Aristotle, Platonism, And Christianity
We may notice how Aristotle's conception of the good partakes of both elements of this dichotomy between objective and subject conceptions. For Aristotle, the good is identified in the first instance as what one "aims at" in any given activity—in a word, "the end" (telos) of that activity. Thus the end of running might be health or winning races. Ultimately, though, we arrive at the aforementioned "happiness" (eudaimonia) as the final good (end) for human beings. This end, however, is not a mere subjective preference. It depends, in Aristotle's account, ultimately on our natural purpose or function as rational creatures. At the same time, however, it is not a Platonic object, existing separate and apart from humanity or human tendencies.
This difference between Aristotle's "teleological" and Plato's more "metaphysical" conception of the good is important in understanding the good as it figures in Western religious thought. One important strain in Christian thought draws on a Platonic conception of the good as residing in a distinct object accessible to human knowledge yet quite remote from ordinary, this-worldly experiences. A more "Aristotelian" strain of Christianity, most clearly represented in the thought of Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274), accepts Aristotle's conception of the good as happiness but construes this "final end" as including our spiritual as well as our physical, social, and intellectual ends as humans. So in this conception more than in the Platonic, secular and otherworldly goods are seen as complementary; the spiritual is seen as completing or "perfecting" nature—rather than as standing in stark Platonic opposition to it.
- Good - Stoic And Epicurean Visions Of "the Good Life"
- Good - Subjective Versus Objective Accounts
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