Aristotle is a famous scientist and philosopher of ancient Greece. He was a teacher of Alexander the Great and a follower of Plato. Although he lived in ancient times, his philosophy is considered quite actual in the contemporary world because it can help develop a model of society and state in the aspect of historical changes. Aristotle was the first philosopher who tried to regard the structure of a human soul. Moreover, he described it and distinguished several essential elements. The most fundamental work of Aristotle is the Nicomachean Ethics. He explains the notion of happiness and virtues of the soul, which are necessary for it. The philosopher considers that a human’s happiness depends on many virtues and contributes to the prosperity of the whole country, since the state system is a reflection of the society’s soul. Although Aristotle presents his Nicomachean Ethics as a philosophy of morality, it also envelops the social and political spheres of human life and the state in general.
Aristotle describes the most essential doctrines and categories of his ethics in Nicomachean Ethics. It is one of the most fundamental texts of Aristotle, which explains the sense of human life from the aspect of happiness and elements of it. The Nicomachean Ethics is still the biggest mystery for the scientists as they cannot determine the reason the text has such a title. It is possibly dedicated to Aristotle’s son or father. However, it is the first antique, important treatise, which explains the sense of life appearing from the notion of happiness. The object of the philosopher’s investigation is happiness, which is considered an activity of the soul. Aristotle regards a human as a political phenomenon and explains the notion of happiness in the aspect of the state affairs. A person can achieve such happiness only in the society. It is called ‘Eudemonia,’ which means the ethical category of prosperity and blissfulness. ”Sophisticated people, men of action, see happiness as honor, since honor is pretty much the end of the political life”. The person can achieve the highest good through Eudemonia. However, this activity of the human soul is possible only through the harmony of virtues. Aristotle expresses quite clear statements that it is not enough to know about virtues, it is necessary to be virtuous. The way to obtain the feeling of complete well-good is to aim the soul into high moral direction. Aristotle divides all the virtues into two groups, namely those connected with wisdom and the ones connected with ethics. One group of virtues can appear with the help of education and another when using the habits. Thus, virtues are the most essential elements of Eudemonia.
Aristotle develops ideas concerning two kinds of virtues, which can appear due to intellectual or ethical activity. The philosopher describes them as a state of the character, which makes the human perform his habits well and be good. All people are born with the natural possibility to possess the ideal complex of virtue, having perfect theoretical and practical wisdom. However, the process of their activity and relations with the society can help to achieve the highest possibilities and virtues. People should come through several periods of their life such as childhood or adolescence and develop some habits. Thus, the way to happiness and absolute eudemonia envelops the whole human’s life. Aristotle makes a conclusion that a person can acquire ethical virtues only in combination with the practical wisdom. Therefore, the philosopher recognizes the necessity of intellectual activity of a human because it can bring a person to happiness.
Nevertheless, Aristotle considers that ethics is a harmony in combination of practice and wisdom, the most essential criteria. A certain soul quality concerns the highest good. However, the biggest problem is the level of these criteria in the human behavior and certain obstacle on the way to absolute virtues. These are passions because they violate the human’s possibility to achieve the highest good. Thus, it is possible to distinguish the most essential aspects of Aristotle’s theory. The moral improvement of the society depends on the improvement of the personal soul. The latter consists of two elements, and the division appears according to notions of wisdom and morality. The wisdom can be divided into theoretical part and a good sense. Morality is a dependable phenomenon, and it depends on the circumstances. The moral part of a human soul appears from the virtues. Some virtues are natural for the person while others can be acquired in result of human relations with the society. Thus, happiness and virtues can exist only as the political notions. A person is a political phenomenon, and all the processes are interrelated inside the state. Aristotle develops a doctrine of mean in order to determine the most precise and ideal society in the state.
The category of mean has an important meaning for all the virtues and their combinations inside the human soul. Aristotle is the first antique philosopher who takes into consideration the details of the human soul and develops such a deep idea concerning it. He presents the theory about certain golden middle, which can contribute to human happiness and prosperity of the whole state, as these notions are interrelated. Aristotle demands to stick certain mean, and it concerns all the soul virtues. He seeks to present some formula of ideal existence of a human in society, which can be resulted by perfect state prosperity. Aristotle distinguishes many virtues, which are essential for human existence, namely courage, justice, honesty, and sound sense, which gave the possibility to achieve some pleasure.
However, the philosopher recognizes that the lack of virtues is harmful as well as their excessive presence. The Aristotle’s moral perfection depends on the notion of mean. For example, the physical pleasures must have their measures; otherwise, they provoke diseases. Thus, it is possible to conclude that the Doctrine of Mean is Aristotle’s concept concerning the ideal state which appears a certain golden mean between the deficiency and excess of something. Aristotle distinguishes many important virtues of the human soul and regards the elements which create these virtues due to mean. For example courage is a perfect virtue though its appearance depends on the situation and the level of danger. A person should develop the necessary proportion of foolhardy courage and timidity. The philosopher describes all the virtues from the perspective of mean.
Book IV is dedicated to the virtue of liberality. It is an essential virtue which appears to be the mean of prodigality and meanness. However, it is impossible to regard this notion as absolute as it is quite dependable. It is obvious that a person cannot perform the virtue of liberality in case of serious poverty. It depends on the notion of wealth. In addition, it depends on good sense because a person must perfectly understand the golden middle between the prodigality and meanness. The prodigal and mean individuals want to be happy and achieve some pleasure from the material things. However, they both are disappointed with it because a prodigal man loses all his money and stays with nothing while a mean man holds all his wealth and feels a deep emptiness in his soul. The inheriting and natural demands of a soul to achieve the virtue of liberality make a human feel the lack of something essential. Only the mean helps to get this pleasure because it preserves the wealth from the downfall and preserves a person’s soul from evil feeling of avidity. Aristotle analyzes the nature of this pleasure from the virtue of liberality. When a person gives some material elements of his wealth, one appreciates the act of generosity and feels happy because he has a feeling of mean. Thus, a human has some money for his personal needs and feels unbelievable pleasure from his action.
