Plato and Aristotle on well-being. Well-Being: The state of being healthy happy or prosperous.
It seems obvious to suggest that the goal we all are aiming at is totalhappiness; total success and fulfillment. In the Nichomachean ethics, Aristotles’ main aim is to provide a description of what this so-called happiness actually is, and how we can go about our day to day lives in order to achieve the best life that we possibly can. He begins book one with what philosophers call a ‘Teleological conception of life’. That is, everything we do is aiming at some end: ‘every art and every investigation, and similarly every action and pursuit, is considered to aim at some good. Hence the good has been rightly defined as ‘that at which all things aim’ ‘ (NE 1. 1) What Aristotle means here by ‘good’, is not the generic term that we use to describe something enjoyable or favourable, but more of an ultimate, supreme good; a satisfactory and wholesome end. An end at which we all are aiming.
In book 1, Aristotle calls the ultimate end (or telos) eudaimonia, which is commonly translated as happiness, but also as success or fulfillment. (1097a28-34). He proposes that we ought not to regard happiness as a property, but as a goal for the sake of which we act. So Aristotles’ examination of happiness is a practical one, practical because he not only wants us to befall upon a theory of what happiness actually is, but his approach is guided by the thought that such an end is nothing less than the object of all rational action. Aristotle proposes that the first step we can take towards acquiring a successful life, is to realise what good action consists in, and to use this to guide us in our pursuits. He goes on to say that we should use the criteria of this supreme good to ‘evaluate (other) goods, such as pleasure, wealth, honour, moral virtue, and philosophical contemplation’ (Lear, G. R Happy Lives and the Human Good, 1.
1)- we are to take these to be the keys to our happiness. So, we can assume, so far, that the Human Good, according to Aristotle, is what we concieve to be the formal object of rational endeavour. Since the theory in question is a practical one, and one involving the exercise of rational activity, and each of our pursuits is aiming at some end or good; then all actions and their ends are subordinate to some other action. For example, A is aiming at B, and B is aiming at C and C is superior to both A and B, however, C is aiming at D… And so on.
So, we must rightly conclude that there must be some sort of ultimate end (Human Good) relative to each of us. Aristotle’s next aim is to resolve exactly what such an end consists in. G. Lawrence, in his analysis of the Human Good and Human Function, points out that Aristotle makes it clear that there are two distinct realms in which success is achieved. One lies in the target and the end of actions being disposed correctly, and the other is to find the actions which allow us to arrive at the end. So it seems that these things are what provide us with an object for our practical reason, for it is Aristotles’ argument to express that a common starting point we all generally accept, is that we are pursuing a successful or great life. And it is in the fulfillment of the actions neccesary for success that we achieve it.
What logically follows on from this is that, once we have realised the end which we personally desire (telos) we should look to the basic function of ourselves as humans; as rational beings, at how we are situated and our particular circumastances, circumstances that are quite obviously going to infuence our endeavors en route to the desired end. Thus Aristotle opens his argument for Human Function. Lawrence suggests that this argument has not been proposed to stand alone, but that, in addition to the understanding of the practicable good (which I shall elaborate on later), our success in life is dependant upon our function, because performing it well would be fulfilling our nature. For example: A knife has a function- it is for cutting things. If a knife were to perform it’s function well, i. e, is sharp and good at cutting things, then it can be said to be performing it’s function in accordance with the excellences particular to that activity. So, if our function as humans’ is to live in a particular manner, to reason, then, surely, Aristotle must be at least partly correct in suggesting that we ought to perform our function in accordance with rationality, and in accordance with its’ activity-specific excellences.
In NE 1. 7, Aristotle divides the soul into several parts. He says that both humans and animals have a soul, but that they are different in the following ways: The human soul has form and is capable of rationality. The rational soul is further divided into scientific reasoning- which involves neccesary truths, and calculative reasoning- which involves contingent truths. Animals are not rational creatures, but they do have substance, and a soul with substance is concerned with instinct, nutrition and growth. We are therefore distinct and superior to animals and plants for our capacity to reason. Aristotle argues that ‘.
