Aristotle and Aurelius Essay
Aristotle and Aurelius
Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics goes to show that he believes that the end goal of all human actions is eudaimonia, or happiness through success and fulfillment. Following this concept Aristotle goes on to explain that through virtuosity a human being can lead a happy life. He defines virtue as a disposition to make the correct decisions that lead to the chief good of happiness. A perfect example is when he describes someone who does an action well as being good, but they are only considered good because of their distinctive activity.
The distinctive activity for human beings can be considered our rationale. This is where virtue comes into play in the matter, but this translation could also be deciphered as excellence. Human beings do every single thing they do for a reason and that reason is to help towards an end goal. Although it may seem like the end goal might be something good like eating lunch, it is actually a chain to the ultimate good which is being happy.
Happiness in Aristotle’s view is not second-by-second or even minute-by-minute but an entire lifetime. This is because we view happiness as and end goal which we hope to achieve by death and that way you can look back on a person’s life to see if they succeeded in their goal, through virtuous moral character and virtuous intellectual character and through the act of temperance. A life-time of that act can guarantee a happy, fulfilling, and successful life.
Being virtuous come through two different ways in our actions as said by Aristotle, “Excellence being of two sorts, then, the one intellectual and the other of character, the intellectual sort mostly both comes into existence and increases as a result of teaching whereas excellence of character results from habituation… ” (Nicomachean Ethics, 1103a15). Intellectual virtue comes from teaching, experience, and time while character virtue is formed through the habit of repeated virtuous actions and constant practice.
This allows for every human being to potentially have a virtuous moral character for the fact that it cannot be learned but only practiced, and not one person can be born already virtuous. The only problem with this concept is that there is no exact guideline in which to follow in order to become virtuous and, ultimately, happy. Basically Aristotle explains that you can find virtue in the middle ground of your actions, for
example, he says “For to arrive at one of the two extremes is more erroneous, to arrive at the other less; so, since it is hard to hit upon intermediate with extreme accuracy, one should take to the oars and sail that way, as they say, grasping what is least bad of what is available… ” (Nicomachean Ethics, 1109a35) There is no teaching as to why, for example, courage is preferred over cowardice or rashness but that you need to practice being courageous in order to understand the reasoning for being courageous.
This is true for all virtuous traits and merits of the human character and by combining the moral and intellectual teachings and habits can you start on the path of a virtuous disposition. The key to virtue is keeping within a balance between the vices. For an excessive vice there is excessive pleasure but also excessive pain and for the opposite there is no pleasure and no pain. The key is in a state of temperance in order to feel the correct amount of pleasure for a healthy lifestyle and choices.
Aristotle’s views show that someone with a virtuous disposition should automatically or naturally choose the best action or behavior in any circumstances without having to rely on reason because the virtuous habit has been already learned. In response to someone arguing against an accidental choice, these views only perceive the deliberate and voluntary choices made by the person of virtue.
Also a virtuous moral character will always aim for the good while unjust character will try to aim for what is their perception or the “apparent” good as said in “That wish is for the end, we have already said; but to some it seems to be for the good, whereas to others it seems to be for the apparent good. The consequence, for those who say that the object of wish is the good, is that what the person making an incorrect choice wishes for is not wished for.. ” (Nicomachean Ethics, 1113a10).
A virtuous person will always do the right thing and will never be surprised by their actions, nor will they do it the right thing with an ulterior motive. Though you cannot live a happy life just with a virtuous disposition because you still need to act within accordance to virtue, you absolutely cannot live a happy life without virtue. Having virtue in your actions will lead to the final goal of happiness because it far outweighs the happiness found in pleasure, awards or merits. II.
Marcus Aurelius was a philosopher-king and emperor of the Roman Empire and was considered of of the most influential Stoic philosophers of all time. His greatest work Meditations is an honest portrayal of Aurelius’ thoughts as they were found in journal form, never meant to be publicized. He wrote these books for himself as a sort of guideline and thought-provoking inner voice. In his works of Meditations, Marcus Aurelius doesn’t use arguments as a way to get his point across but rather states his words as truths and seems to be very confident in his uses.
It seems he is prying at the meaning of life, the why’s and how’s of it all on the idea of living. He is very blunt in his use of understating the human existence in the world and compares them to specks in the grand scheme, but the point of this is to provide a sort of carpe diem lifestyle. By letting yourself let go of the things you cannot control, you begin to gain a better understanding of the things you can control and act accordingly. “We were born to work together like feet, hands and eyes, like two rows of teeth, upper and lower.
