Aristotle provides not only a point of contrast, but also an aspect of continuity in the history of ethics. He represents the ‘ancient’ view, but is a primary source and inspiration for mediaeval moral philosophy and its successors. Mediaeval philosophers, of whom Thomas Aquinas is the best known, interpret and develop Aristotle so as to form a position that justifiably regards itself as Aristotelian, but is no mere paraphrase of Aristotle. The task of separating the interpretation of Aristotle from the views of later expositors and defenders is less simple than it may appear. In discussing happiness, the virtues, and pleasure Aristotle continues Plato's inquiries. In the Republic, Plato does not explain or defend very fully the conception of happiness presupposed in his claim that justice promotes happiness. Aristotle undertakes this task in the Ethics. He offers an account of the concept of the highest good, formal criteria for the good, and an argument from these formal criteria to a specific conception of happiness, identified with the highest good.
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