Aristotle who lived between 384BC- 322 BC is today recognized as one of the greatest philosopher who ever walked this earth. He was a Greek philosopher and a student of another famous philosopher by name Plato. Aristotle is also considered to be the teacher of Alexander the Great and most of his influences were brought about by the interaction the two had and shared. Aristotle came up with many writings of his time and mostly revolved around philosophy but he also touched on issues to deal with metaphysics, music, logic, politics and government. Aristotle is one of the pioneers who laid the platform for western philosophy together with his teacher Plato (BEJCZY 2008, p. 25).
Ethics refer to the way human beings carry out themselves and express their character and virtues in their lives. Good ethics are vital in a human life as they dictate the character that a human being will express when faced by a challenge or a situation in life. When one has an excellent character he or she tends to live by a good virtue. Ethics is thus a study of how human beings should live well with clear cut characters and behaviors that are particular to each of them. Different factors influence how people think and react to such factors and thus ethics tends to manifest itself on humans as it directs how a person will react to a certain phenomenon in his or her life. Morals on the other hand refer to a certain behavior that is right or wrong when committed by an individual. Human beings are thinking beings and most of their action is dictated by their way of thinking.
Aristotle’s approach to development of Virtues
Aristotle is responsible for some of the greatest philosophical work in the world today. His work mostly revolved around philosophy and the way human beings carry themselves out and how their daily behavior and character is influenced by different parameters in the environment. Aristotle’s work on ethics as a subject in many schools lays out many philosophical questions similar to those raised by his teacher Plato. In his works he questions the different behavioral characteristics as expressed by different people and how they came to be. Aristotle was concerned with the reason why human beings live by virtues which are expressed in character. Having excellent character is vital for the survival of individuals as it directs how a human habit comes to be manifested in his or her life. Aristotle describes that acquisition of an excellent character leads to living well and thus ethics is a study of how human should best live as explained by Aristotle (BEJCZY 2008, p. 24).
The way human beings carry out themselves is determined by acquired characters as one grows and the environment in which he or she associates with. Politics also play a major role in molding a person’s character as to how each behaves and the virtue one will express under law. Aristotle questions how humans should best live and the contemplation of has when faced with different parameters in life. Aristotle’s approach to development of virtues is clearly stipulated in his ethical work. Aristotle believed that experience of a certain action in one’s life is responsible for his or her ethical knowledge which is not only theoretical but practical. Virtues are the characters that a human being will express and how his or her behavior will be affected by prior experience of an action in life. He believed that for a person to be virtuous he must not only learn good virtues but also express them by actions (HILL 2002, p. 46).
Virtues are the good morals or behavior that a person know and expresses through his or her actions. The human brain is responsible for much of the learning and how best one understands a given phenomenon in nature. Different people behave differently when faced with different situations in life and thus having clear morals will guide how one reacts to the particular issue. Aristotle used an approach to describe the human character and behavior as dictated by ones way of thinking. Prior experience is an important learning tool which is mostly used by humans and its gives an individual. Aristotle ones told his students that they were not studying virtue to know what it is but to become good otherwise it would not be profitable if they were not to practice it. Aristotle claimed that human beings aim at doing good which is evident by their actions but the highest good which people aim at is happiness (BEJCZY 2008, p. 38).
Aristotle approach to virtue is divided into three common guidelines as to what makes a person happy in life. One is a life that is dedicated to vulgar pleasures which will influence how a person reacts and behaves when faced by a situation. Second is a life that is dedicated and influenced by fame and honor and this gives an individual a different perception about life and how he or she acts to achieve and reap happiness. A human action is influenced by his or her way of thinking or reasoning because this is a common human attribute. Thinking helps one to distinguish between right and wrong and how one behaves or acts when faced by a phenomenon in nature. Aristotle third approach included a life that is dedicated to contemplation so as to achieve happiness which intern fulfills his or her purpose in life. Aristotle approach to development of virtues results from rational thinking where an individual uses reason or what is normally referred as logos in philosophy. His approach has been linked to other theories that have been applied to explain the ethics of virtue on the lives of human beings. His work is closely related with the works of other philosophers like Emmanuel Kant and the Utilitarian theory (SULLIVAN 2009, p. 58).
