is to engage in "an activity of the

soul which is in accordance with virtue and which follows a rational principle." Before

grasping this complicated definition , we must determine what virtues is and what kinds of

virtues there are. But first, we must have a basic understanding that Aristotle believed that

certain material conditions must hold before happiness can be achieved.

This list of conditions will show Aristotle?s elitism: We need good friends, riches, and

political power. We need a good birth, good children, and good looks. For the man who is

very ugly in appearance is not likely to be happy. Also we must not be very short.

Furthermore, we must be free from the need of performing manual labor. According to

Aristotle, no man can practice virtue who is living the life of a mechanic or laborer.

Personally, I am strongly disagree on these conditions which Aristotle had claimed as the

criteria toward Happiness. There should not have a set of conditions or definitions on

Happiness because different people have different ways of understand happiness, and

different people have different beliefs and goals toward their own life. It should be noted

that Aristotle?s moral theory would be left substantially perfect if his elitist bias were

deleted.

Now, as to virtues, there are two kinds: Intellectual and moral, corresponding to the two

parts of the soul. Intellectual virtues are acquired through a combination of inheritance and

education, and moral virtues through imitation, practice, and habit. The habits that we

develop result in "states of character," that is , in dispositions to act certain ways, and

these states of character are "virtuous" for Aristotle if they result in acts that are in

accordance with a "golden mean" of moderation. Courage is a mean between cowardice

and foolhardiness. For example, when it comes to facing danger, one can act with excess,

that is, show too much fear. (This is cowardice.) Or one can act deficiently by showing too

little fear. (This is foolhardiness.) Or one can act with moderation, and hence virtuously,

by showing the right amount of fear. (This is courage.) Aristotle realized that the choices

we must make if we are to learn moral virtue cannot be made mathematically; rather,

they are always context-bound and must be approached through trial and error.

Returning to the intellectual virtues of practical and philosophical wisdom, the former is the

wisdom necessary to make judgments consistent with one?s understanding of the good

life. It is therefore related to moral virtue. Philosophical wisdom is scientific, disinterested,

and contemplative. It is associated with pure reason, and, for Aristotle, the capacity for

reason is that which is most human; therefore, philosophical wisdom is the highest virtue.

So, when Aristotle defined happiness as "an activity of the soul in accordance with virtue,"

the activity referred to is philosophical activity. The human being can only be happy by

leading a contemplative life, but not a monastic one. We are not only philosophical animals

but also social ones. We are engaged in a would where decisions concerning practical

matters are forced upon us constantly. Happiness (hence the good life) requires excellence

in both spheres. Therefore, in the Aristotelian view, that the highest virtue is for the few.

In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle argues that the function of man is an activity of soul

which follows a rational principle which based on both virtues.

Human good turns out to be activity of soul in accordance with virtue, and if there are

more than one virtue, in accordance with the best and most complete. But we must add

"in a complete life." For one swallow does not make a summer, nor does on day; and so

too one day, or a short time, does not make a man blessed and happy.

One who is trying to live according to a rational principle as what Aristotle suggested,

aiming for happiness, will surely find that such a life is very difficult, that the swallows do

not long remain, that the happy days do not last. What we try to do, in living out our days

of contested moral positions, is to seek happiness. But usually what we find is very little

happiness and very much despair, especially in the long run, "in a complete life."

Aristotle?s end ? A happy man in a complete life ? seems unrealistic.

As mentioned before, different people might hold different belief toward happiness.

Belief is that upon which a man is prepared to act. Beliefs, then, are rules of action, and

they got their meaning from the action for which they are rules. Beliefs produced habits,

and that the way to distinguish between beliefs was to compare the habits they produced.

A person?s belief could be established by observing that person?s actions If certain people

believed that God existed, they would conceive of the world very differently from the way

they would conceive of it if they believed God did not exist. Also, their definition toward

happiness would also be very different from those who do not believe in God. However,

there are other people whose conceptions of the world would be practically identical

whether they believed that God did or did not exist. For certain other people who find

themselves somewhere between these two extremes, the proposition "God exists" means

something like this: "On Sunday, I put on nice clothes and go to church." This is because,

for them, engaging in this activity is the only practical outcome of their belief. For those

who are Christian, richness might not have so much meaning to them. It is because their

definition on happiness is not depend on how rich you are, and this is exactly why I

opposed Aristotle?s elitism.

