This essay will be examining the ethics of Plato (428-347 BCE) and Aristotle (384-322 B.C). I will firstly attempt to summarise the five fundamental concepts of Plato and Aristotle before providing my own opinion and view on their ethics. I will concentrate on their theories on the good life as a life of justice, censorship, knowledge and the good life.
I will first examine Plato’s ethics. Plato was a philosopher who was both a rationalist and absolutist. According to his view, people must be schooled to acquire certain kinds of knowledge i.e. mathematics, philosophy and so forth. This training will give them the capacity to know the nature of the good life. Since, evil is due to lack of knowledge.
Not all people have the mental capacity to learn what the good life is. They have to be trained to copy the brighter people’s actions. The brighter people are to be leaders in society. Furthermore, finding the nature of the good life is an intellectual task similar to discovering mathematical truths. Also, they must develop virtuous habits of behaviour.
Plato believes that censorship is necessary to prevent certain sorts of experiences by young people if they are to discover the nature of the good life. If a person can discover what is right and knows what the good life is, he or she will not act immorally. When Plato’s virtue of wisdom, courage and temperance are in operation, a supreme virtue is evidence in justice. Wisdom is the virtue of the intellect. Courage is the virtue of the will. Temperance is the virtue of the appetites. There is ‘one and only one good life for all to lead’ (Philosophy Made Simple, 1999, p.4) since goodness is not dependent on upon human inclinations. It is an absolute and exists independently of mankind. It has to be discovered. A certain course of action is right or wrong independent of anyone’s opinion. This was how Plato perceived absolutism.
Aristotle’s overlook on what is the ‘good life’ as he used an empirical approach to ethics. The ‘good life’ as Aristotle defines it as one which has happiness as a characteristic or ‘a life of happiness’. ‘Happiness is an activity of the soul in accord with perfect virtue’. ‘People ought to behave so as to achieve happiness’. I believe that Aristotle’s answer will be everyone always ought to follow the middle course between certain kinds of activities. Aristotle uses an analogy to describe happiness. The analogy of happiness is best described as how much a person can eat. For example, if a person believes that having two cakes would be sufficient for his lunch, but if he believes that having one cake would not be enough for his lunch, then how much is right for him? To be right for him, he must eat between one and two cakes in order to satisfy his appetite. This is Aristotle’s formula, ‘the doctrine of the mean’ or the preferred name ‘golden mean’. The ‘Doctrine of the Mean’ is the moderation in all things. The virtues we must have are virtues of moderation. This will be...