Aristotle is considered to as one of the greatest thinkers in history of philosophy. Aristotle made a lot of contribution to metaphysics, logic, physics, mathematics, biology, ethics, botany, politics, medicine, agriculture, theatre and dance. He once was a student of Plato who had previously had interacted with Socrates. Nicomachean Ethics was one of influential works that were done by Aristotle. In this work Aristotle presents the theory of happiness which has remained relevant even today. The major question that Aristotle sought to answer in the lectures was: to explain what was the ultimate purpose or reason for human to exist? He also sought to understand what end goal should humans focus their energy to what activities.
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A lot of people everywhere seek wealth, pleasure and good reputation. Though all these have some value, they cannot be able to occupy or be the chief good that all the humans ought to aim at achieving. For an act to achieve a state of ultimate end, the act must be have some sense of self-sufficient and finality. That is the reason as to why the act should be always desirable by itself and should not be because of the reasons of another thing; it should also be achievable by man. Aristotle claimed that almost everybody could of happiness being the end that meets all the requirements stated. People are known to have a desire for money, honor and pleasure this is because people do believe that these things are there to provide for happiness. All goods work as means of assisting in ensuring that towards one achievement of happiness. When happiness is end in itself.
Eudaimonia, is a Greek word that is usually translated to mean happiness. In a lot of societies including America today, happiness in most times conceived as a state of the mind that is subjective, this is because people will say that they are happy when they are enjoying a cool beer on a hot day, or they are with their friend out having fun (Kenny, 102). According to Aristotle, he saw happiness as a final goal or end which works in encompassing what they see as the totality of their life.
Therefore happiness cannot be lost or gained after a number of hours, as sensations of pleasure are. Happiness according to Aristotle is the ultimate value of an individual's life on how it has been lived until this moment, it is important in measuring the quality or how well an individual has lived their life toward the achievement of their full potential as humans. Therefore an individual cannot make any in regards to the life that they have and claim that it was a happy life until it the end. As Aristotle said that, "for as it is not one swallow or one fine day that makes a spring, so it is not one day or a short time that makes a man blessed and happy" (Kraut, 102)
For Aristotle to be able to explain human happiness, he drew a view of nature that he had derived through biological investigations that he had conducted. If one observes nature, he or she will notice that four different things that exist in the world, all of what an individual will notice can be defined by a different purpose:
The first thing one will notice are the mineral, metals, rocks, and other things that are lifeless. The goal that these things want or seek is for them to be at rest. These things cannot be termed as stupid as they can be termed to be beyond being stupid, as they are inanimate objects that have no soul
Another thing one will notice is the plants, animals and other wildlife. These things are alive. Since plants need to get nourished and for them to grow. They all have souls and also can be said that the plants and animals are satisfied after they attain their goals
Also one can notice Animal, which is the creatures that are studied to be belonging in the animal kingdom. In the animals there are some higher form of life from the minerals and plants that emerge. The animals look for reproduction and pleasure and one can say of a dog that is happy or sad. This is when the animals are healthy and have a life that is pleasant.
Human beings can also be noticed, Aristotle defined human beings to be different rest of the animal kingdom he argued that only humans being are able of acting on principles, and therefore able to take responsibility for the choices that they make. An individual can be blamed for committing a crime for they can be able to determine that it is wrong but an animal cannot be blamed as it does not know anything better.
The thing that is unique in human beings and not in others is their ability to reason. By an individual being able to reason they are able to achieve their end, solve their problems, and therefore live a life which has a quality that is different than that of plants or animals. We have different potentials and capacities and therefore what can be referred to be good for a plant is not the good for an animal. Human beings have a rational capacity which when this capacity is exercised it works in perfecting the nature of human beings. Therefore, pleasure only cannot be there to produce happiness for an individual, as pleasure is what is sought by animals and human beings are created in that they have a bigger or high capacity than that of animals. The goal of this is not in annihilating of our physical urges, but to assist in channeling the urges in a more appropriate way to the nature of an individual as rational animals.
Aristotle defined happiness as "...the function of man is to live a certain kind of life, and this activity implies a rational principle, and the function of a good man is the good and noble performance of these, and if any action is well performed it is performed in accord with the appropriate excellence: if this is the case, then happiness turns out to be an activity of the soul in accordance with virtue" (Kenny, 78). Aristotle also linked on the various concepts of virtue and happiness. Aristotle claimed that the most crucial for an individual to be able to achieve true happiness is for them to develop a good moral character, something that Aristotle referred to as complete virtue. He claimed that an individual who is virtuous is not in a passive state but somebody should always act in accordance with the right virtues. Also it is not enough for one to be with few virtues but one should always strive to possess all virtues.
Aristotle also claimed that, happiness consisted of the achievement, over the course of an individual's lifetime, in aspects such as wealth, health, friends, knowledge, etc., which leads to the enrichment of the life of humans and perfection of the nature of humans. This will require people to make choices, which might be difficult. In most cases the least of the good promises is pleasure which is very tempting, and what is of greater good in most cases is painful and will require one to make some sacrifices. The development of a good character will require putting of a strong will and effort for one to do what is right even is confronted by situations that maybe considered being difficult.
One example that is has become a big problem in the American society today is drugs abuse. For little amount of money, one can purchase drugs and work in taking an individual's mind off their experiences and troubles by using the drugs. This short term pleasure may lead one ruining their life in the long term and a lot of pain. As addiction creeps in they will drain their funds and later be a burden to their family and friends. All the virtues such as temperance, generosity, courage, friendship, etc, will be absent in the life of a drug user.
It is true from Aristotle that happiness is not of what we do today that makes us to be happy. But it is the actions that we pursue every day that clearly tell whether we are a manifestation of happiness or not. A happiness that is genuine is in the actions that lead to virtue, as this is what provides a true value of happiness and not just amusement.