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2 aristotles essay ethics major series thinker
There is another contrast with Plato that should be emphasized: InBook II of the Republic, we are told that the best type ofgood is one that is desirable both in itself and for the sake of itsresults (357d-358a). Plato argues that justice should be placed inthis category, but since it is generally agreed that it is desirablefor its consequences, he devotes most of his time to establishing hismore controversial point—that justice is to be sought for itsown sake. By contrast, Aristotle assumes that if A isdesirable for the sake of B, then B is better thanA (1094a14–16); therefore, the highest kind of good must beone that is not desirable for the sake of anything else. To show thatA deserves to be our ultimate end, one must show that allother goods are best thought of as instruments that promote Ain some way or other. Accordingly, it would not serve Aristotle'spurpose to consider virtuous activity in isolation from all othergoods. He needs to discuss honor, wealth, pleasure, and friendship inorder to show how these goods, properly understood, can be seen asresources that serve the higher goal of virtuous activity. Hevindicates the centrality of virtue in a well-lived life by showingthat in the normal course of things a virtuous person will not live alife devoid of friends, honor, wealth, pleasure, and thelike. Virtuous activity makes a life happy not by guaranteeinghappiness in all circumstances, but by serving as the goal for thesake of which lesser goods are to be pursued. Aristotle's methodologyin ethics therefore pays more attention than does Plato's to theconnections that normally obtain between virtue and other goods. Thatis why he stresses that in this sort of study one must be satisfiedwith conclusions that hold only for the most part(1094b11–22). Poverty, isolation, and dishonor are normallyimpediments to the exercise of virtue and therefore to happiness,although there may be special circumstances in which they are not. Thepossibility of exceptions does not undermine the point that, as arule, to live well is to have sufficient resources for the pursuit ofvirtue over the course of a lifetime.
In thinking about the possible kinds of political organization,Aristotle relies on the structural observations that rulers may be one, few,or many, and that their forms of rule may be legitimate orillegitimate, as measured against the goal of promoting humanflourishing (Pol. 1279a26–31). Taken together, these factorsyield six possible forms of government, three correct and threedeviant:
2 aristotles essay ethics major series thinker wild cat ..
If so much captures Aristotle’s dominant argument for teleology, thenhis view is unmotivated. The argument is problematic in the firstinstance because it assumes an exhaustive and exclusive disjunctionbetween what is by chance and what is for the sake of something. Butthere are obviously other possibilities. Hearts beat not in order tomake noise, but they do so always and not by chance. Second, and thisis perplexing if we have represented him correctly, Aristotle ishimself aware of one sort of counterexample to this view and is indeedkeen to point it out himself: although, he insists, bile is regularlyand predictably yellow, its being yellow is neither due simply tochance nor for the sake of anything. Aristotle in fact mentions manysuch counterexamples (Part. An. 676b16–677b10,Gen. An. 778a29–b6). It seems to follow, then, short ofascribing a straight contradiction to him, either that he is notcorrectly represented as we have interpreted this argument or that hesimply changed his mind about the grounds of teleology. Taking upthe first alternative, one possibility is that Aristotle is not reallytrying to argue for teleology from the ground up inPhysics ii 8, but is taking it as already established thatthere are teleological causes, and restricting himself to observingthat many natural phenomena, namely those which occur always or for themost part, are good candidates for admitting of teleologicalexplanation.
Thinking first of time and its various puzzles, or aporiai,we saw that Aristotle poses a simple question: does time exist? He answers this question in the affirmative, but only because in theend he treats it as a categorically circumscribed question. He claims that ‘time is the measure of motion with respect to thebefore and after’ (Phys. 219b1–2). Byoffering this definition, Aristotle is able to advance the judgmentthat time does exist, because it is an entity in the category ofquantity: time is to motion or change as length is to a line. Time thus exists, but like all items in any non-substance category, itexists in a dependent sort of way. Just as if there were no linesthere would be no length, so if there were no change there would be notime. Now, this feature of Aristotle’s theory of time hasoccasioned both critical and favorable reactions. In the present context,however, it is important only that it serves to demonstrate howAristotle handles questions of existence: they are, at root, questionsabout category membership. A question as to whether, e.g.,universals or places or relations exist, is ultimately, for Aristotle,also a question concerning their category of being, if any.
Aristotle's Ethics (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
The answer to this question may be that Aristotle does not intend BookVI to provide a full answer to that question, but rather to serve as aprolegomenon to an answer. For it is only near the end of Book X thathe presents a full discussion of the relative merits of these twokinds of intellectual virtue, and comments on the different degrees towhich each needs to be provided with resources. In X.7–8, he arguesthat the happiest kind of life is that of a philosopher—someonewho exercises, over a long period of time, the virtue of theoreticalwisdom, and has sufficient resources for doing so. (We will discussthese chapters more fully in section 10 below.) One of his reasons forthinking that such a life is superior to the second-best kind oflife—that of a political leader, someone who devotes himself tothe exercise of practical rather than theoretical wisdom—is thatit requires less external equipment (1178a23-b7). Aristotle hasalready made it clear in his discussion of the ethical virtues thatsomeone who is greatly honored by his community and commands largefinancial resources is in a position to exercise a higher order ofethical virtue than is someone who receives few honors and has littleproperty. The virtue of magnificence is superior to mere liberality,and similarly greatness of soul is a higher excellence than theordinary virtue that has to do with honor. (These qualities arediscussed in IV.1–4.) The grandest expression of ethical virtuerequires great political power, because it is the political leader whois in a position to do the greatest amount of good for thecommunity. The person who chooses to lead a political life, and whoaims at the fullest expression of practical wisdom, has a standard fordeciding what level of resources he needs: he should have friends,property, and honors in sufficient quantities to allow his practicalwisdom to express itself without impediment. But if one choosesinstead the life of a philosopher, then one will look to a differentstandard—the fullest expression of theoretical wisdom—andone will need a smaller supply of these resources.
Aristotle indicates several times in VII.11–14 that merely to say thatpleasure is a good does not do it enough justice; he alsowants to say that the highest good is a pleasure. Here he isinfluenced by an idea expressed in the opening line of theEthics: the good is that at which all things aim. In VII.13,he hints at the idea that all living things imitate the contemplativeactivity of god (1153b31–2). Plants and non-human animals seek toreproduce themselves because that is their way of participating in anunending series, and this is the closest they can come to theceaseless thinking of the unmoved mover. Aristotle makes this point inseveral of his works (see for example De Anima 415a23-b7),and in Ethics X.7–8 he gives a full defense of the idea thatthe happiest human life resembles the life of a divine being. Heconceives of god as a being who continually enjoys a “single andsimple pleasure” (1154b26)—the pleasure of purethought—whereas human beings, because of their complexity, growweary of whatever they do. He will elaborate on these points in X.8;in VII.11–14, he appeals to his conception of divine activity only inorder to defend the thesis that our highest good consists in a certainkind of pleasure. Human happiness does not consist in every kind ofpleasure, but it does consist in one kind of pleasure—thepleasure felt by a human being who engages in theoretical activity andthereby imitates the pleasurable thinking of god.
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