Throughout his life, Aristotle paid particularly close attention to the notion of happiness. In Aristotle’s opinion, happiness is achieved by obtaining the highest good by living a good life. However, living a good life in accordance with Aristotle’s views can be difficult. He believes that in order to live a good life, one must constantly seek to fulfill the bodily needs. To do so, one must live with moral and intellectual virtues at all times. Aristotle believed that living with moral and intellectual virtues is accomplished by developing a keen sense of rationality.
He says that rational judgment is the result of living within the appropriate mean of two extremes. There are several examples he gives to illustrate this conception. One example he provides is the appropriate mean between acting bravely and acting cowardly. He proceeds to explain that if he was to act overly brave then when he was in battle he would act overzealously and cause himself harm. However, if he was to act without enough aggression then he would appear cowardly. Aristotle explains that it is reasonable to be confused with this explanation.
He further explains that it is not finding the exact mean between two extremes that one must endeavor, but to assess each situation individually. He says that with each situation that arises, one must analyze it and determine to what degree of one extreme or another one must respond with. Each person, he believes, will react differently and no situation will be exactly the same. It is through one’s intelligence and practical wisdom that will allow them to live with moral and intellectual virtues. By following this conception, Aristotle believes happiness can be achieved.
Although Aristotle’s conception of happiness is a sensible argument, it fails to account for a number of situations. Aristotle’s primary thesis concerns the application of the appropriate mean of two extremes. However, there are several situations which do not have an appropriate mean between two extremes. For example, there is no mean found on the issue of murder. If Aristotle’s conception was applied, would someone have to determine the mean between excessively murdering and only slightly murdering another person?
In such a case as this, Aristotle argues that there are some actions which do not need any application of the mean of two extremes because some actions are always wrong. With this explanation raises the question why the concept of a mean between extremes is given if it cannot account for all situations? Furthermore, it also brings into question when to apply a mean between extremes or how to determine that a particular action is an exception because it is just simply wrong. Therefore, because Aristotle’s conception of happiness fails to account for all practicalities, it is not a good model to define happiness.