His position in the history of philosophy is unique. From the criteria of breadth, originality and influence Aristotle was undoubtedly, ‘Master of those who know’.
Born in 384 B.C. in Stagira, a city of Greece, Aristotle had a silver spoon in his mouth right from his childhood. His father Nicomachus was the court physician of Philip of Macedon
Aristotle entered the famous Academy of the great philosopher Plato at the early age of 17 years he stayed there for almost 20 years as a student and a teacher. In 347 B.C. after the death of his master Plato, Aristotle left the academy and started travelling.
He went to Assos in Malaysia and from there to Mitylene. He was called by the king Philip to look after the education of his son Alexander the great, in 342 B.C. For seven years he was the tutor of Alexander after which he returned to Athens to establish the school known as Gymnasium.
It was also known as Peripatetic school because of the habit of Aristotle of walking while lecturing. His method of teaching was not only through lectures but also through dialogues.
After the death of Alexander the great he was accused of sacrilege. He left Athens for Euboea where he died in 322 B.C.
Aristotle was a master of dialectic. He was a great observer, a voracious reader and a specialist both in natural sciences as well as in philosophy.
Among his writings one finds not only on metaphysics and logic but also on human sciences like psychology and ethics and politics as well as upon natural sciences.
The Ultimate End:
In the field of ethics Aristotle has the credit of presenting the first comprehensive theory of morals he has given a definite answer to the Socratic question about the nature of highest good. This good, according to Socrates, is self-realization.
All human actions have some end to fulfill. This end is temporary or ultra means to some higher end till ultimately we reach the supreme end ultimate good.
It is this highest good for which everything else is a means in function highest good is the complete and habitual exercise of the human according to Aristotle has called it Endaemonia, which means happiness. Pleasure ‘Panies virtuous activity and highest good results in happiness
Nature of Virtue:
The soul according to Aristotle is both rational and irrational while the feel in Part concerned with thinking, the irrational part is concerned with feelings desires and capabilities.
A virtuous soul is a well ordered soul. Such a soul functions in the right way so that the total individual attains ultimate good, perfect action is intellectual action, and Virtue is wisdom or insight.
The soul acting correctly is the moral soul. Moral soul has temperance; courage and liberality between are the virtues concerning all the actions. Virtues consist in the mean for two extremes.
This kind of moderation between deficiency and excess is an example of courage is a mean between foolhardiness and cowardice. Modesty external between bashfulness and stainfulness Liberality is a mean between extravagance and avarice.
The Golden Mean:
In Aristotlelian ethics the principle of golden mean is universal, even applicable in those cases which are known as good in themselves this mean, deter Vertis not the same for all the individuals. It is ‘related to ourselves’.
It is determined Joined by reason, or as a right minded man would determine it. It does not the determined the arbitrary choice or subjective opinion. Only the right-minded man, the virtuous man can decide about the golden mean since he alone can judge the concern correctly.
Moral conduct is not a quality of isolated actions. Morality is voluntary character which is expressed in will or action, the voluntary action is purposive action.
In the words of Aristotle,
“Virtue as well as the evil, lies in the power”
He has defined virtue in the following words,
“Virtue mean position, or habit, involving deliberate purpose or choice, consisting in a prod is relative to ourselves, the mean being determined by reason, or as a bit man would determine it.”
Self Realization as Ultimate Good:
The ultimate good, according to Aristotle, is self-realization. Describing it will Use has written in his famous book Nicomachean Ethics, “The virtuous man even’ often in the interest of his friends and of his country, and if need be will even die for them.
He surrender money, honor and all the goods for which enjoy older contents, reserving only nobleness for himself, as he would rather enjoy an intense pleasure for a short time than a moderate pleasure for long, and perform rather ivies one year nobly than many years indifferently, and would rather perform one Nobel action lofty action than many poor actions.
