Aristotle is one of thegreatest thinkers in the history of human kind. His thoughts on humanethics and morality influenced other great moral theorists such asThomas Aquinas. A significant feature the Aristotle ethics are theargument that moral standards are not absolute. The morality in ahuman society should therefore be based on the specialcharacteristics and nature of the daily life in the society. Itshould also take into account the understanding of psychology ofhuman nature. The main subject matter in the Aristotle ethicalphilosophy is happiness as the highest good. Aristotle argued thatall human activities should be aimed at the greatest good, happiness.He argued that a virtuous life, wisdom and reason enable one toattain happiness. This requires adequate goods such as health andopportunity which motivates individuals to act ethically. Aristotleethical principle also argued that ethics is a “relative meansbetween extreme of excess and deficiency”. Thus, an ethical lifeinvolves moderation of all aspects of life, except virtue. Accordingto Aristotle thoughts, appetite or desire is not immoral if anindividual is able to control it through reason. Additionally, moralvirtue does exist abstractly, but within a social environment.
Aristotelian ethics provide aphilosophy of what can be defined as a good life. In a significantpart of his work, Aristotle describes what he thought was theultimate good towards which all human actions should ultimately aim.A successful life is a human life which leads to this ultimate good.A successful is life is complete, final, sufficient and continuous.Aristotle referred to the ultimate good as “eudaimonia”, a Greekword that means living well or holiness. However, to achieve asuccessful life or human happiness, an individual need to know thefunction of a human being. This is because a person’s happiness isdependent on the achievement of a successful life, which consists ofa fulfillment of the natural function. The Greek word is alsotranslated to mean having good demons. According to Aristotlehappiness can be achieved in a successful life that is able toflourish. Thus, someone whose life is flourishing would be consideredby Aristotle as a person living in happiness or having a successfullife. This is ultimate goal of all life because of human beings seekto flourish and are destined to fulfilling life.
Aristotle gives an example ofacorn which flourishes and grows into an oak tree. The ultimatedestiny of acorn is to grow into an oak tree. However, the potentialsof the acorn to flourish and have a “successful life” and thushappiness are dependent on both internal and external causes.Similarly there is a specific natural function of human beings. Justas acorn has the potential of becoming an oak tree, human beings havethe potential of being happy. If internal and external causes arepresent, individuals will be able to life a fulfilling life. Thesecauses include the person intellect, and desires and spirit whichconstitutes the soul. Therefore, the activities of the soul have acritical role in human happiness. To achieve happiness, human actionsare directed by reason, which is based on virtues. Thus, a fulfillinglife consists of a thought and meditation about the greatest goods inthe immediate society. The greatest good can be defined as an ethicalaction.
According to Aristotle, man isa political creature. This is because man lives within a society. Afulfilling life or a successful life is influenced by how individualsattain their natural function within a society. The ability of humanbeings to live humorously in a society is based on the fact that theyare rational creatures. Since humans are animals, they are physicalbeings with physical needs such as food and rest. Human beings arealso emotional being, rational beings and social beings, which makesthem different from animals.
Thomas Aquinas, in his thoughtabout morality and the existence of god was influenced by Aristotlemorality philosophy. Thomas Aquinas was able to reconcile religionand the growing influence of philosophical thoughts. Some scholarshave argued that in his thoughts, Thomas Aquinas baptized theAristotle principles into a Christian mold. He believed thatAristotle did not dream about the existence of a body and a soul inhuman beings. It is one of the ways through which god is evident inthe lives of humans. He links a virtuous life and the development ofreasons to the existence and relationship between the soul and god.Thomas Aquinas identifies some of the cardinal virtues that arenecessary to achieve a fulfilling life. These cardinal virtues arenatural and binding on all human beings. Flourishing of life isdependent on these cardinal virtues. Perhaps, this is what Aristotlereferred to as causes. For example, when a child is brought up in agood environment where all the cardinal virtues are observed, he orshe will flourish and life a fulfilling life. This can be compared tothe Aristotle metaphor of an acorn and an oak tree, where the acornis the child, and the oak tree is a flourishing life. In the same waythere are necessary causes which makes an acorn fulfill itspotentials of growing into an oak tree, virtues the cardinal virtuesare necessary to achieve a fulfilling life. Although these were notThomas Aquinas original ideas, linking them to religion made him oneof the greatest Christian philosophers.