A Critical Study of Virtue Ethics in Aristotle and Kant

Topics: Ethics, Nicomachean Ethics, Virtue Pages: 4 (1165 words) Published: August 22, 2010

Aristotle was the first western thinker to divide philosophy into branches which are still recognizable today: logic, metaphysics, and natural philosophy, philosophy of mind, ethics and politics, rhetoric; he made major contributions in all these fields. He was born in Stagira, a city of northern Greece in 384 BC. His father Nicomachus was a doctor at the court of Amyntas of Macedon, who preceded Philip, the conqueror of much of Greece. Aristotle later served as tutor to Philip’s remarkable son, Alexander the Great.

As a young man Aristotle went to Athens in 367 to study as a disciple of Plato at his Academy, remaining there until Plato’s death in 347. Aristotle returned to Athens and founded his own philosophical school, the Lyceum. He died in 322 BC, a year after he had to leave Athens in the wake of the death of his former pupil, the emperor Alexander.

Three works on ethics have come down under his name: Nicomachean ethics in ten ‘books’, Eudemian ethics in eight ‘books’, and the so-called Magna Moralia or ‘great Ethics’. In these Nicomachean ethics is considered as Aristotle’s major and definitive work in ethics at least than others. According to Aristotle the highest good for human beings is Eudaimonia/happiness and that a rational choice of life will be one directed to one’s own happiness. Only a life in which one cultivates the traditional virtues will be a happy life. Eudaimonia, or 'happiness', is the supreme goal of human life. Aristotle believed that everything has a purpose - the good for a knife is to cut, and a good knife is one that cuts well. In the same way, Eudaimonia is the 'good' for a person. Aristotle draws a distinction between superior and subordinate aims. Why do I study ethics? Maybe to get a qualification. I get the qualification to get a good job, and I want a good job because... These are subordinate aims. At some point you stop and say 'because that would make me happy'...

Bibliography: 1. Aristotle. The Nicomachean Ethics. Trans. David Ross. Oxford University Press: London, 1980.
2. Thompson, Mel. Teach Yourself : Ethics. Transet Limited: London, 1994
[1] Thompson, Teach Yourself, 95.
[2] Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics, xviii.
[3] Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics, xix.
[4] Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics, xix
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