“What are we like, and what should we do?”
As humans we are faced with many decisions in life, which in and of itself, distinguishes us from the animal kingdom. I’m sure other animals make decisions, but as humans we take into account our values and morals. In choosing which path to take with some of life’s decisions, ethics, are often at the center; heavily influencing our choices between what is right and what is wrong. Which are usually defined by society, as to what is acceptable and what is not. As time goes on, society evolves, so do the right and wrongs, our values and morals, and ethics. In philosophy, there were three ethical theories by Aristotle, Kant, and Bentham & Mill and they were the “Golden Mean”, “Categorical Imperative”, and “Greatest Good for the Greatest Number” respectively.
Aristotle believed the one goal everyone strived for was “happiness” for one’s ownself. If you were a happy person, that would eventually lead to being a good person. He also believed that all living things had certain capacities, and that if one lives up to their full capacities, they will have lived well and had a fortunate life. He went on to state that the perfection of reason leads to the development of two desirable “virtues”, Moral and Intellectual. Moral virtues dealt with emotions. A person must keep these in balance, to go in either extreme of too much and too little, would be called “the excess” and “the defect”, respectively. The balance would be the “mean”. For example, courage is the mean between rashness (excess) and cowardice (defect). The golden mean is further analyzed in NICOMACHEAN ETHICS. The RHETORIC, is where Aristotle sums up the three categories in an analogical description of life with the Youthful Man (excess), the Elderly Man (defect), and the Man in His Prime (golden mean).
The Intellectual virtues dealt with foresight and wisdom. Aristotle stated the attainment of these virtues could only be done by a select few. For one to be highly intellectual, is to be practically divine, next to the gods. With that being said, it discouraged a lot of people of that era. That’s when his theory was challenged and questioned. What about the artists or craftsmen? Are they denied happiness, because they haven’t attained intellectual perfection? Is intellectual perfection the only path to happiness?
This is where Kant’s theory of ethics opposed Aristotle’s. Whereas, Aristotle concentrates on attaining one’s own happiness through fulfillment of one’s capacity. Kant disagrees with, Good Will, as being the path to becoming a good person. The act of doing a “good” deed is defined by using one’s capacities and virtues in the service of duty, and not to gain personal satisfaction, but for “pure reason”. To carry out acts of good for reason alone, as it “dictates” and to go against desire or inclination. These...