Aristotle s and Modern Thought
Aristotle s thoughts of ethics conclude that all humans must have a purpose in life in order to be happy. I believe that some of the basics of his ideas still hold true today. This essay points out some of those ideas.
It was Aristotle s belief that everything, including humans, had a telos or goal in life. The end result or goal was said to be happiness or eudaimonia . He explained that eudaimonia was different for each person, and that each had a different idea of what it meant. Further, he said that people must do things in moderation, but at the same time do enough. The theory, of the golden mean of moderation was the basis to Aristotle’s idea of the human telos and concluded that living a virtuous life must be the same for all people. Aristotle maintained that the natural human goal to be happy could only be achieved once each individual determined his/her goal. A person s telos is would usually be what that individual alone can do best. Aristotle described the humans as “rational animals” whose telos was to reason. Accordingly, Aristotle thought that in order for humans to be happy, they would have to be able to reason, and to be governed by reason. If a person had difficulty behaving morally or with ethics, he was thought to be imperfect . Moral virtue, a principle of happiness, was the ability to evade extremes in behavior and further to find the mean between it and adequacy. Aristotle s idea of an ideal state was one where the populous was able to practice ethics and virtue. Therefore, if a person did something to please him or herself, it must also please general public. He said was also important to understand the acts performed towards virtue, because it directly related to the character of the resulting morals. Aristotle felt that fear and pain influenced ethics, as people would avoid that which he/she was scared of and/or that would cause pain. He believe friendships to be vital in order to be a good person, and that it required reciprocal and explicit goodwill . Aristotle taught that friendships were uncommon, but could be achieved requiring time to build familiarity and trust. He claimed that this perfect virtue must be achieved and maintained for the lifetime.
Aristotle lists honor, pleasure, and wealth as the things believed to make humans happy. He believed that because honor could be easily taken away it was superficial and that pleasure, although enjoyable, was merely an animal like quality . Wealth was described as a vehicle to achieve greater status. The moderation of the three vices could be achieved but would not, in-itself produce or guarantee eudaimonia. Instead, Aristotle was of the opinion that wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice, would better lead person to happiness.
As one reads though the translations of Aristotle s thoughts, you begin to realize the complexity, yet the common sense of his work. Modern day people have a goal in life, to achieve a certain amount of success and to live life relatively happy. Most agree that to get to that goal, the populous must conform and participate within an ethical society. Although pleasure and wealth play a great role towards happiness, to live an ethical life amongst good friends, and not causing disruption in the lives of others is the true sense of virtue. Aristotle s teachings speak of the same theories of todays, and without doubt still influences modern thought.
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