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Essay on Examining the Ethics of Plato and Aristotle

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This essay will be examining the ethics of Plato (428-347 BCE) and Aristotle (384-322 B.C). I will firstly attempt to summarise the five fundamental concepts of Plato and Aristotle before providing my own opinion and view on their ethics. I will concentrate on their theories on the good life as a life of justice, censorship, knowledge and the good life.

I will first examine Plato’s ethics. Plato was a philosopher who was both a rationalist and absolutist. According to his view, people must be schooled to acquire certain kinds of knowledge i.e. mathematics, philosophy and so forth. This training will give them the capacity to know the nature of the good life. Since, evil is due to lack of knowledge.
Not all people have the mental capacity to learn what the good life is. They have to be trained to copy the brighter people’s actions. The brighter people are to be leaders in society. Furthermore, finding the nature of the good life is an intellectual task similar to discovering mathematical truths. Also, they must develop virtuous habits of behaviour.
Plato believes that censorship is necessary to prevent certain sorts of experiences by young people if they are to discover the nature of the good life. If a person can discover what is right and knows what the good life is, he or she will not act immorally. When Plato’s virtue of wisdom, courage and temperance are in operation, a supreme virtue is evidence in justice. Wisdom is the virtue of the intellect. Courage is the virtue of the will. Temperance is the virtue of the appetites. There is ‘one and only one good life for all to lead’ (Philosophy Made Simple, 1999, p.4) since goodness is not dependent on upon human inclinations. It is an absolute and exists independently of manki...


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...ive one. Furthermore, moderation is not always the right thing. Some situations require extreme behaviour. Some people have passionate, flamboyant personalities. I believe that Plato’s absolutism would be more appropriate than Aristotle’s relativist in this situation.

In conclusion, Aristotle’s argument about the ‘good life’ demonstrates that the good life for people is a life of happiness. Plato’s however does not as he believes training will give them the capacity to know the nature of the good life. For all these reasons Aristotle’s solution to the problem of the ‘good life’ is a better answer than Plato. On the other hand, Aristotle’s golden mean would not work however Plato’s absolutism will work in the situation in keeping a promise and breaking a promise. From the reasons stated above Plato’s absolutism will be a better answer than Aristotle’s golden mean.


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