THIS WEEK’S READING: Notes on ends and virtues, and a short excerpt from Aristotle (below)
WATCH: Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing. Your teacher will be figuring out how your class will watch Spike Lee’s 1989 movie, Do the Right Thing. You will need to have seen the movie to fill out some of the forms in this module.
Write: Interview Follow-up
Watch: Aristotle & Do the Right Thing
Read: Looking at Spike Lee’s characters from an Aristotelian point of view
ENDS: One way to understand the characters in the movie is to think about their ‘ends’: what are the things that the character is pursuing, both the straightforward things they do every day and the bigger goals they might have. For example, Mookie delivers pizza to make some money. Do we know more about the reasons why Mookie wants or needs to make money?
CHARACTER QUALITIES and the “Doctrine of the Mean”: Here’s one way Aristotle talks about ‘the mean’ in the assigned reading:
“Virtue, then, is a state that decides, consisting in / a mean, the mean relative to us, which is defined by reference to reason, that is to say, to the reason by reference to which the prudent person would define it. It is a mean between two vices, one of excess and one of deficiency.”– Aristotle’s Ethics, Book II Chapter 6 ¶15
And here’s a version in more contemporary language –
Excellence of character, then, is the state of making a decision about one’s behavior by judging for oneself what the appropriate behavior would be, knowing that ‘appropriate’ means finding the right spot between excess (too much of something) and deficiency (too little of something).
You can use Aristotle’s way of thinking about character qualities to make some observations about the movie’s characters when it comes to four of Aristotle’s virtues: courage, generosity, pride, and anger. Where do you think each character is on the spectrum of deficiency to excess when it comes to each of those virtues?
Write: Character Ends & Virtues
Below you will find a total of five free-writes asking you to analyze different characters from Do the Right Thing and discuss what you notice about the characters’ ends and their virtues (character qualities).