Aristotle’s Idea of Purpose & Eudaemonia

This is a quick note on Aristotle’s ideas on purpose:
  • He believed that something is good if it fulfils its purpose. For example, a plate is ‘good’ if it fulfils its purpose to serve food.
  • This is based on Aristotle’s ideas of causality.
  • As everything has a Final Cause, it is possible to determine what is ‘good’ by examining the organism’s apparent purpose.
  • The basis of the Roman Catholic morality is Natural Law which was put forward by Aquinas. Aquinas married that ideas of Aristotle to Christian Theology.
  • Aristotle spoke of eudaemonia, ‘greatest good’ or spiritual satisfaction. This good comes about through self-realisation and fulfilment of human potential.
  • The eudaemonia is achieved through exercising the virtues, which would not only seek pleasure but knowledge and spiritual satisfaction.
Personally, I think that these are good values to base an ethical theory on because they are logically. However, in the gist of mixing it with Christian theology I believe Aquinas lost the logical sense it made. This is because with Natural Law, there can be a lot of ‘hypocrisy’ e.g. it was OK for Mother Teresa to devote her life to the poor and not get married and have kids and people like her are exempt from the law but for an average person they must fulfil the law of getting married and having kids.

Situation Ethics

Here is a short video on situation ethics – below are some more detailed notes!

Situation Ethics – Notes
  •  Situation Ethics is a relativist theory of ethics. The only principle which is used when determining morality in this theory is ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’.


  •  ‘Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.’ 1 Corinthians 13. This quote is just one example of how the new Testament promotes this idea that love is the best way to respond to everything.


  • Fletcher, an American Theologian, promoted this idea of situation ethics in an influential book written in the 60s.


  • Situation works by first look at individual situations and applying general principles to them. The key in this type of ethics is love.


  • In other words, whatever situation we are faces with we should do the most loving thing.


  • But what is love? There are 4 different types according to the Greeks: PHILOS -friendship, STORGE -family love, EROS- erotic love and AGAPE – selfless love.


  • The reason why Fletcher believed in situation ethics and dismissed Natural Law is because he believed the individual concerned is more important than the action and every situation should be judged according to its own context.


  • Situation ethics is a branch of Christian ethics. The Christian God is personal one therefore Situation Ethics claims that morality too should be person-centered and as far as the conscious is concerned it is used to formulate the decision in each circumstance. Decisions are made situationally!


  • Situation ethics is mid way between 2 extremes: ANTINOMIANISM – no rules, principles etc. which is a recipe for moral disorder and LEGALISM- rule based moral systems where rules become more important than people.
  1. Nothing is good in it self except AGAPE
  2. Jesus and St Paul replaced the torah with AGAPE
  3. Love and justice are compatible
  4. Love wills the goods of thy neighbor
  5. Love is the end that is sought – agape is a consequentialist ethic
  6. Love’s decisions are made according to each individual context.
  • Dangers that we miss the big picture – immediate responses may not be the most loving thing in the long term.
  • It is not structured – there is no collective ethical framework.
  • Our emotions can cloud our judgement making it hard to see if we are acting out o f love.
  • What is the most loving thing to do for one person may not be the most loving thing for someone else.
  • Can human nature really allow us to act out of unselfish Christian love.

Examples of Whistleblowing

In this example I want to explore the different forms of whistle blowing. The first and one of the most famous is called the Watergate scandal.

Watergate Scandal ‘Deep Throat’

Watergate scandal refers to the capture of President Nixon’s fraud. Five men were arrested on June the 17th 1972 on the sixth floor of the Watergate hotel building in Washington inside the offices of the Democratic National Committee. The five burglars had $2,300, lock-picking equipment, a walkie talkie, radio scanner, two cameras 40 rolls of unused film, tear-gas guns and bugs. These men were working for the president. The was one of the schemes he used in order to get re-elected.This incident lead to him being the first ever US president to resign as he was not able to cover up the incident because someone with the pseudonym ‘Deep Throat’ whistle blew.Former FBI agent W.Mark helped two reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein uncover the truth.

The second famous example of whistle blowing is one of Erin Brockovich.

Erin Brockovich was again an American whistle blower. She came to work in a law firm called Masry & Vitiate as a file clerk. Here she discovered medical records which worried her. What she found is that countless number of people who lived around Hinkley in California from 1960s to 1980s had been severely damaged because of the exposure to the chemical Chromium VI. The chemical had leaked into the ground from the Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s compressor station. She started legal case against them in 1993 – another example of whistle blowing.

The last famous example I will discuss in this article is one of Dr David Kellywhich didn’t end as happily as the others.

In 2002 the government asked Dr David Kelly a scientist ti check the draft version of a dossier on Weapons of Mass Destruction in preparation for the invasion in Iraq in 2003. He was concerned about the statement that Iraq was capable of firing battlefield biological and chemical weapons within 45 minutes if receiving an order to do so. Subsequently he made journey to Iraq later on that year to inspect two mobile weapon laboratories. He discovered that the statement he was concerned about was actually false and he told a journalist from the Observer that ‘They are not germ warfare. You could not use them for making biological weapons’. In the following years as Kelly spread the word he was given a warning by the Ministry of defence and had to appear before two committees of the House of Commons. Sadly in 2003 when he was working in his home in Oxfordshire he went for a walk and was found dead. They say it was ‘suicide’ – he ‘swallowed 29 Co-proxamol tablets before cutting his left wrist with a knife’.

Whistle blowing in the news – October 2010