Saturday, October 10, 2009

Nicomanchean Game.

Aristotle's book, The Nicomanchean ethics, deals with the fundamental question of how to lead a happy life. Aristotle's answer to the problem was that by living "virtuously"men would be able to find happiness.. Now virtue, in the Aristotilean sense, should not be confused with Christian concepts of virtue, rather it should be more thought of having the skills to live "correctly". This correct living was necessary if men were to find happiness, and while Aristotle realised that a happy life was also dependant on certain externalites, the main factor in the achievement of human happinesss was the cultivation of the "correct life skills" or virtues.

According to Aristotle, a deficiency of a virtue would make happiness unattainable. For example, courage was needed if a man were to fight off his adversaries and maintain a certain independance of action. People who were too cowardly to stand up for themselves were unhappy people and Aristotle argued that what a man needed to remedy the situation was the virtue of "courage". Aristotle also realised that the virtues had to be "harmonised". Courage had to be tempered by prudence, generosity by prudence and thrift. Virtues then were then a package of traits which gave happiness. The Nichomanchean ethics then goes on at length to discuss the nature of these traits.

Aristotle also argued that should a man be deficient in one or more of these virtues, it was possible to acquire them through practice until they became habituated. A man became just, by performing just acts, couragous by acting bravely and so on. The habituated practice did more than just give the appearance of virtue, but was transformative of the man's character itself. While the initialy attempts to practice the virtue would be poor and forced, with practice the virtue would be come habituated and the it become "natural". The man practicing good acts, became good. The couragous acts transformed a coward into a brave man, so that in the end, given a threatening situation, he could be counted on to act bravely. Furthermore, this transformation of character resulted in the man being happier

As mentioned before, Aritsotle also realised that virtue was not enough and that a man needed certain "externalities" outside of his character in order to find happiness. A certain amount of wealth, friendship and luck and so on were also required. However these externalities were wasted if the character was deficient. A man who inherited wealth would loose it if imprudent, friends would be lost if untrustworthy and so on. It also followed that the achievement of these externalities were facilitated by certain virtues of character. Wealth could be enlarged by industriousness and social standing by good character. In essences a man's fortune with regard to these externalities was dependent on his virtues.

It could also be demonstrated that individual human beings possessed the virtues in various degrees. Some men were "naturally" industrious, other naturally brave and so on. Most men seemed to have a mixture of the virtues and were absent in others. In order to be happy, the role of the reflective man was then to honestly examine himself, identify his deficiencies and then set about through practice to remedy them. Failure to do so, was a culpable vice against a man's own self.

Now one of the externalities which seem to be self-evidently necessary for the happiness of man is the companionship of the opposite sex. Therefore character traits which facilitate this companionship are a virtue. A man possessing these virtues would attract members of the opposite sex in the degree to which he posseses them. In a man these characteristics may be thought of as the masculine virtues; in a woman, the feminine. Some men through good luck will possess these virtues naturally but others will not. In order to be happy, men deficient in these virtues are obligated to cultivate them if they wish to be happy. As alluded to before, not only does a man become more attractive by practicing these virtues to the opposite sex, but by practicing the virtue he becomes more masculine and happier. His "outer Game" builds his "inner Game". An example of this can be found here.

It also needs to be remembered that without practice, the virtue becomes atrophied and with regard to game, a man who doesn't practice it will loose it. His attractiveness to the opposite sex will diminish with time. The hen-pecked husband is contemptible to his peers and to his partner as well. Therefore just as a man cultivates piety by attending Church regularly, so too does a man build up his game by its regular exercise. A husband seeking to maintain the attractiveness of his wife needs to practice it regularly.

Game fits withing the Aristotilean understanding human character and is a virtue which needs to be cultivate if a man is to be happy. As any lonely person will attest, the misery of loneliness is a self-evident truth. Therefore a man "owes it to himself" to practice the virtue in order to find a partner, failure to do so is a vice.

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