Aristotle on the nature of ethos and ethismos

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That character virtue is produced, according to Aristotle, through a process of moral habituation is a familiar feature of his ethics. And yet our feeling of familiarity with the notions of habit and habituation can engender a like feeling of familiarity with the process Aristotle describes, and encourage us to conceive of this process in an overly narrow way. In this chapter, I examine Aristotle’s notion of ethos and ethismos (habit, habituation) in the Nicomachean Ethics to better understand what Aristotle means to convey when he claims that character virtue ‘arises from habit’. I argue that to characterise habituation as ‘non-rational’ is misleading, particularly when this characterisation forecloses questions about what kinds of activity may be involved in the process of habituation, and what kind of states can be produced as a result. Habituation, I argue, is not characterised as a non-rational process, but a process that involves action and activity. This allows that the process of habituation may be understood in a relatively broad way and as potentially involving a range of activities which engage and develop a variety of psychological capacities. It also raises interesting questions about what a learner’s activity affords and how this contributes to her successful habituation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHabit and the history of philosophy
EditorsJeremy Dunham, Komarine Romdenh-Romluc
Place of PublicationAbingdon, Oxon
PublisherRoutledge Taylor & Francis Group
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781315186436
ISBN (Print)9781138735644, 9781032305844
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2022

Publication series

NameRewriting the history of philosophy


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