Aristotle on Becoming Good: Habituation, Reflection, and Perception

Richard Kraut

in The Oxford Handbook of Aristotle

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780195187489
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

 Aristotle on Becoming Good: Habituation, Reflection, and Perception

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The Greek noun for which “virtue” and “excellence” are often used as translations—aretê (plural: aretai)—is cognate to the name of the god of war, Ares (called “Mars” in Latin) and, centuries prior to Aristotle, designated the manliness or valor of a warrior. But by the fifth and fourth centuries BC, it had acquired a much wider connotation and extension. Aristotle insists that there is one virtue of thought—the one he calls phronêsis (often translated as “practical wisdom”)—which is intimately tied to the virtues of character: One cannot have any of those ethical virtues (justice, courage, moderation) without having phronêsis; and one cannot have phronêsis unless one also has those ethical virtues. This article discusses Aristotle's views on becoming good, focusing on habituation, reflection, and perception, and also examines virtues of character and virtues of thought, Socratic intellectualism, cleverness, the stages of ethical development, and mid-level goals.

Keywords: Aristotle; good; habituation; reflection; perception; virtues of character; virtues of thought; intellectualism; cleverness; goals

Article.  15489 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Classical Philosophy ; Moral Philosophy

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