As a rule, each philosopher is a unique personality whose view are exceptionally original and different from those of other philosophers, even thought they may belong to the same philosophical movement or discuss the same problems. Obviously the latter brings in certain degree of coherency in their works and often it possible to find some common features in the works of different philosophers, which, nonetheless, have their own particular shade of meaning, which makes the views of each philosopher to be still original and unique. In this respect the works of such outstanding philosophers as Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Immanuel Kant, and John Stuart Mill are particularly noteworthy and it is necessary to discuss them because they represent the views of philosophers not only from different countries but also from different epochs. In the analysis of their works, it is necessary to pay particular attention to their moral and ethical theories and their vies on feminism, or whatsoever it was at the time when they lived and work because it helps better understand not only their own positions but also the dominating moral, ethical and feminist views dominating in the society of that epoch.
On analyzing the works of all the four philosophers, it is necessary to pay a particular attention to the ancient Greek philosophy, which in terms of this paper would be presented by the works of Aristotle. It is important because the ancient Greek philosophy had a very significant influence on the further development of European and world philosophy, especially that of the Western world. Naturally, in such a situation the influence of Aristotle’s views can be hardly underestimated since his ideas may be easily found in works of different European and world philosophies which lived much later. Moreover, even nowadays his influence is still quite strong. For example, it is possible to find certain similarities between the views of Aristotle and another philosopher that lived in the Middle Ages, Thomas Aquinas, especially it concerns their moral views.
Obviously, Aristotle is not an absolutely unique ancient Greek philosopher that produced a significant impact of the world philosophy of the following epochs. Actually, it should be pointed out that other ancient Greek philosophers were very influential, such as Epicure whose ideas affected dramatically the views of Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill at list concerning the problem of morality. However, it does not make the views on morality of John Stuart Mill absolutely different from the views of Aristotle and Aquinas.
Naturally, it is impossible to realize all nuances of the basic theoretical views of all the four philosophers without discussing in details their basic theoretical concepts related to moral and ethical issues. Speaking about Aristotle and Aquinas, it is possible to estimate that their views on morality are similar. For instance, there may be easily found one concept similar to both Aristotle and Aquinas, according to which there is the idea of virtues of Aristotle and common good of Aquinas. In general their views, it should be said that they believe that personal happiness cannot be achieved only through individual pleasure and what is good for an individual is not really good if it is harmful for other members of the society.
Moreover, they even put the interest of the society higher than those of an individual that leads to the situation when an individual is moral or he acts right if he serves to the interests of other people rather than to his own interests. At the same time, it is necessary to say that there is a significant difference from Aristotle’s views, who believed that “morality is fixed in natural laws that can be rationally perceived by all” (Russel 1997, 248), Aquinas emphasised the role of divine laws, including moral ones, that are established in the society and shouldn’t be criticised.
In this respect, it is necessary to point out that natural laws are also important for Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill who tended to “equate moral goodness with some natural or metaphysical property” (Russel 1997,383) but unlike Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas the views of Kant are highly individualistic though Mill’s the utilitarian theory rather close to both philosophers discussed above. Notably Mill’s key points are: general happiness is the sole criterion of morality, and happiness is defined as pleasure; higher intellectual pleasures are more valuable than lower sensual ones; evaluating rules of conduct is more important for morality than individual actions; and the main thing people desire is general happiness.
In stark contrast, Immanuel Kant, on developing his Categorical Imperative, stands on an absolutely different ground in his views on morality. Notably, he believes that “humans are by nature egoistically motivated” (Russel 1997, 396). According to him each person is an isolated, atomistic individual, consequently his/her moral principles may different from those of other people and society at large.
On analysing the views of the four philosophers in the context of their feminist positions from the equitant viewpoint, it should be pointed out that basically they have different positions, which gradually evolve from discriminating to attempts to change the attitude to women in favour of equity of their rights to those of men. The latter position is more typical for later philosophers and is quite liberal, taking into consideration the epoch when the philosophers lived.
Speaking about each philosopher’s feminist views, it is necessary to underline that all of them were representatives of their epochs. For instance, Aristotle’s views, being quite conservative nowadays, are quite natural for his epoch. He basically states that everything in this world, including relations between people and those between men and women, is regulated and marshalled in interlocking hierarchies patterned after the structure of Greek society. In this respect, it worth noting that the place of women in ancient Greek society was obviously discriminated and secondary compared to the dominant position of men. Briefly speaking, Aristotle’s attitude to women was quite discriminating and not surprisingly that some specialists underline his repression of feminine.
It is noteworthy that the views of Thomas Aquinas were also traditionally defined as extremely misogynistic. However, on deeper analysis of his position from the contemporary point of view it is possible to estimate that Aquinas’s feminist position may be assessed as “a bold and intellectually rigorous feminist retrieval of a Catholic scholar seeking to remain in tradition, while demanding that the tradition live up to its emphasis on human equity and justice” (Russel 1997, p.377).
Nonetheless, this statement is still widely discussed, instead the position of John Stuart Mill is more concrete and less arguable. On analysing his feminist views, it is necessary to say that he stands on the ground that there are no significant differences between men and women, that they have, at least in theory, the same status as moral agents, and thus, according to him, the main ethical problem for feminists to address is how to claim the equal rights they are entitled to. Obviously this position is much closer to the contemporary views on the problem of feminism.
In such a context the more striking is the contrast of Mill’s position to the viewpoint of Kant who is characterised by extreme individualism. according to Immanuel Kant, “there are important natural differences in capacities and purposes distinguishing females from males” (Russel 1997, 399). It should be pointed out that his views on the problem of feminism are typical in the context of moral theory and his belief in significant individualistic difference between people that naturally implies certain inequality between them. In such interpretation, the difference and inequality, existing between men and women, seems to be quite natural.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that each philosopher had his own particular moral and ethical views and treated the problem of feminism in different way. On analysing their views, it is possible to conclude that from the contemporary point of view the position of John Stuart Mill are the most reasonable and persuading since they suggest natural equitant principles which are not discriminating in contrast to the views of other philosophers.
Aller, P. (1992). Philosophy in Culture and History. New York: New Publishers.
Russel, B. (1997). The Value of Philosophy. New York: Lynne Rienner Pub.
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