Relationship of the Aristotelian theory to Kant and Utilitarian theories on moral rules
Moral rules by Kant
Moral rules which were proposed by Aristotle are quite similar to the ones which have been proposed by Kant. Morals refer to a standard of behavior that gives an individual the principle to know what is wrong and right. Moral may also be used to describe a lesson that has been driven by an experience or a story. Moral lesson provide messages and meaning to a particular aspect in life as viewed by an individual. Aristotle came up with the human flourishing concept that seeks to find how human beings are driven to happiness as a way to fulfill their purpose. On the other hand Kant holds the thought that happiness is no the major human goal that drives a person to behave in a particular way. He tends to divert a bit from what Aristotle theory on ethics seeks to understand. Kant holds the view that happiness is not the ultimate reward for individuals to undertake the right action (SULLIVAN 2009, p. 52). He argues that it is not always the right moral to do what will maximize ones happiness. This view diverts a lot form the view that Aristotle holds of maximizing happiness by doing morally right actions.
Kant views moral rules that are strict to constraint the pursuit of happiness for an individual. Moral rules that exist in a given society mold an individual to follow these rules and one is punished if he negates any of the rules and thus it’s viewed by Kant that these rules may constraint happiness levels. Kant emphasizes on moral values that are practiced in a given society should be geared towards achieving maximum happiness for the individuals and how each should reap the best rewards. Kant’s view on moral values can be distinguished by the utilitarian view of moral happiness by set or legislated and adopted rules that may prevent happiness. His views are geared towards actions that will maximize human happiness and how substantive rules are used to make demands about the behavior of an individual. Kant used an example of lying which in sense brings out happiness but it’s morally not right as it negates the rules of conduct of people (HILL 2002, p. 29). Lying in itself is morally not right but the person doing it will reap happiness and this conduct is not a teaching of what Aristotle or the Utilitarian’s advocate for.
Utilitarian moral rules
Utilitarian theory on virtues is a close reference to the Aristotelian theory which is based on happiness and how human beings ought to carry themselves out and express the best of morals when seeking happiness. Utilitarian are known to base their argument on doing what best promotes happiness with a view that happiness itself is good enough. Aristotelian and utilitarian theory bases their view that the best moral or virtues is the one that maximizes happiness in one’s life. Kant in an earlier view holds the thought that it’s not always fright to do the thing that maximizes ones happiness. Some virtues are morally wrong but they derive a lot of happiness for a person doing them. Aristotle’s approach to virtues is very much related to the views expressed by the utilitarian theory which is guided by reason and choice. Moral values proposed by Aristotle forms part of the fundamental principles of morality as expressed by human beings in the society and this principles are the main drives for happiness.
A virtue is a human character that seeks to express high moral standards. A virtue is thus a behavior evident in human beings that expresses goodness and nobility. Human beings express different behavioral characteristics depending on the issue or aspects one is facing. Kant used a model he called Categorical Imperative or ‘ CI’ which argue that morals are requirements in the society based on rationality. Morals are thus seen as the fuel that drives society together and they are guided by desire and reason as they result in happiness to the individual and the society. Immorality is on the other hand viewed as a violation of the Categorical Imperative theory by Kant (HILL 2002, p. 41). Utilitarian theory on moral values also seeks to derive virtues in society that will be geared towards achieving happiness. The fundamental principle of morality is thus it should derive happiness in the society through equal worth and respect for all the individuals.
Moral values are important aspects of the human life as they guide how an individual will act and behave when faced by a certain phenomenon in life. Good morals are emphasized by different scholars and teachers of law and philosophy as they help one to act in a guided way. Aristotle came up with different aspects that affect human and influence human life and he dwelt so much on guiding his student to express good virtues in their daily activity as it would help them reap the purpose of life. Human beings are driven by actions to achieve happiness and this is evident by the way people go far in achieving happiness. Virtues are the good characters that are expressed by human beings and they stem out by way of reasoning which is a common aspect among human beings. Human beings are thinking beings that rely on reason and prior knowledge or experience when performing a certain duty or action. Moral rules are or great help in the society as they influence the behavior of people in that society. Rules and laws that have been adopted in the society form a basis for guidance for the different stakeholders in the society and how they influence behavior. Anyone who goes against the set rules is punishable under law and this is a major guideline for people to live virtuous life. Aristotelian theory on development of virtues provided a basis for other philosophers like Kant to propose their theories and come up with the current theories as evident in virtue ethics.
BEJCZY, IP 2008, Virtue ethics in the Middle Ages: commentaries on Aristotle’s Nicomachean
ethics, 1200 -1500. Leiden, Brill.
HILL, TE 2002, Human welfare and moral worth Kantian perspectives. Oxford, Clarendon
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SULLIVAN, RJ 2009, Immanuel Kant’s moral theory. Cambridge [England], Cambridge University Press.