Aristotle’s Argument about Happiness
Aristotle is one the great Greek philosophers who contributed greatly to the world philosophy, biology, politics and mathematics among other disciplines. He was Plato’s student, who was in turn taught by Socrates. As a philosopher, Aristotle taught is students with passion and commitment. In fact, there is no volume of his work that is available today, but the lecture notes he used to teach his students with is what is available. The notes show how committed Aristotle was to pass knowledge from one generation to another. Aristotle believes that happiness is the ultimate goal of human existence. Therefore, he devoted a lot of his time and volumes describing happiness as a goal of life more than any other argument that he had. Aristotle believed that happiness required fulfilment of different conditions that included mental, social and physical well-being. Thus, he introduced the notion of “Science of Happiness” that was new in the knowledge field.
Aristotle combines the concept of virtue with happiness. He points out that for one to be happy he must have good and reputable character. Aristotle argues that one must have all positive virtues that will help him achieve his ultimate goal of happiness. Happiness, in this case, requires one to have wealth, friends and knowledge among other things. Therefore, it requires one to make choices for us to be happy. Aristotle gives examples of the things we see in nature and how they are different from human beings. For instance, stones are non-living things that have achieved their goal of resting. Therefore, Aristotle believes that they are happy in that state. Similarly, vegetation is happy because it grows and reproduces. Animals also achieve their happiness in reproduction and other activities such as feeding. However, human beings are rational. They know what is right and wrong. Therefore, they can only be happy if they achieve their gaols.
In this case, a person can only be said to be happy after his life is complete. The ultimate goal of life can only be realized after a person dies. Therefore, in Aristotle’s mind, happiness is not a short time moment. He believes that we cannot be able to determine whether we are happy or not because our lives are not complete. Children cannot say that they are happy when they receive gifts from their parents or when enjoying their favourite game. In fact, the people who are left behind after someone dies are the only ones who can declare whether the deceased had a happy life or not.
According to Aristotle, the ultimate purpose and end of human living are to achieve happiness. Therefore, happiness is not an emotion for pleasure. Instead, it is an exercise of virtue. Aristotle believes that happiness is only achieved when life is complete. Thus, it is not possible to have happiness as a temporary state that will end, and sadness will come. Every human being works hard in life to achieve happiness. Aristotle sees happiness as the “perfection of human nature”. In his argument, the rationality of human beings makes them do everything with a reason. The reasoning, in this case, is to achieve happiness in the long run. According to Aristotle, happiness can only be achieved through morals. Human beings display virtues of justice, honesty, citizenship, courage, friendship and generosity. Aristotle argues that these virtues make one to strike a mean, which refers to a balance between deficiency and excess. For human beings to realize their rational capabilities, they have to be intelligent. Combining the intelligence and the rationality of being humans helps a person to work positively towards achieving the ultimate result of happiness.
Firstly, Aristotle’s argument that people do everything that they do to achieve happiness is not logic. There are so many activities in our daily life, but we do not do them to achieve happiness. In fact, people only do little things to be happy such as partying, drinking and entertainment. However, there are other reasons rather than happiness behind what we do. For instance, people go to school to learn and get achieve knowledge. In most cases, people go to class so that they can get a job later and be able to live with other people in the society. When we cook, we do not do it to be happy. We want to be satisfied and get the energy to do other chores. In this case, we do many things for other reasons. Happiness only comes unexpectedly. It is not among what the individual expected. Children are the happiest group of people in this world. They do not have any stress in life. Therefore, happiness is not achieved when one achieves his gaols. Children enjoy every aspect of their life. They have parents to cater for their needs. Whereas Aristotle argues that happiness is only achieved as the last result, this argument is not practical in real life.
Secondly, Aristotle argues that we cannot realize our happiness before the end of life. He believes that the ultimate goal of happiness is realised when a person dies. This argument is wrong. It is not possible to determine whether a person is happy or not when he is dead. Happiness is a motion. In fact, happiness is an emotion that is expressed even through our physical appearances. A happy person has a smile, a jovial face and expresses his feelings. Whereas Aristotle believes that happiness is the end goal, happiness can be a short time gaol. People take alcohol to be happy for a weekend. Similarly, people go out for vacation, swimming, nature walk and other activities that make them happy. The goal is achieved immediately the action is started. In other cases, people are happy just to know that something good is just about to happen. It is also possible to be happy in a surprising event. For instance, if someone brings you a surprise gift, you become happy and are excited.
In his argument, Aristotle points out that, happiness is a virtue exercise. Human beings should have moral characters to help them achieve happiness in life. Aristotle argues that for one to achieve the ultimate goal of happiness, he has to be moral and intelligent. However, in real life situations, people are excited by different reasons. Happiness depends on an individual. There are people who are happy in life because they are religious. According to Ackrill, they have the religious satisfaction and believe that they will have eternal life. They believe that their connection to the Supreme Being makes them complete, even if they do not have material wealth. Therefore, concluding that human beings are only happy when they achieve their goals is wrong.
Lastly, Aristotle gives a hierarchical view of how things are happy in nature. In his argument, minerals and vegetation are at the highest hierarchy. They are happy in the state they are. Animals follow in the hierarchy, and human beings are the last because they have to achieve certain gaols ultimately for them to be happy. In my opinion, this argument is not real. Hughes points out that, we cannot claim that mineral such as stones are happy because they are at rest. These things are lifeless and cannot have emotions. I believe humans are the happiest because they have a life to enjoy.
In conclusion, Aristotle argues that happiness in human beings is the ultimate goal that can only be realized after life ends. It is results from virtues making people have moral character. However, Aristotle’s argument in happiness can be criticized because human beings are happy when alive. They do not do everything to be happy. The hierarchy is also questionable because lifeless things cannot hot have emotions to be happy.