The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, was influenced in his thinking by his conviction that all things and all human beings have a purpose- a telos. For humans, Aristotle maintained that the ultimate goal is human flourishing and developing those characteristics best suited to the realisation of a virtuous human being. His emphasis was not on what people do, but what kind of person they are- although being a kind person, for example, is essentially accomplished by practicing acts of kindness until the habit of being kind is firmly established in a person's character.
The nature of humanity
Aristotle thought that humans in many ways are like animals- they need food and air- but, more impotantly, they have the capacity for rational thought, for what he called contemplation- reasoning in a logical way about thos things that are not purely empirical. The purpose of man, he claimed, is rational thought and his highest good is to be found in intellectual virtue. however, he does still have to live practically in the world, and to this end he must also pursue moral virtues. Amonst these Aristotle included; courage, temperance, liberality and magnificence, greatness of soul, good temper, being agreeable in company, wittiness and modesty. Although these are practical virtues, Aristotle maintained that they are still under the control of the intelllect.
Aristotle believed that these virtues are the qualities that lead to a good life, a quality of happiness that he described as eudaimonia, which involves being happy and living well. It is intrinsic vaalue and not a means to an end, and should be desired for its own sake, not only for the individual but also for the society of which they are a member. A person who has developed the virtues will be able to act in an integrated way, deriving satisfaction from doing the right thing because it is the right thing, and not for external reasons or goals.
For Aristotle, the right way to act is the Golden Mean, it is discovered by the intellect and leads to genuine practical wisdom and moral virtue. The golden mean between cowardice and foolhardiness, for example, is courage, a virtue which man is not born with, but which he should cultivate in the way that he might cultivate good health or fitness. The good person should learn from virtuous role models, train and exercise this virtue, until it becomes an automatic way of living and behaving and part of his character which he can exercise without conscious effort or will.