. we are looking for mans proper function; so we must exclude from our definition the life that consists in nutrition and growth.. There remains then, a practical life of rational part’ (1. 7. 1098a). As I mentioned earlier, Aristotle also makes it clear that it is not enough to possess the ability to reason, we must perform our life-faculties, which are our function, and to perform them well is to perform our function well.
In book one we found out that- in Aristotles’ account, happiness is an activity of the soul. And we have now decided that our activities are performed in accordance with our function. We know that the supreme good, eudaimonia, is an end at which all of our actions aim. So now one has to determine what it is that is the highest of all practical activity, since all actions are subordinate to some other, and that there must, conclusively, be some practicality that is above all others, and which is the final good that aims at eudaimonia. The first step of Aristotles’ Nichomachean ethics opens as Aristotle’s apparent concern with the good in two rational realms: Production (poiesis) and deliberate action (praxis). In (1. 1.
1094a3-6) Aristotle submits that there is a clean-cut distinction between these two realms. He says that ‘some are activities and others results distinct from the activities’. What he means to say, in my view, is that the product of our actions is the practicable good. For example: A chosen action could be to study for A-levels, if one does well then to go to university; for this would be the product of the latter. To attend university is also an action in itself, since it is aiming at a product, and that product would be a satisfactorycareer. But if we were to go on relating every action to its own product, then we would be sure to go on into infinity, for, as I have noted, all actions are subordinate to some other action. Therefore, the study of this ‘Practicable Good’ is the answer to our problem.
G. Lawrence, on page 40 of his Human Good and Human Function, suggests that the best way of finding a determinate definition of this practicable good, is by looking at all actions and their ends hierarchically, ‘.. there is a principle rational construction.. And the higher more final end is ever the better’. If we look to the end that we find if we were to combine all of the hierarchy’s of all ends of all actions, then that would be the most supreme endeavour, the action for whose sake all the ends below were worth choosing for the ake of.
On this end, Aristotle remarks ‘.. the knowledge of the good is of great importance to us in the conduct of our lives. Are we not more likely to achieve our aim if we have a target? ‘ (1. 2. 1094a24-5). And thus we have what Aristotle amounts to be the Practicable Good.
Since we now know that it is the practicable good which we are targetting- as a conclusive ‘good’ action- as a means to an end (eu) then, surely, we must have to determine what the practicable good actually involves, and how we are to apply it to ourselves as individuals, with a variety of circumstances. In NE1. -2, Aristotle claims that all rational thought is either practical or productive or theoretical, and that the genre of thought that the Nichomachean Ethics’ is concerned with is practical. It is pragmatic, and concerned with action and not production. Aristotle does not want us to feel his real concern is with what we might refer to as intentional action, but what he calls ” preferentially chosen” action. ‘It is thought to be the mark of a prudent man to be able to deliberate rightly about what is good and advantageous for himself’ (NE V1. 5.
1140a25-8). Such chosen action is what we intend after having fully rationalised about it. Aristotles’main object is his discussion of fully rational action in the sense of action ‘… taken by the agent to be constitutive of living well..
. ‘ (G. Lawrence, Human Good and Human Function, p. 42). I feel that what Aristotle concieves here is a possible overarching structure to his theory of the two realms of practical and productive rationality. But what of theoretical thought? Lawrence suggests ‘..
. the political inquiry of NE can be seen as aiming to place.. these three realms of human rationality in their correct position in human life.. practical or political reason utilzes..
. ts own practical capacities, with a view to determining and realising its end… to open up, and prepare us to enjoy free time in which to engage in theoretical thought: For that is the best human living. ‘ (GL, p. 42) If we were to make an overview of Aristotles’ approach, as I have so far explained, we could remark that he has concentrated on the view that- i) the human good is concerned with action and practical reason as a means to that action.
