Matthew Camden Zollinger
Ethics and Values
Virtue Ethics: Aristotle Vs. Al’ Ghazili
What is the purpose of life? This is a question that has been argued since the beginning of time. Countless honorable and wise men have pondered and made conclusions about what our true purpose is in life. Aristotle and al’Ghazili are two philosophers that studied this purpose of life for almost all of their human existence. Their two proposals about the purpose of life and the ethics that are required to accomplish this purpose share some common ideas, while also having serious contrasts.
According to Aristotle the ultimate goal to reach is happiness (Fitterer). All of our ...view middle of the document...
Temperance is the second virtue. Abstaining from things in life that will lead us off the path to our ultimate goal is key. Practicing this virtue will keep our moral in check and keep our acts aiming towards happiness (Aristotle).
Another virtue ethic that Aristotle discusses is the virtue of generosity. According to Aristotle this generosity is not a measure of how much we give but by giving to the right person and in the right quantity (Aristotle).
There are many more ethic virtues that Aristotle describes but the purpose of these ethics is to set our aim on the end goal, happiness. This proposal to the purpose of life seems very valid but there are other proposals that rival Aristotle. One of these rival proposals comes from al’Ghazili, a Muslim philosopher, who seems to focus more on an understanding and relationship with God as our source for happiness.
Al’Ghazili believed that the purpose of life is to transform into our more pure angelic form by searching and figuring out spiritual meanings through revelation while deepening our relationship with God (Ghazili). Through his writings in the Alchemy of Happiness, al’Ghazili explains that to accomplish our purpose in life we must become a more pure being (Ghazili). To become more pure humans must transform our animal form into an angel form. This transformation is accomplished through four stages: “the knowledge of self”, “the knowledge of Allah”, “the knowledge of this world as it really is”, and “the knowledge of the next world as it really is” (Hurtado).
The first stage known as “the knowledge of self” is the first stage for a reason. If we have any hopes and desires of gaining more knowledge about the other four stages then we must first search, learn, and understand more about ourselves. Al’Ghazili places emphasis on the heart in self-knowledge. The heart is merely a “traveler” in this world (Ghazili). One day the heart will return to its original home in the spiritual world with God. We as humans cannot let our hearts become occupied and caught up in worldly things if we wish to accomplish the four stages (Ghazili).
Gaining the knowledge of Allah after first gaining self-knowledge is essential. Al’Ghazili explains that God can control all things in this world and those events that may seem like a punishment may in fact just be Gods way of reaching out to us (Ghazili). Al’Ghazili talks more about the importance of the heart in this stage. God sent our hearts here to take on human form to worship Him; failure to do so will only lead to a painful meeting with God when our hearts return to the spiritual world (Ghazili).
The third stage, “the knowledge of this world as it really is”, is key to reaching the next world. It is our job in this world to learn as much about ourselves and God before we...