The Good Man Based on Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics
Plato believed that a man could only become good by knowing the truth, and he could not know the truth without being good. This shows to be somewhat of a paradoxical argument. On the other hand, Aristotle had a different theory regarding the goodness of man. Aristotle claimed that the good man was the norm and the measure of ethical truth. Pertaining to Aristotle's definitions, in this essay I will explain the meaning of the previous statement. I will then critique it from an internal view and contrast that by critiquing it from an external view. As ethics has developed and changed over the years, Aristotle's concept of the good man can be altered to fit our modern society.
In an attempt to understand Aristotle's statement, the contents of that statement must be analyzed. There are four key contents to discuss. They are the good, the function of man, the notion of ethics, and ethical truth.
Book One in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics discusses the most worthwhile human life. The life in question is the good life. Aristotle states that all of our activities aim to produce the good life. Every activity aims at some good; therefore, there is some good at which every activity is aimed. However, he states this is a fallacious argument. His point is to open up a hierarchy of goods. Every activity aims at some good and is subordinate to some other activity. The good of the ruling activity is more choiceworthy. The highest good will be that for the sake of which we engage in any activity, and that is the topic of ethics. Aristotle then comments on Plato's theory of the good. Plato claimed there was a "universally present" characteristic in all good things. However, Aristotle states that if there were a "universal" good, then there could be a single science of it. Yet there is no single science of good food, good people, good friendship, etc. Aristotle concludes that there is no universal good. Aristotle must now fashion his own interpretation of what he calls the "highest" good. The highest good is ultimately the aim of all actions. "What is best appears to be something complete" (1097a29) and this must be self-sufficient in that, nothing can make it better. "Of this sort happiness seems most to be." (1097b)
The next content to be discussed is the function of man. Aristotle tells us that our function is to live, and to do what we do humanly. We are to live in understanding and insight. We have reason, we act and we don't react. All fashions of human nature have to be lived thoughtfully from within. One is accountable and must act for one's own reasons and not another's. In essence, the function of man is to live ethically.
The third content of Aristotle's statement is ethics. However to be more specific, I'll discuss what is ethically good. Living ethically good is contributing to the concept of happiness noted above. Ethics is not...