Greek Philosopher and a Great Polymath

Aristotle (384 BC to 322 BC) was a Greek philosopher and a great polymath. He was Plato’s student and a teacher to Alexander the Great.  His writing work covered a variety of subjects. The philosopher worked together with Plato and Socrates who was a teacher to the latter.  Alongside various subjects Aristotle got involved in, he incorporated morality, aesthetics, logic and politics in his western philosophy.

Aristotle’s account of virtue claims that moral virtues are regarded as circumstances of character that lie between deficiency and excess. This means that too much of a moral virtue or too less of it is not good, hence the right kind of a moral virtue can be termed as the one that exists in between too much and too little. Moral virtues are meant to be differentiated from intellectual virtues because they deal with good actions, feelings and the idea of choosing. Hence, good conduct begins with those habits that are gained from repeated actions and corrections. A virtue is knowledge which is gained from tutoring. It should be noted that moral virtues are states of character, but not all states of characters are moral virtues. It is evident that a significant amount of states of character are found to be vice. When Aristotle claimed that moral virtues lie between the extreme and deficiency, also this doctrine of the mean, his purpose was to facilitate recognition of the states of character which were seen by him as virtuous. Assumptions made say that moral virtues belong to the soul.  Nevertheless, according Aristotle’s thinking, moral virtues can be identified by only one of the three components of the soul namely passions, states of characters and faculties. Passions represent fears, feelings and ambitions.  Faculties can be referred to as the capability to possess feelings that ultimately lead us to do acts in all the ways we can.  States of character make up complex propensity to act and feel in a variety of ways due to the underlying circumstances.

 Aristotle scraped out the first two possibilities i.e., passion and faculty, and finally stated thatvirtues are the states of character. Aristotle’s reason behind the ruling out of passion as a moral virtue is based on the following fact. Blames and praises we experience are never attached to the feelings we get but rather to our virtues. Blames and praises never go hand in hand with our feelings because the latter involuntarily respond more or less to the circumstances. Factors that led to such understanding of passions are similar to those that ruled out faculties. Part of what is found in faculties develops a form of capability a person experiences when feeling anger. Since praises and blames are never attached to the ability to feel anger, Aristotle excluded faculties from the category of moral virtues and declared states of character to be the only virtues. Lust is vice and a state of character but not a virtue because it involves too much desire hence, it lies at the extreme. This example demonstrates what led to Aristotle saying that not all states of character are virtues and explains his conclusion that virtues are states of character which exist between excess and deficiency. Aristotle’s account of says about virtues summarizes that we should avoid the extreme and insignificance. The virtuous states of character reveal themselves in the way a person reacts to circumstances. A strong reaction is not good, the same is true about a little reaction or its absence.

Baruch Spinoza was a Jewish Dutch philosopher who was born in 1632 and died in 1677 at the age of 44 years. Spinoza’s argument in regard to the human mind states that an existing idea about a singular thing is what makes up the human mind. He backs this theorem by saying that the human mind is a part of the endless God’s intellect. His idea about what constitutes the unit of mind and body shows that anything  comprising the definite existence of the human mind is just the idea existing in an individual. The second idea that led Spinoza to the  unity of mind and body was the notion that the body constitutes the human mind. Queries arising from Spinoza’s argument bring out doubt on how a person can have both mind and body with mind being the thought of an individual actually existing in the same person. The distinction between body and mind is a problem that dates back to the beginning of modern philosophy. Descartes was the first philosopher to develop the concept of the relation between mind and body. His delineations seemed faulty and Spinoza was one of the first philosophers to react and counter the conceptualization of the mind versus the body. His reaction to Descartes’ idea was the rejection of the dual aspect of the body and mind theory. Spinoza stated that the human mind is the modification of an idea that consists of a corresponding object. Spinoza agreed with Descartes’ notion of the unity of mind and body, but his rejection to Descartes’ argument was that a thought of mind is an attribute of God. In short, he claimed that mind and body are two modifications of a similar substance. Spinoza’s argument shows that God exists, and he must come right at the beginning. He also clarifies that extended things and thinking things should never be considered as substances. In the philosopher’s opinion, it makes no sense the same way as if God would have created both the mind and the body as one. Spinoza said that both mind and body were extensions of God’s attributes. Spinoza also referred to God as the Nature because he perceived God as the reality of human beings in all possible aspects. The philosopher stated that emotions play a very important role in the life of a separate person and for culture in general.