Aristotle’s views on civic relationship support the idea that all humans seek the well-being of themselves as well as of others they are related to or the community as a whole. He asserts that we all occupy multiple roles in our lives, such as parents, citizens, siblings, or and leaders. In the same way, the contemporary working community also consists of different relationships such as buyer and sellers, employees and employers, managers and investors, etc. All these relationships share common business ideas and common human needs. Sometimes, organizations tend to neglect human needs in the exceedingly eventful business scenario; however, the success of a company lies in maintaining equilibrium between their business practices and employees needs. In this paper, we will try to understand Aristotle’s views on different aspects of civic relationships such as happiness, virtue, deliberation, justice, and friendship and find a comparison between his ideas and the ideas of the modern work community.
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According to Aristotle, personal reasons and goodness of a person’s soul –virtues play a significant role in achieving the highest good or happiness. Virtues such as courage, sense, generosity, and justice develop through apposite rearing and appropriate law. Good laws are helpful in cultivating good characters that contribute to a good life. He asserts that the zenith of good is happiness. Happiness is a complete state of achievement. Aristotle says that honor, bliss, reason, and every other virtue is a medium to achieve happiness. He believed that happiness is self-sufficient as it is the ultimate good. It is comprehensive and does not require anything else to complete it. However, the self-sufficient perception does not relate to an individual only but includes all people related to him such as parents, wife, children, friends, and fellow citizens. It takes account of the happiness is an end and not a means (Aristotle, chapter 7, para3-4).
Aristotle emphasizes that our actions and activities decide our end; consequently, the soul should be good, not our external part. People discover happiness with virtue; some relate it to practical wisdom; some identify it with philosophic knowledge and others who relate happiness to pleasure while others identify it with external prosperity. He further notes that happiness is not only about the pleasures that surround human beings but also the pain and suffering that they encounter. Happiness entails a complete life. Besides, achieving all that one has decided to do brings immeasurable contentment, hence happiness (Aristotle, chapter 8, para1-2).
Aristotle believed that learning virtues would result in the attainment of happiness. The greatest fault lies in the inability to adopt the right approach, even after identifying it. According to him, the highest joy lies in the state of living in balance and moderation. Thus, health, wealth, friendship, knowledge, and virtue are the possessions of a happy life.
Two types of virtues are described in the Nicomachean Ethics: intellectual virtue and moral virtue. Intellectual virtue is acquired knowledge in the course of learning and needs experience and time for its growth, whereas moral virtue is an attribute related to habit. Aristotle says that it is essential for people to submit themselves to learning and constant practice to acquire intellectual or moral virtues. Virtues generate an explicit response to similar situations, the rule of acting in a specific way. For instance, one becomes just by doing just acts. The virtue of being fair and just when repeated becomes a part of one’s character. Virtue ethics do not emphasize convention, the cost, and exact deeds and emphasizes more on the kind of person involved with the deed. According to Aristotle, the main quality of virtue is to feel pain as well as pleasure at the right time. Virtue illustrates the situation of being praised and being successful.
Aristotle viewed moderation as the best virtue. Moral virtue involves feeling, choosing, and taking the right procedures. Intellectual virtue, on the other hand, is knowledge attained through education. He argued that virtues are a state of positive character (Aristotle, chapter6, para3).
While describing someone’s character, we choose words like good-tempered or temperate rather than using words like wise and understanding. However, a wise man is also respected for his state of mind that is a worth admiring virtue (Aristotle, chapter 13 para 6).
Deliberation is about choosing things on which we have control. People deliberate about things in different manners. Aristotle believes that deliberation is largely associated with things that take place in a certain manner; however, all obscure and vague events and things necessitate deliberation. Deliberation is the main action that develops and distinguishes virtues. It is a way of thinking with the set intention in mind; deliberation determines the end and not the means. People imagine the end and think about the measures and means to attain it (Aristotle, chapter3, para 2-3).
Deliberation results from a systematic process. By visualizing the end, one formulates a plan to attain it. Deliberation facilitates the achievement of goals, hence providing happiness. Exceptional deliberation involves recognizing the appropriate ways to execute one’s plans and also establishing the best possible way to execute them. It is noteworthy that deliberation is a feature of pragmatic understanding. If a person possesses good characters, then they are most likely to choose paths that will be considerate to those around them. Conversely, if a person has a bad character, they will only consider the end,-arguing that the end justifies the means. Consideration does not focus on a specific theme, but rather it reflects on all matters in general (Aristotle, chapter5, para 1-2).
Justice signifies that state of character, which increases people’s inclination towards acting justly and to do and aspire for what is just (Aristotle, chapter1, para2).
In Aristotelian view, all activities that abide by the law are considered just, and laws are enacted with the purpose of the common good for all given generating happiness. Aristotle points out that the rightly framed laws command the virtuous acts and forbid the wicked ones. This form of justice is a complete virtue; therefore, justice is considered the best of virtues. Justice is complete virtue in the sense that one who owns the virtue applies the virtue towards others and to him (Aristotle, chapter1, para6). Justice is divided into distributive and rectification or corrective justice. Distributive justice entails the law of relations among people concerning their rights, positions, dominance, responsibilities, and rewards. In other words, if possessions are to be distributed, the percentage of the distributions must equal the ratio of the merits of the parties involved.
