ARISTOTLE’S HUMAN NATURE 7
Manyphilosophers have for a long time many attempts to discuss humannature. Their respective arguments concerning the topic have had agreat impact in defining what human nature is all about. One of thesescholars that their sentiments have been and are being used tilltoday is Aristotle. Aristotle is considered to be the mostinfluential philosopher of all times. Although he disagreed with histhoughts, Aristotle was a student of Plato. Almost all medievalscholars were influenced by Aristotle thoughts. However, divergentphilosophies emerged in enlightenment era where his thoughts haveremained relevant up to date.In all the disciplines that hedecided to venture into, he left an indelible mark. Aristotle sunkhis teeth in almost every discipline and thus a key figure in allaspect of philosophy and academia. In this paper, the aspect of humannature is discussed basing much on what Aristotle thought about onthe topic as well as his contributions. It has been arguedthat no one is born with morality. Man is amoral creature. Inexplaining this fact, Aristotle viewed human nature to be blind tomorality. The philosopher argues that when an individual is born, heor she does not have any knowledge about morality. This directlyimplies that morality and virtue are not and cannot be part of humannature. This fact raises many questions concerning human nature.Where do morality and virtue belong if not human nature? Aristotleelaborates this idea claiming that through life experiences andsocialization, man acquires knowledge of morality and ethics. Thesuggestion that man is amoral by nature means that morality is notpriori but posteriori knowledge. Moreover, the philosopher arguedthat “none would be evil… wickedness is voluntary”. It is clearthat Aristotle was of the idea that when a man is involved in doingevil, it is his own will not the will of nature. Thus, in Aristotle’sdefinition of human nature, there is nobody who is born immoral.However, the choices individuals make after birth makes themunethical or immoral. Therefore, morality is learned and not acquired(Perseus.tufts.edu, 2014).
Moralitybeing learnt has been a point of argument for a long time. Althoughthis view has been supported by many philosophers in the modern time,scholars such as Thomas Hobbes have been opposed to Aristotle’sidea of amoral human nature. Hobbes argued that man’s actions andinactions are guided by natural laws. Unethical or immoral behaviorsare therefore in existence due to forces of natural laws. The vicesof war encourage people to engage in aggressive acts. However, thestrong authority has the ability to control natural laws and promotemorality. Another philosopher who had a contrary argument is JeanJacques Rousseau, a French philosopher. He argued that by nature, manis good. This means that at birth, all individuals are good andmoral. However, Rousseau agreed with the argument of Aristotle thatthrough socialization and life experiences, the goodness in man canbe corrupt. This explains why some people are immoral in the society(Classics.mit.edu, 2015).
Aristotlecontinues to argue that human nature is hedonistic. By beinghedonistic, Aristotle means that man will naturally pursue and avoidpain. Aristotle(1095a15–22) claims that all human beings agree that the goodis eudemonia butthere is disagreement among them concerning the definitionof eudaimonia.In the same way, moral hedonists agree with among themselves that thegood is preference, but there is some disparity among them as well asamong non-hedonists too, about what preference is. Accounts ofpreference are campaigned below, and matters with them aretemporarily reviewed, particularly regarding the several ways inwhich they abide on the forecasts for ethical pleasure-seeking.These thoughts have been adopted by other philosophers and thinkerssuch as Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill which led to thedevelopment of utilitarian ethics. Aristotle gives a hint toutilitarianism when he argued that human nature is impulsive and thusman is an impulsive creature. The impulsive nature of man proposed byAristotle was also adopted by Sigmund Freud in his psychologicaltheory. Additionally, it can also be argued that Aristotle borrowedthis proposition from Plato’s view of human nature in The Republic.Plato argued that man is naturally corrupted and become immoral dueto power and lack of true knowledge. Nonetheless, it is essential tonote that even though he was his mentor, Aristotle did not entirelyagree with Plato (Classics.mit.edu, 2015).
