Aristotle: The Pursuit of Happiness

1358 Words 6 Pages
Aristotle and Plato both are both well known for their focus on defining the purpose of being human. To them, humans have a particular characteristic that no other living thing possesses. That characteristic is that humans strive to achieve a level of goodness. Although they agree with each other that there is a highest good one must achieve in order to live a fulfilling life, they have different ideas on what that good is.
On Aristotle’s search to find the highest good of a human being, he first asked what the ergon, or task, of being human is. His main focus was mostly on what the purpose or goal of human existence should be. Aristotle said that everyone is trying to reach happiness, whether it is by having money, love, or being
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Not only did he find that humans are the only living organism with a rational soul, he also discovered that we were the only ones to obtain all of the other parts of the soul; “the nutritive soul which is in control of growth and development, the locomotive soul for motion, and the perceptive soul for perception.” Aristotle found that the good of being human is achieved by using reason well. He said that “what gives us the potential to live a better life is our ability to guide ourselves by using reason” (Shields). Having defined this concept of reasoning, Aristotle continued on his search for happiness. If we live well by using reason, then consistently doing activities that require reason is what makes us happy. According to W.D. Ross, who translated and interpreted Aristotle’s work, Aristotle claimed that everything we do, we do for a reason. For example, we go to school to get an education and we get an education to get a job. We get a job to get money, and so on. So, what Aristotle meant when he said our happiness is determined by how well we have lived to be our best being is that everything we end up doing after an achievement lets us reach a new level of happiness. Therefore, the highest good, the highest happiness, is the activity that we reach at the end of our lives. It is the “lifelong activities that activate the