People who have the characteristics of meanness or prodigality are unhappy. Moreover, they are dependable on evil which makes them suffer. Nevertheless, the source of happiness is the intention of a human to get it through the virtue and notion of mean. However, all of these are possible only in case of hard work on the soul features. A person should develop the characteristic of liberality. The philosopher recognizes that the meanness is worse evil than the notion of prodigality is, and he gives the examples when the prodigality can be justified. The citizen must give some money for religious matters. Therefore, the expenditures, even if they are too excessive, for the prosperity of the temple can be justified. This act of prodigality can be considered honorable. The virtue of liberality is quite dependable, since it is possible to distinguish many essential elements, which have obvious influence on it. The reason of it reveals the materialistic bases of liberality. However, Aristotle distinguishes many virtues of spiritual or abstract nature, which depends on the Doctrine of Mean.
The virtue of friendship is considered the most essential one, and it cannot be comparable with any other possibility of human soul because the necessity of it is obvious for both poor and rich people. The desire to possess the virtue of good friendship is a natural or even a born possibility of a person, which does not depend on any material features since it is a spiritual need of the human soul. Friendship can exist in all living creatures. Aristotle reveals the phenomenon of friendship in birds and animals though the notion of mean is available only for people. The virtue of friendship is something really amazing that brings extreme pleasure. It has some esthetic beauty because it is quite honorable to have many friends. However, the virtue of friendship can only exist as the golden middle between the passions of petulance and servility. These elements make a person suffer because they cannot bring certain relief or happiness. Similar to any other passion, it can provoke dissatisfaction, loneliness and disappointment.
However, the real friendship as a mean of two extremities contributes to absolute happiness, and it is disinterested. Aristotle informs about the details of a perfect friendship in Book VIII. “Perfect friendship is the friendship of men who are good, and alike in virtue; for these wish well alike to each other qua good, and they are good themselves”. It must be a mean between excessive servility and aggressive petulance. This absolute virtue of friendship leads to another virtue of equality, as it appears from the aspect of friendship. Actually, these are interrelated, as only equal relations can transform into friendship. It is hard to imagine a poor man to be a friend of a rich person. However, Aristotle gives uncertain examples of the unequal friendship, which was natural in ancient times. He underlines the necessity of mean in this meaning. The friendship is possible between a father and a son; however, the children cannot be equal with the parents. Thus, the notion of friendship is possible in spite of inequality. The relations of a husband and a wife are the same. Therefore, a person should understand this mean.
In addition, Aristotle regards friendship in the global meaning because this phenomenon exists in political order of the state and appears in the system of ruling. The perfect state regime should base on the principles of an ideal friendship. The virtue of it is a certain golden mean. The authority should control the country in order to prevent the anarchy and absolute willfulness. However, when the king’s power transforms into tyranny, it breaks all the rules of equality and makes people be slaves. The authority should achieve the mean of friendship virtue with the purpose to make the state prosperous; thus, the citizens will feel happy.
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However, it is impossible to confirm the words of Aristotle or to reject them since the present society lives according to other philosophy, and the contemporary views differ from the ancient ideas. The principles and aspects on the ancient philosophy do not correspond to the present times as people do not comprehend the features of the character as certain virtues. The idea of Aristotle concerning the equality represents some dependence and proportion based on mean. However, the contemporary society can comprehend this conception to be wrong since the present life is based on equality. Moreover, people consider that this equality is natural, inherent and inalienable. The statement of Aristotle about identity of politics and human being is quite controversial. A person’s soul and political life are absolutely opposite sides of the human activity as according to Aristotle’s philosophy, the state system should be perfect. Moreover, this perfection is utopic and impossible. The political life of the country does not correspond to the ethical norms and moral rules. Aristotle is a famous and well-known philosopher though at the present time, his conception may seem ridiculous. He emphasizes on the virtue of equality and friendship without interests and at the same time recognizes the slavery as one of state regimes though both notions are controversial. Some of the Eudemonia ethics seem to be quite right. Aristotle pays attention to prosperity and happiness, which depend on the personal virtues. This statement is absolutely right because the happiness of a human depends on his behavior. The soul has an intention to achieve the highest good. Its goal is the happiness of a person. The contemporary society can accept and agree with this idea though the notions of virtues seem to be quite controversial. The aspect of mean as a golden middle is right. It is possible to meet this conception in investigations of contemporary philosophers such as Rosalind Hursthouse. It is possible to assume that even the present world leads a long-life struggle between two extremities.
Thus, the philosophy of Aristotle is interesting for the examination as it helps determine the views of ancient people toward the system of the state and the soul of a person. Nevertheless, it is hard to regard them right or absolutely wrong because they deal with the ancient apprehension of the world. The philosopher presents the phenomena of Eudemonia and personal virtues to be the background for the happiness and the state prosperity. He regards the happiness as the most important notion of ethics. It is a certain soul activity. The souls of all the members of the society develop the prosperity of the state as the nature of a human is interrelated with the nature of a state. The ideas of Aristotle’s ethics seem unusual for the contemporary people, as he presents his work as a moral and ethical philosophy though it is, actually, a text about social and political life of a human and the entire country.