Clearly, practical reasoning which Aristotle founded it provides a way to understand and

explain actions. There are two important points with this founding. First, the method is

reasoning in the context of a desired end, at least typically in a way that includes a

commitment to some principle or belief. This provides motivation for the action issuing

from the reasoning. Second, this provides guidance for the action. It is exercised in part by

a belief to the effect that the end can be achieved by a certain kind of action, for instance,

in order for reaching a sweet, one might go buy some candy. The belief helps to sustain

and guide the action.

In conclude, Happiness is not a further end of the action, but its essential end. To act for a

reason is to act in order to achieve an end, whether ultimate or, more often, subsidiary, as

when we prescribe medicine in order to cure. Actions performed for a reason very

commonly issue from practical reasoning; and if Aristotle does not think they always do,

he at least holds that they are motivationally attached by a purposive chain which

terminates in a desire for happiness and can be associated, link by link, with practical

arguments that concern the relevant want, belief, and action, or at least of all action

performed for a reason, is behavioral foundationalism.

Our life is full of problems. Reasoning is a usual way to response to problems which we

concern about. We reason in response to everyday problems. For instance, asked by

friends to go out dinner at a time when we have planned something else, we must decide

which one is more important for us at that moment of time, and whether to decline or to

adjust our schedule. Reasoning appropriate to problems like this has often been called

practical. Practical reasons might be said to be reasons for acting, and it is in some sense

point toward action. Practical reasoning has been much discussed by philosophers, and it

is catalogued under Moral Philosophy. For Aristotle?s moral philosophy, as it appears in his

document now called the Nicomachean ethics, reflects his teleological (goal-oriented)

metaphyics. In the Nicomachean ethics, where Aristotle considers a science of doing, and

acting in certain way to seek rational ends. The notion of Goal, or Purpose, is the principal

one in his moral theory.

Aristotle noted that every act is performed for some purpose, which he defined as the

"good" of that act, the end at which the activity aims. We perform an act because we find

its purpose to be worthwhile. Either the totality of our acts is an infinitely circular series:

Every morning we get up in order to eat breakfast, we eat breakfast in order to go to

work, we got to work in order to get money, we get money so we can buy food in order to

be able to eat breakfast, etc., etc., etc., in which case life would be a pretty meaningless

endeavor because this is just bunch of repeated and vain activities practicing if without a

purpose. Or there is some ultimate good toward which the purpose of all acts are

directed. If there is such a good, we should try to come to know it so that we can adjust

all our acts toward it in order to avoid that saddest of all tragedies ? the wasted and vain

life

According to Aristotle, there is general verbal agreement that the end toward which all

human acts are directed is happiness; therefore, happiness is the human good since we

seek happiness for its own sake, not for the sake of something else. In a sense, realizing

the end of attaining happiness is an activity of making, and it?s the activity aims to make a

certain kind of man, living in a certain kind of society. Happiness might be explained as the

fruition of a man?s way of life, in the truly human aspect of that way of life. The good of

each thing is its own function; thus, vision is the good of the eye and walking is the good

of the foot. As Aristotle said in the Nicomachean ethics, "Every art and every inquiry, and

similarly every action and pursuit, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the

good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim." (11) However, unless

we philosophize about happiness and get to know exactly what it is and how to achieve it,

it will be stereotyped simply to say that happiness is the ultimate good. To determine the

nature of happiness, Aristotle turned to his metaphysical schema and asked, "What is the

function of the human?" In the same way he would ask about the function of a knife or a

cloth. He came to the conclusion that a human?s function is to engage in "an activity of the

soul which is in accordance with virtue and which follows a rational principle." Before

grasping this complicated definition , we must determine what virtues is and what kinds of

virtues there are. But first, we must have a basic understanding that Aristotle believed that

certain material conditions must hold before happiness can be achieved.

