Aristotle's Versus Kant's Categories Of The Temperate, The Continent, The Incontinent, The Vicious And The Bestial

2434 words - 10 pages

Describe Aristotle's categories of the temperate, the continent, the incontinent, the vicious and the bestial. Compare Aristotle's and Kant's evaluations of these kinds of people. Which of these people are morally better and which worse than the others?

Aristotle’s psychological types, as described in “Nichomachean Ethics,” are a categorization of different internal moral characters. These categories are a comprehensive attempt - for ancient philosophy - at identifying which internal psychologies manifest virtuous or morally bad behaviour. His moral categories are somewhat obsolete in a post-modern world, where science and politics are far more developed than in Ancient Greece. However, moral psychological ethics and normative debate still holds a relevant position in the moral undercurrent of society – it is dispersed through legal, political, military and medical activity, in relationships and familial function. It is for this reason, that Immanuel Kant examined a similar issue in “Pure Practical Reason and the Moral Law,” and that it still makes for interesting philosophical discussion.

Recent literature has aimed to reconcile the content of Kant and Aristotle’s work on morality, or at least, to compare the theories as though they are contending. However, I shall argue that the two philosophers are answering intrinsically different questions. If two philosophers operate within a precise domain of philosophy, it can be tempting to assess their distinct arguments as disagreeable with the other. However, in some cases, their arguments may be aimed at responding to different questions. In such instances, endeavors to reconcile or compare the fabricated ‘opposition’ between two arguments can be unproductive and perplexing, when in actuality, the differences are due to disparate aims of the philosophers. This is the case with Aristotle and Kant on morality, and is a paradigm I shall refer to hereafter as ‘incongruous intention.’ The intentions of the philosophers’ works are incongruous with one another, despite appearing to be the same, and should not be opposed in competition, but merely reflected upon side by side. This will justify a comprehensive comparison, without need for attacking the cogency of each respective argument. Where Aristotle is concerned with identifying the most desirable moral character to maximize personal wellbeing, Kant is concerned with describing a life that is most worthy of moral esteem from others (Klagge, 1989, p. 2). Therefore Aristotle and Kant’s dissimilarity in regards to their structuring of the concept of “virtue,” and in the nature of their ultimate moral standard is due to their incongruous intentions.

I shall first outline Aristotle’s psychological types. There appears to be five broad types of personal virtue. The five types differ according each individual’s alignment to the good. I shall proceed in order from what Aristotle argues is the worst, or least virtuous type of person, to the most...

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