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Aristotle View on Happiness Essay

People have defined happiness as some kind of good of a human being. In Nicomachean Ethics: Book I, Aristotle defines happiness as the activity of living well, which in the Greek word is called eudaimonia. He tends to think that happiness is how we balance and moderate our lives to seek the highest pleasures, which he calls maintaining the mean.

In the following excerpt from Book I, Aristotle talks about how happiness presumably consists in attaining some good or set of goods. “Now goods have been divided into three classes, and some are described as external, others as relating to soul or to body; we call those that relate to soul most properly and truly goods, and psychical actions and activities we class as relating to soul” (Book I pg. 7).

He is saying that since happiness consists in attaining some good that there are three different types of goods that you can attain; an external goods, which consists of wealth or honor, goods of the body, which is health or physical strength, and lastly goods of the soul, which consists of knowledge, education, and friendship. Aristotle goes on to say how only certain goods are necessary for happiness.

“It is correct also in that we identify the end with certain actions and activities; for thus it falls among goods of the soul and not among external goods. Another belief which harmonizes with our account is that the happy man lives well and does well; for we have practically defined happiness as a sort of good life and good action” (Book I pg. 7).

He is saying that only certain goods such as health are the necessary preconditions for happiness and that other goods such as wealth is just something extra that help fill out a good life for a virtuous person, but the possession of virtue or excellence is the element of happiness. Aristotle also adds that humans seek different goods that make them happy compared to animals because humans have a rational capacity that when exercised perfects our natures as human beings.

“It is natural, then, that we call neither ox nor horse nor any other of the animals happy; for none of them is capable of sharing in such activity” (Book I pg. 9).

To obtain happiness, humans need to acquire certain necessary goods and external goods to reach happiness. For Aristotle, happiness is a final end or goal that encompasses the totality of one’s life. He claims that happiness is the end which meets all requirements of life. In the end, happiness awaits for those who go out and take it.


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