Plato on the Four Cardinal Virtues and How to Achieve Happiness

Plato Complete WorksTo understand Plato’s ethics, you must first disregard modern conceptions of ethics as natural duties or utilitarian calculations. To Plato, the act of calculating the greatest good or living by the dictates of supernatural authority would have been entirely beside the point: ethics, to Plato, is instead a more personal matter of living according to universal virtues that lead directly to eudaimonia (human happiness, well-being, or flourishing), to a state of inward welfare and contentment.

To Plato, there is no distinction between virtue and knowledge, under the assumption that goodness is not merely a relative term, but a term that refers to something universal and unchanging, otherwise it could not be an object of knowledge. The task of the philosopher (and for all of us), is to determine what goodness is, and then to practice it for its own sake.

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Aristotle on the Connection Between Morality and Psychological Well-Being

Aristotle's Way Edith HallVirtue ethics, as practiced by Aristotle, can appear foreign to us because it stands in such sharp contrast to modern moral discourse. We are accustomed to thinking in terms of universal laws, the calculation of the “greatest good for the greatest number,” or the adherence to some vague sense of natural laws or obligations.

We ask, “what is the foundation of morality?” as if there exists a scientific answer or source of authority that can resolve the issue once and for all and for all time. But ethics is more personal and complex than this. Edith Hall, in her latest book Aristotle’s Way, shows us an alternative view of ethics established by Aristotle that takes into account this inherent complexity.

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