Aristotle and Thomas Hobbes were two of the most influential philosophers of all time. Aristotle was a Greek Philosopher who was a student of Plato in the 300 B. C. Thomas Hobbes was an English Philosopher in the 16th century who focused mostly on morality and politics. While both of these philosophers studied many other areas of education, they are both famous for their own theories of virtue. Aristotle’s beliefs of virtue revolve around “teleology”, the highest good and how one achieves that. Hobbes believes in the social contract and how the power of the state has influence over individual rights.
In this paper I will look eeply into the views of each philosopher and compare and contrast their views with each other. I will also look at their views and attempt to take sides with one of the philosophers I mostly agree with. Aristotle bases his view on virtue through the universe and the idea that everything has a teleos, or a purpose in life. Aristotle’s “teleos” is described when he proposes the Doctrine of Teleology. The Doctrine of Teleology states all natural creatures in the world have an end or goal (teleos) that is suited to their nature.
Aristotle says that nature is teleological, and it has an order or a destiny, much like an apple eed in which its teleos is to become an Apple Tree. When looking into a human’s teleos or end purpose, Aristotle says that a human’s teleos is to develop ones own reasoning. Once this is fulfilled, and humans live a rational life to the fullest extent possible, humans can capture their existence. Aristotle realizes that there are lots of things humans pursue in life and those are all “goods” that are acquired, but eventually there has to be a “highest good” and one end result.
Aristotle tries to find out what the highest good is, and he comes up with three main criteria to find it. The first criterion is it must be pursued for its own sake and not for the sake of another good. Secondly, all other goods must be pursued for the sake of the highest good. Lastly, once its obtained, no other goods are desired or pursued. After much thinking and looking through the three main criteria, Aristotle finds that the “highest good” must be happiness.
He believes that every voluntary action is done for the sake of happiness, it either contributes to our happiness or it is part of our happiness and that is what will lead us to living a rational life. Aristotle was a Holistic thinker and believed that happiness idn’t mean living life through pleasure, making a name for yourself, or a life devoted exclusively for intellect. Instead he believed happiness was achieved through living a rational life and a rational life can be achieved through two different uses of reason. The theoretical or pure reason, also known as intellectual virtue is considered the most important to Aristotle.
This virtue is one in which we gain knowledge of the truth. Theoretical reason is also considered the most important because as a person, you are never limited to its use and a person can always use their mind. Practical or applied reason is used to guide our actions and control our emotions. Like the two uses of reason there are two branches or virtue Theoretical and Practical. When using our theoretical virtue we are seeking certain character traits and qualities. These traits are talked about in Aristotle’s Function Argument that helps us achieve excellence.
According to Aristotle, intellectual virtue would be considered the pure use of reason because it has to do with our thought. When we use reason to guide our actions and find a happy medium between extremes we use practical virtue or moral virtue. The medium between extremes mentioned can also be called the Doctrine of the Mean. The Function argument previously mentioned has three rules but five parts. The first part of the argument is a thing or creature has virtue (arete) if and only if it performs or exercises its function well and on a regular basis.
Second, the function (ergon) of any given thing or creature is determined by its defining nature or essence. Third, the defining nature or essence of the human being is ” rational animals”. Therefore the function (ergon) of a human being is to live a rational life, and therefore a human being has “virtue ” if hey live a rational life, does it well, and on a regular basis. A rational life and developing virtue is ideal in order for us to flourish as a human being. This argument helps display that there is an end goal for humans, and a human or being must have the right traits to do so, which is what is demanded in theoretical virtue.
However, Aristotle’s theory doesn’t stop there, he states that virtue leads to ppiness, which is our highest good. But, we must also have three external goods, which aren’t necessarily under a person’s control. You must have Family, Friends, nd Fortune to also guarantee happiness under Aristotle’s theory. With all of these things in line, a person now can understand what true happiness is according to Aristotle. There are many criticisms for Aristotle’s view on virtue and his arguments.
Many disagree with the idea of Teleos because people think that human’s lives are not universalizable and not everyone has the same end goal, or even the same idea of happiness, so how could Teleos be possible to begin with? Another criticism against Aristotle’s is that we do not have an objective test for virtue. In Aristotle’s Mean Between Extremes Argument he developed an analogy between a coach and a player. The objective test will show whether the coach trained the player too much or too little, and there is an objective test to see the result based on performance.
Virtue does not have this “objective test” so these two ideas aren’t analogues. Another big problem people have with Aristotle’s Mean Between Extremes argument is that people think it’s too “universal. ” What this means is people have different opinions on their emotional behavior and something that’s excessive for one person might be not be as bad for someone else. Aristotle would probably espond to these arguments saying that the mean between extremes is relative to a given person at a given time in a certain place, but just the principal overall is universal.
Hobbes’s idea of virtue comes from this idea of a social contract because of the negative effects of the natural condition. He believes that in a social contract, individuals must have consented, either openly or silently to surrender our natural rights and submit to the authority of the ruler or the sovereign. In order to fully understand the social contract we must first look at Hobbes’s belief of the natural condition. The natural condition is “life in the jungle”, without law, rules, luxuries, or anything of the modern world.
Hobbes believes we must avoid this state of nature at all cost and he says, “life in the Natural Condition is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. ” Natural law is a general rule, which promotes the preservation of the lives of the people who obey it. In Hobbe’s theory there are natural rights and natural laws that people have, natural rights are a liberty or freedom to do that which promotes our life and advances our interest. Natural laws are rules, found our by a person which inds us or obligates us to do that which preserves our lives and preserves our interests.
The first natural law states that you must seek peace whenever possible, but if that fails use what you have to do to survive. The second law says that one should be willing to give up their own natural rights for others, as much as we would want others to lay down their rights over us. By following these rules we will be able to achieve self-preservation but only if we “lay down” our natural rights. By laying down our rights we are renouncing them completely and giving them to someone else, which is the sovereign.
Once our rights have een transferred this newly created state of nature would be closely be resembled by a country with no government. According to Hobbes this condition would result in us being rational. Hobbes describes his view on “the state of nature,” as he talks about a condition where individuals’ actions are bound only by their personal power. Hobbes attempts to explain that a rational individual would voluntarily consent to give up his or her natural freedom to obtain the benefits of political order, and avoid the natural condition, because no one really wants that.
Hobbes goes further to say that you cannot have morality ithout political justice. Justice according to Hobbe’s would be considered a human invention not a natural law. Hobbe’s believes that whether silently or openly we have agreed into a social contract. Through the use of reason we recognize the natural rules both natural rights and natural laws that we as a society have. The two most important natural laws are listed above and through these natural laws we lay down our natural rights and we give them over to the sovereign. If we truly want to get out of the natural condition then we must transfer our rights over to the sovereign.