Plato (eothyphro, phaedo meno) Aristotle (nichomachean ethics)

Plato was one of most illustrious and faithful students of Socrates. He had well written dialogues, which provides an admiring account of what his master Socrates taught him. The written dialogues also offered him an opportunity to create and express his own views in philosophy. In his middle and late dialogues, Plato used conversational methodology as a way of putting forward his ideas. He also used arguments that examined each issue discussed from several angles. He explored how alternative ideas interplayed in the arguments and evaluated all of them by reason. Phaedo is on of the most famous dialogues Plato had in his middle period. This dialogue focuses on the death of Socrates. In this dialogue, Plato explains more about his ethical views, which he had introduced in former dialogues. In his middle dialogues, he focused more on the role that knowledge plays in virtue. It is with this reason that Plato makes us understand virtue in Phaedo where he distinguishes between true and popular virtue. He gives a good illustration the importance of knowledge in true virtue. He also describes courage and moderation as the popular virtues. Plato also mentions other form of virtues in Phaedo, for example, the just, the good and the beautiful.  He, therefore, links his epistemological and ethical ideas. The souls usually attain virtue after the body has purified it. This means that the soul attains virtue when it is purified from the body. According to Phaedo, the human body acts as the distraction of gaining virtue. Anyone one who is able to get all the characteristics of the body, for example, eyes for sight or ears to hear is able to gain virtue. This is because the prevent the soul from acquiring virtue. This is because the soul and the body are separate then it is important that people should free themselves from the body because the body acts as a hindrance to the attainment of virtue. The body does not have any capability to distinctively perceiving truth about anything. Therefore, people do not attain virtue because of failing to free themselves from the body and allow the soul to search for virtue and knowledge. So it is important that people make their body distinct from the soul so that the soul has its freedom to attain virtue.

Meno is a transitional dialogue that Plato had which has a lot of influence from Socratic dialogues. This dialogue gives an introduction of metaphysical and epistemological themes found in Platos middle dialogues. The dialogue focuses more on the general problem on the foundation of our moral knowledge. In Meno, virtue is suggested as the desire to do something that is good. In this dialogue, Plato clarifies the conception that he has between knowledge and virtue. After long argument with Socrates, Meno concludes that virtue is indeed knowledge and, therefore, it can be taught. He gives the reason that virtue can be learned or acquired just like other forms of knowledge. This is why it can be taught. We can have virtue without knowing what a virtue is because it can come in an automatic way. Therefore, it automatically comes, and one possesses it with knowledge that he or she has the virtue. According to the argument, it is possible that virtue can be attained through nature.

Euthyphro is the other Plato dialogues, which involves Euthyphro engaging in argument with Socrates. Euthyphro is engaged in the prosecution of his father for the murder of a murderer. Because Socrates did not understand the philosophy behind Euthyphros actions, he was eager to learn. Therefore, Socrates decides to speak with Euthyphro so that he could understand him well and to understand how he came to be in such a high position, in the state. Euthyphro claimed to fully understand the divine law of piety. In the dialogue, he gives four definitions of the piety. One of the definitions that he provided is that piety is the prosecution of the unjust individuals who have committed murder or sacrilege or any other crime of such magnitude. This is the reason as to why he was prosecuting his father. The second definition that he gave is that piety is what pleases the gods. However, Socrates criticizes this definition based on the notion that also gods disagrees among themselves in determining what is pleasing among themselves. According to Socrates then this means that an action, which is disputed by the gods, would be pious and impious at the same time. According to Socrates, this is not a logical situation. However, Euthyphros argues that even gods cannot argue that a murder should be punished. Socrates insists that disputes would still arise about the amount of justification given in that case. The third definition that Euthyphro is an amendment of the second definition. He defines piety as what all gods love and that all what the gods hate is impious. He then gives the fourth definition that piety is an art of prayer and sacrifice. He describes piety as a form of knowledge in on how gods are given gifts and at the same time, how one asks for favor in return. These are the four definitions that Euthyphros defines piety. Despite the fact that Plato did not provide an answer to the main question according to this dialogue, he gives some insights, which are positive in regard to the nature of piety. He first shows that piety is an ethical idea, for example, goodness, justice, right and truth. Later on in the dialogue, we see that there is justice, which has two fold operations. As a virtue, it shows that this is the right attention to the gods and the right treatment to our fellow men. All this is done with an intention of goodness. Due to the fact that piety has an intention of goodness, then its main essence is moral. Therefore, this brings an aspect of virtue in it.

Aristotle grouped virtues as being of two kinds. There are the intellectual virtues and the moral virtues. Intellectual virtues have their foundation and development to teaching. Therefore, to gain these virtues requires experience and time since one has to take time in order to learn the virtuous. On the other hand, the moral virtues come about as a result of habit. Therefore, there is no one moral virtues in a person that arises out of nature. According to Aristotle, people are adapted to nature to receive the virtues and then the virtues are perfected by habit. One of the major difference between the two is that moral virtues come about by habit while the intellectual virtues come about as a result of teaching. Aristotle holds that morals virtues are not innate but are produced by forming a habit of practicing them frequently. For example, an individual becomes honest by acting honestly. It becomes difficult for a person to be virtuous if he or she does not form a habit of acting virtuously. The moral virtues require one to be able to know how to respond to his poor inner thoughts and feelings. The moral virtues are aimed at producing positive consequences to the great number of people. They aim at producing what good and right. On the other hand, intellectual virtues incorporate scientific knowledge, technical knowledge, practical wisdom and intuitive reason. Scientific knowledge is the knowledge of what is necessary and universal practical wisdom aimed at acting in towards good of humanity, artistic or the technical knowledge aimed at producing things in the right way. All of these virtues gained through the various methods are aimed producing good results.

According to Aristotle, genuine happiness leads to virtues. Happiness, therefore, is a virtuous activity, which is usually guided by the intellect and by reason. Happiness acts as fulfillment of the human soul. The virtuous actions make a person happy. Therefore, virtue and happiness have a relation where virtues lead to happiness. Aristotle claims that a happy person is one who practices complete virtue is all his or her deeds having an adequate supply of external goods for the whole life. Justice is a virtue, which brings fairness to all people. It is a virtue, which incorporates lawfulness, which is the universal justice, and fairness, which is particular justice. This entails the distribution of privileges and responsibilities of persons equally and proportionally in a certain situation.


Post a Comment