Aristotle Ethics Of Happiness Philosophy Essay
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Published: 23rd March, 2015 Last Edited: 23rd March, 2015
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True freedom consisted in ruling and being ruled in turn according to the agreed-on laws of the community. Humans have the free right and ability to distinguish good from evil and right from wrong. Aristotle observed that men in public life outside the home obtained by the dangerous disorder caused by the desire for power was disastrous. The inevitable will for power caused many disagreements which later ended up in war. Only free men were allowed to obtain political status
. Women, children and slaves were given very little or no political power.
In Ethics, Aristotle argues the highest end is the human good, and claims that the highest end pursued in action is happiness. Aristotle also claims that happiness is achieved only by living a virtuous life - "our definition is in harmony with those who say that happiness is virtue, or a particular virtue; because an activity in accordance with virtue implies virtue. Indeed, we may go further and assert that anyone who does not delight in fine actions is not even a good man.
I cannot conclude without mentioning of his contributions to philosophy. According to Aristotle’s theory, philosophy is the foundation for understanding the axioms that constitute knowledge. He stated that logic is a universal means of reasoning. He asserts that for one to think logically, he must employ syllogism, which is composed of two premises leading a conclusion. Apart from providing a system of reasoning, Aristotle also touched on ethics. He agrees with his mentor, Plato, on the fact that the goodness of a person is derived from
the ability to achieve the highest potential. Most of his theories were drawn from his lecture notes to his students
"(Aristotle) The virtuous life is full of reasoning for the good. Good is complete and most choice worthy. It is the human good in life that expresses virtue.
Happiness is an essential aspect of Aristotle's philosophy because for him it was an activity of the soul which attained at a high level of excellence refined over the span of a complete life that accords with virtue. The concept of virtue for Aristotle was anything that makes something good.
Aristotle agreed with Plato that the cosmos is rationally designed and that philosophy can come to know absolute truths by studying universal forms. Their ideas diverged, however, in that Aristotle thought that the one finds the universal in particular things, while Plato believed the universal exists apart from particular things, and that material things are only a shadow of true reality, which exists in the realm of ideas and forms. The fundamental difference between the two
philosophers is that Plato thought only pure mathematical reasoning was necessary, and therefore focused on metaphysics and mathemtics. Aristotle, on the other hand, thought that in addition to this "first philosophy," it is also necessary to undertake detailed empirical investigations of nature, and thus to study what he called "second philosophy," which includes such subjects as physics
, mechanics and biology. Aristotle's philosophy therefore involved both inductive and deductive reasoning, observing the workings of the world around him and then reasoning from the particular to a knowledge of essences and universal laws. In a sense, Aristotle was the first major proponent of the modern scientific method. The Lyceum was an unprecedented school of organized scientific
inquiry. There was no comparable scientific enterprise for over 2,000 years after the founding of the Lyceum.
The good is the result of what someone rationally aims for. If someone performs a job or a task that it is meant to be done and does it well, then it has good virtue. It is specifically the ability to use reason that sets humans apart from the other mammals and creatures.
Aristotle was a Greek Philosopher and a very educated man. He was a pupil of Plato's and was the founder of the Lyceum. His view on all subjects was teleological. He recognized purposes apart from and greater then the will of the individual human being. He gained much of his wisdom and knowledge through his experiences and observations.
According to Aristotle, human virtue means virtue of the soul and not the body, just like human happiness means happiness of the soul. Virtue of humans also will be the state of character which makes them good and which makes them do their own work well.
After leaving the Academy, Aristotle was invited to go live in the court of his friend Hermeas, ruler of Atarneus and Assos in Mysia. Aristotle remained there for three years, during which time he married Pythias, the niece and adopted daughter of the king. Later in life Aristotle married Herpyllis, with whom had a son, named Nicomachus after his
father. When Hermeas' kingdom was taken over by Persians, Aristotle moved to Mytilene. King Amyntas invited Aristotle to tutor his thirteen-year old son, Alexander. Aristotle tutored Alexander for five years until King Amyntas died and Alexander came to power. In gratitude for Aristotle's services, Alexander provided Aristotle generously with means for the acquisition of books and for the pursuit of scientific inquiry. While the extent to which Aristotle's tutoring influenced Alexander's successes in conquering an empire is disputable, Alexander did try to organize much of his
empire along the model of the Greek city-state.
It is a state of character concerned with choice, lying in a mean relative to us. Such a mean is determined by a rational principles and reasoning, and it is by reasoning that a wise human will determine it.
