Ethics refers to moral values portrayed by people in the society or an individual. The morality of an individual is measured through use of moral ethics. The society, normally expects everyone to uphold certain moral values or act in ways that show others they are morally upright. Old ethic scholars like Aristotle, Plato, Mill, Hum and Kant had different views regarding morality. The argument made by Mill was based on the platform of happiness and utility law. He said the actions of an individual are deemed as good and moral if they lead to happiness and they become immoral if they deprive an individual of happiness in life. Kant believed morality was dependent on an individual’s good will and behavior. He stated good will is the only best qualified actions and the rest good characteristics like courage, happiness, education and the rest do not count as part of morality. On the other hand, Aristotle believed the best judgment for morality could be judged on the grounds of virtue.
Kant and Aristotle believes in Morality
Immanuel Kant made the proposal that in context of morality the only thing that was unqualified was possession of goodwill. Further, he states good will as the only action that is often good nature and states other factors like level of ambition, education and other characteristics, do not make up morality. According to him, people use the good avenues for immoral reasons. They can be less served or underutilized by the individual owning them. He holds good will should not be looked at on the basis of consequences. Kant believes good will, is always good regardless of the effects it has on others or how useless the good will might be. He says it is right to term a man with god intentions as being moral though he ends up hurting others.
On the other hand, Aristotle believes goo morals are reliant on the virtues of an individual. He states virtue is a median that is between two extremities as such, there is a connection between the lows and highs. He states virtues from intermediate between the extreme of deficiency and extreme of excess. Further, he says that the median is not necessarily somewhere through half the way though it changes from one individual to the next. Aristotle states good values are based on desirable actions and emotions. He offers an example of taking and giving money and explains that in such an instance, the reason or median for doing it is generosity, the extreme virtue ends up as excessiveness while the deficient virtue is selfishness. He makes the conclusion, an individual might be wrong in numerous ways but there is only one way to be right.
Majority of people found the proposal by Aristotle regarding morality to be far more convincing than others. It is a given fact individuals possess good virtue and morals depending on their emotions and how they think. When an individual sets out to do something, they can either do it deficiently or excessively. For instance, the important rationale for issue of money is based on virtue of being generous. While giving money, one might give less or more depending on their emotions.
So that a person can show good morals, the reason offered must be enough to convince a sensible knave. At times, sensible reasoning might appear as insensible to another individual. This is due to the fact that people are different and what appears as sensible to one individual might not be sensible to another. Good morals, however are generally for both bad and good course.
Aristotle explains virtues are means that lie between two extremes, that the extreme of deficiency and of excess. For instance, in virtue of speaking the truth, he states the signifier is honesty, the extreme is pride and the limitation is attainment of self-deprivation. In such a case, the virtue of being truthful might lead someone to either be boastful or speak the truth. Aristotle also regards being brave as the median and virtue between boundaries of emotions like fear and confidence. For bravery, the imperfection of fear is being in a rash, which comes since the individual should not be afraid of extreme situations that they should be afraid of. On the other hand, he states the excessiveness of fear as cowardice, as such, a person fears situations or things they are not supposed to fear, for instance fearing a sound while in the dark.
An individual should find the mean between the extremes by remaining firm and facing any situation that comes their way. The mean, thus to be on the extreme is deficient side of a virtue that is reliant on an individual’s ability to reason accordingly. In such a case, the individual decides and reasons why they should do what is wrong or what is right in accordance to their moral judgment.
In relation to pain and pleasure, Aristotle states the excess in this case is intemperance, the deficiency is insensitivity while the mean is temperance. This means the connection between pleasure and pain is temperance. An individual needs to be temperamental so as to make the appropriate decision, which leads to having pain or pleasure. The wrong decision might lead to being insensitive, which means that pleasure, as a virtue is compromised. Pleasure arises in different amounts and is believed that in real sense, no one has deficiency to pleasure. Such individuals can be said to be insensitive since they attempt to be sensible about certain issues. Somebody might experience pleasure on different avenues. The closest thing to contentment is happiness. Aristotle states happiness and pleasure work hand in hand. Therefore, pleasure can be backed by the right amount of feelings and emotions. Such feelings lead to making individuals happy, as such, happiness and pleasure find common feeling that is displayed at such moments. Aristotle states to be truly happy, one must have ability to follow and develop the rational components of their feelings.
To be positive morally, Aristotle states we must be able to practice good judgment of wisdom regarding our desires. Such practice will lead to the development of good happiness, which them cultivates happiness and morality in a person. Individuals as well must learn how to restrain practices leading to negative influence on morality like greed, selfishness and fear among others. This is due to such factors that lead to development of vices, which inhibit existence of virtues. Aristotle believes happiness is the focal point of life and that it is dependent on the individual’s self.
Based on the work by Aristotle, friendship is one of the highly imperative virtues for an individual to possess as they attempt to attain happiness. He states there are different kinds of friends namely, the friendship of utility, virtue and friendship of pleasure. However, according to the philosopher, the most esteemed and high friendship is that of virtues. He views friendship as the important part of life and believes through friendship, one is able to achieve happiness, the ultimate purpose of human beings (achievement of happiness). In this work titled “nicomachean ethics”, he states that honest relationship is among the highly significant things an individual can attain. He deems friendship as an important aspect of life as it leads to total happiness and pleasure. Further, he argues friendship is glorious and it cannot be compared with other factors like justice and honor.
