Socrates and Aristotle on Virtues

Socrates and Aristotle are both ancient philosophers. In their work, they both taught on the idea of ethics and virtues. They believed in virtues but their understanding of what it means to be virtuous was different. This is why their teaching on virtue as well as their lives and decisions contradicted. This paper is a Critical comparison between Aristotles account of virtue and Socrates account of virtue and an evaluation of which of the two had a better idea of virtues.

Socrates claim of virtue is based on his argument that knowledge is virtue and lack of virtue is ignorance. In Socrates philosophy, he sought to prove that people could not be able to do good without being knowledgeable. This is to say that his claim was that knowledge is virtue. For Socrates, good people were the virtuous people and those who possessed qualities like wisdom, bravery and temperance. He argued that nothing would be good without knowledge. Knowledge is the only aspect that is beneficial, but virtue is also beneficial. Virtue brings profit to a persons soul. Therefore virtue is knowledge. Therefore, good acts involve knowledge. It is the capability to select good things and acts. Where a person is not knowledgeable, he cannot be in a position to fulfill his desires and be happy. Therefore, happiness is as a result of knowledge because it enables people to satisfy their needs. To Socrates, all things are neutral they are neither good nor evil. It is having knowledge or lack of it that makes things to be either good or evil.

After all, Socrates agrees that every person who has a mind will always aspire to do what is good to better his life. Virtue possesses the knowledge to act virtuously and do what is right. In order to be virtuous, people have to care about what is best for their souls. As a result, virtues can be seen as qualities for the soul and any person who does not care about these qualities is himself bad and does bad deeds. He is not a virtuous man and therefore ignorant.    

Aristotles ethical theory is eudemonist.  This is because he suggests that eudemonia is dependant on virtue. According to Aristotle, every person requires a eudemon life a life where everything is well. The greatest good that every person in Aristotles thinking looks for is the eudemonia. He also argues that virtue is significant but it is not enough for eudemonia. He also says that one cannot be eudemonic if he has no natural goods. This is a life of acting rationally, informed with virtue. The way to achieve this life is to have the power and resources. Individuals who lack power do not achieve their moral capability. He argues that friendship is necessary to achieve this life. Eudemonia is dependent on having proper rules and plans. Aristotle put emphasis on the virtue of temperance. This was in relation to the nature of characters. He believed in achievement of personal good-will, but that the achievement of this will not be an exact science. He argued that the definition of temperance is not as precise as any science. In attempting to define it, he spoke about human function. In his argument, enjoying pleasure is reasonable while failing to enjoy is unreasonable. Aristotle believed that too much and too little are always wrong. He argued that virtuous acts are always midway states between the contrasting vices of excess and deficiency. Therefore, his argument was that temperance represents the mean that is in-between excess and abstinence. His major concern is not uniformity but one thing that all people have in common that allows them to act accordingly.

The similarities that exist in these teachings are that they believed in existence of virtues and taught their students on what it means to be virtuous only from their different understanding. The common thread on the teachings of the two was the fact that people possessed certain virtues. The virtues represent the most significant qualities for a person to possess. The two philosophers taught that having virtues was advantageous. The differences in the accounts of virtues by the two philosophers are not only revealed in their teachings but also their way of life.

Both Aristotle and Socrates were charged with impiety, but their differing understanding of what is virtuous and right led them to different actions. When Socrates was convicted to death, he accepted it and allowed himself to be executed. When he was offered to pay a fine for his crime he refused. He also refused to honour the pleas of Plato and his other students to run away in a boat they had ready for that purpose. In a way through his act, he answered some of the questions he had posed to his students on virtue and courage. His actions also lived up to the fact that he advocated for friendship and true sense of commonality. Socrates believed that running away from the authority amounted to going against his communitys will. As a pursuit of personal happiness, Aristotle on the other hand refused to accept his charges and fled. This is because Aristotles thinking was based on individual happiness and pleasure.This is also evident in his argument that the final goal of human beings is happiness. He argued that living a virtuous life is something pleasurable. In his argument, the virtuous man takes pleasure in living a virtuous life. Additionally, it seems like devoid of virtues, a person cannot achieve happiness. It is like virtue is the linking aspect to happiness. This is in contrast to the theory of Socrates who argues that the best way of life is focusing on self-development instead of pursuing material things.  Aristotle is capable of demonstrating that ethics and personal interest may be related, that ethics is well-suited to common sense, and that a virtuous person is capable of achieving rational decisions. Among the two theories the best is Socrates. This is because he relates virtue with knowledge and as long as one has knowledge he will always choose what is good.

 While both of the philosophers believed in the benefit of having virtues, it is Socrates who stresses more than Aristotle the importance of the virtues. In his Socrates view there is no go between people had to be good. In Socrates theory the idea of happiness and pleasure brings in an aspect of compromise. Between the two philosophers, it is Socrates who forms the best example of living a virtuous life. Therefore the best idea on virtue is the one for Socrates.


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