Aristotle's Good - PHL 200 Prof Roberto Nigro...

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PHL 200 Prof. Roberto Nigro Aristotle’s “Good” For millennia, human beings have searched for the way to live a good and fulfilling life. Many have found guidelines toward this life in the words of others and in religions. Others try to discover this “good life” through their own thought and their own journey through it. The branch of philosophy that deals with this struggle to establish the right and good life is called Ethics, and dates back to the ancient times of philosophy. One of the principal topics in the study of ethics is the concept of the “greatest good” that a good man should try to work towards. This good can sometimes be connected to God and seen as divine. Socrates and his student, Plato, are the first famous seekers of this highest good. Socrates wrote that all that was necessary to live a good life was knowledge; if one introspectively knows himself and truly understands what is good and virtuous, then that person will naturally always do what is right. Because he does what is right, the knowledgeable person will be happy. However, to Socrates, knowledge is no small thing. He is known for saying that the only thing he knew was that he knew nothing at all, at the same time implying that this made him wiser than those around him. To Plato, the greatest good can be found in the world on the forms, the world which everything in the world we know is but a shadow of. He compares the form of the good to the sun in our world, as it shines “light” on the forms so that we may know them. As the sun is the source of growth and life, even more so is the good the source of knowledge and things that may be known. This makes the idea of the good the highest form of knowledge, which should be the goal toward which all seekers of virtue and knowledge work. Aristotle, the successor to Plato, approaches the concept of the highest good a bit differently from those who came before him. His philosophy was much more realistic than Plato’s, and he utterly rejected the existence of the world of the forms. Instead, he suggested that everything in our world had its form contained as a part of it. In a series of lectures, later compiled into the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle established his conception of what good, what it meant to be virtuous, and the reasoning he used to arrive at his conclusions.
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To begin with, Aristotle assumes the existence of a greater good and defines it simply to be “that at which everything aims”. It is the highest goal. It is because of this assumption that Aristotle’s ethics is call teleological. There are many ends, or goals, associated with many actions. For example, the end for medicine is health; but just as there are smaller parts to medicine with lesser ends which move toward health, health is also not an end which is pursued in and of itself, but works toward some greater end. Therefore,
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  • Fall '08
  • Dowell
  • Ethics , Meaning of life, Prof. Roberto Nigro Aristotle

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