“Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life. Aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something”.
– Henry David Thoreau, American historian and philosopher
Being able to define morality is a challenging task. Many people have tried, and still try to do it without much success. Aristotle was one of the truth-seeking people that dared to define this ambiguousconcept. His daring contribution links up two divergent concepts of Philosophy: Egoism and Virtue Ethics, and for this reason, he was known for being both, an Egoist and a Virtue Ethicist. Many people affirm that this premise is the most accurate ethical theory that defines Morality.
In one hand, Aristotle was considered an ethical egoist because his theory focused on the individual’s selfinterest. He stated that the most important goal in a person’s life was to achieve their own Eudaimonia, Greek word for Happiness. “Verbally there is a general agreement; for both the general run of men and people of superior refinement say that it is happiness, and identify living well and doing well with being happy” (Boss, 4). According to him, Eudaimonia is the meaning of life, since “the honorablehappiness among others in a cultivated, proud society that pursues Science and Arts (Pence, 19).
He beelived that Happiness is something that people want for its own sake. He affirmed the idea that people desire things that bring pleasure into their lives, such as health, honor, possessions, and so on, to be happy. “Now we call that which is in itself worthy of pursuit for the sake of somethingelse, and which is never desirable by the sake of something else more final than the things that are desirable both in themselves and for the sake of that other thing, and therefore we call final without qualification that which is always desirable in itself and never for the sake of something else” (Boss, 5). For Aristotle, Happiness was a person’s Final Goal, the whole purpose of life, and heencouraged everybody to do everything in their power to reach for it.
The pursuit of happiness was the foundation of Aristotle’s theory on Morality: being able to achieve one’s own happiness. But, there is one key aspect about this theory that differentiates it from Egoism, a detail that has always perturbed humanity, and that many have tried to unravel since the beginning of time: What is theproper approach to reach Happiness? Aristotle’s uttered that the best way to attain contentment is through Virtue Ethics. He believed that men possess a unique and marvelous feature that set him apart from all the other beings: the ability to reason. “There remains, then an active life of the element that has a rational principle . . . the function of man is an activity of soul which follows orimplies a rational principle” (Boss, 6). Hence, the philosopher’s discretion is that good men are supposed to reason well; they should be able of analyzing their decisions and infer its consequences before acting. This meant that in order to live virtuously, a person should to adhere to the Golden Mean, which is, according to Aristotle, finding a balance in a situation; avoiding excesses andtemptation. “Virtue in a man will be the disposition which (a) makes him a good man, and (b) enables him to perform his function well” (Boss, 391).
Furthermore, Aristotle specified that humans should empathize with Virtue Ethics because it would lead them to achieve self-happiness: “a virtue is a trait character manifested in habitual action” (Rachels, 175). He indicated that some of the virtues thatwere needed in order to be content were: “benevolence, fairness, patience . . . generosity . . . courage. . .” (Rachels, 176). This idea asserts that being virtuous is a matter of developing habits; it is not just about actions, but the motives behind these actions. For instance, loyalty is a virtue, but someone who is loyal in certain situations is not considered to be virtuous; a real loyal...
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