THE SOPHISTS (5th Century BCE)
AND SOCRATES ( 470-399 BCE)
Rational justification for rules of conduct
Moral judgments must be supported by reasons
He is concerned with the meaning of words that signify
moral virtues, words like justice, piety and courage.
Socrates believed that all acts characterized by a given
moral term must have something in common.
He therefore sought to determine what the essential
commonality is. Socrates assumption that a virtue has an
essential nature, an essence that may be disclosed through
PLATO AND ARISTOTLE’S ETHICS
Plato and Aristotle both conceive of ethics as focusing
on good character traits of individuals – virtues –
rather than on a set of rules for actions (such as “treat
others as you would have others treat you”)
VIRTUE ETHICS – the ethical questions is not what
ought one do? but rather What kind of person ought
ULTIMATE SOURCE OF MORAL VALUE – the Good:
Plato – non-natural FORM.
Aristotle – define good for humans in terms of what
the human organism in fact naturally seeks – namely
Plato accepted the Socratic idea that all things named
by a given term, including any given moral term, share
a common essential or “defining” feature.
The zenith of all Forms, is the Form Goodness, or the
Good, because it is the Form of highest value.
The Forms define true reality, and because
The form of the Good is the uppermost of all Forms it
Individual things are real only insofar as they partake
of or exemplify this ultimate form.
Because the form of the Good is the source of all value
and reality, Plato believed, we must strive to obtain
knowledge and understanding of it. Therefore,
because forms can be apprehended only by reason, we
should govern ourselves by reason.
THE MAXIM: “be governed by reason”
THE HUMAN SOUL
The Human soul has three different elements:
1. An element consisting of raw appetites,
2. An element consisting of drives (like anger or
3. An intellectual element (an element of thought or
For each of these elements there is an excellence or
virtue that obtains when reason is in charge of the
element, as in the case when you govern yourself by
1. When our appetites are ruled by reason, we exhibit
the virtue of temperance
2. When our drives are governed by reason, we exhibit
3. And when our intellect itself is governed by reason,
we exhibit wisdom.
Thus Plato held that a well governed person, the person
ruled by reason, exhibits the four cardinal virtues of :
TEMPERANCE, COURAGE, WISDOM AND JUSTICE.
JUSTICE - is the virtue that obtains when all element of
the soul function as they should in obedience to reason.
He said that only by being virtuous – that is possessing
these four virtues – can have a “WELL ORDERED SOUL”
and thus have the psychological well being that is true
This Platonic idea, that all value is grounded in non-
natural source, is an element of Plato’s Philosophy that is
found in many ethical systems and is quite recognizable in
NATURALISTIC ETHICAL SYSTEM
According to ethical naturalism, moral judgment are
really judgment of fact about the natural world.
Aristotle – is the first great ethical naturalist believed
that the good for us is defined by our natural objective.
What is the highest objective by nature?
For Aristotle, it is the attainment of
happiness, for it is that alone that we seek
for its own sake.
And because the attainment of happiness is
naturally our highest objective, it follows
that happiness is our highest good.
WHAT DOES HAPPINESS - HIGHEST
According to Aristotle, to answer we must consider
human being’s functions.
As human animal, most essentially, it:
Thus, happiness consists of two things, Aristotle
1. Enjoyment (pleasure
2. The exercise and development of the capacity to
It consists in part of enjoyment because the human being,
as a living thing, has biological needs and impulses the
satisfaction of which is pleasurable.
It consists in part of developing and exercising the capacity
to reason because only the human being , as distinct from
other living things, has that capacity.
The exercise of our unique and distinct capacity to reason is
termed by Aristotle VIRTUE – thus Aristotle’s famous
phrase that happiness is activity in accordance with virtue.
TWO DIFFERENT TYPES OF VIRTUES:
INTELLECTUAL VITUE – to exercise actively our reasoning
abilities. – as when we study nature or cogitate about
MORAL VIRTUE – when we exercise our rational capacity
to moderate our impulses and appetites
According to Aristotle’s major ethical work,
Nicomachean Ethics is devoted to analysis of specific
moral virtues, which Aristotle held to be the mean
between the extremes (e.g. courage is the mean
between fearing everything and fearing nothing)
He emphasizes that VIRTUE is a matter of habit, the
human who exercise his rational capacities only
occasionally does not fulfill his function, that is, is not
Aristotle’s moral insight that a person’s pleasures
reveal his true moral character.
INSTRUMENTAL AND MORAL END
ANOTHER DISTINCTION MADE BY ARISTOTLE
BETWEEN INSTRUMENTAL END VS. INTRINSIC
INSTRUMENT AL END – is an act perform as a means
to other ends.
Intrinsic end – IS AN ACT PEROFRMED FOR ITS