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The Intellectual Virtue

The Intellectual Virtue:

  • Aristotle maintains that humans must possess intellectual virtues as well, such as wisdom, which are centred in our rational capacity. He believes that it is in the nature of human being to wonder and think about the world and the human beings.
  • In Aristotle’s view, the moral virtues support the intellectual ones. When the two sets of virtues are embodied together, the good life for humans is realized and we flourish as a human being.


  • Praise or blame, according to Aristotle, should be assigned only to voluntary actions. The actions of children and animals are voluntary but they do not have the capacity for deliberate choice.
  • Choice is not to be identified with desire, passion, wish or opinion. It presupposes prior reasoning and is therefore defined as ‘what has been decided on by previous deliberation’.
  • Deliberation, argues Aristotle, is about means and not ends, and is confined to things that are in our power and can be done. Deliberation is appropriate only where there is uncertainty and where we are ourselves involved as agents.
  • He says, ‘The end cannot be a subject of deliberation, but only what contributes to the ends. If we are to be always deliberating, we shall have to go on to infinity’.

Incontinence and continence:

  • An incontinent man is one who knows that what he does is bad but still does it as a result of passion. A continent man, on the other hand, knows that his appetites are bad, and does not follow them because of his reason.                              The Intellectual Virtue
  • On this Aristotle differs from Socrates and Plato. The incontinent man is unable to help himself; he is in the grip of his passions.
  • Incontinence in the strict sense differs from intemperance. Intemperance is incurable whereas the incontinent man can be encouraged to change his mode of behaviour and can feel remorse.


  • Virtue ethics of Aristotle claims to bring the theoretical and the practical together. It argues that unethical behaviour is also unreasonable because it does not lead to a flourishing life.
  • Our values and our ideas about how human beings should behave can have objective validity because they are based on truths about human beings. Thus, it is better to throw The Invisible Ring’ and cultivate the virtues instead.                                          The Intellectual Virtue
  • Emotivism recognizes that moral judgements express feeling, but it neglects the role of rational reflection. Relativism makes us aware of the importance of understanding moral norms in relation to the culture but is unable to suggest a critical perspective with regard to cultural norms and practices.
  • Kantian ethics reinstates reason but at the expense of feeling; it fails to see that morality needs to acknowledge legitimate desire for happiness. The Utilitarians over emphasise on maximizing happiness and could not accommodate the notion of justice and individual right satisfactorily within the fold.
  • Virtue ethics is perhaps the most balanced theory. However, the complexity of moral life is such that while all the theories unravel some important aspects of morality, none offers an adequate account of the whole. This is because the whole is too big and irregular and complex to be captured by a single theory.



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