Aristotle and Happiness

In this essay I will begin by introducing the definition of Eudaimonia. First, I will go into a more descriptive way in which Aristotle portrays happiness as Eudaimonia. Then, I will explain the role of the Golden Mean and the role of virtue for Aristotle leading to the next topic which will tie in human nature with Eudaimonia. Finally, I will give a bit of insight on the comparison between Epicurus and happiness with Aristotle and happiness. Eudaimonia has Greek origin and means having good inner spirit, being in a state of happiness and having good health as well as prosperity. When we talk about Eudaimonia in a literal sense, it simply means to have positive spirit. To sum up Eudaimonia, it is an objective state which then describes a thriving life that is being lived no matter what emotional state a person might be in. Eudaimonia results from living a life that is happy overall. Aristotle states that almost everyone should come to agreement that happiness is the end result of your life.

It is like all other things are for the purpose of making oneself obtain happiness. Shau writes, Aristotle’s reasoning is based on the rational assumption that the end is of more value than the activity itself. (Shau) For Aristotle, happiness is the result or end goal that embodies a person’s life as a whole. It is not something like pleasure, that can be obtained or lost in little time. It is the underlying value that your life entails up to now that measures how much you have lived up to your complete potential as a human being. Because of this we cannot make a conclusion that the life we have lived has been a happy one until it is ultimately over. Aristotle links the concepts of happiness and virtue. What Aristotle calls complete virtue is having good moral character. As Melchert says Aristotle wants to distinguish being happy from just feeling happy. (Melchert, 185) In his eyes this is the most important factor in achieving happiness. A person has to act in unity with virtue because virtue is not a passive state.

You cannot be virtuous in only some ways, but you must want to encompass all virtues. Happiness entails the act of achieving throughout your life things such as wealth, friends, knowledge, and health that lead to fulfillment of human nature and enrichment and these types of things lead us to make some tough decisions. Things that give us more temptation and could result in immediate pleasure, don’t end up being things that add long term effects to one’s life but are only temporary. On the other hand, things that seem like they might not be good at first sight, are the things that lead us to sacrifice and go through some struggles for but in the end give meaning to one’s life. For example, I much rather would have liked to be watching television until late at night last Sunday but instead I chose to go to sleep at eight pm because I knew I would benefit from having more sleep to take my test Monday morning. The end result in this would be getting a better grade which is a long-term effect on my life.

Aristotle would critique the culture known as instant gratification because for us to attain the life of complete virtue, we have to make the right choices and lookout for the future. We will not become satisfied by the temporary pleasures that life can give us and this fact is hard for many people to come to terms with and overcome. Aristotle brings up the concept of weakness of the will or, as he calls it, akrasia. Pleasure can blind you from what is truly good, but it is something that can be overcome by training which for Aristotle was education and the practice and perfection of virtue. Developing a good character forces, you to put in a lot of effort into doing the right thing, even when you are faced with difficult situations and decisions. Now this does not mean that by just the thought of doing something for the right reasons or having the intent to do the right thing you will achieve this.

You have to do the right thing. By doing something right, we are exhibiting our rational potential, and this then leads to fulfillment. In exercising out latent virtue, we could come up with a plan for life that would bring all these ways of fulfilling one’s happiness together. Aristotle’s doctrine of virtue is the golden mean between little and excessive feeling of all our emotions. This can be seen through justice. Justice is receiving too much or giving too little and benevolence is when a person gives nothing at all or giving more than you should to those who aren’t deserving. Aristotle does not think you should be restrained with all things because to him a person should always be in practice of the virtues. Aristotle’s doctrine of the mean is good at keeping the ways of the past relevant in terms of justice being an equilibrium between forces that oppose each other.

If you demonstrate too much passion it could lead to frustration and acts of violence that could be hurtful to the well-being of a person as well as others. Not demonstrating any passion results in the act of being dull and possibly antisocial. People who are born as very passionate human beings will have a different mean than people that are not passionate in nature. Goodness of character to Aristotle is an established condition of the soul. For Aristotle to explain Eudaimonia and happiness he draws from biology. There are four things that exist in the world, those things being mineral, vegetative, animal and human. They all have different purposes. Minerals are things that have no life and the sole purpose for them is to be at rest. They have no soul being they are inanimate objects. Things that are vegetative include plants and wildlife and we see living things come from this.

Plants do have souls because they look for growth and to be nourished and once, they attain a goal they can even be considered satisfied. Animals are what belong to the animal kingdom and bring about a new way of life. Animals look for ways to reproduce as well as pleasure. Lastly when we talk about humans, Aristotle separates us from the rest because we can reason. Humans are the only ones with the ability to understand principles and use responsibility to act accordingly. With reason we are able to solve problems and meet our ends. The capacity of a human is different from that of an animal because we are able to rationalize and having this capacity is what perfects our natures. This illustrates that human happiness cannot come from only pleasure because animals look for pleasure, but our capacity is much farther than that of an animal.

The purpose is that we are able to understand that pleasure we want, or in other words physical urges, and use them in the appropriate manner. When we compare Aristotle and Epicurus there lies similarities as well as differences when it comes to the topic of happiness. In the eyes of Epicurus, he believes that happiness is pleasure. Everything that is done by human beings is done so that one can feel pleasant. He also believes that happiness is not something that is achieved on ones own but rather can also be achieved within a society where people who have the same mindset can come together to influence each other’s happiness. Epicurus believes that people have worries over the gods punishing them and we should be in fear of death, but this all comes from false beliefs that produce unnecessary pain. There are also different types of desires.

Necessary desires help to give you happiness, the types of desires such as not feeling pain. Unnecessary desires do not produce happiness, such as wanting more of materialistic things. The goal is not just to experience pleasure but to rid of having to experience pain, which Epicurus calls ataraxia meaning the freedom from having to worry. As seen, Epicurus and Aristotle have some similarities. Pleasure is a huge factor to Aristotle when it comes to happiness being achieved but in a different way. For Aristotle, pleasure is not the sole reason for being happy nor is it the only way you will achieve happiness but rather the way you control, use, and receive pleasure all have to be considered in an appropriate manner that would then lead you to experience the right happiness. Aristotle thinks you have the ability to reason and control your life on your own, but Epicurus believes you can do that within a society and inspire one another’s happiness through others as well as yourself. This portrays that they can’t have the same lifestyle.

Aristotle believes they have the capacity to judge when pleasure is appropriate versus Epicures who thinks a being lives for pleasure and that pleasure is what results in happiness. Another difference between Aristotle and Epicurus and that Epicurus does not focus much on the morality of a human being whereas Aristotle believes that the moral value a person has is one of the main factors to achieving happiness. Aristotle also focuses a lot more on doing the right thing in certain situations whereas Epicurus focuses more on wanting to take away worries rather than considering a worry that would come up and what type of action you should take to make something morally right or wrong.

Nonetheless, Aristotle understands that we have weakness and we have different types of desires but believes we have the ability to rationalize and come to terms with those desires and weaknesses if we choose to. In conclusion, Aristotle is a person who views happiness as something that is within a person’s full control and which should follow the natural ways of nature. You have to be a human being who cares about the virtues of life and makes good choices. You have to be able to make decisions when it comes to contemplation and be able to overcome it. Happiness is almost like a summary of ones life and coming to terms with the end result of your life as a whole.

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Aristotle and Happiness. (2019, Jul 03). Retrieved December 7, 2021 , from
https://studydriver.com/aristotle-and-happiness/

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