According to Aristotle, only a virtuous person can be truly happy. He doesn’t say we should aim at happiness, but rather that we do aim at happiness. Everyone wants to be happy and have happiness in his or her life, but people do not know how to go about this. If one lives in accordance with appropriate virtues then he or she will achieve this happiness. However, what is happiness? Most people think happiness as a physical pleasure or honor, so they do things they think is good. They think things like money, pleasure, and honor will bring them closer to happiness, but these things do not equal happiness.
People think that theses things will bring them happiness, but that is because they do not know what happiness really is. These things are a mean towards obtaining happiness. Happiness is the fulfilling of human function, or the activity of the soul according to virtue. Happiness comes from the Greek word “eudaimonia,” which is fulfillment and success to the highest form of happiness. It is the central purpose of human life and a goal in itself. Aristotle says that every action seeks some good and every action seeks an end. Everyone is seeking the highest end, or the complete end, which is ultimately happiness.
If someone wants to achieve happiness, they must first be a virtues person, or a “good” person. A virtue is achieved by maintaining the mean, or balance between two excesses. But it is not enough to think about doing the right thing or even intending to do it; one must actually have to do it. In order to understand what is good, we must know that there are three types of life: (1) Pleasure, according to the ignorant and vulgar; (2) Honor, according to the people who think happiness is doing well or living well; and (3) Study.
The men who choose pleasure put pursuing a life of enjoyment above all else. And the men who choose honor wanted to be praised for the things they have done, so they are really only doing these acts for selfish reasons. And finally the men who choose study do it for their own sake of being to gain knowledge for themselves. Aristotle explains these three types of lives because we can now dismiss them as not being considered “good. ” These views contradict the idea of good and thus support the idea of happiness being the “universal good. ” Yet, happiness is not instantaneous.
It must be achieved over time. Aristotle argues “Are we, then, to call no man happy as long as he lives, but to wait for end, as Solon said? And supposing we have to allow this, do we mean that he actually is happy after he is dead? ” (Aristotle 23) In other words, can a man be called happy during his life? Or do we have to wait until he has passed to determine whether or not he had lived a happy life? Aristotle believes that happiness consists of achieving though the course of a lifetime in all goods, such as health, wealth, knowledge, friends, etc.
These goods are also known as external goods and one needs these externals goods to be happy. Aristotle states, “For a man is not very likely to be happy if he is very ugly in person, or of low birth, or alone in the world, or childless, and perhaps still less if he has worthless children or friends, or has lost goods ones that he had. ” (Aristotle 21) Aristotle’s conception of happiness supports the view of only the virtuous person can be said to be truly happy. “Happiness is believed to be the most desirable thing in the world” (Aristotle 14).
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