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In this paper, I will argue that Aristotle’s structure of virtue, which requires that there is always the possibility of an excess and deficiency in an underlying emotion/desire, is correct. In order to do so, I will carry out my paper in the following way. First, I will explain what Aristotle defines as a good human and the Doctrine of the Mean. Next, I will explain the virtue of generosity and its respective vices using the 5 conditions. Lastly, I will convey that the virtue of generosity will have a positive effect on our lives, while its vices will affect us negatively.

I will now explain Aristotle’s definition of a good human. The Function Argument states that the good relates to the characteristic function of an object (DeWitt, week 2); therefore an object X must be effective in its purpose or function in order to be considered a good X. For example, a knife, the purpose of which is to cut, must be sharp in order to be considered a good knife. The degree to which an object is good differs in regard to the object. The characteristic activity of a human being is an activity of the soul in accordance with reason or at least not entirely lacking it (Aristotle, 1098a). Therefore, an excellent human is one who is virtuous. Humans are not omnipotent or omniscient; we are not capable of being completely virtuous (DeWitt, week 1). We can attempt to behave more virtuously by applying the Doctrine of the Mean in order to appropriately stabilize our emotions.

Now, I will give an account of the Doctrine of the Mean. Aristotle’s Doctrine of the Mean states that the mean between two extremes of an underlying emotion or desire is a virtue. For example, if the underlying emotion in consideration is fear, an excess or deficiency of fear would be the vices of cowardice and rashness, respectively. Additionally, the mean is also relative to the individual. If two individuals are walking down a dark alley alone, the smaller of the two would feel fear more intensely. The mean also varies in regard to the context; one should feel more fear while walking down a dark alley alone than they would sit in a classroom (DeWitt, week 2).

The most virtuous version of ourselves is us in our most well-functioning state. We embody this state when we maintain our emotions to the point of reaching the mean. An excess or deficiency of any underlying emotion will disrupt this state (DeWitt, week 3). When considering the emotion of hunger, an excess will result in unrestrained eating. A deficiency, in starvation. A moderate amount of hunger will result in a normal eating schedule, promoting health. Habituation is an imperative aspect of leading a virtuous life. We’re not born knowing what is virtuous; we must practice virtue so it becomes more natural for us (Aristotle, 1104a).

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Here I will discuss the virtue of generosity and its respective vices. The underlying desire for generosity is the desire to assist others, often financially. A deficiency of this desire is the vice of greed, while an excess of this desire is the vice of carelessness. In order for an act of generosity to be considered virtuous, one must be conscious of their actions. Additionally, they must act and feel in the following way: about the right things, towards the right people, for the right end, in the right way, and at the right time (DeWitt, week 4). A generous being would lend money for the right cause. If someone knew that the borrowed money was going to be used for harmful purposes, they shouldn’t be willing to loan money for such a cause. To be morally generous, one should act generously towards a deserving individual. Donating money to a hate group would not be a virtuous act. Additionally, an individual must carry out their generosity for the sake of being generous; if they were helping another individual hoping that said individual would then return the favor, this would not be a virtuous act. It would be an act committed in their own self-interest, not for the sake of offering aid to another individual. The donation would have to be carried out in an appropriate manner. If one were to carry out efforts to make their generosity known, thereby possibly embarrassing the receiver, their generosity would not be moral. Finally, an individual would have to put their generosity into action at the right time. If an individual did not possess enough money for themselves to be financially stable, it would not be the correct time for them to be generous towards another individual.

Some may argue that these five conditions are not necessarily always reasonable or required for an act to be virtuous. For example, it can be argued that it is possible for a financially unstable individual to be generous by offering others money. This transaction would carry the immediate result of the happiness of the donor and the financial stability of the recipient. For a short amount of time, this interaction may yield positive results for both parties involved. However, while the receiver’s financial stability may endure, the donor’s happiness will eventually decline as they realize that their financial situation is now worse. Essentially, when taking into account long-term results, the individual aspiring to be generous must take into account the five conditions described above in order to ensure that they will not face negative consequences or cause more harm than good.

Now I will argue for my thesis, explaining why the virtue of generosity will carry positive results while the vices of greed and carelessness will carry negative results. Generosity is a good virtue to practice because it teaches us to be careful with our belongings while simultaneously recognizing what we are able to give away in order to make someone else’s life better without damaging ours. Practicing the meaning of generosity ensures that we do not put ourselves in undesirable financial situations, but allows us to indulge in our desire to offer aid to others. Therefore, generous individuals find themselves in the most balanced and well-functioning financial state. Not only do generous individuals fulfill their sense of responsibility, but they also tend to create a desirable reputation for themselves. A deficiency of the desire to provide financial assistance to others will result in a state of greed. While an individual in this state will potentially become excessively wealthy, they essentially harm the remaining members of society by withholding resources that would better the lives of those around them. Oftentimes, individuals who refuse to provide financial assistance to individuals or causes face consequences. For example, billionaires such as Jeff Bezos who are capable of easily solving major world issues but refuse to do so face backlash and criticism on a large scale. Contrarily, an individual who possesses an excessive amount of the desire to help others may be considered careless with their money. They would violate any of the five conditions for the sake of pleasing others. Consequently, this would result in their own deficiency of financial resources, decreasing the value of their own life. Essentially, while an individual’s greed is harmful to the rest of society’s members, financial carelessness is directly harmful to the individual themselves.

In this essay, I have argued that the meaning of the desire to help others, the virtue of generosity, will have positive effects on our lives. Adversely, the deficiency, the vice of greed, and the excess, the vice of carelessness, will hold unfavorable results. I have argued this by first explaining what it means to be a good human and the Doctrine of the Mean. Then, I described the virtues and vices of the desire to help others incorporating the 5 conditions. Additionally, I explained why it would not be morally generous to act out of accordance with these conditions.

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