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The Philosophers of Chapter 7 Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Immanuel Kant, Emmanuel Levinas Plato (427-347 B.C.) • Taught Aristotle • “the Good” compared to the sun –The sun as a source of light allows us to see all things –The good shines upon all our actions • Nowhere do we find THE good, we only find good things. • Beauty is found everywhere & in all things, but we don’t find BEAUTY ITSELF. • The closest we can come to the good is in contemplation. • We bask in the good, and it enters into our knowing. Philosophy is Important to Plato • Philosophers are contemplatives of the good • Therefore, they are closest to the good • Philosophers know how to act in accordance with their beliefs, – They make true choices about the value & worth of their actions – They have chosen the happiest life Philosophers are better • Others are ruled by feelings – They measure actions by enjoyment not value • Philosophers choose particular actions because they are true • In The Republic, the ideal state is ruled by the “philosopher king” Plato vs. Sophism • Sophist ideas threatened to undermine morality • Sophists proclaimed there could be no truth, all “so-called truth” is only opinion • No universal truth = no universal moral code Sophists • Moral values only cultural or personal opinion • Life is ruled by needs & desires, not reason • The best life one of sensual pleasure (Callicles) • Pointless to argue about the good in general For Sophists • Neither goodness, nor justice exists on its own, there are only good people or just people • There was no need to think about moral principles or “the good” Plato’s response • The thinking of the Sophists caused the state to deteriorate to a near-total moral collapse – Private pleasures like greed satisfying elemental needs like food, drink, sex and power led to disorder and anarchy • REASON which finds the good that pervades all is the answer! Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) • A major influence on Catholic teaching (via St. Thomas Aquinas) • Agrees with Plato – All aspire to some good and seek to be happy – Concerned with short-sightedness of searching for happiness following instincts & sensual pleasures – Philosophers most likely to succeed Aristotle differs from Plato • Aristotle is more “down-to-earth” • Plato’s idea of the good was too abstract • People don’t find THE good, they find A good. • Contemplation doesn’t lead to the IDEA of good, but to the good within all things For Aristotle • It is important to know the nature of all things – Hence his interest in science & politics • Humans are self-directed beings Aristotle “Young people can become mathematicians and geometers and wise in things of that sort; but they do not appear to become people of practical wisdom. The reason is that practical wisdom is of the particular, which becomes graspable through experience, but a young person is not experienced. For a quantity of time is required for experience.” Review of Aristotle & the Good • Absolute good can only be found in God. • Good is inscribed by God into the nature of all things. • To find the good in anything: discover first its purpose, its end, what it is for Review continued • One develops good character by acting virtuously, virtues control passions. • Good is found in the middle • The mark of humanity: to reason and act rationally • Ethical action engages capacity to reason. • Highest happiness: live an ethical life St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) • Greek philosophy, especially Plato’s, had a strong influence on Christian moral thinking & theology until the 13th C. • After the 11th C, Aristotle’s work became more well known • Aquinas, a Dominican friar (O.P.) incorporated Aristotle’s ideas Aquinas • Greatest works: – Summa contra Gentiles, – Summa theologica – Build on his understanding of the work of Aristotle • Aquinas calls him “The Philosopher” Aquinas agrees with Aristotle • The ethical comes from the end that is inscribed in the nature of all creatures • What something is FOR is at the very core of what something IS. • The desire for good is at a person’s core. • God is the highest good! Some differences • For Aquinas, God is Trinitarian (Father, Son, & Holy Spirit) • The resurrection of Jesus and immortality of the human soul give a more refined notion of the end of human beings • People were made for happiness • Happiness is the good life of a virtuous person Human Happiness • Not exhausted with the good life on earth, there is a fuller happiness – Found only in a loving vision of God – In the resurrection as God’s pure gift Aquinas’ ethics has 2 levels 1. Like Aristotle: 1. good life living and acting well 2. Good life lived out of use of intelligence & other capacities 2. God’s self-gift to us in Jesus and the Holy Spirit changes the way we define the good • Creation is good, to know how to use one’s intellectual and sensual capacities one must follow the natural law. – “nothing other than the light of understanding placed in us by God; through it we know what we must do and what we must avoid.” Virtues are key! (the Cardinal Virtues) • Prudence: how to reason well in moral decision-making. • Temperance: how to remain moderate in the exercise of the emotions • Fortitude: how to be courageous in the face of difficulties. • Justice: how to act well in relation to others. Theological Virtues • Faith: God’s self-revealing action • Hope: desire for communion with God • Charity: (Love) God’s love for us, allows us to love others. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) • The most difficult notion of the good and happiness to follow? • Recall: reason was very important in Kant’s time (the Enlightenment) • No: kings, priests, churches, bibles, unless, reason could prove their right to authority • Reason the sole authority! Kant rejects Aristotle & Aquinas • For them, happiness is a byproduct of doing good. • Kant argued: people do good out of their DUTY to do so. • People of reason act out of duty, – Finding the reason within themselves – Since they live autonomously Recall that for Kant • All goods (intelligence, love, experience of beauty and religious experience) are of lesser value than a good will – (they are only the means to obtain a good will.) • The soul was immortal since it was impossible to achieve the supreme good in this life Kant on God • God is also held to duty. • God makes certain that we can achieve the supreme good • The supreme good (i.e., God) is a necessary condition of reason. Review on Kant • The only good is a good will. • Good is only good if it is done out a good will and provides no personal gain. • An act is not moral if you enjoy doing it. • Moral acts are performed out of duty and obligation. • Reason dictates what is good. Emmanuel Levinas (1905-1995) • The infinite Good, God, is the heart of ethics. • Good comes as a call, a vocation. • The good does not come from oneself. • When I am called to respond to another, I am called to be good without reward, without selfinterest. • In the face of another, I am turned from myself and my own interests and desires towards the other. • The other awakens me to the highest good.