Philosophical Ethics Essay, Research Paper
Aristotle s Doctrine of the Mean states that there are three kinds of dispositions, two of them vices, involving excess and deficiency and one virtue which is the intermediate or mean. Aristotle considers the act of courage to be a mean concerning fear and confidence. With the deficiency of courage being cowardice and the excess being rashness. In his Nicomachean Ethics, he goes into detail about what courage is and what qualifies a person as being courageous. Aristotle states The man, then, who faces and who fears the right things with the right aim, in the right way and at the right time, and who feels confidence under the corresponding conditions, is brave; for the brave man feels and acts according to the merits of the case and in whatever way reason directs (Aristotle, Book 111, chp. 7). He is essentially saying that a brave man is a noble man as well.
Aristotle also indicates that the brave man is fearless of most things and is concerned with only the greatest of things. A brave man then, is one who stands his ground in the face of death since death is the end and it the most terrible of all things, however, not all instances of death are great enough to make a brave man quiver. Deaths involved in battle and wars are the circumstances in which brave men are concerned with since they take place in the greatest and noblest danger. Properly, then, he will be called brave who is fearless in face of a noble death, and of all emergencies that involve death; and the emergencies of war are in the highest degree of this kind (Aristotle, Book 111, chp 6).
Aristotle goes on to discuss what consists of doing an act of cowardice or rashness. A madman or insensible person is the name he gives to a person who has gone to the excess and fears nothing. In the same context, a person who is over confidant and exceeds in confidence about something is acting rash and boastful. On the otherhand, a person would not stand their ground against something that is truly terrible and exceeds in fear is simply a coward. All three types of men have their eyes set on the same object; however, the way they attempt to achieve it is different.
But to escape from poverty or love or anything painful is not the mark of a brave man, but rather of a coward . Aristotle states this in chapter seven referring to the instance of a person taking their life or fleeing because ultimately they do not wish to stand the pain of something. They are not brave rather cowards for a brave man would stand in face the pain, for pain is weakness leaving the body.
In the case of the elderly man who has a terminal and incurable disease and who wishes to take his life, I feel that Aristotle would count this man as being a courageous individual. This man has obviously faced the pain and hardship of this disease for some time now and has learned that soon he might go into a coma. It is not as if he tried to kill himself when he first learned of the disease he had acquired. The old man has hopefully lived a long and fruitful life and now requests to leave this world on his own terms with the assistance of a physician. Aristotle feels that truly living is having cognitive ability and being able to make decisions and think. Being a human being is being able to reason is what Aristotle says in his Function Argument. Therefore, if this sick and elderly man will soon lose all cognitive abilities then he, in Aristotle s eyes, will not even be human since he can not reason, think for himself, or make decisions. He then will be more of a burden for his family members and I feel Aristotle would agree that just because ones heart is still pumping blood does not mean that they are alive. The function of humans is to reason and living in a state of unconsciousness the action of reason is not possible.
However, in the case of the thirty year-old Indian woman who kills herself after her husband dies, Aristotle would clearly and openly view that as an action of cowardice. Taking ones life is not an act of courage but rather an act of cowardice for they are not strong enough to withstand pain and choose the easy way out. Aristotle states that is softness to fly from what is troublesome and that it is harder to face what is painful than to abstain from what is pleasant. I as well do not believe in the Hindu act of suttee for it is indeed acting in a cowardly manner. Death of a loved one is the hardest thing to endure, but it is a part of life and something that makes one stronger mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. Aristotle would consider this woman courageous if she had not done what she had done. This woman was only thirty years old and had a long life ahead of her. By taking the easy and perhaps less painful way out she showed cowardice and not courage for the actions she took. Aristotle would agree that no matter how hard it rains, you must withstand the pain.
In the third and final case, Aristotle would count this action as to be the most courageous and bravest. The action in discussion is that of the Japanese pilot whom in the time of war volunteered to fly his plan into a warship, knowing he would lose his life. The reason Aristotle would count this action as being courageous and not stupid is that it takes place in the time of war and battle. He feels that deaths that occur in battle are the noblest for that take place in the greatest and noblest danger. Aristotle says that a person who is fearless in the face of a noble death is brave and has great courage. This kamikaze pilot is only twenty-two years old and volunteers for the mission knowing he will die in battle. This is exactly what Aristotle says in courage, a person acting fearless in the face of a noble death. In addition, this is the highest degree of a courageous and noble death a person can obtain in the mind of Aristotle.
In conclusion, I believe Aristotle was a man of principles and he stood firmly about the things he believed in, in this essay it being courage. I do not always agree with what he considers courageous and what is cowardice. However, I do respect his views and take away from this a better and different understanding of some of those principles.