Inhis discussion about human nature, Aristotle wrote widely aboutidleness. He argued that there is an element of human nature thatdrives individuals to idleness. The fact that man is enticed byidleness means that man derives pleasure from it. This obeys thehedonistic nature of man. Additionally, Aristotle noted that someindividuals are compelled or enticed towards certain vices comparedto others. This is despite the fact that all individuals arenaturally prone to corruption. Therefore, it can also be argued thatAristotle viewed idleness as part of human nature. For example, insome instances, he argued that he has been influenced by the vice ofidleness even in his work as a philosopher where he failed to explainor fully describe his ideas (Classics.mit.edu, 2013).
Accordingto Aristotle, since man is impulsive by nature, in order to be moralhe should learn to go against this human nature. This will enable manto control his impulses and avoid immoral act. This will allowrational judgment and reason to guide the individual towards makingmoral decisions. Aristotle used this notion to explain the thoughtthat although man is amoral, the natural impulses that drivesindividuals towards pleasure and away from pain resulting into moralor immoral acts. Additionally, due to man have the wrong informationor ill-educated, man is likely to be immoral by seeking pleasureusing vices rather than virtue. In this regards, Aristotle agreeswith Plato who argued that it is human nature to be corrupt. Throughhabituation human will acquire the ability to resist the impulses andlive a life of virtues. Thus, although human nature is amoral, it hashedonistic impulses that need to be controlled in order to promotemorality. Effective controls include proper education on moral waysof seeking pleasure and avoiding pain (Perseus.tufts.edu, 2014).
Aristotlealso gives an account of how the amoral man can become moral orimmoral. Being moral is as a result of the amoral acquiring virtuesthat guides his actions and inactions. According to Aristotle,virtues refer to what he described as human excellence. As mentionedearlier, Aristotle argued that morality, and therefore virtues, isposteriori. This means that virtues are not part of human nature butare learned after birth. In order to become moral agents and alwaysact morally, the virtues described by Aristotle should be habituatedinto human nature. This requires a lot of time and some aspects ofsuffering. To the contrary, hedonistic impulses which are importantaspect of Aristotle’s human nature dictate otherwise. For example,the hedonistic impulses would make an individual to seek pleasurefrom idleness. According to utilitarian ethics, idleness is ethicalif it results into maximum pleasure. On the other hand, Aristotlewould not agree with this preposition. For Aristotle, idleness is anundesirable vice which is caused by lack of or inadequate motivation.This idea was adopted by Christian philosopher St Aquinas who arguedthat idleness is immoral. This is the origin of the Christian viewthat idleness is an immoral and a sin of acedia (Classics.mit.edu,2015).
Therefore,Aristotle inquiry on the human nature is far reaching. Although theseare some scholars and philosophers who do not agree with Aristotlehuman nature, it formed the foundation of some of the modern thought.Each aspect of Aristotle philosophy and description of human naturediscloses a new understanding of man uniqueness. Aristotle describedman as a living thing, an animal with a soul, who is capable ofinvestigating the world and deciding how he will live in the world.However, according to Aristotle, humans have different opinions aboutwhat is good for humanity. To derive the maximum benefits of a moraland ethical inquiry, the disagreement of what is good should beresolved (Perseus.tufts.edu, 2014). This means that in Aristotleview, human morality and ethics is not a theoretical subject. This isbecause philosophers make ethical and moral inquiry not for the sakeof knowledge but because a better understanding of what is good forhumanity will enable us promote it. This means that the study ofhuman nature and morality should not focus on a list of virtues.Aristotle used these thoughts to described what he believed is thenature of human happiness.
Classics.mit.edu,.(2013). TheInternet Classics Archive | Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle.Retrieved 15 December 2015, fromhttp://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/nicomachaen.8.viii.html
Classics.mit.edu,.(2015). TheInternet Classics Archive | Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle.Retrieved 15 December 2015, fromhttp://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/nicomachaen.9.ix.html
Perseus.tufts.edu,.(2014). Aristotle,Nicomachean Ethics,bekker page 1094a.Retrieved 15 December 2015, fromhttp://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0054&redirect=true