The Connection Between Ethics and Politics Paper Example

Paper Type:  Argumentative essay
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1421 Words
Date:  2022-11-04

Plato and Aristotle are profound influencers of the concepts on ethics and politics and by extension the relationship between the two concepts. The philosophers offered great insights into the topics and, going by their teacher-student relationship, their ideas tend to converge. Nevertheless, there are some subtle differences in how the two view the above concepts and their suggestions on how to navigate upcoming issues. This paper seeks to evaluate the views by Plato and Aristotle and consequently offer an opinion on who is more persuasive. I will argue that Aristotle's ideology on ethics and politics is more persuasive than Plato's.

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Aristotle, on his part, viewed politics as the behavior of individuals within a community while ethics encapsulates the behavior of the individual persons (Adkins 29). He also asserts that only a limited number in the society should be allowed to study and participate in politics. In fact, he strongly believed that women and slaves should be excluded from such education as they would not benefit from this knowledge (Clayton 4). Aristotle further argues that young people should be disbarred from learning politics. He dismissed the young as emotionally volatile and unequipped with reasoning skills and experience stating that these were the preliminary requirements in comprehending politics. Aristotle suggests that politics is for the chosen few, mainly older males who are free citizens of a State.

According to Aristotle, everything that exists has an innate purpose or final end (telos). As such, a thing is only as good as its ability to attain its intended goal (Clayton 5). In this light, he confers that the goal of human beings is to live a happy life. A happy life, in this case, is one that embraces virtue and moral goodness. Otherwise, the person fails to live happily and essentially falls short of his/her purpose. In addition to these insights, Aristotle contends that living virtuously is difficult and is discovered over time as opposed to being achieved at once.

Furthermore, achieving a virtuous life can only occur within the correct environment and under the right conditions. This fact provides the link between politics and ethics in Aristotle's school of thought in that, for one to act virtuously and morally, they would need to do so in a political community that has clearly defined laws. That is, an individual's behavior depends on the community and the actions that such a community prohibits or approves. Kraut asserts that for one to live virtuously they need to understand the laws in question and possess the emotional and societal skills required for appropriate behavior (Kraut 5.2).

Unlike Aristotle, Plato takes on a more abstract stance regarding politics and ethics since his ideas are less explicitly defined compared to those coined by Aristotle. Frede affirms that Plato also subscribes to the school of thought that morality and good conduct predominantly aim at achieving happiness and well-being (Frede 4). However, Plato emphasized that reason must control action while suppressing and moderating bodily pleasures in pursuit of true virtuousness.

"After having established the various parts of the soul, Plato then makes the claim that virtue lies in keeping the components of the soul in the correct relations. The reason should guide the soul, making decisions and determining what is wrong and right, spirit should follow reason and provide motivation, and appetite should obey." (Alison 2)

Plato is also austere on how one can truly be virtuous. From the above text, one can infer that the order of thought and behavior is paramount in achieving a virtuous life. He affirms that one's virtues and morality is absolute and depends on his knowledge of the good. As such, Plato stresses that virtue is preceded by the form of good itself and is essentially separate from the virtuous person (Alison 2). However, in Plato's view, one can achieve a truly virtuous life by continuously exercising their reasoning capacity and suppressing their bodily pleasures. He also asserts that such practice must be taught at a young age and within the community that one grows in.

Plato's view on politics was influenced by the need to establish a balance between oligarchy and democracy "because there was no hope, sanity or moderation either from oligarch or democrat" (Topaloglu 75). As far as he was concerned, neither of the two regimes could bring forth a just society. As such, Plato suggested that an ideal system of governance could be attained by emulating the soul and its faculties. This suggestion shows the link between politics and ethics through Plato's lens. He suggests that those that pursue knowledge represent the faculty of reason and consequently be obligated with leadership. Those that pursue honour should represent the spirited emotions. Finally, those that pursue the love of money represent the bodily pleasures. In the system, the reason should exercise control over the other two faculties ensuring that each operates within its realms. Plato had no opposition to women participating in politics. Going by his admission, governance would be limited to the few who embrace the discipline and skills needed in pursuit of knowledge.

With regard to ethics both Plato and Aristotle agree that the essence of human life is to live virtuously. However, Aristotle argues that for one to achieve such virtues, they must acquire emotional intelligence and knowledge. On the other hand, Plato maintains that such knowledge on goodness must be acquired through training in mathematics science and philosophy. Plato also maintains that one cannot quite attain virtuousness as it is not possible to understand the form of good (Alison 2). Aristotle seems more open to the idea that one can actually attain virtuousness albeit through continued practice. Aristotle argues that the faculties of the soul should work together he insists that "thought by itself moves nothing and the thought which is practical depends on desire" (Irwin 567). As such, Aristotle gives a more practical definition of virtue and how it works within a person. For this reason, I contend that Aristotle presents a better position on the definition and the reality on how to acquire virtuousness and by extension ethics.

Plato and Aristotle's ideologies converge in the sense that they both assert that politics is reserved for only a few in the society. Aristotle argues this position by stating anyone who is not a citizen of a state exists only for the benefit of those citizens (Clayton 4). Non-citizens, in this case, include women slaves and laborers. Plato, on his part, believes that politics should be left only to the philosophical few. Both philosophers demystify politics in an era that view women as inferior and unfit for political positions. As such, there is a controversy in trying to apply the philosophers' insights in modern day in the political realm. Plato is less vehement than Aristotle about the exclusion of women in politics.

"It is also true that Plato is given to frequent slurs against women what he calls womanish' behavior for this treason his position is not to be taken seriously or is of purely rhetoric character" (Smith 468).

Aristotle promotes the idea of limiting the political group to a chosen few. Nonetheless, he maintains that such a group can accommodate whoever is willing to exercise discipline and learn philosophy. He is also consistent in his attitude towards women and politics unlike Plato who clearly limits the scope of politics to philosophers and shows inconsistency in behavior and ideology on women and the political realm. Considering the pervasive bias against feminism in politics that traverses that era I attest that Aristotle's political view is more persuasive. The discussion above leads me back to the point that Aristotle is more persuasive on both ethics and politics and the interrelationship of the two concepts. This stance is particularly because he offers an affirmative argument that one can achieve virtuousness, which basically refers to the ethics. Also, his suggestions on who should participate in politics are more inclusive.

Works Cited

Adkins, Arthur WH. "II. The Connection between Aristotle's Ethics and Politics." Political Theory 12.1 (1984): 29-49.

Alison, John. "Human Virtue in Plato and Aristotle". Hep.Upenn. Edu, 2018,

Clayton, Edward. "Aristotle: Politics | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy". Iep.Utm.Edu, 2019, Accessed 30 Jan 2019.

Frede, Dorothea. "Plato's ethics: An overview." (2003).

Irwin, Terence Henry. "Aristotle on reason, desire, and virtue." The Journal of Philosophy 72.17 (1976): 567-578.

Kraut, Richard. "Aristotle's ethics." (2001)

Smith, Nicholas D. "Plato and Aristotle on the Nature of Women." Journal of the History of Philosophy 21.4 (1983): 467-478.Bm

Topaloglu, Aydin. "The Politics of Plato and His Objection to Democracy." Annales Universitatis Mariae Curie-Sklodowska, sectio K-Politologia 21.1 (2015): 73.

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