Weighing Character and Virtues

Posted by Winnie Melda on November 12th, 2018

1. What are two differences between how virtues are described by Aristotle versus how they are described in Buddhism?

Being a virtuous person and living right are important features for both Aristotle’s and Buddhist ethics.  They also differ in various ways.   The centrality of reason, Eudaimonia and the doctrine of the Mean are key concepts form the basis of Aristotelian ethics. On the other hand, the central role of mindfulness and compassion, meditation, and insight, interdependence of morality, karma, and nirvana form the basis Buddhist ethics.

Both Aristotle and the Buddha have in mind the want to provide their ‘disciples’ with a means to reach perfection.  The first difference arises in how each holds as what constitutes that perfection (Keown, 2007). For Aristotle, the main aim of his ethics of virtue is to offer guidelines for achieving fulfillment, or happiness or eudaimonia.  According to Aristotle, happiness is a result of the life lived in accordance with virtue. The condition depends on a person’s potential to act virtuously.

Buddha’s virtue is more radical that Aristotle’s. In contrast, Buddha virtues are aimed at providing his followers with a path to salvation. In the final state of liberation or Nirvana, one becomes fully enlightened (MacMillan, 2002). Thus, Buddha’s aim of virtues is to transform the ego or root out the ‘defilements’ through the realization of meditative disciplines and selflessness. The second difference can be seen in the differing metaphysical notions of alterity and ipseity.  Buddhist identity of self and oneness contrasts from the Aristotelian distinction between self and other.

2. What is one character trait that both Aristotle and Buddhism would describe as a moral virtue?

Both Aristotle and the Buddha arrived at very similar conclusions as to how individuals should conduct their lives if they wish to find fulfillment and happiness. They both put emphasis on will, or choice, or affective and cognitive aspects of effort as a trait that describes moral virtue. Aristotle’s moral judgment, Prohairesis, similarly involves the interplay of desire and reason. According to Aristotle, prohairesis is either reasonable desire or desireful reason. Both Aristotle and the Buddha show the importance of choice.

3. How do you believe your friendships can help (or hinder) you having a good character?

Friends influence a person’s character. Friends can affect how but what most people don't know is that this effect is far more powerful than they can imagine. Friends also influence decisions and alter how people view the world. Thus, it is possible for friends to influence individual’s perception and ultimately character (Keown, 2007).  For example, peer pressure impacts the choices that people make in life and how they act, either positively or negatively. Friends persuade the way people say, act or do. Thus, good friends persuade our day-to-day life. This is possible as Peoples’ character affect people around them.  This s way, friends can put pressure on others to do particular things good or bad. 

Additionally, friends shape the way a person through influencing their attitude towards certain behavior. It is not always clear, but spending more time with friends makes a difference to our moods and state of mind.  Friends affect our way of thinking, our self-esteem, and our decisions. While everyone is their own person, the outside environment has an effect on every individual. Individuals become the collective personality of those to whom they are closest. Mental levels, Spiritual levels, and interests may change, and in turn shape who they become.


Keown, D. (2007). Buddhism and Ecology: A virtue ethics approach 1. Contemporary Buddhism, 8(2), 97-112.

MacMillan, T. F. (2002). Virtue-based ethics: A comparison of Aristotelian-Thomistic and Buddhist approaches.

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Winnie Melda

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Winnie Melda
Joined: December 7th, 2017
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