This list of conditions will show Aristotle?s elitism: We need good friends, riches, and

political power. We need a good birth, good children, and good looks. For the man who is

very ugly in appearance is not likely to be happy. Also we must not be very short.

Furthermore, we must be free from the need of performing manual labor. According to

Aristotle, no man can practice virtue who is living the life of a mechanic or laborer.

Personally, I am strongly disagree on these conditions which Aristotle had claimed as the

criteria toward Happiness. There should not have a set of conditions or definitions on

Happiness because different people have different ways of understand happiness, and

different people have different beliefs and goals toward their own life. It should be noted

that Aristotle?s moral theory would be left substantially perfect if his elitist bias were

deleted.

Now, as to virtues, there are two kinds: Intellectual and moral, corresponding to the two

parts of the soul. Intellectual virtues are acquired through a combination of inheritance and

education, and moral virtues through imitation, practice, and habit. The habits that we

develop result in "states of character," that is , in dispositions to act certain ways, and

these states of character are "virtuous" for Aristotle if they result in acts that are in

accordance with a "golden mean" of moderation. Courage is a mean between cowardice

and foolhardiness. For example, when it comes to facing danger, one can act with excess,

that is, show too much fear. (This is cowardice.) Or one can act deficiently by showing too

little fear. (This is foolhardiness.) Or one can act with moderation, and hence virtuously,

by showing the right amount of fear. (This is courage.) Aristotle realized that the choices

we must make if we are to learn moral virtue cannot be made mathematically; rather,

they are always context-bound and must be approached through trial and error.

Returning to the intellectual virtues of practical and philosophical wisdom, the former is the

wisdom necessary to make judgments consistent with one?s understanding of the good

life. It is therefore related to moral virtue. Philosophical wisdom is scientific, disinterested,

and contemplative. It is associated with pure reason, and, for Aristotle, the capacity for

reason is that which is most human; therefore, philosophical wisdom is the highest virtue.

So, when Aristotle defined happiness as "an activity of the soul in accordance with virtue,"

the activity referred to is philosophical activity. The human being can only be happy by

leading a contemplative life, but not a monastic one. We are not only philosophical animals

but also social ones. We are engaged in a would where decisions concerning practical

matters are forced upon us constantly. Happiness (hence the good life) requires excellence

in both spheres. Therefore, in the Aristotelian view, that the highest virtue is for the few.

In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle argues that the function of man is an activity of soul

which follows a rational principle which based on both virtues.

Human good turns out to be activity of soul in accordance with virtue, and if there are

more than one virtue, in accordance with the best and most complete. But we must add

"in a complete life." For one swallow does not make a summer, nor does on day; and so

too one day, or a short time, does not make a man blessed and happy.

One who is trying to live according to a rational principle as what Aristotle suggested,

aiming for happiness, will surely find that such a life is very difficult, that the swallows do

not long remain, that the happy days do not last. What we try to do, in living out our days

of contested moral positions, is to seek happiness. But usually what we find is very little

happiness and very much despair, especially in the long run, "in a complete life."

Aristotle?s end ? A happy man in a complete life ? seems unrealistic.

As mentioned before, different people might hold different belief toward happiness.

Belief is that upon which a man is prepared to act. Beliefs, then, are rules of action, and

they got their meaning from the action for which they are rules. Beliefs produced habits,

and that the way to distinguish between beliefs was to compare the habits they produced.

A person?s belief could be established by observing that person?s actions If certain people

believed that God existed, they would conceive of the world very differently from the way

they would conceive of it if they believed God did not exist. Also, their definition toward

happiness would also be very different from those who do not believe in God. However,

there are other people whose conceptions of the world would be practically identical

whether they believed that God did or did not exist. For certain other people who find

themselves somewhere between these two extremes, the proposition "God exists" means

something like this: "On Sunday, I put on nice clothes and go to church." This is because,

for them, engaging in this activity is the only practical outcome of their belief. For those

who are Christian, richness might not have so much meaning to them. It is because their

definition on happiness is not depend on how rich you are, and this is exactly why I

opposed Aristotle?s elitism.

