The morality because it refers to the types

The Greek word for
“virtue,” arete refers to “excellence of any kind”, and did
not initially have any moral or ethical connotations. In simple terms, it means
something does what it’s supposed to do, and does it well. For example, A house’s
“virtues” would embody things like shelter, warmth and safety. Human
virtues developed the connection to morality because it refers to the types of
lives that human beings are inherently apt to lead. Contemporary philosophers
tend to consider Aristotle and Plato, both classical Greek philosophers, to be
“virtue ethicists” – the branch which focuses on character and its
role in morality and ethics. When looking at virtue, both Plato and Aristotle
start by focusing on characteristics which were considered virtues in Greek
society, such as wisdom, courage, moderation and justice, all which were foundational
to the way of life in Classical Greece. From there, they focused on three main questions
within virtue ethics; How do we become
virtuous? Are the virtues unified? and
Are happiness and virtue connected? These questions prove that right and wrong
is not as easy to define and practice as it seems.

How do we become virtuous? In Plato’s
opinion, knowledge is virtue; an idea learnt from his teacher, Socrates. In basic
terms, to know good is to do good.
This is made explicitly clear in the Protagoras, a famed Socratic dialogue. The argument begins with the
foundational idea that people desire what they believe to be good. He claims
that when a person does something wrong, it is not because they want to do it, knowing
it is bad, but rather they want to do it, and trust it to be a good choice. What
separates virtuous from un-virtuous people is not a longing for what is good, but
instead the knowledge of what the good truly is. Plato’s ideology of human
virtue is condensed into knowing what is good, and possessing the ability
correctly select the actions that have the greatest positive result. This was
opposite for Aristotle; knowing the good wasn’t good enough.  He believed
that in order to be good, one had to practice good, consistently. Although
Aristotle did not necessarily have a concept of a free will, as it is a more
modern, largely Christian notion, he did believe that practicing virtue on one’s
own volition is what makes humans good. To truly be virtuous one must accustom themselves to
virtue, practice it regularly and be virtuous intentionally. I agree with
Aristotle because simply knowing about good doesn’t mean you are a good person.
People can be mindful their poor choices and not be an ethical person. They know
their actions are harmful yet proceed to do it anyway- in accordance to Plato’s
theory, this is a morally correct person simply because they are aware that
what they are doing is wrong.

Another dilemma frequently
addressed was the question of Are the
virtues unified? Plato believed that knowledge is virtue, therefore, all
the virtues are linked to wisdom. If someone is wise, all the other virtues
will fall into place after it. He believed in the unity of the virtues and that “the virtues
are a distinct part of a whole.” Oppositely, Aristotle felt that although
wisdom is the uppermost form of virtue, it is not an all-encompassing umbrella
that possesses all other virtues. One can be wise and knowledgeable about
the world but not be virtuous or moral. In other words, Aristotle denies the
unity of the virtues. Again, I am in agreeance with Aristotle that wisdom is not
synonymous with morality.

What is practiced or known to be
good is different for each individual and is influenced by a number of factors,
including environment and genetic inheritances. Morality is not that black and
white.

Both philosophers spent much of
their time concerning themselves with the question of how one should to live in
order to achieve ‘the good life’. The goal was to develop behaviours and
character traits that would prompt the pursuit of activities that yielded pleasure.
Both felt virtue was central to living the good life, but in different ways. Plato
believed that virtue was all that
was needed for one to achieve happiness — if a person practiced kindness and moral correctness then
happiness was a guarantee. Plato discounted the notion that good people could
be unhappy, which was contradictory to Aristotle’s theory which suggested that
although virtue is necessary to
the good life, virtue alone is insufficient. One can be virtuous but still
unhappy. He penned in one of this dialogues that to achieve true happiness, a
person needed to live among fellow upstanding citizens. Society as a whole must
be virtuous.
            While
overall, I agree with Aristotle’s views, Plato drew on many notable points as
well. My largest opposition to both philosophers though, is their assumption
that the human condition starts with a blank canvas- this position is
incorrect. Modern science has proven the role of genetics and environment in
character and disposition. Hereditary influences go back to the beginning of
our species. For example, a dog that learns a new trick transfers its knowledge
to its succeeding kin. Environment is an even larger factor, conditioned by ancestry,
race, religion, education, social status as well as a multitude of other
factors. A human is therefore heavily conditioned by factors not in their
control. In relation to practicing or knowing good, what is believed to be good
is influenced by uncontrollable factors and varies between people. In connection
to unified virtues, they again are influenced by what any given individual
believes to be most important. These points also apply to what is considered ‘the
good life’ as it also differs person to person. Both Plato and Aristotle’s
theories are very finite. Throughout their lives, both Plato and Aristotle spent
a substantial measure of time looking at how virtue plays a role in the lives
of people and their moral compass. They looked at how people can become
virtuous, how virtues are linked to one another and also how they are linked to
overall quality of life. Interestingly, Aristotle’s views on all these points epitomised
the more conventional views of Greek society, while Plato’s were more radical
and far fetched. In conclusion, while the difference between right and wrong
seem like a clear, concise division, Aristotle and Plato prove that there are
many considerations to be made when contemplating ethics and virtues and the
role they play, not only in society, but in the lives of the individuals within
it.