Acting virtuously as an end in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics

British Journal for the History of Philosophy 26 (6):1006-1026 (2018)
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Sometimes, in the Nicomachean Ethics (NE), Aristotle describes virtuous actions as the sorts of actions that are ends; it is important for Aristotle to do so if he wants to maintain, as he seems to at least until NE 10.7-8, that virtuous actions are a constituent of eudaimonia. At other times, he claims that virtuous actions are the sorts of actions that are for the sake of ends beyond themselves; after all, no one would choose to go into battle or give away a significant portion of their wealth if it did not realize some good end. In this paper, I review the familiar problem raised by Aristotle's discussion of the nature of virtuous actions, propose a solution to this problem by appealing to a distinction between virtuous actions and 'acting virtuously', and sketch the significance of this solution for understanding the relationship between virtue and human happiness.

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Sukaina Hirji
University of Pennsylvania


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