It is here that selfishness meets altruism his ethics on a social basis, Aristotle points out,
“A virtuous friend is naturally desirable to a virtuous man, for that which is naturally good is good and pleasant in itself to the virtuous man, that is, loving goodness for its own sake, he is bound to love a virtuous friend, in this sense, his friend is a second self (an alter ego) to die virtuous man.”
Though in Aristotle’s ethics happiness has been sometime interpreted as pleasure we cannot call it hedonism. Pleasure is not the ultimate end but the immediate end. It is the completion of an activity.
It is concomitant of action. According to Aristotle, The activity will be most pleasant when it is most perfect, and it will be most perfect when it is the activity of the part being in sound condition and acting upon the most excellent of the objects that fall within its domain.
Pleasure and life are bound together. Pleasure is an aim of life. And yet, pleasure is not the beginning but the result of activity. Things honorable and pleasant to the virtuous man are really honorable and pleasant.
This means that reason is the judge of pleasantness. Pleasure lies in maintaining the golden mean. Bodily pleasures are not preferable to mental pleasure. In ethical matters the moral judgment of the virtuous man is final.
The life of contemplation is the highest most pleasant, most self-sufficient and best life for a human being.
Describing this ultimate moral ideal Aristotle has written,
“If then the reason is divine in comparison with the rest of man’s nature, the life which accords with reason will be divine in comparison with human life hi general. Nor is it right to follow the advice of people who say that the thoughts of men should not be too high for humanity or the thoughts of humanity too high for morality, for a man, as far as in him lies, should seek immorality and to all that is in his power to live in accordance with the highest part of his nature.”
As contrasted to Socrates, Aristotle maintains that knowledge alone is not sufficient for virtue. In order to be virtuous the man has not only to know but to do since virtue lies in activity. Moral action is fostered by a moral society.
A moral society also requires rule by law. The state can provide a moral environment for the citizens by imposing the rule of law. Thus, ethics is closely concerned with metaphysics for its theoretical aspects and politics for its practical aspect.
Thus ethics leads to politics since morality has to be realized hi society. Man is a social being; social goal is his ultimate goal. This, however, does not mean that the individual is subordinate to society or to state.
Ultimately the individual alone is responsible for moral activity. But the individual does not five in a vacuum he fives in social and political institutions and associations. Thus, family and community invariably influence him.
State is the goal of the evolution of human life. No society can progress without the state. The state aims at producing moral citizens. Thus, there is no conflict between the individual and the state in moral life. While the individual is the end of life the state fulfils his needs and makes him virtuous and happy.
Thus, Aristotle has reconciled the individual good with social and political good. At the same time, he has pointed out as to how the state can encourage goodness. Like his master Plato, his political ethics is also based upon the concept of justice.
Justice, according to Aristotle, is both distributive as well as corrective. It aims at providing facilities to the citizens. Distributive justice aims at rewarding the good and punishing the evil. Corrective justice compensates for the harm done to an individual by another.
Thus, justice promotes social interests. It is lawfulness and fairness. Laws fulfill the interest as a community as a whole of which each citizen is a member. Therefore, it is justice to impose of laws in context that which is justice in relation to other, is virtue in relation to oneself.
The chief function of the state is to provide justice to everyone; citizens differ in qualifications, capacities, abilities etc the state has to treat them according to these distinctions.
Thus, justice does not mean equality to all. Like his master Plato Aristotle has also discussed the merits and demerits of different types of political constitutions, such as Monarchy, Aristocracy, Tyranny, Oligarchy and Democracy etc., According to him Monarchy and Aristocracy are the good forms of constitution.
On the other hand, Tyranny and Oligarchy are bad constitutions. Like his predecessor Socrates, Aristotle has also criticized democracy and classified it among bad forms of constitution.
He has advocated a city state as the ideal society, in which citizens with high educational qualifications and status form the government this, evidently, is Aristocracy
Aristotle has even justified slavery. The foreigners, according to him, cannot be compared with the citizens of the state. Being inferior they rightfully belong to the slave class.