On Aristotle Essay, Research Paper
On Aristotle Aristotle is wrong in holding the assumption that humans should be held in higher esteem than animals should, based upon writings that he himself wrote. At times he seems to contradict himself, and at other times makes generalities that could not possibly be taken seriously. He asserts the position that humans should be held in higher esteem than animals. Many of his concepts are intertwined, quite deeply and maybe at first glance seem distinctly far apart, but with study, they can actually be found to be together. I will use his definitions to tie my points together. This concept will be my rotating point for my argument. I plan, however, based upon his own writings and ethical theories, to deviate from his assertion, and show not only how it can be looked at in another way, but how this must be given a chance to be looked at in another way. In examining ethical theory or philosophy, it is of up-most import to, before asserting an opinion, to examine the concepts of the question. Let us look, then, at the concepts of the question at hand. There are a few concepts here. What is morality and should we be held in higher moral esteem than animals. Let us define morality, then. What is morality? To know what our morality as humans is, we will assume a distinction between animals and us for the moment. In his own words, Aristotle speaks of morality in this way, It is our duty, therefore, to keep a certain character in our activities, since our moral states depend on the difference in our activities (Arthur 34). He says that our moral states depend on our activities, which is important to note. Not to over-simplify, our activities are things we do, then. Let us go further and define man and animals. Aristotle acknowledges differences in us and animals and plants. There are three main points, which he speaks of to tie us together: life, nutrition, and growth. Animals share with us the ability to live. So too do plants. Nutrition and growth are the last of which, however, that we all share together, according to him. I will later refute this. So where he says we differ is on rationality, and our ability, therefore to be obedient to reason, and to exercise reason with intelligence. Essentially, then, animals are all we are, except that they cannot reason. I will later come back to this idea. Now that we have defined man and animals and plants according to Aristotle, let us speak of the function of man. What is the function of man? Aristotle defines this quite explicitly when he says that, The function of man, then, is activity of the soul in accordance with reason, or not apart from reason (Arthur 33). This statement connects the second and third paragraph. According to him, morality is based on the differences in our activities, and the function of man is activity of the soul. Since these three at present, seem to be connected, I will speak of the soul next.
Aristotle acknowledges the fact that we all have souls. Humans, animals, and plants have souls. Sure, they are of different genus s, as he says it, but regardless, we share in a certain level of a soul. In De Anima, Aristotle says, Now the soul is that by which we primarily live, perceive, and think, and so it will be an account and form, not matter and subject (Irwin and Fine 181). It s interesting to note that Webster s New World Dictionary defines perception as becoming aware through sight, hearing, touch, taste or smell. Is a plant aware of darkness? Is a plant aware of sunlight? Aristotle says that a plant cannot perceive, but when a plant moves its arms to be closer to the sunlight, or when a certain plant closes its mouth and eats an insect, wasn t it aware of the insect in its mouth, or the sunlight on its arms to move closer to? Therefore, plants really do fulfill the pre-requisite of perception. Based on the information given, then, could we not therefore say that plants and animals, as I said earlier, share in some of our basic activities? Plants share in perception, as do animals. Earlier I quoted Aristotle as saying, It is our duty, therefore, to keep a certain character in our activities, since our moral states depend on the differences in our activities. Just because our activities of the soul differ, it can t be automatically inferred that our moral state should be of higher esteem. In a sense, that would be antithetical to the definition of reason. Moreover, since the function of man is activity of the soul, and I ve established that plants and animals have a type of soul and share in activities of a soul, then based upon the definition given to us of soul and activities, we are clearly connected, and have no moral basis to call ourselves superior. In Conclusion, there is no basis to say that we are necessarily, or should be, of higher esteem according to Aristotle and his ethical theories than animals or plants. Morality depends on our activities, and our function is activity of the soul. Therefore, if we all share in those things, how can we properly ascertain whether or not we should be of higher esteem? The answer is that we cannot. *End NoteIn my paper I make assumptions about his theories that may seem radical. I was very technical about, not only about the question, which you asked us to answer, but also the definitions, which Aristotle gave us to answer the question posed. Although they may seem radical, maybe even heretical in a sense, but based upon the definitions given to me, I took liberty, and freely connected them.