Philosophy 5 Essay, Research Paper
The Greek Philosopher Plato considered a properly led human life, (the good life ) to be achieved through harmony (thus of the soul, and of the people in a state). Plato describes the soul as having three parts, which he calls reason, spirit, and appetite. The reason portion of the soul is an awareness of a goal or a value. Spirit, is the drive toward action, which is at first a neutral drive, but responds to the direction of reason. Finally, the appetite is the desire for the things of the body. Plato saw the body itself as inanimate, and therefore When it acts or moves, it must be moved by the principle of life, the soul. (63; Stumf). Temperance occurs when the emotions are ruled over by the intellect, and the bodily appetites are ruled over by the emotions and especially the intellect. An individual may be said to have harmony when the bodily appetites and emotions are not only ruled over by the intellect, but do so willingly and without force… For Plato harmony could be achieved only if the parts of the soul were doing what the nature of each required that it do. Each part of the soul has a special function (68; Stumf). Plato discusses three virtues that the three parts of the soul may attain. The virtue of temperance (this is moderation in pleasures). The virtue of courage, and the virtue of wisdom (seeing true ideals in spite of constant change.) When each part of the soul is in fact fulfilling its special function, a fourth virtue, justice is attained (69; Stumf). This harmony and virtue of justice is thus seen as the fulfillment of function (therefore a properly led human life).
If there is harmony in the individual, harmony in the community will result. The state grows out of the nature of the individual. Plato s thought closely relates his moral philosophy with his political theory As justice is the general virtue of the moral person, so also it is justice that characterize the good society. (69; Stumf). The state is a natural institution because it reflects the structure of human nature. The state exists because of a cooperation amongst the individuals. No one person possesses all the skills needed to produce the necessities of life. Plato separates people based on their strength, intelligence, and courage. Those who are not overly bright, or strong, or brave, are best suited to various productive jobs, using physical labor. Those who are bright, strong and especially courageous are suited to defensive and policing professions (guards). Those who are extraordinarily intelligent, virtuous and brave are suited to run the state itself; (Plato s ideal state is an aristocracy). A state is imbalanced if any of the lower groups do not obey one of the higher groups. A state is just if the lower groups obey the guards and rulers, and do so willingly. Most importantly, Plato believed that all should agree upon the ruler, as well as the reason why the ruler need be obeyed
The ruler, said Plato, should be the one who has been fully educated, one who has come to understand the difference between the visible world and the intelligible world, between the realm of opinion and the realm of knowledge, between appearance and reality. The philosopher-king is one whose education, in short has led him up step by step through the ascending degrees of knowledge of the Divided Line until at last he has a knowledge of the Good, the synoptic vision of the interrelation of all truths to each other. (72; Stumf)
This just nature of harmony and cooperation constituted the properly led human life according to Plato. Later, Aristotle a student of Plato s expanded on his philosophy. Aristotle placed his thought into the realm of becoming, whereas Plato s thought was fixed more upon the static realm of timeless Being (81).
Aristotle saw a properly led human life as one that achieved happiness. He argued that every action has a purpose, and that good is the aim of every action, giving two classifications of good: good as a means and good as an end. He believed that happiness is the ultimate good or ultimate purpose for what other purposes are sought for. Aristotle rejects pleasure and wealth. He believed human happiness should coincide with nature. We are different from plants and animals only because we possess reason. Aristotle believed that people (along with everything in nature) have a distinctive end to achieve. Human action should aim at its proper entelechy. After arriving at ones essence and fulfilling their inherent purpose, the individual may thus be happy
Happiness is the end that alone meets all the requirements for the ultimate end of human action. Indeed, we choose pleasure, wealth, and honor only because we think that through this instrumentality we shall be happy. Happiness, it turns out, is another word or name for good, for like good, happiness is the fulfillment of our distinctive function; or, as Aristotle says, Happiness is a working of the soul in the way of excellence or virtue. (100)
The principle of good can be discovered by observing nature and attained through mans behavior in daily life. According to Aristotle, the good person is the one who is fulfilling their function as a person ( The good man is not the one who does a good deed here or there, now and then, but the one whose whole life is good ) (Pg. 100) He goes on to describe vise as either extreme excess or defect, and virtue is the mean, (thus being a consumption of everything in moderation). Mean is the best state for people to be in (this is virtue, considering the happiness that leads to virtue may not be attained with excess of defect).
Aristotle s form of government is best in one which every man can act best and live happily. It would be unlawful to rule without regard for justice. The best limit of the population of a state is the largest number of people that suffices for the purposes of life. When all essences may be fulfilled (namely happiness) a properly led human life is there constituted according to Aristotle.
The Epicureans believed in a tranquility of the soul, that they called ataraxia. The founder, Epicurus saw philosophy as the medicine of the soul (110). To this group the chief aim of human life focused around pleasures, and that should be pursued. Indulgence and physical pleasure was not the key here, rather moderation and cerebral pleasure was stressed. Not only was moderation to be followed but also a distinction must me met between various kinds of pleasures in order to guide men to the happiest life (112). If unnatural pleasures were required than the pursuance of such would be constantly unsatisfied, and one would always suffer pain. Avoidance of pain is also very important to reach happiness. Epicurus went so far as to require deterrence of those who might inflict pain upon individuals. (113.) In this sense he seeks avoidance of poor people, and those with many needs and problems. Epicurus believed that all things, including human beings and God itself are not part of a created purpose, but rather an accidental result of the collision of atoms. Epicurus felt with this explanation, man was now liberated from the fear of God and of death. He also gave reason to his pleasure principal, since it is mainly all one can strive for in this accidental life. To Epicurus the absence of pain was the highest value as with control of desires by the mind.
