Moral philosophy was a serious subject during times of ancient Greek. Different philosophers had separate accounts and views towards the moral virtues. This paper attempts to highlight the differences between the Aristotle account of virtue and the Socrates account of virtues, after which a deduction will be drawn regarding which version is more plausible concerning their views on virtue.
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The Aristotle account on virtues perceives moral virtues as the characters which are as a result of repetition of habits. The virtues of an individual that lies between the extremes of two key states: excess and scarcity (Burger, 2008). According to Aristotle, virtues can be clearly distinguished into two categories, which are moral virtues and intellectual virtues. Moral virtue is somewhat related to feeling, and the principles that bind an individual to choose and act well. On the other hand, intellectual virtues are acquired through learning. According to Aristotle, the main objective behind examination of virtue is not to understand what it is, but rather to make it good, implying that a correct action is subjective to the rational mind and correct reason. On the other hand, the Socrates account of virtues perceives virtues as knowledge.
Socrates was of the opinion that if an individual knows what entails doing good, he /she will always do what is good (Kraut, 1989). For an individual to know what is good, one must be able to understand the aspects associated with self-control and justice. Consequently, an individual will work in a self-controlled and a just fashion. Basing on that, Socrates perceives that vices as a result of ignorance. No one does wrong at his knowledge, rather, when committing a wrong doing they are of the belief that they are doing the right thing. The significant difference in this comparison is that Socrates never acknowledged Aristotle's concept of moral weakness, which argues that an individual can perceive good, yet still does evil. Socrates was of the opinion that individuals deceive themselves into thinking that the bad actions that a person does are good, simply to justify their evil doings.
The Socrates account virtue perceives virtue as a means towards the attainment of happiness. Virtues are always directed towards personal interests. In addition, Socrates argued that an individual cannot be happy if one is not morally good. Socrates was of the opinion that the most appropriate way for an individual to live was to put more emphasis on the concept of self-development instead of focusing on the material wealth (Vlastos, 1991). According to him, material wealth does not bring happiness; however, happiness can bring material wealth. This implies that an individual's virtues should serve as a means for attaining happiness (Burger, 2008). Virtue is the most valuable thing a person can possess, because it serves as the source to almost every good thing in life.
On the other hand, Aristotle argues that pleasure is not good by itself due to its incompleteness (Bickhouse & Smith, 2000). However, he stated individuals perform worthwhile activities possibly due to their unique, personal pleasures. Therefore, according to Aristotle, true happiness is subjective to actions that constitute the elements of a virtue, because only this offers true happiness rather than just pleasures. Individuals are guided towards choosing between pleasant and unpleasant doings basing on their natural preference. According to Aristotle, the highest form of moral virtues is represented by contemplation because it entails completeness and self-sufficiency (Vlastos, 1991).
The Socrates account of virtues is more plausible because it clearly distinguishes the differences between what entails doing good or evil and their dire consequences; attainment of happiness. The flaw in Socrates account of virtue is that it does not distinguish the levels of extremities between excess and deficiency that determine when an action is deemed like a vice or virtue.
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