Aristotle’s theory of moral virtue contends that our ultimate purpose or goal in life should be to reach eudaimonia, but to do so requires our ability to function properly in our thoughts and actions according to our sense of reason and our innate understanding of moral virtues. Additionally, by using principles of both the intellectual (taught or learned) and moral virtue (which becomes habit upon practice and imitation) we must learn to make decisions that are right and just—not necessarily for our own personal benefit, but simply because we posses an understanding that something is the right course of action.
As we have noted in other works we’ve analyzed by Aristotle, including On the Heavens, without having these two aspects work in unison the theory of moral virtue is incomplete and impossible In short, it is our intellectual understanding of virtue that allows us to perceive what it right while our moral virtue aids us in carrying out what we know to be the correct and just course of action and these two parts of our concept of virtue lead to what Aristotle calls the “moral theory of virtue” as it is a combination of these parts.
In his attempt to explain the theory of moral virtue and, for that matter, the central goal, eudaimonia, Aristotle describes the important concept of finding middle ground in one’s life or, achieving a balance. In line with the theory of moral virtue Aristotle contends that to achieve these aims and reach eudaimonia, one of the most important lessons Aristotle teaches in the theory of moral virtue is strike a balance, or hit a mean between extremes in behavior, thought, and action. In the theory of moral virtue, Aristotle states that we must act knowingly and do the right thing because it is right, not because there is a personal stake in terms of the future possibility of pleasure or pain. In short, in this theory, what is morally right or wrong is something we understand in an intellectual sense and we apply this knowledge of moral behavior through our practice and habituation of moral virtues.
Other essays and articles in the Main Archives related to this topic include : The Definition of Virtue in Plato’s Meno • A Rewrite of “The Apology” by Plato in the Voice of Socrates • Thematic Analysis and Summary of The Republic • Essay Comparing The Republic and Leviathan • Extended Critical Biography of Alexander the Great