If you were to ask someone what their definition of a happy life would be, they would probably give you an answer like, “having fun.” This is completely untrue in Aristotle’s terms. According to Aristotle, for a man to lead a happy life he must learn each of the intellectual virtues, and practice each of the moral virtues throughout his life. These moral virtues are justice, courage, temperance, magnificence, magnanimity, liberality, gentleness, prudence, and wisdom. With so many virtues to constantly abide by, a man cannot know if he has led a happy life until his life is nearly finished. In the story “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” by Flannery O’ Connor, the question is
Aristotle and Plato both said that there are four "natural virtues": Justice, Prudence, Temperance, and Fortitude. These values are all necessary to achieve human flourishing. Another key part of Aristotle’s ethic is what he referred to as ‘The Golden Mean’. He believed that a virtue can not necessarily be viewed as a virtue when it is used in excess. For example, courage is a virtue, but in excess it becomes rashness, a vice rather than a virtue. Moreover, when there is a lack of a certain virtue, this is also considered a vice. Aristotle's ethic is based primarily on balance. There cannot be too much excess or too little of the virtue. Thus, he said: "The mean [i.e. the balance] is successful and commendable. Virtue then is a state of deliberate moral purpose consisting in a mean that is relative to ourselves, the mean being determined by reason, or as a prudent man would determine it.”
Only when these two aspects of the soul are engaged can one be closer to achieving happiness. Aristotle refutes elitist thinking by stating that all people have the capacity to reason within the soul. The good and bad characteristics in people come from the kinds of activities that they desire to undertake. Aristotle also generally defines the good life as simply doing what one wants to do, but happiness can only truly be achieved when one desires to do the correct things.
The three different ways of life according to Aristotle are the life of enjoyment/pleasure, the political life, and the contemplative life. The life of enjoyment/pleasure is a life that is purely devoted to pleasure, good, and happiness; when one lives as if they are a slave to sensual pleasure. Aristotle refers to the life of enjoyment as “completely slavish by choosing a life that belongs fatted cattle (Book I pg. 4)”, meaning this way of life does not correspond or consist of the rational nature in which each individual hold. Political life is a life that honor is used to convince one that their life is good and correlates to our rational nature. However, this life, like the life of enjoyment, is dependent on other people. Aristotle states, “for it seems to be in the ones who give honor rather than in the one who is honored. (Book I pg. 4)” In this way of life honor is a virtue, but it is a virtue that anyone can possess but be unfortunate or not good. Since both the life of enjoyment and the political life depend on someone else, Aristotle concludes the contemplative life is the highest or best way of life. This is because contemplative life on the basis means a life of true happiness and can possibly dodge difficulties. With the contemplative life, one is more than capable of engaging or
The concept of living “the good life” means something different for everyone. There is a general understanding that living “the good life” is associated with unyielding happiness and lasting satisfaction. The exact meaning of this desired life was pondered by thinkers and philosophers for hundreds of years. They constructed principals of behavior, thought, and obligation that would categorize a person as “good”. Although some of these ancient philosophies about “the good life” had overlapping ideas, their concepts varied widely. This contrast of ideas can be examined through two major characters in two famous works: Aeneas in “The Aeneid” and Socrates in “The Apology”. Aeneas exemplifies the philosophy that the direct route to “the good life" is through faith, trust in the Gods, and family, while Socrates in “The Apology” emphasizes free will, and vast knowledge of life.
Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, at an absolute basic sense, aims at the title of this course: the good life. In an age where philosophy and ethics were not largely developed, Aristotle aims to provide a universal standard for human flourishing and happiness, or the good life. His main argument is that all of our actions and goals are aiming towards human flourishment, but that each action falls into a range of virtues, where excess is one extreme and deficiency is the other extreme. The virtue that we all strive for, he states, is in the middle of these. For example, temperance is a universal human virtue, with pleasures and pains as the excess and deficiency. He states that virtues can be developed and learned over time and through practice,
Socrates' belief was that he was called on by the Gods to live his life examining others and himself. He believed the necessity of doing what one thinks is right even in the face of universal opposition, and the need to pursue knowledge even when opposed. "I became completely convinced, to the duty of leading the philosophical life by examining myself and others."¹ Socrates believed that to desert this idea was ridiculous and would make his life absurd. Socrates chose to live a life of truth and not to worry about things that did not matter. For Socrates not to live his life by the plans and requests of Gods it would be disobedient and untrue to the Gods. Socrates was brought to court to defend
This was Aristotle’s theory of the Golden Mean.”(Pacquette 268) Aristotle thought that true happiness could only happen when people live a balanced life, Plato also agreed. “The ethics of both Plato and Aristotle contain echoes of Greek medicine: only by exercising balance and temperance will achieve a happy or ‘harmonious’ life.” (Gaarder 115) Both Plato and Aristotle agreed that a balanced life is a good life, and that with reason people will make morally good choices but Aristotle believed that this did not come naturally. He felt that “moral virtue is the result of habit and training. Because if this, he believed that people can be taught to be virtuous. He said that people must know- the deliberately choose to do- what is good.”(Pacquette 269) Aristotle and Plato had very similar views on ethics due to both living in the same era in ancient Greece.
Aristotle’s thoughts on ethics conclude that all humans must have a purpose in life in order to be happy. I believe that some of the basics of his ideas still hold true today. This essay points out some of those ideas.
He believed that there should be a goal, a purpose for a person actions. Without purpose, actions become meaningless. That is the case for wealth acquisition. If someone’s only goal is obtaining money, then they will never be satisfied, and their desires will drive them, leading to an unsatisfied existence. To Aristotle, living well allowed for fulfillment of purpose, self-sufficiency, and freedom from the restrictions that daily necessities put on humankind.
Aristotle believes that there are two kinds of virtue, one being intellectual and the other being moral virtue. He states that Intellectual virtue comes from being taught meaning we’re not born with it. Moral virtue on the other hand we develop as we grow and gain an understanding of life. “The stone which by nature moves downwards cannot be habituated to move upwards, not even if one tries to train it by throwing it up ten thousand times” (N.E. II.1) Right there he is talking about how if you are designed to do one thing, it is impossible to do the opposite no matter how hard you force it. He talks about how we gain our virtues by practicing them and using them on a regular basis. That is how we learn
Perhaps now I need to introduce one of Aristotle’s suppositions: “living well and doing well are the same as being happy” (1.4.1095a19). But what does it mean to live well? A good example is that of the harpist. If the function of a harpist is to play the harp, then the function of a good harpist is to play the harp well (1.7.1098a9-12). It is this “superior achievement (of the function) that expresses virtue”(1.7.1098a10). When we apply this example to human beings it can be seen that the good human’s function to do well is completed “when its completion expresses the proper virtue”(1.7.1098a14-15). We have already determined that “the human function is the soul’s activity that expresses reason” (1.7.1098a8), since the human function is reason and “we must take [a human being’s special function to be] life as activity”
Aristotle is one of the greatest thinkers in the history of western philosophy, and is most notably known for expressing his view of happiness in Nicomachean Ethics. Aristotle develops a theory of how to live the good life and reach eudaimonia (happiness). Eudaimonia has been translated into, living a happy and virtuous life. Aristotle’s definition of the good life as the happy life, consist of balancing virtues (arête), the mean, external goods, political science, and voluntary action.
Contrary to popular belief, Aristotle is the father of modern psychology and took a very early crack at helping folks achieve happiness. In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle attempted to define the good life- a term that had a very different meaning then. Aristotle believed that happiness was determined by a person's understanding of virtue and how closely their behaviors mirrored those virtues. Good action, if practiced enough, turned into good habits which led to a good life - even in suffering.