Happiness in general terms is a belief, an idea and a theory. Just like other theories, beliefs, and ideas may have fallacies, the theory of happiness might too.
When Aristotle was seventeen, Proxenus sent him to study at Plato's Academy in Athens, the heart of the intellectual world at the time. Aristotle remained at the Academy for twenty years, until Plato's death in 347 BC. Although Aristotle was Plato's most promising student
, Aristotle did not succeed Plato as head of the Academy because of
their opposing views on several fundamental philosophical issues, specifically regarding Plato's theory of ideas
. As has already been noted, Aristotle was more concerned than Plato with the actual material world, and did not believe that the only thing that mattered is the realm of ideas and perfect forms.
According to Aristotle happiness is an end, an end result of all the things a person does. Most of our acts are committed for a reason to achieve something else, but happiness is different. Aristotle believes that searching for happiness is for being happy only and not for something else.
It is said that Aristotle wrote over 150 philosophical treaties in different subject ranging from physics to biology to politics to morals. He formulated many beliefs concerning the essence of being. He emphasized the importance of nature, and impressed upon his student to study the
natural phenomena. He often believed that knowledge could be acquired through interaction with physical objects. However, he affirms that our understanding of the physical objects is based on our personal associations and interpretation. For instance, in teaching science he insisted that every idea must be supported by
evidential explanation based on actual and tangible facts. Though a student of Plato
, he sharply disagreed with Plato’s thoughts on various matters including nature and the art of science. In politics
, he maintained a stand that all humans are naturally political, and this inherent trait is evident when people participate in civic affairs.
A happy man is the man that thinks he has everything he really needs. He has those virtues in which he needs to realize his potentials. Once realizing his potentials heââ‚¬â„¢s able to achieve happiness. Thatââ‚¬Ëœs why Aristotle said that the happy man wants nothing more.
Aristotle was born in 384 BC, in Stagira, near Macedonia at the northern end of the Aegean Sea. His father, Nicomachus, was the family physician of King Amyntas of Macedonia. It is believed that Aristotle's ancestors had been the physicians of the
Macedonian royal family for several generations. Having come from a long line of physicians, Aristotle received training and education that inclined his mind toward the study of natural phenomena. This education had long-lasting influences, and was probably the root cause of his less idealistic stand on philosophy as opposed to Plato. Aristotle's father died when he
was a boy, and Aristotle was left under the care of his guardian Proxenus.
Happiness is sought-after in itself and never for the sake of something else. Happiness meets Aristotle's criteria for completeness viz. "An end pursued in itself, we say, is more complete than an end pursued because of something else." (Aristotle) Happiness, according to him is just as self-sufficient as good, because both make life choice worthy. Apart from being chosen for themselves honor, pleasure and wealth, are also chosen for the sake of happiness, judging that by means of them we shall be happy. Desires compiled of wealth, honor, and power are good but, they do not lead to happiness because they are superficial. Happiness, on the other hand, is not chosen or searched for, for the sake of these, or, for anything other than itself.
Aristotle's writings were preserved by his student Theophrastus, his successor as leader of the Peripatetic School. Theophrastus' pupil Neleus and his heirs concealed the books in a vault to protect them from theft, but they were damaged by dampness, moths and worms. The books were found around 100 BC by Apellicon, who brought them to Rome. In Rome, scholars took interest in the works and prepared new editions of them. The writings of Aristotle that we have today are based on this collection. Overall, Aristotle wrote three types of works: dialogues or other works of a popular character, collections of scientific data and observations, and systematic treatises. His philosophy can be divided into four main areas: 1) Logic; 2) Theoretical Philosophy, including Metaphysics, Physics and
Mathematics; 3) Practical Philosophy, such as Ethics and Politics
; and 4) Poetical Philosophy, covering the study of poetry and the fine arts.
Happiness is something final and self-sufficient.
This leads Aristotle to his definition of the happy life as a life made perfect by the possession of all good things such as health, wealth, friendship, knowledge, virtue - all these are constituent parts of happiness. Happiness is the whole good of which they are component parts.
When we hear a mention of the ancient Islamic philosophy or Christian scholasticism, what comes in our mind is the man Aristotle. Even though there have numerous intellectual revolutions, the western thinking is still clouded with Aristotle’s concepts
. So, who is this man, Aristotle? Well, this paper explores a brief biography of his life and works.
That is how happiness is related to all other goods. For the question as to why do we want to be healthy, one could answer by saying ââ‚¬" because by being healthy would enable us to do the different kind of work we want to do. If then asked, why do you want to do that kind of work, the crucial answer would be - because you wanted to be happy.
