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A Film Comparison: Aristotle and Schindler’s List

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  • Pages: 6
  • Word count: 1306
  • Category: Aristotle

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Judge: “Members of the jury, we are present today to decide the level of virtue possessed by Oskar Schindler during World War II. It will be up to you to take in the facts presented by both the State and the defense and make an informed and unbiased decision. Please take extra care not to allow the influences of other philosophers, such as Hobbes, Mill, and Kant, interfere with your decision as only Aristotle’s views shall be tolerated. We would like to thank you for your time and will begin the process by hearing an opening statement made by the defense.”

Ladies and gentleman, I would like to begin by thanking you for your presence and willingness to listen and learn as I present some background information on the esteemed and virtuous Oskar Schindler. I can personally assure you that he is nothing but virtuous, but don’t take my word for it as there is no need. I will present you with an abundance of support based on the views of none other than Aristotle himself. The idea of function and virtue are two of the staples that hold together his very idea of ethics.

It can be said that the other soldiers during the war succumb to many personal vices along the way. For example, take a look at Amon Goeth, a complete mess under such theories as the Doctrine of the Mean. As evidence by the early morning human hunting games he would play simply to amuse himself, Amon was certainly not good tempered and had an excess of anger. Temperance is another virtue clearly skewed by Amon. Considering all the wild parties, drunken nights, and need to keep Helen close by to feed his appetite for pleasure, it can certainly be said once again that an excess was present. The refusal to let Schindler’s Jews go at a low price and his unwillingness to truly admit his feelings of affection for Helen show a defect of liberality and courage respectively. Overall, though his initial impression gives off a sense of power it is plain to see that he is nothing short of a lowly human being lacking virtue.

Why do I point this all out you may find yourselves asking. Or perhaps, why is any of this relevant to a case on the virtue of Oskar Schindler? Well, ladies and gentleman, it is vital that you have somebody to compare Oskar with. You see, while Oskar may not have started out as a virtuous person, through experience and formation of habit he became one.

Admittedly, originally Oskar was seemingly out for himself and the money. He seemed to believe that his function in life was to become a fantastic businessman and build himself a fortune that could last a lifetime. Oskar, like many people in our own society, felt that being happy relied mainly on being rich. Since he was a little confused about his function it is easy to say that he was doing a poor job fulfilling it. It can also be said that because Oskar was blinded in his quest for wealth he was also suffering from a vice of excess when it came to liberality. Instead of attempting to put his money toward things that would help the community, in the beginning Oskar only invested in improvements to his company.

That was an Oskar of the past, one that the prosecution may try and base their entire case off of, but it is not the Oskar Schindler of today. While he may’ve been a little confused about how to pursue his function, it can not be said that he was completely off base. It is the belief of the defense that Oskar Schindler’s function was to make money and build a fortune, not so that he could financially support himself but so that he could one day help the Jews.

To take another step forward, it is also believed that his function was to rescue the Jews from inevitable death and he accomplished that by accumulating as much money as he did and using it to their benefit. If this is the case, then it appears that later in the story the haziness of fog he appeared to have been in disappears and he now completely understands his function. Knowing this, Oskar moves forward toward achieving it. The argument over how virtuous Oskar was is basically preposterous. He does several things Aristotle deems necessary. He not only works hard and does a standup job working at his function but he also begins to achieve the mean. These achievements arise through habits and over time.

Is there anything so virtuous as to give all of a life’s savings toward rescuing as many innocent victims of a cruel war as possible? Oskar Schindler learns how to put his money toward worthwhile causes instead of squandering it away in small self-indulgent of self-beneficial ways. He regulates the passion of liberality. This is not the only passion he comes to regulate however. When the war ends Oskar knows that being a German and friend with several Nazis he will soon become a wanted man. Knowing this and fearing capture he decides to run, but not before he makes sure that the Jews have what they need to await help’s arrival. Oskar seems to have a balance of fear and courage, reaching the mean of courage itself.

Good temper is a virtue Oskar seems to have from the beginning. He knows exactly when to expend energy on anger and when to let things slide. It can be said though that throughout his life he worked to further improve this anyway, through contemplation and forced habit. In the beginning when he is schmoozing with all the big names to get a foot inside the door and then applies the correct amount of pressure to get what he wants, Oskar knows what he’s doing. What’s most impressive and an even bigger demand of his efforts comes later on when Oskar goes to Auschwitz and demands to receive the people on his list. Here he refuses to take no for an answer and also to accept just any “shipment” of Jews, he wants the ones on his list. He clearly displays good temper.

At first Oskar needs to be pushed and coddled into accepting the Jews that need the most help from Stern, but eventually he comes to do it himself. Stern helps him through these activities, such as the acceptance of the one-armed man and the child, until Oskar himself begins accepting anybody he feels needs help, such as the woman’s parents. Try as he might to deny it, it has become second nature to him to go out of his way to help all people.

Ladies and gentleman, as you can clearly see by the examples just given there is no reasonable doubt that Oskar Schindler was a virtuous man, even when put up against the views of Aristotle. By way of coming to understand, correctly pursue and carry out his function, and learning how to improve his regulation of the passions to achieve moral virtue through contemplation and forced habituation, Oskar become the virtuous man many of us strive to be. We should not condemn him but accept him for the great things he’s done and perhaps even attempt to be a bit more like him. Thank you for your time. Once again, I trust that you no longer have any doubt as to the right answer for this case.

Judge: Thank you very much. As I find it hard to believe that the prosecution could immediately follow such an outstanding opening statement and still get through to our esteemed jury, we will now take a short recess. Please remember ladies and gentleman, that during this recess you are not allowed any influence by other philosophers or their works, as this is strictly an Aristotle-based case.

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