Thursday, December 6, 2012


Aristotle argues that the correct approach in studying such controversial subjects as Ethics or Politics, which involve discussing what is true about what is beautiful or just, is to start with what would be roughly agreed to be true by people of good up-bringing and experience in life, and to work from there to a higher understanding.
Taking this approach, Aristotle begins by saying that the highest good for humans, the highest aim of all human practical thinking, is eudaimonia, a Greek word often translated as well-being or happiness. Aristotle in turn argues that happiness is properly understood as an on-going and stable dynamic, a way of being in action (energeia), specifically appropriate to the human "soul(psuchē), at its most "excellent" or virtuous (virtue representing aretē in Greek). If there are several virtues the best and most complete or perfect of them will be the happiest one. An excellent human will be a person good at living life, who does it well and beautifully (kalos). Aristotle says that such a person would also be a serious (spoudaios) human being, in the same sense of "serious" that one contrasts serious harpists with other harpists. He also asserts as part of this starting point that virtue for a human must involve reason in thought and speech (logos), as this is an aspect (an ergon, literally meaning a task or work) of human living.
Aristotle believed that ethical knowledge is not only a theoretical knowledge, but rather that a person must have "experience of the actions in life" and have been "brought up in fine habits" to become good. For a person to become virtuous, he can't simply study what virtue is, but must actually do virtuous things.
As mentioned above, the Aristotelian Ethics all explicitly aim to begin with approximate but uncontroversial starting points. Aristotle's starting point is that everything humans do is aimed at some good, with some good higher than others. The highest human good that people aim at, he said, is generally referred to as happiness (Gk. eudaimonia - sometimes translated as "living well").
Aristotle asserted that popular accounts about what life would be happy divide into three most common types: 
- a life dedicated to vulgar pleasure; 
- a life dedicated to fame and honor; 
- a life dedicated to contemplation. 

To judge these, Aristotle uses his method of trying to define the natural function of a human in action. A human's function must include the ability to use reason or logos, because this is an essential attribute of being human. A person that does this is the happiest because he is fulfilling his purpose or nature as found in the rational soul.
The question of how to be happy therefore becomes a question of which activities of the human soul represent the highest excellence in using reason.
Aristotle proposed that we could accept it when people say that the soul can be divided into three parts: the Nutritive Soul (plants, animals and humans), the Perceptive Soul (animals and humans) and the Rational Soul (humans only).
The way in which Aristotle sketches the highest good for man involving both a practical and a theoretical side, with the two sides necessary for each other, is also in the tradition of Socrates and Plato, as opposed to pre-Socratic philosophy. As Burger (2008) points out (p. 212):- "The Ethics does not end at its apparent peak, identifying perfect happiness with the life devoted to theōria; instead it goes on to introduce the need for a study of legislation, on the grounds that it is not sufficient only to know about virtue, but one should try to put that knowledge to use." At the end of the book, according to Burger, the thoughtful reader is led to understand that "the end we are seeking is what we have been doing" while engaging with the Ethics (p. 215).



  1. Muthu wrote:

    didn't they lock him up for preaching peace during Greeks many wars with Persia?

  2. Fazli:

    It is said that Aristotle and his nephew Callisthenes were both arested by Alexander in Persia since they both plotted against him.


  3. Fazli:

    Aristotle's principles of being (see section above) influenced Anselm's view of God, whom he called "that than which nothing greater can be conceived." Anselm thought that God did not feel emotions such as anger or love, but appeared to do so through our imperfect understanding. The incongruity of judging "being" against something that might not exist, may have led Anselm to his famous ontological argument for God's existence.
    Many medieval philosophers made use of the idea of approaching a knowledge of God through negative attributes. For example, we should not say that God exists in the usual sense of the term, all we can safely say is that God is not nonexistent. We should not say that God is wise, but we can say that God is not ignorant (i.e. in some way God has some properties of knowledge). We should not say that God is One, but we can state that there is no multiplicity in God's being.

    Aristotelian theological concepts were accepted by many later Jewish, Islamic, and Christian philosophers. Key Jewish philosophers included Samuel Ibn Tibbon, Maimonides, and Gersonides, among many others. Their views of God are considered mainstream by many Jews of all denominations even today. Preeminent among Islamic philosophers who were influenced by Aristotelian theology are Avicenna and Averroes. In Christian theology, the key philosopher influenced by Aristotle was undoubtedly Thomas Aquinas. There had been earlier Aristotelian influences within Christianity (notably Anselm), but Aquinas (who, incidentally, found his Aristotelian influence via Avicenna, Averroes, and Maimonides) incorporated extensive Aristotelian ideas throughout his own theology. Through Aquinas and the Scholastic Christian theology of which he was a significant part, Aristotle became "academic theology's great authority in the course of the thirteenth century" and exerted an influence upon Christian theology that become both widespread and deeply embedded. However, notable Christian theologians rejected Aristotelian theological influence, especially the first generation of Christian Reformers and most notably Martin Luther. In subsequent Protestant theology, Aristotelian thought quickly reemerged in Protestant Scholasticism