In 335 BC Aristotle went back to Athens, where he found the Academy flourishing under Xenocrates. Aristotle founded his own school, the Lyceum, and ran it for twelve years. The school is often called the Peripatetic School, because Aristotle used to like walking around and discusses his ideas with his colleagues. Peripatetics are "people who walk around." Aristotle would have detailed discussions with a small group of advanced students in the
mornings, and larger lectures in the evenings. During his time at the Lyceum, Aristotle wrote extensively on a wide range of subjects: politics
, metaphysics, ethics, logic and science.
Now that if you were asked, why did you want to become or be happy, the only answer would be - because you wanted to become and be happy.
There is an argument as to what constitutes happiness. Is it pleasure, honor, health, wealth, knowledge or something else? Aristotle clarifies that happiness is not found in living for pleasure because such a life is slavish.
Born in Chalcidice peninsula of Macedonia, in Northern Greece to a court physician by the name Nichomachus, one can be tempted to think that Aristotle’s life would be considerably influenced by Macedonian court. However, after the death of the father he went to
Athens where he became a student of Plato
. At that time, Athens was considered as the world’s academic center
. He attended Plato’s school for a period of twenty years and later became a tutor of Alexander the Great. He later founded his own school, Lyceum in Athens, where he spent the rest of his life studying writing, and teaching. Less is known about his social life
, but it is documented that he was briefly married to Hermeas, who was taken over by Persians. He later died in 322 BCE, at the age of 63.
Nor is it found in seeking honor because honor depends not on the person but on what others think of him. In addition, Aristotle holds that the happiness of a human can be defined by determining the function proper to the human soul.
Aristotle wrote on a multitude of topics including metaphysics, biology, psychology, logic, and physics. While earlier and contemporary philosophers are believed to have influenced Aristotle's views, he is credited with systematizing entire fields of ideas and with providing the methodology for future philosophic and scientific studies
This function cannot be one that plants and animals also perform, because it must be particular to human beings. Therefore, the function must be a part of the practical life of the rational part of a human, the term practical implying determined conduct, which is possible only for rational beings.
Born in the Ionian colony of Stagira in Macedonia, Aristotle lost his parents at an early age. Little is known about them, but scholars have recorded that his father, Nicomachus, served as the court physician to the King of Macedon. When Aristotle was seventeen, his guardian sent him to study in Athens, under Plato. Aristotle spent twenty years at the Academy and left after
Plato's death in 347 B.C. After a period of travel, Aristotle married Pythias, with whom he had a daughter and probably a son, Nicomachus
. In 342, Aristotle was appointed tutor to Philip II's thirteen-year-old son, Alexander (later known as Alexander the Great). After remaining in the Macedonian court at Pella for some time, Aristotle probably retired to Stagira in 340, when Alexander became his father's regent
. Not long after, in 335, Aristotle returned to Athens and founded a school, the Lyceum. Here, Aristotle lectured, conducted research, and established a library. Upon Alexander's death in 323, the anti-Macedonian party grew strong in Athens. Some of its officials charged him with impiety and prosecuted him. Following this incident, Aristotle left the directorship of his school to Theophrastus and departed Athens for the last time. He retired to Chalcis and died in the next year, 322.
It follows, then, that happiness consists in the action of the rational part of a human. The ultimate good of a human should naturally flow from performing his function well. To constitute true happiness this action must persist with continuity throughout a lifetime. Aristotle's argument can be considered flawed when he suggests only human beings with full use of reason can be considered happy because happiness comes by reasoning. Aristotle argues that what sets humans apart from animals are reason and the ability to perform actions that only humans can perform. Children are human, but until a certain age they cannot reason or perform actions. Though they are not animals but their reasoning capability is similar to animals. A child may be happy at any age and hence Aristotle cannot say that happiness is only for humans as they can reason. Animals can be happy, even if they lack reasoning. This level of happiness might not be familiar to humans, but it doesn't mean that they cannot be happy.
In 323 BC Alexander the Great died unexpectedly and the government of Athens was overthrown by anti-Macedonian forces. Having had close connections with the Macedonian royal family, Aristotle was associated with the Macedonians and was unpopular with the new ruling powers. The new government brought charges of impiety against Aristotle
, but he fled to his country house in Chalcis in Euboea to escape prosecution. Aristotle commented that he fled so that "the Athenians might not have another opportunity of sinning against philosophy as they had already done in the person of Socrates
." About a year later, Aristotle died after complaints of a stomach illness.
