Thursday, March 9, 2000

Socrates and Aristotle

The good society in simple language is defined as a society with no corruption and people abiding to the rules. Today, the society has become what we did not hope for and it has turned into unequal and divided society. People view good happiness as the amount of cars one has, and also how much is in their account. For a good society to begin, the situation about gender, race, disability etc. needs to be redressed, the punishment for crimes should be made brutal, and in this case the crime would reduce. Finally, for a good society to be born, we the citizens need to come together and change the collective and democratic impulse for freedom, equality and unity.
Virtue can simply be put as the quality in someone to do what is right and reject what is wrong. Virtue enables people to conquer moral excellence. Socrates states that perfect world does exist beyond the world we live in while Aristotle states that our world is reality. However, Aristotle argues differently. He perceives life through a totally different perceptive that Socrates has. He says that pleasure as gets enjoyed by human beings is incomplete. He uses this argument to declare it as not a pleasant thing. However, he is quick to add that people will still perform worthwhile activities. The key element that shapes the virtues of a person is natural preference. A person has the urge to do either pleasant or unpleasant things by a systematic guide of his or her natural preference.
Consequently, by looking at the society today, there are quite a number of marks that make a good society. These marks consist of justice, equity, rule of law, economic opportunity, reciprocity, prosperity, critical thinking, ethical standards, and concern for good citizenship, right to defense, and right to private property. Aristotle believed that free men are responsible for their voluntary and involuntary actions and behaviors. He did not include slaves in this scheme because to him the society of ruling men was the basis upon which to build a good society.  “For Aristotle, a society or state is held together by friendship more than justice,” (Moss, 2011). He regarded men with many friendships as good men.
Aristotle had this view or outlook that humans do things to reach a higher level of good. Happiness is the highest good that people can attain. Though this is his view, Aristotle also says that people should not aim at happiness. He states that people do aim at what they believe to be happiness. Typically, happiness is not a satiable goal for most humans. Only through living a completely virtuous life can people really understand happiness. It is because people do not have enough virtue that they are not able to distinguish true happiness from the somewhat empty conception that they currently have.
Next, Socrates' concept of reality contrasts with Aristotle's concept. Socrates' theory of ideal forms claims that a perfect world exists beyond the world around us. Our world contains forms imperfectly copied from the ideal forms in the world beyond. In contrast, Aristotle's theory of the natural world states that our world is reality. Aristotle thought the world consists of natural forms, not necessarily ideal or imperfect. Our senses can correctly perceive the natural forms. Basically, reality became a debate between Socrates' two worlds and Aristotle's single world reality.
            Second, Socrates and Aristotle contrast in their view of what knowledge we possess at birth. “Socrates supports the doctrine of Innatism, which claims that we enter this world with prior knowledge” (Kamtekar, 2012). All people have immortal souls and therefore, the knowledge obtained in one life can be transferred into the next rebirth. However, we forget the knowledge at the shock of birth and we then spend the rest of our lives trying to regain the lost knowledge. In contrast, Aristotle states that we are born without any knowledge. Aristotle also claimed we possess souls, but he disagreed with Socrates on the soul's status of immortality.
Aristotle felt souls do not return to the world, so knowledge cannot be returned to the world either. In addition, not everyone lives a completely virtuous life. This is because we are just human. Aristotle does not expect everyone to be perfect and no one should be. So, it does not matter whether everyone has the correct view of happiness in Aristotle's eyes, but many can find happiness whether it is the correct view or not. Actually, anything that puts a smile on one’s face should be considered happiness.
A virtuous person, to Aristotle, will find virtue to be a good thing and so will find happiness in doing virtuous deeds. A person devoid of virtue will find happiness in avoiding virtue and thus will not be living a truly happy or good life. Neither will they have the right perception of what a good life might be. So Aristotle believed that reasoning is a function that distinguishes human beings from other beings. And that a human being who is able to perform that function well will count as a good human being.
Everything we do is done for some purpose. Some of these purposes though are themselves just means to an end, e.g. we exercise to get in shape and we get in shape because we want to look good on the beach and we want to look good on the beach etc. If every end were just a means to some other end, though, then there would really be no end or purpose to all that we do. If there is no ultimate point or in other words an end or purpose to everything we do, then ultimately there is no point to anything we do. Aristotle thinks that this cannot be right. So there must be at least one end that is not a means but is an end in itself. “This is the ultimate point of life, and Aristotle sets out to find and define it,” (Moss, 2011). In this case, the ultimate goal is happiness of which pretty much everyone agrees. But people disagree about what true happiness is. Most think it is pleasure, especially physical pleasure.
