Virtue: Aristotle or Kant’s Accounts on Ethics?
The notion of virtue has an intensive history of the moral philosophy. Aristotle made the first attempt to discover what entails a virtue but philosophical critic indicates that it has not acquired enough exposition for being considered suitable. Nevertheless, Aristotle indicated that if a person is has a good character, that person will behave ethically. He alleged that the ‘life goal” for every person is happiness. On the other hand, Emmanuel Kant proposed the deontological ethics that entails whereby he elaborated on the character ethics. He indicated that the rationale for ethical behaviors was purely based on the reason but not on the authoritative pronouncement. The foundation of his argument grounds on the “categorical imperatives” and the “unconditional ethical laws”. If a rule meets a generalized reason for an action, then it will always true for every similar instance, and the individual is hence obligated to follow the rule in every instance.
Aristotle defined the justice as “a virtue that like all the virtues of the classical Greek philosophy, constituted a mean between two undesirable extremes” (Aristotle, Kant, and the Stoics 324). Two different injustices generate the mean between them: the injustice that takes too much and that which takes too little. Due his great admiration for the moderation for Justice, Aristotle elevated in into a theory of virtue.
According to Kant, the moral obligations that qualify an action as just or unjust must be sought without paying respect to the characters of man, or inclined to the situation he is placed, but instead a priori and exclusively in the concepts of pure reason. For example, one might want to evaluate the ethically behind lying to a patient about a diagnosis or prognosis. Is lying ethical in any way? From the Kant style of predicting this imperative, you would have to conclude that lying is not acceptable since no relationship that requires trust would be developed. On the contrary, Aristotle believed that becoming virtuous required developing certain habits over time but not based on the rationality as indicated by Kant. His position was that a given behavior would or would not be considered virtuous depending on the culture of that person. For example, honesty is a character well thought out as a virtue. However, if you belong to a criminal community, honesty may not be valued in the same way it is in the community of the middle-class property owners.
Kant thinks of pleasure and pain, and therefore of the emotions, as something like brute tastes, rather than as having a perceptual aspect. In such case, one would follow Aristotle’s thinking of pleasure and pain as something like the perception of reasons, or at least of the natural good and evils that reasons are grounded. On the Kant’s view, an emotion such as sympathy can give you a kind of taste for helping that accidentally coincides with your duty; while on the Aristotelian views sympathy as a perception of the grounds of moral legislation.
Aristotle tries to make influential accounts of the distributive justice by indicating how to allocate scarce resources equitably and adequately. From the book on Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle argues, “We call just the things that create and preserve happiness and its parts for the citizen community” (Aristotle and Lesley Brown 421). His philosophical theme on the sustainability of justice involved giving everyone his or her dues; implying a careful weighing both of what is possible and what is deserved.
The hallmark of Aristotle argument is on equality. He maintained that justice is both procedural, concerned with the fairness in decision-making, and other social processes, and substantive justice that is concerned with the proper distribution of actual goods. Nevertheless, both forms of justices are central to the sustainability today since a sustainable society would require both just political institutions and mechanism. Correspondingly, there is the need for distribution of the necessary goods that avoids extremes of poverty and social inequalities. A fair and equal distribution consists of maintaining the same ratio of quantified good or burdens to quantified merits for all the recipients. In rectification, it lies in restoring the parties to the relative position they were in before harming one another.
However, Kant’s was skeptical about the philosophical attempts to develop abstract and universal conceptions of justice that would transcend the particular social and historical circumstance. His philosophy of deontological ethics suggests that the likely consequences of actions do not matter in moral decision-making and actual consequences do not affect evaluations of the moral worth of an action. Rather, the ethical judgments are based on the moral actor’s intentions and the adherence to duties or rules. Against the Aristotle’s view, Kant argued that categorical imperatives exit to emerge whereby living with a certain will can transform it into a universal law.
Kant presents an argument that persons have intrinsic value that is independent of their instrumental use of others. Aristotle and Reeve (287-289) highlight that, the assertion of the intrinsic value is essential to declarations of human rights, that asserts that simply by the virtue of being human, persons have rights to such things are good health, good housing, and sufficient accessibility to basic needs irrespective of their race or origin.”
From the ethical standpoint, any action taken to accomplish a given duty is without moral value. Furthermore, every action should incline on the pure reason or otherwise it is worthless. The results are not an important aspect of any action, but rather the original pure reason, or in common language, the intention behind the action. For an action to be morally sound or good, it must not simply conform to a moral law, but it must be accomplished to achieve moral law. It means that justice allows us to do only those things that would make rational sense to universalize. Acting with good will simply and purely what is expected, and its goodness is absolutely independent of the positive consequences. Still, reason dictates that the principle of one’s action, as Kant terms as action’s “maxim” should be able to be globally recognized. For example, acting unfairly to gain personal advantage would violate personal imperative, hence eroding trust and economic justices in the society.
Kant moral philosophy is a better account of ethics since it is logically built a model of morality, and it is internally consistent. Despite the outward complexity of the structure, most of the relative concepts are generalized and globally explained. For example, to act in a situation of danger, courage is the mean state in between reckless and cowardice; to enjoy pleasure, moderation is the mean state in between exorbitance and extreme temperance.
Kant philosophy will answer the question: What kind of character is most deserving of moral esteem. Therefore, it is undisputable that ethics should be based and critiqued on rational grounds. Human beings have an intrinsic value that is independent of their instrumental use of others. For example, if nurses are caring, they are also trustworthy and can be relied upon to give fitting priority to the patient’s welfare. Moreover, showing hospitality is closer to intrusion than to complete a withdrawal.
Aristotle, Kant, and the Stoics: Rethinking Happiness and Duty. United States: Cambridge University Press, 1998. Print.
Aristotle, and C D. C. Reeve. Nicomachean Ethics. 2014. Internet resource.
Aristotle, W D. Ross, and Brown, Lesley. The Nicomachean Ethics. Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 2009. Internet resource