The moral philosophies of Aristotle and Plato have some similarities and differences. One of Plato’s main arguments is that the structuring of the elements of the soul would result onto great benefit (Grube and Plato 27-31). He exemplifies this through an examination of how traditional values may be interpreted from the perspective of fostering the proper interaction between reason and the less logical psyche. Aristotle’s thinking is similar to Plato’s in that his function argument is heavily tilted on the premise that good results from a dominance of reason. Aristotle however differs from Plato in that he does not rely on Metaphysics to make conclusions as Plato did in the Republic. Aristotle does not believe in Plato’s premise that in order to be a person of virtue, they must study all branches of knowledge in a holistic manner. According to Aristotle, ethics is an autonomous branch of knowledge and in order to be virtuous one need not be an expert in all branches of knowledge (Chase and Aristotle 6-8).
Plato asserts that the type of virtue which we ought to have is that which is desirable in itself and also for its consequent results. According to Plato, justice fits in this category since it is desirable in itself and results in positive consequences in society (Grube and Plato 49-53). Aristotle on the other hand makes the assumption that if one thing is desirable for the sake of another then it must be better than it. This therefore follows that the highest form of good would be one that is not hinged on anything else but rather on its own sake. Aristotle argues for the centrality of good in a successful life by explaining that a virtuous individual will rarely live life without contentment, affluence, friends, and honor. The performance of good deeds in itself does not guarantee happiness at all times but rather it serves as the objective in which antecedent components of happiness are achieved. Aristotle’s concept therefore makes the connections between virtue and antecedent results to be of more significance than in Plato’s conceptions (Chase and Aristotle 25-32). Issues such a isolation, poverty and dishonor usually restrict people from exercising virtuous deeds which in turn robs them of happiness even though he adds that there are various exceptions.
Aristotle and Plato would have opinions concerning American consumerism which would be similar in some aspects and different to some extent. Aristotle in many instances makes reference to the importance of pleasure to the human condition. Aristotle argues that a happy life is a function of the pleasure that a virtuous life bring upon a person (Chase and Aristotle 78-81). Consumerism is said to be a psychological condition which leads a person to purchase things simply because such purchases induce pleasurable feelings. According to Aristotle a lack of external goods which in this instance are representative of American consumerism would lead to negative consequences. He explains that this lack would result into people leading less virtuous lives. Aristotle makes the very important assertion that in some instances what may be considered pleasurable by some may not be pleasurable to others at all. The issue of consumerism would apply to this notion in that consumerism in the United States is driven by the Jones’s syndrome whereby people purchase things not because they need them but because they have seen others with them. People usually assume that expensive things will bring most pleasure while this is not always true.
Plato’s response with regard to consumerism would probably be best represented by his notion of measure for measure. American consumerism is exemplified by excessive purchase of items which is deemed relatively excessive and expensive. Plato makes the assertion that a measurement or quantification of pleasure would be instrumental in measuring the virtuosity of any pleasure. This follows that any purchases which are deemed to be excessive or too expensive would be deemed by Plato as lacking virtue. Plato goes ahead to talk of balance and stability which results from measure. Consumerism will thus be perceived from the perspective of the balance of things bought and whether they are essential or not. According to Plato the seeing of pleasure is usually a result of the endeavor to restore a balance within the body or soul of a person. Pleasure would thus be good if they are intended to restore the mental or physical equilibrium (Grube and Plato 23-25). Indulging in pleasure without an understanding of measure, objective or quantity would be harmful. Since consumerism is characterized by a lack of measure and wrong motives, it would be considered morally wrong by Plato.
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My philosophical response to American consumerism would borrow from the assertions of both Aristotle and Plato with regard to pleasure and happiness. I consider consumerism to be against the basic criterion of not acting in a manner that is in the extremities. Since pleasure is a function of the human race, I believe that it is inevitable that human beings require a certain amount of consumerism in order to be happy. However the exercise of pleasure ought to be exercised in combination with logical reasoning. This type of reasoning is supported by Plato’s reasoning which asserts the importance of pleasure but stresses the importance of measure. Measure in this instance is a function of reason and logic. Human beings are by nature given to aspects of limits and non limits. It is the combination of these two elements in the right proportions which gives rise to harmonious ethical relationship (Grube and Plato 56-58). Consumerism if exercised with the right combination of restraint and pleasure is acceptable if it allows the individual to have happiness with no negative effects such as debt.
I would also make my observation on American consumerism which would be compatible with some of Aristotle’s ideas. I believe that consumerism ought to be practiced from the perspective of consideration of other antecedent factors. It is important for people to engage in consumerism while analyzing their circumstances at the present and future time. Engaging in consumerism without an analysis of the present and the past would result in negative effects of unhappiness due to unpleasant consequences such as depletion of savings. American consumerism is undertaken by people in order to attain a certain kind of pleasure. I believe that pleasure may be achieved through a variety of avenues and not only consumerism. Americans should therefore make a careful analysis of the pleasure activities available to them. Since consumerism in most instances results in negative consequences, it is advisable that people engage in other activities such spending time with family or sports which would give the same pleasure and other related benefits. This view is supported by Aristotle’s assertion that pleasure activities are usually in competition with each other and as such people ought to opt for those activities which result in the least negative effects and the most benefit (Chase and Aristotle 138-143).
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The assertions of the two philosophers are very relevant to today’s society. These philosophies would do a lot in guiding and educating Americans with regard to the issue of consumerism. Some people might however argue that these ideas need to be refined or even provide counter arguments to the assertions of the two philosophers.
The Aristotelian philosophy with regard to pleasure and happiness would consider consumerism to be negative if undertaken without a consideration of resultant effects (Chase and Aristotle 160-165). While this is a very valid argument and would result in happiness in the long term, human beings are given to flights of fancy. This theory of human beings taking into account antecedent factors before engaging in pleasure would go against human nature. Human nature in some instances derives a lot of pleasure from a freedom of acting without restrictions such as thinking of consequences. Some people would also argue that Aristotle in arguing for a scenario in which people opt for pleasures that are more beneficial fails to take into account the psychological nature of human beings. Some issues such as pleasure and happiness are in some instances the function of peer pressure as opposed to logic and reason. Since human nature is given to fickleness resulting in the joneses syndrome, it is impractical to expect logical reasoning in the issue of consumerism.
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Plato’s philosophy of happiness and pleasure would also be subject to criticism by scholars. Some scholars would deem the notion of extreme action put forth by Plato to be incomplete. They would put forth that the notion of extreme and acceptable action is a matter of societal conception and hence Plato in arguing for adherence to the median measures of ethics is wrong. Actions are subject to differences in culture which would consider actions acceptable and unacceptable in different levels. Some people would also consider the insistence on logic and reasoning in purchasing to be unattainable since men have differences in their ways of thinking. What may seem logical and reasonable to one person will be considered illogical by another. The assertion that there needs to be a balance between reason and pleasure fails to take into consideration that the idea of perfect balance is impossible. A more realist position would involve either more of pleasure or more of logic. A combination leading to more of either component would thus lead to an imperfect state of harmony which is the normal state of events.
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