The practicable (human good) is self-sufficient ‘which we want for its own sake’ (NE 1. 1). And he has given us a causal approach to what he believes to be a succssful existence. i) It is in our nature to care about our success. These criteria are part of what is neccesary to constitute an excellent life. The next point I have to make is of the virtuous life. Aristotle refers to this as absolutely neccesary for the attainment of eudaimonia, throughout The Nichomachean Etchics.
In NE II. V, it is made clear to us that virtue is something that plays an important role in the attainment of the good. However, we must remember that merely being a good person is not enough. We must take an active part in our life, in a virtuous manner, excercising the virtues which are appropriate to our activities. …
One of Aristotles’ main aims is to make clear the correct logical location of virtue in an account of the human good’ (G. Lawrence, p. 50). In NE X. 7, Aristotle asserts that the happiest life is the one lived in pursuit of philosophical contemplation. He returns to the point in NE X. 8 when he ‘.
.. allows that a life lived for the sake of morally virtuous activity is happy, though, in a lesser sense’ (Lear, G. R, Happy Lives and the Highest Good. Prinston 2004. 1. 2).
So, at this point, it seems unclear exactly what role it is that virtue plays in the happy life. In response to this, Lear suggests that, although in NE Aristotle talks at length about his high regard for moral virtue- ‘most readers are surprised… when they discover that Aristotle thinks the happiest life is lived for the sake of contemplation’ (1. 3). It may be plausable to conceive that Aristotle believes virtuous activity encourages contemplation.
What we can conclude about the role of virtue in the happy life, then, and its relation to contemplation- since that is the best life that Aristotle seems to be advocating- is that, by excercising practical reason, we are able to be enlightened as to ‘.. he truth about the good in action as exactly as possible… ‘ (Lear, 1. 3).
It is only now that I feel I have covered a sufficient amount of points regarding Aristotles’ account of the human good, that I am able to comprise a conclusion. Not a conclusion that, in it’self, offers a definitive explanation of what exactly Aristotle constitutes to be a happy life, but one that at least summarises his main arguments and how they might be plausible in helping us towards a successful life. It seems that Aristotle does neither side with Pluralism, nor Monism. For he seems to hold the view that we should live an active life, one in accordance with virtue, which it’self encourages contemplation- which is the highest constituant for the best possible life- but that it is also neccesary to enjoy a social life, one enhanced by intrinsically valuable goods, but only to the extent that they do not interfere with the pursuit of a contemplative existence. However Lear (1. 3) argues that ‘unless intrinsically valuable goods are actually parts of the highest good, Aristotle’s conception of happiness as a most final end seems utterly wrongheaded. Gavin Lawrence, in Human Good and Human Function, pg.
72, offers the following criteria as a final and irrevocable conclusion of Aristotles’ account of the Human Good: 1. ‘Practicalphilosophy’. There exists a supreme good- that at which we all aim ( A causal account defining that all actions aim at some good. The highest of these is the supreme good). Realising the human good as a final end thus sets us up for an excellent life. Practical reason is what helps us to realise the human good, therefore attaining it through choice of action. 2.
‘Human Function’. After having been enlightened as to what it is we are aiming at (i. e. a successful life in accordance with virtue, relative to our circumstances)- we then turn to study our own life form ‘the kind of creatures we are and the world we live in’. In Aristotles’ outline of the Function argument, he asserts that our role as humans is to perform our function; to go about our life-activities, but so that they are in accordance with reason and their proper excellences. These two criteria are an inevitable set of rules which we must abide by if we are to succeed in our realisation of the supreme good. .
