Aristotle was also a great Greek philosopher. He was the first to write a book on ethics in the Western world. Knowledge, courage, bravery, and perseverance by themselves do not make a morally good character or man. Their ethical significance depends on the motives and the values to which they are related. Aristotle, therefore, rightly distinguishes the moral virtues from the intellectual virtues. The doctrine of the golden mean is central in Aristotle’s concept of virtues.
Aristotle is also right in extending the meaning of the important virtue of justice. He considers justice as the supreme virtue. It has two forms. Distributive justice consists in the equitable distribution of wealth and honours among the citizens of the state. Remedial justice consists of the fair transactions among the members of the community. The virtues are acquired through the development of the habit of doing virtuous actions consistently. Ability to think and ability to control one’s desires and passions is the special virtue of man.
According to Aristotle, virtuous conduct consists in avoiding the extremes of excess or of deficiency. For instance, excessive indulgence is as much a vice as the excessive repression of desires. Self control, therefore, is a virtue. Likewise, courage is the mean between rashness and cowardice. For instance generosity lies between meanness and prodigality. Thus, virtue is a matter of striking a mean between two vices. Moral virtue thus is a mean- state lying between two vices, viz. a vice of excess on the one side and a vice of deficiency on the other. It is not easy to find the mean. As Sahakian has pointed out, it consists in doing the right thing, to the right person, to the right extent, with the right motive, and at the right time. For instance, the practice of generosity: give generously to the right person, at the right time, to the right extent, with the right purpose.