A Judgment Of Ethics Essay, Research Paper
Almost everyone has heard of the two great philosophers, Plato and Aristotle. Few people though know much about their life long achievements. Learning about great people in history is much more enjoyable and fun if we can find out that they were just like people today. In order to do so, we must fist examine the background of the two philosophers. Plato was born to an aristocratic family in Athens. When Plato was a child, his father died, and his mother married Pyrilampes, who was an associate of the statesman Pericles. As a young individual Plato had political ambitions, but he became disillusioned by the political leadership in Athens. He eventually became a disciple of Socrates. Socrates spent his time talking to people about ethical topics. He hoped by this means to discover definitions of the virtues, thinking that in learning what virtue is he would become virtuous and that this would make his life a happy one. He also hoped to expose other people’s false conceit of knowledge about ethical matters, thinking that such conceit prevented them from becoming virtuous and happy. Socrates appealed to some people, but he repelled many others; he also came to be associated in the public mind with anti-democratic factions in Athens. In 399 BC, Socrates was tried on a charge of impiety, convicted, and put to death. Plato witnessed the death of Socrates at the hands of the Athenian democracy in 399 BC. By accepting Socrates basic philosophy and dialectical style of debate: the pursuit of truth through questions, answers, and additional questions. In 387 Plato founded the Academy in Athens, the institution often described as the first European university. It provided a comprehensive curriculum, including such subjects as astronomy, biology, mathematics, political theory, and philosophy. Aristotle was the Academy’s most prominent student. During his life time, he had wrote many books towards philosophy, however The Republic is the one of more important work in the history of European thought. In essence, it deals with the central problem of how to live a good life; what is justice in the State, or what would an ideal State be like, and what is a just individual? These questions also encompass of arts should be encouraged, what form its government should take, who should do the government and for what rewards, what is the nature of the soul, and finally what godly sanctions and afterlife should be though to exist. However, we must not forget the other great philosopher, Aristotle. He was born in 384 BC. at Stagirus, a Greek colony and seaport on the coast of Thrace. His father Nichomachus was court physician to King Amyntas of Macedonian, and from this began Aristotle’s long association with the Macedonian Court, which considerably influenced his life. While he was still a boy his father died. At age 17 his guardian, Proxenus, sent him to Athens, to complete his education. He joined the Academy and studied under Plato, attending his lectures for a period of twenty years. In the later years of his association with Plato and the Academy he began to lecture on his own account, especially on the subject of rhetoric. Although he studied under Plato. Aristotle fundamentally disagreed with his teacher on just about everything. He could not bring himself to think of the world in abstract terms the way Plato did; above all else, Aristotle believed that the world could be understood at a fundamental level through the detailed observation and cataloging of phenomenon. That is, knowledge. At the death of Plato in 347 BC, he had wrote many different book. Among them all, one of which considered to have greater inference over other is The Politics. In the contest of The Republic, Plato’s major political work, is concerned with the question of justice and therefore with the questions “what is a just state” and “who is a just individual?” The ideal state, according to Plato, is composed of three classes. The economic structure of the state is maintained by the merchant class. Security needs are met by the military class, and political leadership is provided by the philosopher-kings. A particular person’s class is determined by an educational process that begins at birth and proceeds until that person has reached the maximum level of education compatible with interest and ability. Those who complete the entire educational process become philosopher-kings. They are the ones whose minds have been so developed that they are able to grasp the Forms and, therefore, to make the wisest decisions. Furthermore, Plato associates the traditional Greek virtues with the class structure of the ideal state. Temperance is the unique virtue of the artisan class; courage is the virtue peculiar to the military class; and wisdom characterizes the rulers. Justice, the fourth virtue, characterizes society as a whole. The just state is one in which each class performs its own function well without infringing on the activities of the other classes. Plato divides the human soul into three parts: the rational part, the will, and the appetites. The just person is the one in whom the rational element, supported by the will, controls the appetites. An obvious analogy exists here with the threefold class structure of the state, in which the enlightened philosopher-kings, supported by the soldiers, govern the rest of society. However, in Aristotle’s The Politics, Aristotle ideal of a best state is a lot more complex that just the three classes. Aristotle believes that different races are suited for different forms of government, and the question which meets the politician is not so much what is abstractly the best state, but what is the best state under existing circumstances. Generally, however, the best state will enable anyone to act in the best and live in the happiest manner. To serve this end the ideal state should be neither too great nor too small, but simply self-sufficient. It should occupy a favorable position towards land and sea and consist of citizens gifted with the spirit of the northern nations, and the intelligence of the Asiatic nations. It should further take particular care to exclude from government all those engaged in trade and commerce; the best state will not make the working man a citizen; it should provide support religious worship; it should secure morality through the educational influences of law and early training. Law, for Aristotle, is the outward expression of the moral ideal without the bias of human feeling. It is thus no mere agreement or convention, but a moral force coextensive with all virtue. Since it is universal in its character, it requires modification and adaptation to particular circumstances through equity. The communal ownership of wives and property as sketched by Plato in the Republic rests on a false conception of political society according to Aristotle. For, the state is not a homogeneous unity, as Plato believed, but rather is made up of dissimilar elements. The classification of constitutions is based on the fact that government may be exercised either for the good of the governed or of the governing, and may be either concentrated in one person or shared by a few or by the many. There are thus three true forms of government: monarchy, aristocracy, and constitutional republic. The perverted forms of these are tyranny, oligarchy and democracy. The difference between the last two is not that democracy is a government of the many, and oligarchy of the few; instead, democracy is the state of the poor, and oligarchy of the rich. Considered in the abstract, these six states stand in the following order of preference: monarchy, aristocracy, constitutional republic, democracy, oligarchy, tyranny. But though with a perfect person monarchy would be the highest form of government, the absence of such people puts it practically out of consideration. Similarly, true aristocracy is hardly ever found in its uncorrupted form. It is in the constitution that the good person and the good citizen coincide. Ideal preferences aside, then, the constitutional republic is regarded as the best attainable form of government, especially as it secures that predominance of a large middle class, which is the chief basis of permanence in any state. With the spread of population, democracy is likely to become the general form of government.