‘Utopian Target’ (‘Utopian’ here is referring to an absolute ideal and state of happiness, met by fulfilling all neccesary criteria; The perfect life that is our target). There are a variety of ways in which one’s life can go, even when the good is being exercised. What our goal is (the Utopian Target), is to adapt our circumstances as best we can, to achieve the best and most successful outcome possible. 4. Pleasure and ‘intrinsically valuable goods’. There has been much speculation as to what Aristotles’ thesis is on goods of intrinsic validity. He seems partly to argue that such good’s do have a place in the happy life, but only for contemplation’s sake; for the sheer fact that honor, respect, virtue, pleasure and so on are an enhancement, and as a means to an end, that is, the contemplative life.
However, in his seemingly paradoxical way, he at times appears to hold the view that moral virtue is portrayed in the happy life for the sake of maximising the philosopher’s contemplation, but also as an aspiration for their own sake, for their own end, and for their capacity to enhance a happy life. And so it seems that Aristotle’s account of well-being can be interpreted in a number of ways, and it is the agent’s job to begin by ‘.. filling in the outline of the good (as) a matter of our appealing to our best thoughts about the excellences, our nature, and the world we live in’ (Lawrence, G, Human Good and Human Function). In The Republic, it is soon evident, within the beginning few chapters of book one, that Plato’s main focus is on an Ideal Society. His first concern is that we should concentrate on the state overall as to what makes an even or just society, which in turn effects it’s individual’s well-being. It is clear that Plato’s approach is far more Totalitarian than that of Aristotle.
The first point I have to make is on Plato’s view that there are two kinds of justice. He holds that justice is the primary condition which the state needs to comply with if it is going to be even, and if the people within the state are to flourish. The first type of justice is what Plato calls Internal. This relates to the just individual; the one whom acts in a virtuous way and leads a virtuous and morally correct life. The second type of justice is External. Plato says that this kind of justice is concerned with the state as a whole and the way in which it functions. It is external justice which Plato believes to be the most important, for, just because an individual leads a just life- or some individuals within the state- it does not neccesarily follow that the state is just.
Insofar, it seems that Plato is less interested in the well-being of people as individuals, and more in the way a state is run. This is the first premise of the Republic which we come accross in opposition to what Aristotle understands to be good. Aristotle critisises the distinction that Plato has here made: ‘Happiness is not the same characteristic as eveness. It cannot belong to the whole without also belonging to the parts’ ( R. Mayhew, Aristotle’s criticism of Plato’s Republic. NY, 1997. 5.
124). However, in book IV of the Republic, Plato does argue that the internally just person is more than capable of acting as a virtuous citizen within the state; ” Does it look as if justice in the individual were different from what we found it to be in the state? ” (442d). Socrates’ approach to describing the good is rather different to that of Aristotle’s. His focus is on proving his belief in the superiority of the just life. Aristotle focuses mainly on the individual, his virtues and his vices. They are, however, both similar in the sense that they advocate being the best and most successful person that you have the capacity to be. That is, according to what your aim in life is and fulfilling your function.
In book 1, Socrates argues that no agent would perform his craft unless it were to be of benefit to himself, he says ”No profession or art or authority provides its own benefit but.. rovides and orders what benifits the subject of which it is in charge.. ” (346e). In answer to Thrasymachus, after he asks how it is one would be able to choose an appropriate ruler for the state, when any man would only have his own interests at heart; Plato suggests that the only way around the problem is to offermoneyto any man that wishes to rule the state. He says that ” good men will not consent to govern for cash or honours” (347b).
And so therefore the greatest ruler is the one that does not have himself in mind, only the good of the state. If any man is willing to govern for no reward, then he is to be trusted more than the man that will not consent to govern without pay. Before I go on, I feel it is neccesary to make a note about the confusion that can occur when translating Greek philosophical terms. Firstly, there is no decidedly sufficient greek word for ‘moral’. However, since, in the Republic, we are to understand that justice is a kind of virtue, the best thing to do would be to take any reference to morality or justice, as a reference to a kind of virtue; that which requires us to put our self-interest aside. Secondly, ‘happiness’ is not always the best translation of eudaimonia. Eudaimonia is really meant to stand as a condition to which we ought to committe ourselves.
