The Good Life: Do Great Minds Think Alike? Essay

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What does it mean to live a good life? How does one go about it? What manner of persons should we be? Many philosophers, theologians, and laymen have ruminated on the subject and drawn their own conclusions. Is there only one right answer? Is there a right answer at all? Perhaps there is a fitting solution for all of us, or perhaps we must each devise our own path to the good life. Of the many individuals who have written on this subject, let us delve into the philosophies of three individuals: Aristotle, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Bertrand Russell. Perchance, within the theories of these three philosophers, a common ground may be discovered. More than twenty-three hundred years ago lived a man named Aristotle (384-322B.C.E.). He lived…show more content…
An ear is only good inasmuch as it hears well, since the proper function of the ear is to hear. Aristotle expands this notion of virtue to everything in the universe, including our selves. What is our proper function as human beings? He decided that as we must have a unique function from the rest of the animal kingdom, and only humans could reason, that our proper function is to be rational. Aristotle does not identify happiness with good fortune, but with excellence of virtue. (Haidt, 2006) He further defines the basic virtues as the mean of two extremes. The virtuous path is the midpoint between these two extremes. Either of the two extremes of a behavior could cause harm or unhappiness to an individual or others, but the mean of the two will build good character. For example, courage is a universally valued characteristic in an individual. However, there is such a thing as too much courage. If an individual is greatly outnumbered in a battle, pursuing the battle could likely lead to the death of him and all of his comrades. At the opposite end of the spectrum is cowardice. Too much cowardice leads to phobic behavior, and inaction, but a small amount of cowardice allows us to realize when a situation might not be safe. Finding the mean behavior and choosing to enact it is a character-building exercise. This character-building is a staple of Aristotle’s opinion of living a good life, and finding happiness. He holds that to live a good life, one must practice choosing

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