When it comes to ethics, Plato’s theory rests on the assumption that virtue is knowledge and can be taught, which has to be understood in terms of his theory of Forms. As indicated previously, the ultimate Form for Plato is the Form of the Good, and knowledge of this Form is the source of guidance in moral decision making. Plato also argued that to know the good is to do the good. The corollary of this is that anyone who behaves immorally does so out of ignorance. This conclusion follows from Plato’sconviction 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. However, In The Politics, Aristotle does not regard politics as a separate science from ethics, but as the completion, and almost a verification of it. The moral ideal in political administration is only a different aspect of that which also applies to individual happiness. Humans are by nature social beings, and the possession of rational speech in itself leads us to social union. The state is a development from the family through the village community, an offshoot of the family. Formed originally for the satisfaction of natural wants, it exists afterwards for moral ends and for the promotion of the higher life. The state in fact is no mere local union for the prevention of wrong doing, and the convenience of exchange. It is also no mere institution for the protection of goods and property. It is a genuine moral organization for advancing the development of humans.Aristotle continues by making several general points about the nature of moral virtues, such as desire regulating virtues. First, he argues that the ability to regulate our desires is not instinctive, but learned and is the outcome of both teaching and practice. Second, he notes that if we regulate our desires either too much or too little, then we create problems. Moreover, he argues that desire regulating virtues are character traits, and are not to be understood as either emotions or mental faculties. At the heart of Plato’s philosophy is his theory of Forms, or Ideas. Ultimately, his view of knowledge, his ethical theory, his psychology, his concept of the state, and his perspective on art must be understood in terms of this theory. Plato’s theory of Forms and his theory of knowledge are so interrelated that they must be discussed together. Influenced by Socrates, Plato was convinced that knowledge is attainable. He was also convinced of two essential characteristics of knowledge. First, knowledge must be certain and infallible. Second, knowledge must have as its object that which is genuinely real as contrasted with that which is an appearance only. Because that which is fully real must, for Plato, be fixed, permanent, and unchanging, he identified the real with the ideal region of being as opposed to the physical world of becoming. One consequence of this view was Plato’s rejection of empiricism, the claim that knowledge is derived from sense experience. He thought that propositions derived from sense experience have, at most, a degree of probability. They are not certain. Furthermore, the objects of sense experience are changeable phenomena of the physical world. Hence, objects of sense experience are not proper objects of knowledge.Plato’s own theory of knowledge is found in the Republic, particularly in his discussion of the image of the divided line and the myth of the cave. In the former, Plato distinguishes between two levels of awareness: opinion and knowledge. Claims or assertions about the physical or visible world, including both commonsense observations and the propositions of science, are opinions only. Some of these opinions are well founded; some are not; but none of them counts as genuine knowledge. The higher level of awareness is knowledge, because there reason, rather than sense experience, is involved. Reason, properly used, results in intellectual insights that are certain, and the objects of these rational insights are the abiding universals, the eternal Forms or substances that constitute the real world. Nevertheless, At the heart of Plato’s philosophy is a vision of reality that sees the changing world around us and the things within it as mere shadows or reflections of a separate world of independently existing, eternal, and unchanging entities called forms or ideas. Ordinary objects are what they are and have the features they do in virtue of their relation to or participation in these more fundamental realities. Forms are the proper objects of knowledge or understanding, and the desire to attain understanding of them is the proper dominant motivation in a healthy and happy human life. The apprehension and appreciation of formal reality makes life worth living; it also makes one moral. However, unlike his teacher Plato, Aristotle was much concerned with natural phenomena. He was impressed in particular with living creatures: their ability to develop in specific predictable ways after they have come into being, to live out lives of characteristic types, and to leave behind replicas of themselves. Aristotle developed many of the ideas distinctive of his thought-change, nature, matter and form, causation, potentiality and actuality in the effort to describe and explain these regularities, and much of his philosophy is concerned with developing the implications of these ideas and with applying them, in his ethical and political writings, to the specific case of human beings. The philosophies by both philosophers presents a tremendous amount of intelligence and knowledge within themselves. However, when it comes down to their ethic of believes, it would still be highly debatable in present day.