The Soul and Ethics

The philosophies of Plato and Aristotle differ on many issues. The most important thing is the examination of their differing views on ethical theory, and how the soul is connected. We could find many conflictions between the ethical theories of Plato and Aristotle. But, the most important points are their differing views on the human souls function and its role in ethics. Each philosophy contradicts eachother and provides a variety of arguments to which we will explore. The two philosophers Plato and Aristotle both had theories concerning the body and soul.

Plato was a dualist, believing the body and soul where two separate parts to a person. Aristotle did not. Plato believed that the soul was the single most important part of a person and he believed in the importance of moral concepts, ideas and the afterlife. Aristotle however, was more interested in the physical world and the forces adopted within this. He was interested in observation and his theories unlike Plato’s were based on the functions of physical things and how well they perform.

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Plato believed the body and soul were seperate. The soul he concluded is immaterial and belonging to the “world of the forms” as part of the “form of the good”. He believed that the soul was implanted within a human longing to return back to the “forms”. The soul , in Plato’s view, is immortal and unchanging and the only link between a person and full understanding is knowledge. The second part of a person is the body, which Plato says is the physical part enabling us to perform actions such as talking or touching.

Forming the outer appearance the body uses senses to make opinions about the physical world in which it belongs. However in Plato’s opinion it could not reach the “world of the forms” in any way. The body is constantly changing and therefore not truly real. Plato believed that a healthy and virtuous soul is one that functions harmoniously. He thought of the soul as being divided into three different parts. Those three parts are reason, spirit, and appetite. Plato believed in a weakness of will.

When we are faced with a difficult choice we connect with a part off our soul. He identifies the soul as being divided when being challenged to do something we need to do and something that we want to do. His characterization of the soul sounds a lot like an persons will and conscience. The reason part of the soul is the one that tells us to do the right thing. The appetite part is the one that tells us to do the thing we want to do and forget about all of the other stuff, kind of like lust. To do what you want to do because it will make you feel good.

The spirit part of our soul is the one that can never decide what is best for us because it is too concerned about honor. Plato also identified the human soul with four virtues. Those virtues are temperance, courage, wisdom, and justice. Temperance is self control; a soul that isn’t inflicted by appetite. Courage is necessary to control our fearsand take on new taks . Wisdom happens when the rational part of our soul is healthy and in control. Justice is then the result of all three working harmoniously.

Aristotle believed that the body and soul are two interdependent parts to a human as the support and rely on each other. One example is movement. He would say that only the body can move, however it needs the soul to be able to move or tell the body what to do, unless it does so accidentally. He implies that without one the other would not be able to perform the tasks it takes on. They rely on each other. Therefore Aristotle is saying the two entities are intertwined and belong together and cannot exist optimally without the other.

Therefore unlike Plato’s ideas suggesting that the “perfect” or morally good part of a person is within the soul or connection to the “form of the good” Aristotle would in fact say that in order to be a morally good person you would have to function in the best way that Aristotles thoughts about the soul are related to what I believe as the soul of a person. Aristotle believed that a person’s soul is interconnected to their body. He states that a thing cannot affect the body without affecting their soul. Also a thing cannot affect the soul without affecting the body.

What I got out of his ideas about the soul is that what is good for the body is good for the soul and what is good for the soul is good for the body, vice versa on the bad. Aristotle believed that there is no way to the soul except through the bodily organs and there is no way for the soul to act or communicate except bodily. The most interesting thing I learned here is that scientist of today support to the idea that the mind plays a role in altering the course of sickness and disease through laughter and positivity. I realize that their findings are based on Aristotle’s philosophy on the soul.

Aristotle thought that there were three different kinds of souls found to be a hierarchy. “Soul form” one is of the most basic forms of soul found in simple life forms. It is called a vegetative or nutritive soul. It absorbs from other things. The second type of soul is the level of sensation. The sensitive or sentient soul stores information regarding the form of things, but doesn’t absorb or become those things. The human soul is the third kind of soul, also known as the rational soul. It involves the nutritive and sensitive sides, but also has the ability to analyze things.

It understands various forms of relationships and making reasoned decisions known as deliberation. Aristotle believed in this hierarchy of souls and based his ethics on it. One contrasts between the ethical beliefs of Plato and Aristotle, are in their arguments on the human soul. In the end of Book One, of The Republic, Socrates is trying to prove to Thrasymachus that it is better to be just than unjust. He begins theorizing that everything has its own specific function, and that that function is, “that which one can do only with it or best with it (Republic I 352e). For example, the function of eyes is to see, and since a butter knife is better suited to butter than a cutting knife, its function is to spread or slice butter. Having said this, Socrates goes on to argue that everything also has virtue, which relates on how it functions. The virtue of eyes would be sight and the virtue of the butter knife would be its unsharpness. Socrates turns his attention to the human soul and its function. “Is there some function of a soul that you couldn’t perform with anything else, for example, taking care of things, ruling, deliberating, and the like?

Is there anything other than a soul to which you could rightly assign these, and say that they are its peculiar function? … What of living? Isn’t that a function of the soul? (Republic I 353d)” Thrasymachus agrees to Socrates’ definition of the soul’s function, so they go on to examine what the virtue of the soul is. In socrates previous argument concerningg the importance of virtue in the performance of one’s function, Socrates explins that a non-virtuous soul would do a poor job of living, while a virtuous one would live in harmony.

Socrates then references a previous point in the discussion, when he and Thrasymachus had established that justice was the virtue of the soul, and injustice its vice. This allows Socrates to conclude that a just soul and a just man will live well and be happy, while an unjust man will not live well and be unhappy. In conclusion, Plato and Aristotles views are contrasted by how its connected or separable to the body, the souls division, the reason one does something, how the soul and the morality of one can create happiness and good.

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The Soul and Ethics. (2017, Jan 28). Retrieved from