It is a term standing for the flourishing and success in one’s life in a long-term sense. Since we have now established what it is we are trying to appeal to in order to live a successful life, as with Aristotle, it is appropriate at this point to study what Plato’s view is on human function, since that is logically the thing that we must perform well in order to do well and be happy. According to both Plato and Aristotle, being virtuous is seen to be performing your function well. However, the problem stands when trying to decipher what, explicitly, Plato and Aristotle mean by virtue. Just as Aristotle remarks in the Nicomachean Ethics that, in order to attain the Human Good, we must first know what it consists in and how we are to go about acting in accordance with it; Plato argues that, for a person to live well, they must exercise virtue. I noted in my analysis of Aristotle’s concept of the Human Good that virtue is something that is relative to each individual, and to each of their life-activities. In my view, what Aristotle holds the role of virtue within an individual’s life, appeals to a typically moralism perspective; that virtue is a constituant of happiness.
He goes on to argue that what he means by virtue is a kind of moral goodness, and that we are to understand this moral goodness by studying the faculties of the human soul. According to Aristotle, although we are born with the capacity to be virtuous, it is only by practice and habituation that we can become a virtuous person. Virtuousness in The Nicomachean Ethics falls under two categories: That of intellectual virtue, and that of moral virtue. Intellectual virtue is acquired by learning; taking instruction and practicing what one has learnt. Moral Virtue on the other hand, owes its growth to the habituation of the character. Thus it is the job of the individual to be active in what one believes to be virtuous, and it cannot be specifically defined, since it is what Aristotle calls a ‘practicalscience’ and it depends on particular circumstances. In contrast, what Plato believes to be ‘just’ or ‘virtuous’ is dependant upon how just or virtuous the individual is within the state.
He states that ‘The individual is wise and brave in virtue of his reason and spirit… when spirit and appetite are in proper subordination to reason’ (PR 4. 5, pg 149). The state which Plato begins to describe in light of virtue in part five of The Republic, is to have three ‘cardinal virtues’. The first is wisdom, the second courage, the third discipline and the fourth justice (a note should be made here that Plato does not use the word ‘virtues’ and therefore the translation has taken the more objective term ‘qualities’).
Plato suggests that if we were to study the concept of an ideal state for long enough, then we would be sure to come to a conclusion about where and how the four virtues might come to exist. We would therefore realise which qualities are needed in an individual if he is to be happy. ‘And the quality of good judgement is clearly a form of knowledge, as it is because of knowledge.. that we can judge well’ (The Republic, 428b). There can here be made a clear contrast between The Republic and The Nicomachean Ethics, for both Plato and Aristotle evidently have alot of admiration for those that have exceptional knowledge and good judgement. It is with good judgement that we are able to study the faculties of the soul and our own rational behaviour, what it is to be virtuous, and what qualities are neccesary for a happy existence.
After his description of where ‘faculties’ stand in relation to the ideal state, Plato goes on to make a further parallel between the state and the indivdual. He figures that, since there are four qualities which make up a good society, there must then also be three or four corresponding qualities in a good person. He asserts that these qualities will be, i) Reason (the faculty that calculates and decides; ii) Desire/appetite (bear, physical, instinctive craving; and, finally, iii) Ambition, the spirit and drive of an individual. In 135b, he reasserts ”… so there will be no difference between a just man and a just city.
.. ” A note can be made here about a difference between Aristotle’s view on the constituants of a good person, in comparison with Plato. There seems to be a conflict here: In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle states that, in his account, the virtue or justice of a person and their actions is absolutely relative to his individual character, circumstances and situation. Plato on the other hand, contends that there is a parallel between the individual and the state, and that, if the state fulfills every ‘correct’ criteria, it must follow that each person within the ideal state would too be a wholesome individual; one with good reason, the correct appetite for life, and a balanced spirit. I mentioned earlier that Aristotle has critisesed Plato on the basis of his belief that there is a parallel between the individual and the state. In Mayhew: Aristotle’s Criticism of Plato’s Republic, he makes reference to the fact that most utopian schemes for a community under ideal government, use the term ‘state’ or ‘society’ as a way of decribing what appears by the language used to be an entire entity.