Corrective justice is concerned with personal dealings involving individuals. According to Aristotle, it is necessary to have balanced correspondence for practicing justice adequately. In this case, the person whose rights are violated has too little, whereas the person who is violating the rights of the other enjoys all the benefits. Justice is all about treating citizens equally. Identical cases should be treated comparably and distinct cases should be treated in straight proportion to the difference (Aristotle, chapter3-4) Aristotle asserts that just and unjust acts are determined by the voluntariness of people and if something is done involuntarily or unintentionally, it cannot be judged as just or unjust (Aristotle, chapter8, para1).
According to Aristotle, friendship is a virtue that is essential in everyone’s life. Friends make life meaningful. They work as the guardians of prosperity for the rich and are the sole refuge for people in distress and poverty. It keeps the young away from errors and helps the old by assisting them in their needs (Aristotle, chapter 1, para 1).
In Aristotle’s opinion, there are three types of friendships. The first type relates to a friendship that is rooted in utility. This is a shared type of friendship that stays alive merely because the ‘friends’ are benefitting reciprocally from each other; their love for each other is based on the criteria of advantages for themselves. The second type of friendship develops in search of pleasure. These two types of friends love each other since they find happiness in that friendship. The third type is considered the perfect friendship. This kind of friendship exists between people who are comparable in virtues. Friends of this sort are well-wishers of each other (Aristotle, chapter 3, Para 1-3).
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Aristotelian views are perceptible in modern societies concerning civic relationships. The modern society also believes in the conviction that people with virtue create a bond or civic relationship among themselves. Aristotelian view on the judgment of good is more like the contemporary prescriptive style (Faure, 2012).
Briand (1999) believes that a civil relationship exists between people of a civic community. The purpose of friendship is to provide happiness to others selflessly. It is necessary to create an environment where others can benefit from this relationship. In civic relationships, friends treat each other as ends and not means. Briand remarks that civic connections do not require intimacy and emotional attachment; however, public words and deeds towards our fellow citizens produce and maintain civic friendship and relations. In healthy civic relationships, there is no place for rivalry and competition. Instead, people share equal responsibility for solving problems and share the effects of collaboratively. In the same manner, civic relationships promote the idea of partnership where people work together and wish for the good of the combined venture in general. It reflects that people need to be accommodative and forbearing and focus on attaining the most out of their relationship for the benefit of their business.
Furthermore, mutual understanding allows people to follow a set pattern of actions that everyone concerned can relate to. It also decreases the chances of cherishing individual benefits and attempts to beat others of the same position for selfish gains. In civic relationships, partners will not force anything on each other to gain their objectives. Moreover, the absence of ideal solutions to different situations will make the people free from compromising their views. It would also restrict them to impose their opinions on others. Therefore, in a healthy civic relationship, there are collaborative efforts of people as a team that aims at ensuring the benefit of all members, prosperity in their careers and fulfillment in their lives (Briand, 1999).
The most important feature in modern ethics is trust among people working in an organization. Trust between the employer and the employee is suggestive of the quality performance and loyalty of the employee to the organization. Modern workplace ethics suggest that the relations between employees and employers involve features like “Credibility, Respect, Fairness, Pride and Camaraderie” (Identifying Best Places to Work: US and globally, 2014, para3).
Employees desire for a work place where they can trust their employees. Besides, employees want to feel proud of what they do. It is also essential that they enjoy the company of the people they work with. It has been observed that employees who trust their management perform 20% better and are 87% less likely to leave an organization. This situation leads to a decreased rate of fresh recruitments and low training costs and immense worth in retained tenure equity. Modern ethics emphasizes a healthy relationship between the employee and management. Therefore, it is important to see what the management wants from their employees to maintain a healthy relationship in the workplace. The manger desires for such workplace where he can achieve his organizational goals working with employees who are committed to performing their best and can be trusted for realizing the aim (Identifying Best Places to Work: the US and globally, 2014).
Given civic relationships, Aristotle’s ethics and the prevalent contemporary ethics share a common opinion. The notion that all work should be in the benefit of others as well as themselves belongs to both. For creating a congenial working atmosphere, it is important that good relationships be maintained at work place. The idea of individual growth with the common efforts of the community is represented by the joint efforts of other employees in the organization in modern times. Aristotle pointed out that in civic relationships, People need to show selflessness and work for the benefit of others as well as themselves. The similar notion prevails in the modern work environments where the employee works for the benefit of the organization as well as himself and the same applies to the employer. Modern workplace environment calls for the collaborative efforts of different groups working with a common purpose that would result in achieving the expected goal.
Aristotle thought that exercising virtues is a vital part of a good life. However, one also needs to have good health, a loving family, a satisfying career, and an open society. Aristotle views were supportive of civic relationships that consist of free and equal citizens under a legally defined system of law. The contemporary work environment also requires healthy relations among people, whether employees or employers. Their actions have a direct impact on each other and the organization as a whole. Aristotle’s views on civic relationship support the idea that all humans seek the well-being of themselves others in a civic community as a whole, In the same way, the contemporary working community also consists of different relationships that share common business ideas and common human needs.
Aristotle. The Nicomachean Ethics. Trans. David Ross. New York: Oxford University Press, 1980. Print.
Briand, Michael. Practical Politics: Five principles for a community that works. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1999. Print.
Faure, Murray, “Practical wisdom, virtue of character and friendship in Aristotle’s horizon of the human good”, Phronimon, 13.1 (2012): 1-36. Web.
Identifying Best Places to Work: US and globally 2014. Web.