In Book X of the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle says, “The just man needs people towards whom and with whom he shall act justly, and the temperate man, the brave man, and each of the others is in the same case, but the philosopher, even when by himself, can contemplate truth, and the better the wiser he is; he can perhaps do so better if he has fellow-workers, but still he is the most self-sufficient.”
In a 4-5 page essay, reflect on the social implications of Aristotle’s statement and compare his characterization of moral and intellectual virtues. What is the significance of the assertion that in order to possess moral virtues such as justice and bravery, we must live in a community and have friendship—that is, we must have other people around us toward whom we can practice moral virtue? By contrast, what do you make of Aristotle’s statement that intellectual virtues can be practiced whether or not we have resources such as friendship—that is, the philosopher does not need relationships with others in order to contemplate truth?
Finally, apply this reflection to contemporary society. Do you think it’s necessary to “be with others” in order to be morally virtuous? Do you see this way of relating taking place in modern society? Why or why not? Furthermore, do you think intellectual virtue is something that makes us “self-sufficient”? In other words, do you think philosophical inquiry can be a way for us to get in touch with “what is best in us” (our ability to reason), whether or not we have meaningful relationships or other worldly resources at our disposal? Finally, be sure to include a personal story or example that illustrates your answers to the questions.