Aristotle

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Questions of ethics are concerned with the idea of the good or just actions one should make in life in order to achieve happiness. This goal of explaining and defining the highest good for man was a concern for the Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle and the Christian philosopher St. Augustine. Aristotle provided his account of how one may achieve a good life in his Nicomachean Ethics and Augustine in his writings of the two cities – the city of man and the city of God. Aristotle gives a more subjective account of happiness based on an active life lived in accordance with reason, while Augustine’s writings give a more objective account of a good life as being achieved through salvation of eternal happiness granted by supernatural means. Although Aristotle and Augustine give contrasting ideas for living a ‘good’ life, their writings provide firm foundations for a discussion on ethics. Examining and evaluating what each philosopher has to say about living a good life should be the starting point of all those concerned with questions on Ethics. Aristotle’s account of a good life is defined in Book I of the Nicomachean Ethics and revolves around the function of human beings. This function Aristotle determines to be unique to human beings, which is the act of reasoning well . But reasoning well is not just a life of contemplation according to Aristotle; it is a life of habitual good decisions made though one’s choices and actions. Happiness is achieved through the combination of contemplation and actions. Therefore, living a good life requires pursing activity in accordance to reason and that our actions should be governed by rational thought. Those virtuous actions should be in accordance with correct behaviors, which are directed by both moral and character virtues. This concept of a virtuous life is rooted in the ideal that all voluntary human actions aim at some good. Some of these actions may be a means to a higher good such as obtaining a moderate...
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