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Aristotle and Human Nature - Essay Example

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Aristotle and Human Nature

Plato (427-347 BCE) and Aristotle (384-322 BCE) both, defined society in holistic terms and regarded it as an organism in which the constituent parts were necessarily related to the whole. Plato, in particular, laid special emphasis on the unity of the social organism, each individual part clearly defined in terms of its subordination to the whole. Society to Aristotle on the other hand, was a differentiated structure formed of separate elements which, while contributing to the whole, retained their separate entities. To Plato, society was a unified system structured around the division of labour and social inequality. "Social health or social order was the product of 'wise legislation' in which the interests of the whole exerted priority over those of the individual parts." (Smith, Page: 15)
On the other hand Aristotle's idea of society was anti-atomistic. The complex and differentiated structure of the social whole was made up of groups and not individuals. The foundations of it lay in human nature; that man was by nature social and political and therefore desired to live with others in communities. Therefore, according to Aristotle, the lives of individuals were invariably linked with each other in a social context. He agrees with Plato that a life of virtue is not only rewarding for the person who is virtuous but also good for the community in which he belongs. He also agrees that the highest form of human existence is that in which man is able to exercise his rational faculties to its fullest. He expounded his theories on moral conduct and human nature in several efforts like Eudemian Ethics and Magna Moralia, but the most complete work which survives to our days is the Nicomachean Ethics. In Nicomachean Ethics, he discusses in length about man's natural desire to achieve happiness. He then discusses what this happiness means and described human volition and moral deliberation. He described the three different kinds of friendship and the value of each. He then defended his conception of an ideal life which consisted of intellectual pursuit. In his views he agrees with Plato that a life of virtue is not only rewarding for the virtuous but is also beneficial for the society in which the individual belongs. He is also in agreement with Plato when he says that the highest form of human existence is one in which man exercises his rational and mental faculties to their fullest. Both Plato's and Aristotle's philosophies are anti-Sophist. They both attempt to draw a theory of what is the essence of a good life and their theories are based on the foundations of their knowledge about the stable nature of reality. But there the similarities end. "Whereas Plato is a rationalist viewing our knowledge of reality as derived from intuitive reason, and an idealist locating ultimate reality in an eternal, immutable world of Ideas, Aristotle is an empiricist, anchoring all knowledge of reality in perpetual experience, and a realist, identifying reality with the concrete spatio-temporal objects of this world." (Pomerleau, 1997)
The central discussion of Nicomachean Ethics, revolves around moral responsibilities of individuals, virtues and vices, and how to achieve happiness in life. The central issue is what it takes for a person to be a good individual. It ...Show more


Aristotle was born in Stagira in Thrace, Greece in the year 384 BCE. His father was the court physician to the king of Macedonia. Aristotle is one of the icons of classical Greek philosophy. He went to Athens at the age of seventeen to train under the tutelage of another great Greek philosopher, Plato, who had founded a school of philosophy known as the Academy in Athens…
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Aristotle and Human Nature essay example
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