To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are obstructions. ” (Meditations, 17). This quote goes to show how you cannot allow yourself to get angry at another person for what they have done, but to continue your existence and recognize what you need to do. He advises in his writings “To shrug it all off and wipe it clean-every annoyance and distraction-and reach utter stillness. ” (Meditations, 54) and once you can do that you can realize what is natural.
Stoicism being a very popular philosophy in ancient Rome for it called for a “cosmic determinism” in relation to “human freedom” by a parallel will to that of Nature . Aurelius,himself, was a firm believer in the Logos, which can be identified as a principle a guiding force for the universe, human beings and all matter. In fact, it is one of the most important concepts in Stoicism for the ancient Romans of the time. The stark and “manly” belief that every single citizen had a duty, whether they were a king or a peasant, were expected to follow it to the best of their abilities.
The term utter stillness is used to acknowledge the state of no distractions. By achieving this you can focus solely on appropriate actions and how to follow your own road by the way of Nature on an unconscious level. Not by thinking about it but by acting naturally should you continue to help others, work for yourself, never stopping but continuing to reply to Nature’s demands. To do this all under the Logos, in order to find our common sense and avoid the annoying distractions all the while by controlling these actions through your inner unconscious/conscious self. III.
The Greek philosopher Aristotle and the Roman philosopher-king Marcus Aurelius can be compared and contrasted in their similar and different ways of thoughts. First you can compare Aristotle’s ideas on eudaimonia and Aurelius’ use of utter stillness to help follow the logos, also the final step of death as the end of one’s journey towards a life of fulfillment. Contrastingly, they have different outlooks on purpose of human life and how to lead to the fulfilling of that said life. Stoicism was developed within the framework of Greek theory and philosophies from Plato and Aristotle so obviously there are bound to be many similarities.
Both of these men were truly brilliant and ground-breaking in their respective ways of thought and led centuries of intellectuals to search for more fulfillment and happiness’s in their lives. Some big differences between Aristotle and Aurelius were there views on mortality or death. While Aristotle concludes that our lives are given to us and as valuable as human beings want to make them, the Stoics view on life is that is shaped by death and that the thoughts, choices and actions are just based on the knowledge of death.
Eudaimonia is a subject in which Aristotle and Aurelius were familiar with in their writings about philosophical life. Aristotle thought of eudaimonia as an activity done with virtue performed rationally and consciously. Aurelius and the other Stoics insist that the way for eudaimonia is to live a morally virtuous life, in regards to the fact that virtue is good, vices are bad and most everything else is neutral. A popular argument for this where a death in the family would be involved, according to Aristotle, that would rob the most virtuous person of their eudaimonia while the Stoics would consider that neutral.
Another interesting fact about Aristotle is how he acknowledges how “dumb luck” can aid or block the journey for eudaimonia, for example being born beautiful or losing close friends and family. Basically, they agree that eudaimonia is self-sufficient; the chief goal in life and that eudaimonia is the most complete end result. Virtue is very important to both philosophers and their ways of thinking and considers it absolutely crucial for eudaimonia. Aristotle and Aurelius can agree that no one is born just virtuous as it must be an act learned.
Virtue is believed to be how one can control their emotions for it helps them to stay stable and in moderation. Overall, living life virtuously is living a life full of dignity. Marcus Aurelius’s view is a much more justified view because it is more modern and more adaptable. As the stoicism wants people to better themselves within reasonable goals and change values into something that will bring upon an unconscious change so that they may make better decisions consciously. Aristotle instead relies too much on a proper upbringing and calls the loss of good and friends as a prevention of eudaimonia.
Stoics learn to realize what is out of their control and move on to what they can control. Aristotelian views also say that if a person dies early that it is a tragedy and that they were taken away before they reached their prime which in the Stoics eyes, a virtuous person should never be afraid of death because their life is sufficient when living a virtuous life. The difference continues when viewing the topic of emotions for Aristotelian that emotions are not good nor bad, only bad when expressed inappropriately while the Stoics think the whole point of eudaimonia is to be free from emotion.
Finally the stoics don’t see a difference between the rich, poor, slaves or free men, because in their views bodily and external things can no impact on their dignity, whereas Aristotle believes that a life based on virtues along with enough material and external goods like freedom, wellbeing, and close friends lead to a life of dignity. Overall, Aurelius and the Stoics have built upon and modified Aristotle’s view to be more realistic and to try and be more optimistic in leading the best possible life no matter the circumstances.
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 28 October 2016
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