Example Of Argumentative Essay On Aristotles Concept Of Happiness

Published: 2021-06-21 23:39:00
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Category: Literature, Books, Life, Life, Ethics, Happiness, Actions, Aristotle, Activity

Type of paper: Essay

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The word eudaimonia is often translated as happiness or welfare. Some experts say
a better translation would be “human flourishing.” As we read the translation of Aristotle’s Ethics, we understand that happiness as used in English does not fit well with Aristotle’s ideas (Eudaimonia).
In Book I, Chapter 1, Aristotle talks about goods and that every action taken by people is aimed at gaining some good. The goods vary. Some are activities or actions and some are products that are the results of the activities. These goals or goods vary, but in Chapter 4, he says there is general agreement among men that the highest good is happiness. Since all actions aim at some good, and the highest good is happiness, then all actions should aim at happiness. The problem he sees is that people do not agree on what happiness is. Some people say happiness is wealth while others say health, honor, pleasure or pursuit of knowledge (Nicomachean Ethics).
Late in Chapter 8 of Book I, Aristotle agrees with happiness being tied to virtue. The question then is whether it is virtue of the mind or character or virtue of actions. He gives an analogy of the Olympic Games where being beautiful or strong is not enough to win. You must compete. One problem is that in order to do activities that people associate with happiness, you need such things as friends, money or power. Oppositely, misfortunes such as ill health, poverty, bad friends, or the loss of children make it difficult to do those virtuous activities that people associate with happiness.
In Chapter 9, Aristotle discusses how happiness is gained. He questions whether it is through learning, training, a gift from the gods or by chance. He does not completely dismiss any of these possibilities, but chooses virtue of the soul and the development of good character as the way to happiness. He makes the interesting observation that animals and children cannot have happiness in this sense because they are not capable of virtuous acts. Additionally, he uses the example of Priam of Troy to show that a high degree of happiness can be destroyed by terrible tragedies. At the end of this book in Chapter 13, he sums up by saying that happiness comes as an activity done with perfect virtue.
Aristotle discusses many topics in Book II through IX including the four main virtues of prudence, temperance, courage and justice. His discussion of the mean in Book II is important because he says that a moral virtue should find a mean between too much and too little. He also says it is very difficult to find the mean but that by not deviating too far either way we will not be blamed by people.
In Book X after much meandering and digressions (Johnston), Aristotle reaches his conclusions on happiness but first discusses pleasure again. In Chapter 1, he states the some regard pleasure as good, and some regard it as evil. After more discussion, in Chapter 4 he states that pleasure is in the moment. It is what you feel now. What you feel in the next moment may not be pleasurable. He says that all people desire pleasure, but there are many different kinds as there are different kinds of people. In Chapter 5, he does not specify what pleasures are natural to the virtuous person except that they are exercises of the faculties. Based on what he has said before, these exercises must be intellectual and moral. He says that what the virtuous person finds to be a pleasure is one that contributes to being a virtuous person.
In Chapter 6, Aristotle begins to sum up what happiness is by first saying it is not disposition. If it were, a person who does nothing could find happiness. Even a person who suffers could find happiness. So happiness is doing activities that are desirable in themselves. They are not means to ends but ends in themselves. Virtuous activities are desirable because they are complete.
Finally in Chapter 7, Aristotle states, “If happiness is activity in accordance with virtue, it is reasonable that it should be in accordance with the highest virtue; and this will be that of the best thing in us” (Nicomachean Ethics, 1). Further, the best thing in people is reason, so the best and most virtuous activity are intellectual activities. Pleasures are part of a happy life but must be ruled by reason. So a life of contemplation performed according to the virtues is the happiest life.
Works Cited
"Eudaimonia." Wikipedia. Wikipedia Foundation, Inc., 29 Sept. 2014. Web. 9 Oct.
2014. .
Johnston, Ian. “Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics (Abridged Edition).” Johnstonia,
Johnstonia. n.d. Web. 4 Oct. 2014.
"Nicomachean Ethics." The Internet Classics Archive. Trans. W. D. Ross. Web
Atomics and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, n.d. Web. 2 Oct. 2014.

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