The Notion Of The Good In The Ethical Views Of Plato And Aristotle

1636 words - 7 pages

The Notion of the Good in the Ethical Views of Plato and Aristotle

1. Discuss the notion of "the good" in the ethical views of Plato and Aristotle. State which of potentiality would lead to normal life.

Plato explored such subjects as beauty, justice, and good government. Plato's ethics were ethics of happiness. He based his ethical theory on the proposition that all people desire happiness although, of course, people sometimes act in ways that do not produce happiness. Plato believes that they do this only because they do not know what actions will produce happiness. Therefore the reason why people act in ways that do not produce happiness is that they lack knowledge of those actions that would provide happiness. For example, a person who commits a serious crime and faces punishment by death or even imprisonment commits this crime because he or she does not know of any action that provides happiness.

Plato believed also that "we cannot gain knowledge of things through our senses because the objects of sense perception are fleeting and constantly changing." Plato stated that we can have genuine knowledge only of changeless things, such as truth, beauty, and goodness, which are known by the mind.

Plato further claimed that happiness is the natural consequence of the soul's healthy state. Because moral virtue makes up the health of the soul, all people should desire to be virtuous. Plato said that people sometimes do not seek to be virtuous, but only because they do not realize that virtue produces happiness.

He taught that only ideas are real and that all other things only reflect ideas. This view became known as idealism. According to Plato, the most important idea is the idea of good. Knowledge of good is the object of all inquiry, a goal to which all other things are subordinate. Plato stated that the best life is one of contemplation of eternal truths. However, he believed people who have attained this state must return to the world of everyday life and use their skills and knowledge to serve humanity.

Plato argued that it is worse to commit an injustice than to suffer one since immoral behaviour is the symptom of an unhealthy soul. It is also worse for a person who commits an injustice to go unpunished than to be punished, because punishment helps cure this most serious of all diseases. This may be viewed as the basis of our law system where those committing crimes are punished for their actions as opposed to being set free.

Plato believed there are four virtues: wisdom, courage, temperance (or self-control) and justice. The most important of these is wisdom, which is knowledge of what is truly good. People who have wisdom and, as a result, know what is truly good will tend to do what is right. These people will act in their own true interest and be in harmony with themselves. This harmony is the basis of all justice. In Plato's view, people who have justice will tend to have other virtues as well....

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