Chapter 13

The Soul and virtue.

what's virtue?

well, as mentionned earlier, it's an activity of the soul. So, first, we'll discuss the soul, to see what kind of activity we need in order to be virtuous (good).

FIrst off, for Aristotle, everythign that's alive has a soul. Plants, insects, dogs, and you. But we don't all have the same soul. Plants and trees all have basic souls according to aristotle, with only one part- vegetative. the vegetative part of the sould deals only with growth. Nothing to do with desire, reason, or anything else really. The reason anything is alive rather than dead is because it has a soul. THe soul makes what is potential, actual.

Animals are more complex, and they have two parts to the soul- vegetative, because they are alive, and desire. Your dog wants steak.

Humans are the top of the soul-chain, and have three parts of the soul. We have a vegetative part- we grow, we have desires (we want steak). AND, because we're special, we have reason! According to aristotle, animals don't have reason. Reason is a characteristic activity of human beings.

Now, the vegetative aspect has nothing to do with reason. No matter how logically you think of something, you won't change your height. On the other hand, desire is influenced by reason. WHen Aristotle says it has reason "in the sense that someone who listens to his father has reason", he means that it desire is directed towards better ends when it is influenced by reason. I think it's easier just to say that desire can be influenced by reason, whereas the vegetative aspect of the soul cannot.

Virtue is divided in the same way that reason and desire are- some virtues are intellectual, some are of character. Having good judgement, or being wise, is an intellectual virtue. Being generous or brave is a character virtue. in the first two, it's how you think that matters, in the last two it's how you feel that matters.

So is the soul really separated into different parts? Or is there only one soul that we divide into three parts arbitrarily? we don't know. But even if it's distinguished in thought only, aristotle's point does not change.

And how are we so sure animals don't have reason? Well, it's pretty clear some animals can think. But different animals have different abilities- Monkeys are smarter than dogs, dogs are smarter than cows, and human beings are WAY smarter than all the other ones. Aristotle claims that only humans have a reasoning part of the soul, but perhaps what we should understand is that human being have a unique capactity to reason well and deeply, and then do something about it.

In essence, we are free because we can resist our desires if we see our desires aren't good for us. A mouse will run into a trap in order to get cheese, and fish will eat until they die if you keep on feeding them. Human beings can decide what kinds of things they want to want.

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