Free «What Is a Good Human Life and How Should It Be Lived» Essay Sample


The ancient philosophers had put much emphasis on the constitution of the human life and the manner in which it should be lived. From Aristotle to Plato and Socrates, all these philosophers had different views concerning the manner in which people should live with themselves and with each other. The aim of this paper is to explore the views of these three philosophers and then analyze where they compare and contrast with each other.

The Human Life According to the Plato Republic

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Through the Republic, Plato sought to relate the life of an individual to that of the society as a whole. According to him, people show similar characteristics, act in the same deeds, and exemplify the same virtues that a state does. This analogy implies that each individual is a complex whole but made up of several parts that are distinct and that have unique roles. According to Plato, the everyday life of a human being amply manifests this analogical fact. This comes out in situations where an individual is faced with a variety of choices in life. During such times, the said individual is likely to feel contrary impulses, simultaneously pulling toward different directions. The reason behind this is because there exist distinct elements, which are different from those of humans (Plato, The Republic, 2010, p. 1).

The physical body of a human being was equated by Plato to buildings, land and other physical materials of a city. However, a human being has three souls, which correspond to the three classes of citizens who lived in the state. These souls play an important role in the successful actions of the individual as a whole. These souls include the rational soul, the spirited soul and the appetitive soul. The rational soul is the type concerned with the intellect of the mind. It is that portion of thinking within an individual that discriminates the truth from what is false, besides making the coherent decisions in agreement with the kind of the human life that is most correctly lived. The spirited soul comprises of the volition and will that perform the duties of the practical life as directed by reason. It does whichever thing that the intellect has established is good with the utmost courage.

On the other hand, the appetitive soul constitutes of desires and emotions. This part of the soul is responsible for the feelings and wants that are numerous within the life a human being. Most of these feelings and wants undergo deferral upon rational pursuits in order to attain a productive measure of self control. In his own opinion, Plato argues that the harmonious performance of their duties by the three souls is the only condition that makes a human being lives appropriately and justifiably. Therefore, the three souls must work jointly and should be interrelated for the benefit of an individual. Only then can the justice of an individual person come out (Plato, The Apology, 2010, p. 1).

The Human Life According to Aristotle’s Ethics

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Aristotle relays his theory of good life for humans in the Nichomachean Ethics. He speaks of the good life as the happy one. According to him, good life rises above being amused and feeling happy about existence. It includes living one’s life actively while functioning well within the essential and unique elements of human life. To better drive his ideas home, Aristotle first considers the four aspects of life, which are pleasure, wealth, honor and virtue.

On pleasure, the philosopher contends that pleasure is a component of living a good life but goes on to warn that seeking pleasure does not necessarily amount to finding a good life. In addition, seeking pleasure is associated with doing it in the wrong places and this has the danger of distracting one from finding the good life itself. He also argues that wealth is a means to further ends and good life is an end in itself. As regards honor, he argues that it is the manner in which people view someone. This is not a component of a good life because such a life or happiness is intrinsic to the owner. Further still, despite the fact that Aristotle considers virtue an important component of the human life, he warns that it is also responsible for great suffering and it could motivate an individual to live an inactive life. Therefore, Aristotle argues that virtue cannot be a measure of good life.

Through the hierarchy of ends, Aristotle concludes that while some ends are being pursued for the sake of other ones, others are pursued for their own sake. The latter is referred to as the most final end. Apparently, good life and happiness fall under the most final ends. Happiness is self sufficient due to its ability to improve on the quality of something, and for this same reason the life of a happy person is deemed complete. Aristotle, therefore, suggests that in order for humans to live a good life, they must perform the functions that match it. An individual must, therefore, function well and this aspect of functioning is what distinguishes one human being from the other and from other creatures. Good life for humans, however, does not involve growth and nourishment because these two are not unique to humans alone. Animals and plants do nourish and grow too. Similarly, satisfying one’s appetite is not a function of humans that lead to a good life because even animals possess the same urge. This leaves humans with one major unique characteristic and this is that of the possession the rational thought. Based on these, Aristotle conclusively argues that exercising the rational capacity by an individual is the ultimate function of the good life for humans (Aristotle, 2010, p. 1).

The Human Life according to Socrates’ Apology, Crito and Euthyphro

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Although Socrates was credited as being one of the most influential thinkers of the fifteenth century, he did not write most of his works. Actually, one of his dedicated students in the name of Plato conveyed his messages. Socrates examines life through his defense titled the Apology. This was actually a speech that he offered in his own defense against the charges of corrupting the minds of young people and disrespecting religion. He asserts that even though most Athenians are wise, he is wiser than all of them because he is aware of his own ignorance. During this defense, he was able to expose illusions about reality. According to him, virtues and great issues of life are the key components of human life that make it worth living. When one’s life is under constant examination, then it is not worth living. Indeed, Socrates chose to die rather than have his life constantly examined by the authorities who were also keen to let him abandon philosophy. Even at the point of his death, the philosopher demonstrated the confidence of the power of reason upon which he argued is the most essential element of a good life for humans.    

In the Crito, Socrates seeks to display the individual state of the mind as was narrated by Plato. He meditates strongly on the events that characterized his life of freedom before he began to encounter problems with the Athenian authorities. A plan is, therefore, put in place by friends of Socrates led by Crito to make him escape from prison but he dismisses them saying they are devoid of reason. Though his decision would disappoint his friends, he had to choose the truth. According to him, only the truth must be the basis upon which humans make their decisions and perform their actions. Socrates finally summarizes his philosophy by stating that a person should never do wrong even if there is a justification for doing so. He further asserts that disobeying the state is wrong hence one should not break the rules. It is upon this reasoning that he decided to not to escape from the Athenian authorities and chose to die (Plato, Crito, 2010, p. 1).  

In Euthyphro, Socrates takes part in a critical conversation with an extremely confident young man. Socrates asks the young man what piety is and demands from him a critically examined answer. Every answer that the young man provides undergoes the full force of very fierce critical thinking by Socrates until nothing certainly remains. According to Euthyphro, the young man, the love of god on some actions is what constitutes what is right. This reasoning is harshly refuted by Socrates. Socrates then offers to take Euthyphro through some dilemma and technical reasoning argues that if the actions of the pious are so because of the love that the gods have for them, then there must be some form of moral rightness to arbitrate on that love. Conversely, if the love of the gods to the right actions spring from the very point that they are right, then there must be the existence of some values that are not necessarily divine on whose love humans must know independently (Plato, 2010, p. 1).


Although Socrates did not directly and explicitly explain the components of a good human life and the manner in which it should be lived, all the three philosophers seem to agree that the surest way of living a good life for humans is through the possession of the reasoning will. Living a good life involves utilizing one’s unique capability of reasoning.

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