Most of the Greek moralists think that, if we are rational, we aim at living well or happiness. Living well or happiness is our ultimate end in that a conception of happiness serves to organize our various subordinate ends, by indicating the relative importance of our ends and by indicating how they should fit together into some rational overall scheme. Aristotle says that happiness is “perfect” or “complete” and something distinctively human. When we are living well, our life is worthy of imitation and admiration. For, according to the Greek moralists, that we are happy says something about us and about what we have achieved, not simply about the fortunate circumstances in which we find ourselves. So they argue that happiness cannot consist simply in “external goods” or “goods of fortune,” for these goods are external to our own choosing and deciding. Whatever happiness is, it must take account of the fact that a happy life is one lived by rational agents who act and who are not simply victims of their circumstances.
Aristotle thinks that we can take a person's pleasures and pains to be a sign of his state of character. To explain what the virtuous person's pleasures are like, Aristotle returns to the idea that virtue is an excellent state of the person. Virtue is the state that makes a human being good and makes him perform his function well. Aristotle says in Nicomachean Ethics I.7, is rational activity, so when we perform rational activity well, we are good (virtuous) human beings and live well (we are happy).
The Greek moralists conclude that a happy life must give a prominent place to the exercise of virtue, for virtuous traits of character are stable and enduring and are not products of fortune, but of learning or cultivation. Moreover, virtuous traits of character are excellences of the human being in... [continues]
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