Aristotle's Happiness

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“Happiness depends on ourselves,” according to Aristotle. Aristotle preserves happiness as a central purpose of human life and a goal in itself. He dedicated most of his work to the topic of happiness, more than any philosopher prior to the modern era. Aristotle was convinced that a genuinely happy life required the fulfillment of a broad range of conditions, including physical as well as mental well-being. In this way he introduced the idea of a science of happiness in the classical sense, in terms of a new field of knowledge. Aristotle argues that virtue is achieved by maintaining the Mean, which is the balance between two excesses. Thus Aristotle gives us his definition of happiness, “…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.” (Nicomachean Ethics, 1098a13). In this quote we can see of Aristotle’s theory link between the concepts of happiness and virtue. Aristotle tells us that the most important factor in the effort to achieve happiness is to have a good moral character, what he calls “complete virtue.” Being virtuous is not a passive state: one must act in accordance with virtue. Nor is it enough to have a few virtues, rather one must strive to possess all of them. As Aristotle writes: “He is happy who lives in accordance with complete virtue and is sufficiently equipped with external goods, not for some chance period but throughout a complete life.” (Nicomachean Ethics, 1101a10). To Aristotle, happiness consists in achieving, through the course of a whole lifetime, all the goods; health, wealth, knowledge, friends, etc.; that lead to the perfection of human nature and to the enrichment of human life. This requires us to make...
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