Plato’s Republic, according to Aristotle, is a prime example of such a scheme that demands every individual within the state conforms to what conditions are neccesary for the ideal state. His criticism questions how exactly this ideal state is supposed to constitute happiness for it’s individual’s. So Aristotle is basically arguing that the collectivist idea of such a state is absurd, and highly fallible. As a way of defending his proposal, Plato argues “… in founding the city.
.. we are not looking to which group among us will be especially happy… We are forming a happy city, not taking a (happy) few and putting them in” (420b). This statement sheds light on Plato’s lack of eudaimonism; he cares or the state as a whole, and not for the individual, as oppose to Aristotle who basis his main argument around the theory of eudaimonia, and how each one of us can ahieve such an end through adapting our lives according to the excellences.
Aristotle’s final criticism of Plato’s Repupublic is that, although there are numbers which can be broken up into parts, but which still make a whole number, this is not the same of a city-state. As I mentioned earlier, Aristotle points out that a city cannot be a happy one without it having happy parts (‘part’s’ makes reference to individual’s). According to Mayhew: ‘A city is, after all, a collection of individuals, and it exists for the sake of their happiness’ (pg 124). Plato does notstresshis apparent point enough that the Guardian’s themselves are, in fact, the happiest, and that, having achieved the ideal conditions for the perfectly just state, the individual’s within shall be happy. ‘The crucial assumtion that justice can operate in the same way in the soul as it does in society is never defended’ (Blackwell’s guide to Plato’s Republic, p. 56). I will now return to my point of trying to understand what Plato and Aristotle- in contrast- actually mean by justice and virtue, and how they are to play a role in the good life.
In The Republic, Socrates tells us that there are three types of good things: i) There are the things that we want for their own sake, and for no other end or consequence. ii) The things we want both for their own sake and for their consequences. And iii) The things we want not for their own sake, but for their consequences. I see this to be an obvious overlap with Aristotle’s concept. He talks at length in his ethical works about ends and means; his heirarcical theory that all goods are aiming at some end- some other good- and that some goods are more superior to others. He distinguishes between the chosen actions we make in order to reach on end product, and the product of those actions; the superior good. Although Plato places types of good into three criterium, the basic structure is essentially the same to Aristotle’s two criteria for types of good.
However, Aristotle never does state fully whether or not anything besides Eudaimonia is sought for it’s own sake. He only asserts that all actions aim at the Human Good. We later find out (in the Republic) that Plato holds the view that everything is aiming at The Form of The Good, so there is an overlap, but they differ in the sense that Plato is far more of a collectivist. He believes that all individual’s are aiming at, essentially, the same end. And Aristotle is more of a relativist, due to the fact that, although he maintains that we are all living a teleological existence; that we are all aiming at a supreme good, that good differs from person to person; it is not a universal good. Plato makes a further distinction between the types of good. He says that they can be broken down into two categories.
The first is intrinsically valuable goods: Those that are wanted for their own sake, for example happiness. These types of good’s are similar to what Aristotle calls ‘ends’, as oppose to ‘mean’s’. The second class of goods fall into the category of intsrumental good’s: These are the mean’s to an end. Money, education, or a new car are all desired for what they can procure. But he says that there are also good’s that appeal to both criteria, health, for example. We seek health for its own sake because a healthy life makes for a longer, more peaceful life. But it can also be said to be an instrumental good, there for the sake of insuring happiness.