Clearly, practical reasoning which Aristotle founded it provides a way to understand and

explain actions. There are two important points with this founding. First, the method is

reasoning in the context of a desired end, at least typically in a way that includes a

commitment to some principle or belief. This provides motivation for the action issuing

from the reasoning. Second, this provides guidance for the action. It is exercised in part by

a belief to the effect that the end can be achieved by a certain kind of action, for instance,

in order for reaching a sweet, one might go buy some candy. The belief helps to sustain

and guide the action.

In conclude, Happiness is not a further end of the action, but its essential end. To act for a

reason is to act in order to achieve an end, whether ultimate or, more often, subsidiary, as

when we prescribe medicine in order to cure. Actions performed for a reason very

commonly issue from practical reasoning; and if Aristotle does not think they always do,

he at least holds that they are motivationally attached by a purposive chain which

terminates in a desire for happiness and can be associated, link by link, with practical

arguments that concern the relevant want, belief, and action, or at least of all action

performed for a reason, is behavioral foundationalism.

Our life is full of problems. Reasoning is a usual way to response to problems which we

concern about. We reason in response to everyday problems. For instance, asked by

friends to go out dinner at a time when we have planned something else, we must decide

which one is more important for us at that moment of time, and whether to decline or to

adjust our schedule. Reasoning appropriate to problems like this has often been called

practical. Practical reasons might be said to be reasons for acting, and it is in some sense

point toward action. Practical reasoning has been much discussed by philosophers, and it

is catalogued under Moral Philosophy. For Aristotle?s moral philosophy, as it appears in his

document now called the Nicomachean ethics, reflects his teleological (goal-oriented)

metaphyics. In the Nicomachean ethics, where Aristotle considers a science of doing, and

acting in certain way to seek rational ends. The notion of Goal, or Purpose, is the principal

one in his moral theory.

Aristotle noted that every act is performed for some purpose, which he defined as the

"good" of that act, the end at which the activity aims. We perform an act because we find

its purpose to be worthwhile. Either the totality of our acts is an infinitely circular series:

Every morning we get up in order to eat breakfast, we eat breakfast in order to go to

work, we got to work in order to get money, we get money so we can buy food in order to

be able to eat breakfast, etc., etc., etc., in which case life would be a pretty meaningless

endeavor because this is just bunch of repeated and vain activities practicing if without a

purpose. Or there is some ultimate good toward which the purpose of all acts are

directed. If there is such a good, we should try to come to know it so that we can adjust

all our acts toward it in order to avoid that saddest of all tragedies ? the wasted and vain

life

According to Aristotle, there is general verbal agreement that the end toward which all

human acts are directed is happiness; therefore, happiness is the human good since we

seek happiness for its own sake, not for the sake of something else. In a sense, realizing

the end of attaining happiness is an activity of making, and it?s the activity aims to make a

certain kind of man, living in a certain kind of society. Happiness might be explained as the

fruition of a man?s way of life, in the truly human aspect of that way of life. The good of

each thing is its own function; thus, vision is the good of the eye and walking is the good

of the foot. As Aristotle said in the Nicomachean ethics, "Every art and every inquiry, and

similarly every action and pursuit, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the

good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim." (11) However, unless

we philosophize about happiness and get to know exactly what it is and how to achieve it,

it will be stereotyped simply to say that happiness is the ultimate good. To determine the

nature of happiness, Aristotle turned to his metaphysical schema and asked, "What is the

function of the human?" In the same way he would ask about the function of a knife or a

cloth. He came to the conclusion that a human?s function is to engage in "an activity of the

soul which is in accordance with virtue and which follows a rational principle." Before

grasping this complicated definition , we must determine what virtues is and what kinds of

virtues there are. But first, we must have a basic understanding that Aristotle believed that

certain material conditions must hold before happiness can be achieved.

This list of conditions will show Aristotle?s elitism: We need good friends, riches, and

political power. We need a good birth, good children, and good looks. For the man who is

very ugly in appearance is not likely to be happy. Also we must not be very short.

Furthermore, we must be fre


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