Ethics and virtue have long been an area where philosophy and religion often coincide. Often, philosophers live an academic life which in which their ideas are developed through abstract through and not practical application. It can be helpful to compare ethical theories to compose a paper, which clarifies ethical theories and puts different moral theories in the context of each other by applying them all to an identical character or moral situation. The 1966 film “A Man for All Seasons” is the story of Thomas More, a Roman Catholic bishop who lost his life for standing up to King Henry VIII on the grounds of his divorce. Depending on the moral standpoint this case is approach, More is a saint or a fool. In this essay More is viewed from the perspective of three distinct moral theories—Aristotle, Epictetus, and Saint Augustine.
Aristotle wanted everything to be in a careful balance. His ethical system is based upon this balance. The outcome he believed of adopting this balance in one's life is the attainment of happiness or “The Good Life,” a state of affairs that comes packaged with overall well-being. Friendship was one of the things that Aristotle believes was necessary to keep in a balance in order to achieve the Good Life, “Without friends, no one would want to live, even if he had all other goods.” Though some of his friends betray him, Thomas More is a good friend to those he cares about. Though some of his friends turn against him for political reasons, he is always gracious to them and considers his struggle as a way to instruct them further on the Catholic virtues. He Roper who tries to talk him out of his life he explains to him that he would not have a life if he betrayed his most inner virtue. Aristotle might have supported More since he witnessed Socrates also lose his life over his ideals. However, not being a Christian, Aristotle might have seen More’ Catholicism as not being in a proper balance since his clinging to his values and belief in God lead him to lose his life.
Epictetus was a Greek stoic philosophy born during the first century AD. He believed that fate was a great governor of an individual’s life. Yet he believed that all knowledge worth seeking was inner knowledge of oneself and while he believed that logic had it’s uses, believed that it was subordinate to the type of practical problem/solution reasoning he believed should be present in every day life. He writes in the second chapter of the first book of his discourses that “To the rational being only the irrational is unendurable, but the rational is endurable” (Epictetus, 1-2). One of the central concerns for Epictetus for a person to engage in in an understanding of a person’s lotus in control. He writes in his Discourses, “Yet God hath not only granted these faculties, by which we may bear every even without being depressed or broken by it, but like a good prince and a true father, hath placed their exercise above restraint, compulsion, or hindrance, and wholly out of our control” (Epictetus, 1-6).
A man who is able to figure out what he controls, does not try to do anything that outside of what he can do, so when he understands the options of his ability, he does not paint himself by trying to do the impossible. Sir Thomas More in “A Man For All Seasons” seem at every twist in a plot to know what he was still control of. Very last to lose, he realized that even if his bodily freedom could be taken from him that his virtues and values could not be taken from him and could not be compromised without his consent. These were things he knew could never be taken from him, even if his life were to be denied him. When there was a conflict between what he saw as his values and what the King would have him do. Sir Thomas More says Cromwell when he suggests that he is threatened with justice, “I am not threatened.” Though he is the most incarcerated man in the film, More is also the freest because he, at every point knows, what he is capable of doing and does not try to do more. Under Epictetus’s way of thinking, he was acting in accordance with reasons for his behavior.
Based on his philosophy set for in his intimate work “The Confessions” At. Augustine would have commended St. Thomas More in leading a “good life” in accordance with a healthy relationship with God and a surrendering to his will. Augustine believed that there was restlessness to souls. He did not believe that a soul could find peace until he rests in God. He writes of God, “Though awakes us to delight in Thy praise’ for Though made us for Thyself, and our heart is restless until it repose in Thee” (Augustine, 1). Augustine did not believe that outside a relationship with God it was possible to find the piece. So though if More had been focused on his relationship with the King instead of his relationship with God, he Augustine does not believe that he could have found happiness this way. He believed that happiness depended upon an individual’s personal relationship with God. No amount of power, prestige or treasure from the King could have changed that fact for More. He believed “the punishment of every disordered mine is its disorder” (Augustine, 1). So while More could have focused on appeasing the King, he would have had to put a disorder into his mind. More was appealing to the highest law he could, the law of God. He realized that he had two choices, he could put disorder into his mind and obey the King, in which case he would lose his eternal soul for choosing the law of man over the law of God. Instead, he chooses to disobey the law of man, lose his life and body, but preserve his eternal soul. For Augustine, More has made the right choice.
Saint Thomas More, though he lost his life was ain important thinker and theologian. He showed by example the importance of clinging to one’s values despite the political, social and personal risks that it should pose. Judging his actions from these three other thinker’s perceptive is instructive. It is not only an exploration of virtue and ethics, but an exploration of virtue and ethics in action, Since More lost his life over what he saw as the execution of his duties.
Aristotle. (2014). Nichomachean Ethics <http://socserv2.socsci.mcmaster.ca/econ/ugcm/3ll3/aristotle/Ethics.pdf>.
Epictetus. (2014). "The Internet Classics Archive | The Discourses by Epictetus." The Internet Classics Archive | The Discourses by Epictetus. <http://classics.mit.edu/Epictetus/discourses.1.one.html>.
Pusey, E. B. (2008). The Confessions of St. Augustine.,