So it seems that we are having equally as much trouble trying to define ‘good’ in the platonic sense, as we had when trying to define it in the eudaimonistic sense. The final analysis I have to make is of the final end which both Aristotle and Plato describe as the best existence. In Aristotle’s thesis, he makes this existence out to be an ultimate end for everyone and eveything, but that there can be no absolute conditions for it because we all have varied circumstances and ‘In a practical science so much depends on particular circumstances that only general rules can be given’ (2. 2). For Plato, the best existence is lived in the light of the good, imlying true knowledge of what is right and what is wrong; real and unreal. I shall start by discussing Plato’s concept of The Form of The Good. In The Republic, Plato proposes that the best Guardian’s of the ideal community are philosophers.
Since it is neccesary for one to be a lover of truth, all wisdom and all knowledge, and not one of sights and sounds, to be given the title ‘philosopher’, it follows that such a person would be the only appropriate candidate to assume knowledge of the Forms. Reason being that it is plausible to understand Plato’s notion of the Forms as something more than just an intellectual activity; that the character traits Plato lists as criterium that any philosopher must have, must actually be in place before one has any chance of gaining knowledge of the Form of the Good. In part VII of The Republic, when referring to the essentiality of this ideal state which should be governed by philosophers (and only philosophers), Plato states: “.. there is no other road to real happiness either for society or the individual” (473e). At 504d, Adeimantus questions whether there can be any higher quality than truth or justice. Socrates, by this point, had proposed that the only way to acquire true knowledge is by strict intellectual training.
We are to understand that, through strict intellectual training, we will attain the thing that is superior to justice and truth, and further, we shall then (and only then) know what is truely best for us, and understand what it is to be well, happy, or knowledgable. “… the highest form of knowledge is knowledge of the form of the good from which things that are just and so on derive their usefulness and value” (505b). Socrates proceeds to say that, without knowledge of what is good, all other knowledge is inadequate. Without it, no other knowledge can be of benefit to us, since we cannot say what is good and what is not; we have no concept of goodness and worth it’self.
Relating to his analogy of The Cave, Socrates proclaims that, although we might think we know what ‘good’ is, we are actually stuck in a sort of false reality, and that, even if we were to be granted a look at the outside world (the ‘real world) we would be unable to handle what we saw; for most people are content living in ignorent bliss. Hower, he still maintains that, dispite the fact that many people are happy living their bovine existence, if we were to realise that we were existing in a world of things which only appear to be good, and discovered that their exists a realm in which things are actually good, we would never again be satisfied by what we thought was good for us before, we would know what is truely and wholly good. So, the good, in Plato’s account, is what we should all be aiming at; what we have our hopes, desires and ambitions set on. It is the end of all rational action and endeavor and, “… lthough it finds it difficult to grasp just what it is; it can’t handle it with the same assurance as other things and it misses any value those other things have” (505e).
Conclusively, I feel that the main points to both Plato and Aristotle’s arguments for well-being are, in principle, the same. There is an on-going theme of a utopian nature throughout both the description and build-up to the theory of eudaimonia in the Nicomachean Ethics, and throughout Plato’s concept of an ideal society. Both philosopher’s conclude their work with- to an extent- an ultimate target at which we are all aiming. Although in Aristotle it is a eudaimonistic end relative to us, it is still evident that he believes there to be means to an end; that there is one end which stands above all others. In Plato, the same theory is focused on the existence of a Form of goodness, again, at which we are to aim at. The only real crucial difference between the two is that, where as The Nicomachean Ethics is centred in the realm of particulars, Plato’s Forms are based on some sort of divine, metaphysical supposition of a form which exists outside of this realm, but which we are all supposed to be able to conform to. In my view, Plato’s theory is almost too idealistic.
Aristotle makes his thesis of the good more realistic since we can mould the idea of eudaimonia around our own lives; it is relative. The idea of a state which is governed by philosophers- the font’s of all truth and knowledge- and in which the individual’s are just, even, courageous and so on, but not neccesarily happy, is, to me, absurd.