Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics

Ancient to Modern Ethics: Aristotle and Kant on Virtue and Happiness College

The following essay aims to compare Ancient versus Modern theories of ethics, particularly those of Aristotle and Immanuel Kant. The central concepts of virtue, happiness, and the human good are relevant to modern ethics, but do not play the same role as they did in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. Thus, several significant concepts separate Kant from Aristotle. While Aristotle provides an empirical account of morality, Kant’s theory is based ‘pure’ philosophy and deontology. Kant argues against many Ancient theories that do not agree with his concept of rationality and human nature. Evaluation of the concepts in the Practical Philosophy by Kant, and Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, reveal significant differences between the ancient and modern theories of ethics. Kant’s theory of moral duty and the categorical imperative suggest concepts of the goodness and virtue, which diverge from Aristotle’s account of morality.

A central distinction between Ancient and Modern ethics is evident through the approach each takes to develop their theories. Aristotle’s account of morality relies on empiricism. This is based on the view that morals are acquired through experience. It also follows that morality is not an innate quality, but rather...

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