The Stoics focused more upon attitude than anything else. Humans are sort of like actors, who do not pick their roles, only how their attitudes focus on them. Apathy is achieved as a serenity and happiness when negative attitudes and fear are avoided.
Stoicism aimed at happiness through wisdom to accept what they had to be Human wisdom, said the Stoics, consists in recognizing what one s role in this drama is and then performing the part well (118). The actors are directed by Logos, which is God that is in everything. Logos is reason, which controls and orders all of nature and events. Even the soul has a spark of logos to the Stoics. If ones attitude was wise in this matter and positive in thought, one could feel they are leading a proper life.
The Skeptics felt that reason and the senses were not enough to lead to truth. For that matter, they didn t believe truth was attainable. They were guided by the past and denied their senses, believing senses were unreliable. Skeptics recognized life in four items; (the guidance of nature, the constraint of the feelings, the traditions of laws and customs, and the instruction of the arts.) Basically the Skeptics acted upon instincts, there could be no clear set definition of a properly led human life, because to them nothing could really be as it appears, a statement about the present or future could not be made because it could not be proved, therefore, only with the four items would a Skeptics life be properly guided.
It was the Neo-Platonists that brought God into the picture, with their mystical realm of religious belief. The goal of the Neo-Platonists was to purify the soul, and bring it as close to God (which is true reality) as possible. This group felt evil as confusion of the soul and a distance from God. The furthest realm was the material world. The humans fell in the world soul that is diluted from true reality, but held reason. Nous was the closest to God that ones soul could reach, and this was an extension of true reality. Salvation was only achieved when a person develops successively the moral and intellectual virtues. It was not necessary to altogether reject the body and physical world. The key insight was rather that the physical things of the world must not distract the soul from its higher aims (129). Purification of the soul (salvation; and a properly led human life) required separation from material dependence, and a higher state of reasoning.
Plato s philosophical theory on a properly led human life certainly makes sense to me in the manner it is explained, though I may almost entirely disagree with it. Yes, I feel a person may not feel complete or satisfied if there is not a sense of harmony in the body. However, the fact that the body and soul are not connected is to say that body and mind are not connected, considering intellect was a part of the soul. If this were so why can depression and neurosis in human beings lead them to physical ailments? Why than have major studies involving placebos proved to show the mind has a great influence over the physical body? Of course, Plato was way ahead of his time when he justified the role of man in society and government because this harmonized union would make much sense, even in today s world. Aristotle s argument for the achievement of happiness makes a great deal more sense to me. He believed that human happiness should coincide with nature, as do I, be it that human beings are products of nature and are unable to defeat it, fit into it. Aristotle stressed moderation, which has always proved to be true with everything that one does. Eating, drinking, exercise, sex, fear, pride etc all of which must be done, but not over done, because either extreme will not lead to happiness. Aristotle also states that the government sis best when the ruler has regard for justice.
The Epicureans seem to have a good idea, to base life around pleasure. Though in this case, the pleasure philosophy can be compared to Eastern religions that came to Rome, or funny movies throughout the U.S. depression in the 1930 s. It served as a comfort to people who believed they were accidents and only had to live for pleasure. Obviously it makes sense that one would constantly strive to those things that bring pleasures and away from inflictions of pain. However, pain and pleasure are inevitable and go hand in hand. Epicurus went as far as to require deterrence of the poor (or any who would cause pain, or simply who could not lead one to pleasure). In this sense socialism could not be denied and rejected any further even by the most passionate individualist.
The Stoic view on ones attitude is appealing to me. As on optimistic individual I can say that this philosophy is one that I have practiced all of my life. Indeed, one may not control the course of events that will take place, so to fear them is only creating further negativity in ones life. Though I stand for optimism, Stoicism stresses acceptance of a role that you are put into. Rather than improving upon human falsities, they preach acceptance. Not only is this impractical advice, for those with handicaps become extremely limited, but also to me this theory of general acceptance rejects achievement and striving for improvement. If a lower class young man in New York City, for example, is faced with poor public education, but some have made a valuable profit from dealing drugs, should he than accept this role as a drug dealer, and not strive to become an educated individual with valuable skills in the work force? Not only would Stoicism fail in society throughout the world, but also the optimism that it preaches is almost contradictory to its basic philosophy.
To me, Skepticism is the poorest philosophy. Skeptics did not trust their senses and therefore were solely guided by the past. Mistrust in the human senses is denying the most fundamental humanity one holds. How is one to hold a decent conversation, let alone argue or pursue a point of view? Nothing can be proven. Nothing can be believed. Skepticism should be labeled an intellectual surrender! Even scientific experimentation is not factual to this group, because seeing is not believing. Out of the six Philosophies discussed, Skepticism makes the least sense to me!
To attempt to make sense of Neo-Platonism may be regarded in the same sense that I regard Christianity, or most religions for that matter. I believe that it is necessary to give human beings reason to live and do acts of goodness, and develop a goal and belief to strive for. Religion shapes identity just as strongly as any other set of morals would. The Neo-Platonists felt the need to reject material possessions. As much as materialism can come to rule a society, where society should and need be controlling materialism, entire rejection of possessions would deny both entertainment and pleasure. How than, would a human s life be properly led ? Living for an after life is something in which I personally reject. It appears as if going against a societies realm of being such as material rejection would lead to a form of isolationism, as opposed to happiness in ones lifetime.
Choosing a particular philosophy that makes most sense to me proves difficult in that I could not come to full agreement with all basic principals held by any of them. Except for Skepticism, the other five philosophical groups I was introduced to do hold inspiring thought patterns for me. I would best answer the question of which makes most sense to me in responding that a part of them all struck me