According to Aristotle, how is it that being a good person will also lead to happiness?

Topics: Ethics, Happiness, Nicomachean Ethics Pages: 6 (2142 words) Published: December 1, 2003
"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony."

- Mahatma Gandhi


"Happiness depends upon ourselves."

- Aristotle

In Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle argues the highest end is the human good, and claims that the highest end pursued in action is happiness. Also, Aristotle claims that happiness is achieved only by living a virtuous life - "our definition is in harmony with those who say that happiness is virtue, or a particular virtue; because an activity in accordance with virtue implies virtue. Indeed, we may go further and assert that anyone who does not delight in fine actions is not even a good man." The virtuous life is full of reasoning for the good. Good is complete and most choice worthy. It is the human good that expresses virtue.

I agree with Aristotle in his theory that our use of reason is good for us because happiness is the ultimate end and reason is the only way of attaining this happiness. Happiness is an important aspect of Aristotle's philosophy because for him it was an activity of the soul which attained a high level of excellence cultivated over the span of a complete life that accords with virtue. The notion of virtue for Aristotle was anything that makes something good. The good is the result of what someone rationally aims for. If someone performs a job or a task that it is meant to do and does it well then it has good virtue. It is precisely the ability to use reason that sets humans apart from the other animals. According to Aristotle, human virtue means virtue of the soul and not the body, just like human happiness means happiness of the soul. Virtue of humans also will be the state of character which makes them good and which makes them do their own work well. It is a state of character concerned with choice, lying in a mean relative to us. Such a mean is determined by a rational principles and reasoning, and it is by reasoning that a wise human will determine it.

Happiness in general terms is a belief, an idea and a theory. Just like other theories, beliefs, and ideas may have fallacies, the theory of happiness might too. According to Aristotle happiness is an end, an end result of all the things a person does. Most of our acts are committed for a reason i.e. to achieve "something else," but happiness is different. Aristotle believes that searching for happiness is for being happy only and not for "something else" (14). A happy man is the man who has everything he really needs. He has those virtues which he needs to realize his potentials. In realizing his potentials he achieves happiness. That is why Aristotle says that the happy man wants nothing more. Happiness is desirable in itself and never for the sake of something else. Happiness meets Aristotle's criteria for completeness viz. "an end pursued in itself, we say, is more complete than an end pursued because of something else." (14) Happiness, according to him is just as self-sufficient as good because both make life choice worthy. Apart from being chosen for themselves honor, pleasure and wealth, are also chosen for the sake of happiness, judging that by means of them we shall be happy. Desires compiled of wealth, honor, and power are good but, they do not lead to happiness because they are superficial. Happiness, on the other hand, is not chosen or searched for, for the sake of these, or, in general, for anything other than itself. Happiness is something final and self-sufficient.

This leads Aristotle to his definition of the happy life as a life made perfect by the possession of all good things such as health, wealth, friendship, knowledge, virtue - all these are constituent parts of happiness. Happiness is the whole good of which they are component parts. That is how happiness is related to all other goods. This can be tested in a very simple way. For the question as to why do we want to be healthy, one will answer by saying - because being healthy would enable us to do the kind...
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