Chapter 3 – Aristotle’s Account of How to Become a Good Person

In episode two of The Good Place, one of the central questions was if morality could be taught.  As Chidi mentioned, Aristotle believes that you can be taught to be a good person.  At the beginning of episode three, Chidi is trying to explain why being a good person is under her control.  According to Chidi, “Aristotle believes that your character is voluntary, because it is just the result of your actions which are under your control.”  So, what does that mean?  While Chidi does try to explain it again, he essentially uses the same words.  Personally, I found it a bit confusing, so I thought I would elaborate.

In Book II Chapter 1, of the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle argues that moral virtue is formed by habit.  We are not born naturally good.  Additionally, simply being told what is good and bad is not enough to make a person be moral.  Instead, we need to develop the habits that a good person has in order to be a good person.  Just as people become builders from building houses and a harpist by playing the harp, “we become just by the practice of just actions, self-controlled by exercising self-control, and courageous by performing acts of courage.”

From Aristotle’s perspective, then the process of moral development begins by choosing to do good actions.  If you continue to do that appropriately, then it will become a habit.  Habits are part of your character.  As you develop the habit of being good, you are developing a good character.  Thus, you will end up being a good person.