There is another point in Aristotle's argument that can be faulty. Aristotle's search for the good is a search for the highest good. He assumes that the highest good, whatever it turns out to be, has three characteristics - it is desirable for itself, it is not desirable for the sake of some other good, and all other goods are desirable for its sake. But someone can attain happiness by having other goods. In other words, can't a particular individual reach happiness through wealth, power, and honor? If that same individual has those things taken away, he is not happy. Those other goods are what help that individual reach Aristotle's highest end. As without them happiness becomes reliant on those other goods in order for that individual to reach happiness, so happiness in some sense does depend on other goods.
Can virtues and pleasures change man's definition of Happiness? It can be decided on that virtues, and pleasures bring happiness because happiness is an end result of these things.
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But situations can change your definitions of what virtues and pleasures bring you happiness. Thus stating that happiness can not only be attained by having some virtues and pleasures, you must have possessions of all virtues and pleasure to be truly happy and stay that way. However does that imply that you lack some virtues and pleasures, and that you can never be truly happy. For example - a poor or sick man can never be truly happy. Can anyone ever be happy? According to Aristotle they can be happy and lead a happy life. If a man adheres to virtues and pleasures then there should be no reason for him not to be able to attain happiness. Aristotle also makes a point about having moral virtues - not lying, not taking a personââ‚¬â„¢s life, and other morally right things. Being morally virtuous is a way to living a happy life. By not stealing, or killing, or lying one can be content in knowing he or she is good therefore bringing happiness.
But can moral, truth build the absolute definition of good; can some lead a good life without lying in the world? If you are to be put in a situation where you must lie to help or save someone, would you be able to find that happiness even though you are not morally virtuous? If this is possible then is disproves Aristotle's belief that you always must be morally virtuous to be happy. These situations can always arise and if one moral virtue is chosen over another does that mean that you will not be able to be happy with the outcome. If you do not need moral virtues, then what is it that is needed to be happy? There are certain traits and virtues which are necessary in today's world in order to ensure a happy life. Traits such as conformity, patience, self content, self assurance, as well as virtues such as justice and temperance are key elements in attaining happiness. If one does not learn to accept himself, reality, then how can he ever truly be happy with his life? We must be morally virtuous, but it cannot constitute our lives. Having a good character consists in nothing more than being willing to suffer some immediate pains or willing to give up some immediate pleasures for the sake of obtaining a greater good later on. It consists in nothing more than making the right choices. The right choices are always those that determine on, what is good in the long run. They are hard to make. But if we do not make them, we are likely to have some fun from day to day for a while, and in the long run ruin our lives. In the process of building our lives, Aristotle says we keep our eye on the future, and on the result we want to achieve for our life as a whole, counting all the days to come. What he teaches us is that we cannot become happy by living for the pleasures of the moment. We often have to choose between having a good time and leading a good life. And this is something, Aristotle says, most men often do not do. In this sense Aristotle's theory can be credible. Happiness can be attained if a person leads a good life. The term a good life may be interpreted in many different ways, but ultimately a good life must be lead. Then and only then is happiness attained. Happiness cannot be seen as an immediate result, for all that would amount to be is a momentary pleasure. Happiness must be seen as an end result, and in thus being an end result it can only be achieved as a long term goal. To be happy is to attain a balance (the mean) between virtues, morals, pleasures, and goals. If a person can learn to find a balance and become content with his situation as a result of that balance, he will be happy. Throughout time people have claimed to have been happy, and it is universally known of what things we must do in our lives to be happy; be just, virtuous, and morally right.
Consider the situation of this final paper - It has taken me multiple hours to complete, and I have had troubles in writing it, but I write it to achieve a greater goal, a good grade. By achieving a good grade I will pass this class, and thus be happy, but there is always the chance that I may not get a good grade thus not achieving happiness. This possibility now presents a problem in all theories. No matter what we do, if we complete our duties and if we are morally virtuous, there are always cases that have the possibility of hindering us from achieving happiness even if that was our goal. Thus one must never lead his life by the assumptions of others, on what paths must be taken in order to achieve happiness or a good life. We must lead our own lives to the best of our ability, and in being at ease knowing we have made our own paths, then and only then can we really be happy. Overall Aristotle's teachings have pointed out that happiness as an end in itself is the ultimate end and function of human beings. The only method of reaching this happiness is through reason. A life that does not exercise the role to reason will end up in some way being incomplete and never reach perfection. Therefore, reason is not only good for us but needed to reach an absolute existence.
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