Virtue or excellence is a psychic phenomenon. Is it an emotion, or the capacity to experience an emotion? An emotion is something we feel or undergo and we cannot hold ourselves responsible for that; but it is an essential feature of virtue that we praise it, of vice that we blame it. But we do not praise and blame that for which we cannot be held responsible. Therefore, neither virtue nor vice can be an emotion or the capacity to experience an emotion.
Virtue and vice should be understood, rather, as dispositions, a certain habitual stance we take in regard to our emotions. Someone who is habitually afraid of everything has developed a disposition of cowardice in regard to the emotion of fear, for which he can be blamed; someone who is habitually inclined neither to indulge in pleasures excessively nor to shun them at all costs has developed a disposition of moderation in relation to the desire for pleasure, for which he can be praised.
These praiseworthy and blameworthy dispositions are not something we are born with; nor, on the other hand, can they be taught theoretically. They are acquired by a process of habituation, which begins with parents' training of children. As humans, we take pleasure in being praised, and are pained by the shame that accompanies blame; this pleasure and pain can be used to mold an immediate or natural attraction to pleasure and repulsion from pain which would not prove to be the good for us. It is, then, by practicing moderation that we develop a moderate disposition; of course, we can only be said to be virtuous when we practice moderate actions motivated by a disposition of moderation, which is different from the motive governing our practice such actions in the process of acquiring that virtue.
Aristotle believed that a person who hasdifficulty behaving ethically is morally imperfect. His ideal person practices the “golden mean of moderation.” He believed that this moral virtue