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Plato vs. AristotleResearch Paper

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¶ … Aristotle and Plato ethical philosophy

In the history of philosophy, the two Greeks, Aristotle and Plato are some of the greatest names that made contributions towards the advancement and development of philosophy as a discipline. They are known for their immense contributions towards development of science, ethics, politics and other fields with significant impact. Plato was a philosopher born in Athens around 427 BC.He lived during the Synthesis age. Until his mid twenties Athens was involved in a long military conflict which had ben quite disastrous known as Peloponnesian war. Plato got common Athenian education in Athens. He was taught grimmer, painting, music and gymnastics. In his years as a youth, he took the poetry profession. Later after meting Socrates the stopped poetry and turned into philosophy. His most renowned pupil was Aristotle. He was a very sophisticated writer as evidenced by his important work Socratic Dialogues which include; thirty-six dialogues, and thirteen letters assigned to Socrates.

These two philosophers had divergent ideas about issues that they raised in their philosophical approaches. There are very few areas that they totally agree on philosophically despite the fact that they lived during the same period in terms of the development of philosophy. It is the endeavor of this paper therefore to delve into the philosophical beliefs and arguments of these two philosophers and see what informs their belief system especially in the line of philosophy and ethics.

Aristotle's Virtue of Ethics: this is one of the most renown theories of ethics that Aristotle formulated, here he explains the preconditions necessary to have moral responsibilities assigned to a given agent, the kind of ethics or virtues and the vices that are involved in the process of moral assessment as well as the course of obtaining happiness in life as an individual. The essential matter that Aristotle tackles is the aspect of character - what does it take for a human being to be a good person? Aristotle argued that there is an aim in every activity, and this aim is the highest good. He says that since the intrinsic good cannot regress to diminishing point or to infinity, then there must be a highest point of goodness that every human activity aims at.

Aristotle also notes that things of any diversity have a distinctive function that they are suitably used to perform. The good for man, then, must fundamentally entail the complete proper function of human life in full. This must be an action of the soul that articulates authentic virtue or excellence. Therefore, man should aspire for a life in full consistency with their rational natures; for this, the fulfillment of desires and the possession of material goods are secondary to achievement of virtue.

Aristotle further propagated the theory of potentiality, where he argued that within everything in nature, there is a natural evolution that gears towards becoming its own form and fulfilling its own potential. This is the evolution from the imperfections towards perfection (James Mannion, 2012). He further indicated that this is an ingrained component of all nature and that is a mandatory and involuntary process that nature must pass through.

The virtue theory states that a person is judged by his character rather than by his actions which might deviate from his normal behavior. The theory takes into account a person's reputation, morals and motivation into consideration when rating an unethical occurrence.

On the other hand, Plato had a different perspective and his was more grounded on the instilling of ethical behavior within the society by the political leadership of the country. From the onset, Plato makes it clear that there is need for justice within the state and wonders why men behave justly. According to him, justice can be found when there is harmony in a structured political body. He indicates that an ideal society is divided into three categories or classes; producers (farmers, artisans, craftsmen), auxiliaries (worrier) and lastly the guardians (rulers) (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2002).

According to Plato, philosophers are the rulers and the custodians or guards of the Kallipolis or the beautiful city -- the ideal state. These philosophers are the people who are knowledgeable enough in law and can take care of the city. According to Plato, if any other person is to rule over the city, then he needed to be able to philosophize adequately and genuinely. Indeed even those currently called kings needed to be able to philosophize adequately.

Plato, in defense of his proposal of the philosopher king indicates that the philosopher is a wisdom-lover. To show that it is only the philosopher who has the ethical authority to rule as compared to the other normal people and as a person who loves knowledge rather than simple education, he points that it is only the philosopher who can see the archetypes which are a prerequisite to the representations that normal man can see like beauty itself as a single and lone entity not in comparison to other forms or standards (Wadsworth Media, 2012).

He goes on to indicate that it is only the philosophers who have the insight to help form and steer the 'ship of state'. He says that a true pilot must always be attentive to the stars, the heavens, the winds and generally all that is significant aspects to the rule of the ship. To substantiate the inner insight that philosophers have, he fronts together with Socrates, the 'allegory of the cave'.

Plato was most concerned with the area of political philosophy. During his lifetime Athens changes from its military and imperial ambitions and it became a center for intellectuals. In his philosophy he discussed often the father-son relationship and the question of whether the interest a father has on his son can affect the outcome of the child. Plato's philosophical views had some social implications especially on the ideal state or government. From his views he gave a description of the republic, he held the belief that the world would be divided as per the abdomen parts meaning the abdomen, chest and head and soul. The abdomen is a representation of the productive class that corresponds to the appetite part of soul. Another interesting argument Plat made was when he asked people to make a choice between bad democracy and being under a tyrant. According to him it is better to be under the rule of a tyrant than being a bad democracy as with the later all people are responsible for misdeeds as opposed to one ( Beavers, 2008).

Plato opposed escapism and relativism but he focused on values as opposed to physical science. Those who interpreted Plato state that even after being the first to write that knowledge is a justified true belief and normally an influential view which directed future developments in the field of epistemology. Plato's philosophy is accepted by some scholars and rejected by others. Despite this Plato is seen as a great philosopher and his achievements range from writing 26 dialogues and being a classical mathematician among others.

Plato and Aristotle are further seen to have divergent views on ethics when Plato follows the Socratic path to proclaim that knowledge is virtue in and of itself. This meant that by one knowing the right thing to do it will automatically lead him towards doing that good or the right action. It insinuated that by teaching one the good from the bad or right from wrong is already enough to teach the individual virtue and make him virtuous. This is a stand that Aristotle disagrees with and insists that teaching one the right thing was not enough to make him act in the right manner. He insists that one had to deliberately choose to act in an ethical manner, meaning he need to create a habit of doing good. From this above, it is evident that the Aristotelian argument had a better practical anchorage as compared to the Platonic argument that was more theoretical and impractical.

Plato posited that wisdom was the basic and fundamental virtue and that once one gained it, then he can consolidate all the virtues into one. Aristotle did not ascribe to that and instead indicated that in as much as wisdom was virtuous, attaining virtue could not be considered to be automatic and it never guaranteed the acquisition of other virtues. Aristotle viewed wisdom as a goal that one achieved only after putting effort and that one needed to choose to think and act in a wise manner in order to achieve the other virtues as well.

Plato again differed with Aristotle on the concept of ethics and happiness. Plato claimed that ethical behavior or virtue was enough to give someone happiness and that there was nothing like moral luck. On the other hand, Aristotle believed that ethics was necessary for attaining happiness, but added that this alone is not sufficient and that social constructs were necessary to aid an ethical individual to achieve contentment and satisfaction (Warner R., n.d).

References

Beavers, A.F., (2008).… [END OF PREVIEW]

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