Aristotle's philosophical theory on ethics

Aristotle's philosophical theory on ethics is based on virtue. He argues that a virtuous person is one with acceptable character traits. According to him, virtues develop within an individual and need to be nurtured to be stable. Aristotle further suggests that ethics starts with actual moral judgments before general principles are formulated. A good character exists in a natural capacity and is developed through practice. He goes ahead to suggest that a person's state of mind forms the basis of his or her actions. Acts are the building blocks of habits if done repeatedly. On the other hand, habits shape an individual's character.

Aristotle related the relationship with a friend as that to oneself. He proposed that an individual pleases his or her friend because of the reputation and honor that are got in return. Pleasure is natural and accompanies unimpeded activity meant to perfect the execution of that activity. He argued that pleasure is an element of happiness. In addition, he considered the good in society as something that performs a proper function. However, this can neither be addressed based on a scientific fact nor mathematically, since there are no general principles to begin with.

Aristotle's ethical theory addresses Anscombe's and MacIntyre's concerns, although not in totality. Anscombe contrasted consequentialism and obligation centered on deontological ethical theories mainly but was in agreement that virtue should be placed centrally in the understanding of morality. MacIntyre gave an account of virtue, and his understanding is based on a prior account of social and moral features.

Aristotle and Kant have their ethical theories based on rationale, which is in contrast to the sentimental theory of Hume and utilitarian theory of Mill. However, Aristotle's arguments were not fully in line with Kant's. Some differences existed. The conception of the human good is central in the controversy of the arguments of Aristotle and Kant. According to Aristotle, human beings relate happiness to different needs in their lives. There are many intermediate forms of good which aim at achieving one ultimate good. He terms them as eudaimonia or happiness. To achieve eudaimonia, one must utilize virtue. On the other hand, Kant sees a goodwill as the only object that is good in society. He defines a goodwill as the ability to complete actions for their sole purpose and duty. He categorizes this as hypothetical. Kant argues that moral worth does not depend on the activity of the action, but the true value is found on the principle from which the action is carried out.

Hume noted that most moralists use the phrases "is" or "is not" and end with conclusions such as "ought" or "ought not". He considered this irrational. On the other hand, Aristotle's arguments were irrational. Aristotle's ethics were midway in comparison to Kant and Mill's ethical theories. According to Kant, consequences do not count. Mill had a different opinion. According to him, good consequences count, but not the motive or will. Aristotle's works fall between these two. In his opinion, both the consequences and the will count in morals.

Kant's metaphysical theory makes the most sense in that it addresses the good in a universal manner through the categorical imperatives of a man. His prominence as a philosopher of deontology is based on his argument that actions should become the universal laws. Kantian ethics attempts to answer what one ought to do in a moral dilemma just as the utilitarianism theory does. The only difference between these two is that Kantian ethics covers a wider concept. Thus, it makes more sense compared to the other theories and, therefore, is superior to them. Nevertheless, it has its own shortcomings.

back
Ethical Dimension of the Nursing Practice
next
Ethics vs. The law

Related essays