The Notion Of The Good In Thr — страница 2

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rather, an imperfect reflection of the real, which is good. He also believed that the moral person is the truly happy person, and because individuals always desire their own happiness, they always desire to do that which is moral. For Aristotle, ethics studies practical knowledge, that is, knowledge that enables people to act properly and live happily. Aristotle argued that the goal of human beings is happiness, and that we achieve happiness when we fulfill our function. Therefore, it is necessary to determine what our function is. The function of a thing is what it alone can do, or what it can do best. Thus, according to Aristotle, a happy life for human beings is a life governed by reason. Aristotle believed that a person who has difficulty behaving ethically is morally

imperfect. His ideal person practices behaving reasonably and properly until he or she can do so naturally and without effort. Aristotle believed that moral virtue is a matter of avoiding extremes in behaviour and finding instead the middle ground between the extremes of excess and insufficiency. For example, courage is the middle ground between being a coward and being foolish. Similarly, generosity is the middle ground between selfishness and wastefulness. Aristotle taught that everyone aims at some good. He said that happiness does not lie in pleasure but in virtuous activity. The highest happiness of all, Aristotle believed, was the contemplative use of the mind. For example: Alice knows that her brother Max has been using a harmful drug. She has tried to persuade him to

stop, but he does not listen. She has begun to wonder if she should tell someone what he is doing, someone with authority who might make him stop. To some people facing such a choice, it might seem obvious that one should tell someone about Max. To others, it would seem equally obvious that they should say nothing. Aristotle had views that were similar to Plato’s views but more complicated. Aristotle disliked oversimplification. Although he agreed with Plato’s four virtues, he considered other traits to be important also. These traits included friendliness, generosity, gentleness, truthfulness, and wit. Like Plato, Aristotle thought there is one trait that is the source of all the other virtues. He called it phronesis, meaning prudence or good judgment. Prudence is the

ability to know what we should do by figuring out which course of action would lead to a good life. Aristotle tells us much about what the good life is like. He says that it involves such things as having friends, acting justly and participating in community affairs. However, like Plato, Aristotle did not specify which courses of action are right and which ones are wrong. People who are properly brought up and who make full use of their own minds will, he thought, usually see the right course and take it. This view is realised in the way in which we teach our children the difference between what is right and what is wrong. Neither Plato nor Aristotle seems to offer help to people who, like Alice, face a tough decision and do not find the solution to be obvious. Perhaps in ancient

Greece people faced fewer critical decisions in which clashing ideas pulled in opposite directions. Perhaps when the ancient thinkers developed their systems of ethics, such dilemmas seemed unusual and not important for discussion. Even in a complex society like ours, with all of its conflicting traditions and theories, most ethical decisions do not present us with such dilemmas. When people face a critical choice like Alice’s and hesitate between different courses of action, they think of reasons for the different things they might do. There are considerations of benefits and considerations of obligations. On one hand, Alice may think she has an obligation to Max to keep quiet about what he does. On the other hand, she may think he might benefit if she violates this obligation

by speaking up. In this case, as in others, considering one’s obligations may lead to different conclusions than considering what is beneficial to people. A person who always takes obligations seriously will make different decisions than a person who is committed to doing what is most beneficial to people. This conclusion is that it is difficult to give equal importance to both obligations and benefits. Aristotle held that virtues are essentially good habits, and that to attain happiness a person must develop two kinds of habits: those of mental activity, such as knowledge, which lead to the highest human activity, contemplation; and those of practical action and emotion, such as courage. In conclusion I think that some of Aristotle’s views of the good life lead to normal