On Virtue: Comparing the Views of Confucius and Aristotle
Instructor: Professor Roberta Jones
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Virtue is the habitual, well-established, readiness or disposition of man's powers
directing them to some goodness of act. Virtue is moral excellence of a man or a
woman. As applied to humans, a virtue is a good character trait. It is something practiced
at all times.The virtue of perseverance is needed for all and any virtue since it is a habit
of character and must be used continuously in order for any person to maintain oneself in
virtue (“Virtue”). There are two famous philosophers that have many views on the
subject of virtue and they are Confucius and Aristotle. Their teachings lead a lot of
people into a better life or as Confucius said the practice of right living. (“Confucius-Lecture on Confucius and Self Knowledge”)
Confucius was born in 551 B.C., in at that time was called Lu, which is now the province of Shang-tung. His father was an elderly warrior who married a young peasant girl to have a son. Confucius from the young age of three had to labor for his family due to his father’s death. Because of his natural aptitude for learning, he still managed to find time to purse his studies (“Confucianism”). At the age of seventy-two in the year 479 B.C. Confucius woke early walked outside his home in Qufu, as legend tells us, and tells his disciples he wished to speak no more. He then went inside laid down and died seven days later (Freedman pp.33-34)
Aristotle was born around 200 years after Confucius in the year of 384 B.C. in Stagira, a “Grecian colony. His father was a court physician to the King Amyntas of Macedonia. It is believed that his purse of studies is due to his father’s influence of practicing medicine (“Aristotle”). He died at his country house at Chalcis, in Euboea at the age of sixty-two years old in the year of 322 B.C. He died to an illness he suffered from for a long period of time. There were legends that told his death to be because of hemlock poisoning, as well as another legend, it was said he couldn’t explain the tides so he threw himself into the sea (“Aristotle”).
Confucius’ ideals about virtue are very long and complicated indeed, as well as Aristotle’s ideals. They both are alike in a lot of their views but they are different in others. Confucius himself did not make any pretension to possess virtue and wisdom in their fullness as he had stated, but his love of virtue and wisdom there is no question. He was a man of affection, sympathetic and most considerate of others (“Confucianism”). According to Confucius the morally superior person from birth should possess five inner virtues and acquire two outer ones. The five virtues are righteousness, inner integrity, love of humanity, altruism, and loyalty. One should also acquire culture and a sense of decorum (Cunningham, Lawrence and Reich p.184). Aristotle was a man a high-minded, kind hearted man devoted to his family and his friends. He was a man who followed the ideals he outlined in his ethical treatises (“Aristotle”). He had out of all the Greek moralists, the most psychologically insightful account of virtuous character (“Moral Character”). Aristotle’s ideals of virtue were wisdom, gentleness, courage, sobriety, self-control, righteousness and liberality (“Aristotle, Virtues and Vices”).
Confucius and Aristotle did...
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