Study Guide

The Nicomachean Ethics Book 2, Chapter 1 (1102b11-1103b25)

By Aristotle

Book 2, Chapter 1 (1102b11-1103b25)

  • More on virtue. Intellectual virtue is the result of education, which requires experience.
  • Moral virtues happen because of habits. Aristotle breaks it down for us: "moral virtues" (ēthikē) get its name from "habit" (ethos).
  • This further proves that moral virtues are not "natural" for humans—it's something we acquire over time through habituation.
  • But they also can't be present against the nature of a human being. If it's not innate in us to receive such training and it just isn't going to happen.
  • What follows is the process of how these natures are nurtured.
  • First, we have the "capacities" associated with the virtues in us. It's not until we can act on our own that those are displayed.
  • We acquire virtues only by practicing the behaviors associated with them. Aristotle compares this to any skill, like house building. It's the practical experience that counts.
  • This is the aim of those who create laws: to create good citizens by habituating them to follow the law.
  • This is the same process that uncovers people who do not possess moral virtue. It's through our actions that we practice and define ourselves.
  • For Aristotle, this just proves that we need teachers to nurture people, since we're not born already good or bad.
  • This is also why it's important to make sure that the things that we do are worthy—otherwise we literally will become as degraded as our actions.
  • Aristotle believes it's crucial to be habituated to doing virtuous activities from childhood, so it becomes second nature.