Aristotle states the only moral people can be true friends since worthy friendship is not selfish. He states the supreme kind of companionship is the friendship of virtue. This is due to the foundation of virtuous friendship which is the act of a human being expecting the best for other individuals regardless of the pleasure or utility involved. Virtuous friends are there in bad and good times to encourage one another to get the best. Virtuous friendship, as Aristotle puts it is not selfish. He terms such kind of friendship as being complete and it is shared between two friends with similar virtuous values. The good will of an individual is the virtue that is involved in being a trusted friend. Aristotle states only those who are good enjoy contented friendship because the bad does not enjoy their own company unless they stand to benefit from it.
Bentham and Mill
According to Bentham, an action can be considered as good if it maximized on happiness and pleasure and reduces pain. He states the only way that a person’s action can be deemed as good is when their specific action makes people feel maximum pleasure. Any action that does not lead to an increase in pleasure and happiness only causes pain, which eventually, makes people suffer. Bentham argues the rightness of an action can be judged by its utility, which is ability of that action to produce much pleasure and happiness to the society.
There are problems that arise from this view with the first being that it gives much attention to the manner in which action leads to maximization of pleasure and reduction of pain a the cost of other important moral values in society. The view can be wrong as people end up hurting others to be happy. Therefore, it guarantees an individual’s happiness while ignoring pain that is being experienced by other humans. This kind of proposal is problematic as it disregards intentions of an action, which means it can make immoral actions justifiable since it offers great happiness and pleasure to a large number of people.
Bentham and Mill also point out pleasure taking in assisting someone weigh more than pleasure that is taking in helping him or her. This is because Bentham and Mill believe helping someone leads to generation of great happiness and pleasure and they have already said, happiness is the greatest thing that humans can achieve. Both believe in calculating pleasure and happiness for the great good of the great number. As such, pleasure taken in assisting an individual is far more important. They never mind the consequences and intentions of the action. The two philosophers focus on utilitarian state of moral actions. Both, believe an act that never leads to pleasure can only bring pain and that it is bad to experience pain. Contrary to Bentham’s total belief in happiness and pleasure, John Stuart Mill believed in pleasure and the fact, pleasure varies in quality and quantity. Mill believed certain forms of pleasure were higher than others and as such, they were give more attention. He believes not in the quantity of please but the quality of happiness. For instance, he states it is better to be a dissatisfied human being than being a satisfied pig.
The first predicament utilitarianism poses is the creation of an avenue for people to uphold view that the end is what justifies mode of actions. Such mentality is what lead to slavery in America. This is due to the fact Americans saw slave trade as the means to achieving development for a large number of people, which was the end. In accordance to them, having slaves meant a happy life ad every white family was entitled to happiness as opposed to their black slaves. The end is not supposed to justify the means. Another predicament with this kind of ethics is that utilitarianism can in no way protect the rights of minority in a community. This is due to the fact utilitarianism aims at creation of happiness and pleasure for a greater majority. This leads to slavery of the minority so that the greater majority might be happy. Such kind of thinking ensures leaders in the community use the defenseless minority in order to make the majority enjoy greater happiness. Another predicament is that utilitarianism aims at creation of higher amounts of happiness and pleasure for many. It does not give any regard to consequences if actions meet its purpose of creation of happiness for the great good of the many.
Based on the theory of justice, Mill states all actions that provoke outrage are unjust. As such, justice should not provoke outrage but rather, aim at creation of peace. He states such a feeling towards moral of justice is so spontaneous and easily makes it forgettable by theory of morals. Mill holds there are two possible justice interpretations. The first is that everybody is armed with some sense of justice, which forms independent source of moral judgment. Second, Mill states there exists an independent and moral principle that pertains to justice. Looking at justice from a deeper perspective, Mill makes the observation that the only major difficulty to utilitarianism is interrogation of justice. He tends to accommodate importance of justice by saying it is important for individuals’ of moral action to be sensitive of the rights of other. Further, Mill says that the reaction towards justice is eradication of the feeling to take revenge for perceived humiliation of varying types.
According to Humes, the vice or virtue is the disposition of moral outlook. He goes ahead and says the virtue of vice can case an easiness or unpleasantness. Good actions will leads to happiness and pleasantries while vices lead to unpleasant moments and uneasiness to some degree. He states that vices and virtues are factors that are exhibited by the agent not the spectator. As such, the originator is the individual who make the decision to be virtuous of vicious. Virtues and vices are also seen as an individual’s moral action since someone has the power to choose between vice and virtues. A virtuous or vicious action, to some degree shows an individual’s character. The quality of character as well determines the moral situation and vice versa.
People approve character since character is what makes a man. For instance, good morals arise from good characters. Consequently, accepted principals arise as a result of virtuous deeds. Humes states virtuous character must be based on long lasting tenets of mind. These principles extend to an individual’s entire behavior. This explanation is also applicable to virtuous character. It also means virtuous people have a mind that only harbors virtue deeds in them. The major distinction between moral evaluation from personal character evaluation or trait is extent to which each helps in the development of personality. Moral character traits also prompt an individual and can be easily seen. On the other hand, personal characters cannot be seen and they can lead to an individual either doing good or bad.