So, happiness can be seen as the feeling of satisfaction after any cause, be it virtue or vice. Aristotle theory states that the world we live today is reality. He thought that the world consist of, natural forms, inner virtues and free society. While Socrates theory states that a perfect world exists beyond the world we live in. He did not believe that people would deliberately act in a way to be unhappy. “Socrates identifies the four primary virtues in the different aspects today’s society possess wisdom, auxiliaries courage, justice, moderation” (Kamtekar, 2012).
In addition, the components of a good life have been discussed and debated for many years with leisure and economic growth existing as the two main reoccurring themes. Aristotle supported the leisure ethic stating many arguments in the favor of leisure and the absence of work. However, we are a society of reformation and constant change and mostly tend to value a work ethic opposed to the leisure ethic. Aristotle believed the good life required leisure. Nevertheless our society today does not reflect those values. We are a society bent on growth and efficiency and have allowed our leisure time to become dominated by work. To achieve the good life again we must become aware of our problems, make changes and regain the leisure ethic.
The ultimate question to life what every person is seeks is what is happiness and how can one achieve true happiness. Many feel that they have found their answer in belonging to the faith of their choice, but what is it that their faith teaches them that brings them happiness. The philosophers Socrates and Aristotle all have a similar view on what happiness is and how to achieve it. According to (Frede, 2009), “Aristotle's view is based on Plato's and Plato's is based on Socrates' teachings.” This is why they are similar but they are all important and different with each philosopher's personal views and beliefs.
Socrates was a great man who was assassinated for his beliefs on the purpose of life and how to live happily. He presented the excellence of function to determine how a person will truly be happiest. The true person is not what he is on the outside but what his soul is and when that is functioning well the person is happiest. Mind is the human capacity for reflective thinking and also the consciousness of the soul. According to (McPherran, 2010), "The unexamined life is a life not worth living." is a quote from Socrates that supports his views on mind. It states that when a person does not examine his life to find his true self, or excellence of function, that they are ignoring their true self and that a false life is not worth the time to live it. So an examined life will find its true self or what its function is and want to perform its function well.
Subsequently, Socrates devoted his life to finding out moral concepts, mainly trying to differentiate the difference between right and wrong. “The excellence of function is what person's virtue implies,” (McPherran, 2010). A person's virtue is where they will excel and function well at. So if a person is athletically talented in a sport and proceeds to play professionally they may be happy but if their soul was meant to teach young children to read that is where they will be the most pleased with their life. To find our virtue we must use our practical knowledge and wisdom in how to perform certain skills.
The version of Socrates views happiness as the end product of virtue. He thinks virtues will always follow personal pursuits. He argues that to be a happy one has to be good, morally. Socrates believed for a person to live well he or she should put more focus on self-development than putting more emphasis on material wealth. According to (Zhou, 2011), “Socrates thinks that material wealth cannot guarantee happiness.” On the other hand, he sees a probability of happiness bringing material wealth. Therefore, virtues of a man should guide him to becoming happy. To achieve everything desirable in life, a person should have virtue as it is the most valuable possession one can acquire.
As stated by (Frede, 2009) “Socrates had no particular beliefs on politics but did object to democracy, but disliked its Athenian form.” Basically, he objected to any government that did not run on the basis of his ideas of perfect governance. Socrates refused to enter politics because he could not tell other people how to lead their lives when he didn't know how to live his own. He thought he was a philosopher of truth, which he had not fully discovered. Towards the end of his life, democracy was supplanted by the Thirty Tyrants for around one year, before being restored. For Socrates, the Thirty Tyrants were no better and arguably worse rulers than the democracy they sought to replace.
Ultimately, Aristotle wanted his results to show happiness among the people. His opinion toward life was that all people should live a fair and happy life. After many attempts of forming the perfect government, his facts allowed him to believe that a perfect government could be formed only by those who have a middle class. To Socrates, the body is of the imperfect, sensible world, while the soul is of the perfect, real world. The sensible world is what we see all around us, but it is only an illusion. The real world is invisible to us, but it is where the Forms exist. The forms are bodies that provide us with standards. This gives a perfect picture on the similarities and differences between the two.

Frede, D. (2009). Socrates and Plato. Phronesis, 54(1), 76-100. doi:10.1163/156852808X375255
Kamtekar, R. (2012). Socrates and the Psychology of Virtue. Classical Philology, 107(3), 256-270.
Mansfeld, J. (2010). Plato and Aristotle in Agreement? Platonists on Aristotle from Antiochus to Porphyry. Mnemosyne, 63(3), 519-522. doi:10.1163/156852510X456291
McPherran, M. L. (2010). Socrates, Plato, Eros and liberal education. Oxford Review Of Education, 36(5), 527-541. doi:10.1080/03054985.2010.514433
Moss, J. (2011). 'Virtue Makes the Goal Right': Virtue and Phronesis in Aristotle's Ethics. Phronesis, 56(3), 204-261. doi:10.1163/156852811X575907.
Zhou, Q. (2011). On Thoughts of Socrates about Virtue in Menon and Whether Virtue is Teachable. Canadian Social Science, 7(2), 138-140.

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