Aristotle and the Life of Excellence

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According to Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, a life of excellence is the ultimate objective. He who aspires to achieve this life of excellence must understand the good, happiness, and morality. He must also understand how to live a life of temperance, without giving in to the pleasure of the extremes. If achieved, this life of excellence will ultimately lead to eudaimonia, which translates to happiness, success, and fulfillment. Aristotle states that every activity aims at some good. Although this is true, some activities are considered more virtuous than others. For instance, if one pursues something that they selfishly desire, then the result will be vain and not truly profitable. In order for the end result to be supremely good, one’s desire must be guided by the rational part of their soul. There are three parts of the soul: the rational, the appetitive, and the vegetative. The rational part should take precedence over the others, as it is the guiding light towards a life of excellence. There is a supreme good that is greater than all others, but can only be achieved if one is guided by the rational part of their soul. This supreme good is happiness. Although it is agreed that happiness is the supreme good, it is disputed as to which type of happiness will lead to a life of excellence. For instance, some believe that happiness is derived from pleasure, wealth, or honor. This type of happiness is not a final good, but is rather a superficial good that is desired and attained by the appetitive part of the soul. True happiness is something that is self-sufficient. Other virtues like pleasure, honor, and reason are chosen for the sake of happiness or other things, while happiness is always chosen for its own sake. Aristotle states that “human good turns out to be activity of soul in accordance with virtue” (Ch.7, Book I). Since this is true, one must understand the nature of all virtues to understand the nature of true happiness. Aristotle...
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