Posted on 06/09/2013

Photo taken on June  9, 2013

See also...


Creating a Good Life

Authorizations, license

Visible by: Everyone
All rights reserved

75 visits



Among contemporary men and women who, in my reckoning, live Aristotelian lives, some are rich, other not, some are well educated, others not, some are republicans and some Democrats, and some are very religious while others are not religious at all. .Of those defining characteristics, religion is the most problematic. It might appear that religion fulfils exactly the same ethical role as philosophy, and , if so, one could find virtue and happiness simply through religion and skip the intellectual work involved in philosophical analysis. Indeed, we have noted the compatibility of Aristotle’s thinking with the ethical percepts of monotheism that led early Moslem and Christian scholars to adapt his teachings to the tenets of their respective religions. Moreover, his writings are compatible with the new religious ideas of his own era – Zoroastrian, Confucian, and especially Buddhist. With regard to his “Way of Practical Attainment,” the Buddha taught, “A man is foolish to desire privileges, promotion, profits, and honor, for such desires can never bring happiness but will bring suffering instead,” which, in language and intent, is almost identical to what Aristotle teaches a hundred or so years after Siddhartha Gauthama’s death. Moreover, the general consistency of Aristotelian and Buddhist thinking is apparent in the Dalai Lama’s contemporary writings on happiness: In both Buddhism and Confucianism, following the “middle way” of moderation and temperance leads to virtue.

Such similarities also can be noted between Hinduism and Aristotelianism, particularly in the writings of modern Indian sages Swami Vivekananda, J. Krishnamurthi, and, of course, M. K. Gandhi. The “Bhagavad- Gita” says Hindus must perform their karma (duty) in line with their dharma (moral philosophy governing all actions to do good) and do so to the very best of their abilities without reference to whatever rewards may follow. In other words, Hindus must act not for praise, honor, money, or public opinion. Their actions and the logic behind those actions should be reason enough to perform at the very highest level their minds, bodies, and souls can deliver. Dharma is, it seems akin to virtue, and the Aristotelian lesson of the Gita is that it is morally fraudulent to do something, even the right thing, for wrong reason.

Thus, one can be an Aristotelian and also be a believing Buddhist, Christian, Moslem, Hindu, or Jew. Yet one also can be an Aristotelian and, at the same time, unreligious and non believing. That’s because Aristotle was a philosopher and not a prophet or priest. In the final analysis, religion is based on faith and philosophy on reason. The two paths to finding meaning may end up in the same place, but their methods are distinct and shouldn’t be confused. It is enough for the Buddha to assert that greet is a vice; it is necessary for Aristotle to demonstrate that it is so. And the act of moral reasoning is not the same as obeying a religious precept. In sum, religion is no more a substitute for philosophy than philosophy is a substitute for religion. Aristotle found the two to be necessary, instrumental goods in his own virtuous life. ~ Page 189 & 190
4 years ago.