Preview

Aristotle and John Stuart Mill on Happiness and Morality

Powerful Essays
Open Document
Open Document
1773 Words
Grammar
Grammar
Plagiarism
Plagiarism
Writing
Writing
Score
Score
Aristotle and John Stuart Mill on Happiness and Morality
Aristotle and John Stuart Mill on Happiness and Morality

In this paper I will argue that Aristotle’s conception of eudaimonia disproves Mill’s utilitarian view that pleasure is the “greatest good.” The purpose of this paper is to contrast Aristotle’s and Mills views on the value of happiness and its link to morality. First I will describe Aristotle’s model of eudaimonia. Then I will present Mill’s utilitarian views on happiness and morality. Lastly, I will provide a counterargument to Mill’s utilitarian ethical principles using the Aristotelian model of eudaimonia. In this section I will explain Aristotle’s definition of eudaimonia and its relationship to happiness, morality and the virtues. Aristotle defines eudaimonia in the first book of the Nicomachean Ethics as “virtuous activity in accordance with reason” and that this is the highest good for human beings. For Aristotle, eudaimonia can be translated into a “human life of flourishing” since it occurs throughout a person’s life. This lifelong happiness is complete and sufficient in itself, meaning that a person lives it as an end in itself and not for anything else beyond it. An important aspect of reaching our own eudaimonia is to function well as human beings. Aristotle presents his concept of the human function by stating that what makes human function so distinct is not just to obtain nutrition and to grow because that aspect of life is shared with plants and it is also not perception because that is something shared with animals. Our ultimate human function therefore is reason and not just reason alone but to act in accordance to reason. Achieving excellence in human rational activity according to Aristotle is synonymous with leading a moral life. To lead a moral life is a state in which a person chooses to act in accordance to the right virtues. Aristotle, defines virtue as a mean between two extremes (excess and deficiency). He argues that the mean is not necessarily the average or

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Good Essays

    The Aim of Man

    • 699 Words
    • 3 Pages

    Aristotle starts off in his essay explaining the definitions of Good, Primacy of Statecraft and the study of Ethics. He defines good as where all things are to be aimed, for example health. He then defines Statecraft as citizens of a state, a country, and of the world need to do good for their own good but more importantly for the good of the state. He also characterizes various types of good. Finally, the definition on study of Ethics. This talks about the pure excellence of justice that involves the disagreements and agreements of uncertainty and certainty. Aristotle also talks about happiness and where a certain point can be overlooked and how arguments can be led from first principles. First principles came about in a variety of ways: by induction, direct perception, and habituation. The question then leads to where the sources of happiness come from but a result of virtue of learning or some kind of training. Because the virtue of learning and the some kind of training is rewarded by a blessing that is generally shared but with the exception of the virtue being stunted. Aristotle concludes his essay by examining the most human element, the soul, and its relationship to virtue. Aristotle’s definition of happiness is, “Happiness is a certain activity of the soul in accordance with perfect virtue”.…

    • 699 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Virtue, according to Aristotle, is equivalent to excellence (Hutchinson, 41). A man has virtue as a guitarist, for instance, if he plays the guitar well, since playing the guitar is the distinctive activity of a guitarist. Similarly, the virtuous person is someone who performs the distinctive activity of being human well. Rationality is our distinctive activity – that is, the activity…

    • 705 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    In the essay Utilitarianism written by John Stuart Mill, Mill presents the claim that happiness is the only thing that is good. Meaning that all happiness leads to pleasure through out our lives and can be noticed by the absence of pain. In this essay I will further explain Mill’s view on happiness and how it is connected to the Utilitarianism view. I will then define my own objection of Mill’s arguments and why it is a compelling objection to think about.…

    • 922 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    “The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals, Utility, or the Greatest Happiness Principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness” (11). That quote is from “Utilitarianism” written by John Stuart Mill. Mill is noted in history as a man who pushed for radical change of social and legal principles using Utilitarianism as his guide. That quote sums up his belief in that theory. In this essay I will be discussing Mill, the theory of Utilitarianism and how that theory relates to contemporary ethical issues.…

    • 430 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Aristotle’s idea of Virtue Ethics was influenced by his belief that all things and all humans have a purpose (a telos). For him a complete explanation of something has to include its final cause or purpose which essentially is to realise its potential. Virtue Ethics itself is concerned with the characteristics of a person rather than how a person behaves and it is this he outlined in his book Nicomachean Ethics. A ‘’virtue’’ are qualities that lead to a good life e.g. courage and honesty. Aristotle explains for a person to adopt these qualities into their own lives is to maximise their potential to achieve a happy life and he goes on to explain Eudaimonia as being a quality of this happiness.…

    • 1035 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Marx and Mills

    • 1200 Words
    • 5 Pages

    John Stuart Mill suggests that a person's ethical decision-making process should be based solely upon the amount of happiness that the person can receive. Although Mill fully justifies himself, his approach lacks certain criteria for which happiness can be considered. Happiness should be judged, not only by pleasure, but by pain as well. This paper will examine Mill's position on happiness, and the reasoning behind it. Showing where there are agreements and where there are disagreements will critique the theory of Utilitarianism. By showing the problems that the theory have will reveal what should make up ethical decision-making. John Stuart Mill supports and explains his reasoning in his book, Utilitarianism. Mill illustrates the guidelines of his theory. Mill defines utilitarianism as the quest for happiness. His main point is that one should guide his or her judgements by what will give pleasure. Mill believes that a person should always seek to gain pleasure and reject pain. Utilitarianism also states that the actions of a person should be based upon the "greatest happiness principle". This principle states that ethical actions command the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people. Mill further explores the need for pleasure by noting "a being of higher faculties requires more to make him happy." . He acknowledges that some pleasures are more alluring than others are. He adds to this by making known that when placing value in things to calculate pleasure, not only quantity important but quality as well. Mill's criteria for happiness is easily understood, some statements that he gives are questionable. John Stuart Mill plainly laid out what he believes that the basis for ethical decision-making. First, the pursuit of pleasure is directly related to happiness. This idea can be easily accepted. It is natural for a person to focus his goals on things that will bring him pleasure. It would be absurd if someone's goal in life was to be poor and…

    • 1200 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Aristotle’s ethics focuses on virtues of character and good habits. His big term he uses is eudemonia, which means happiness.…

    • 514 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Though Aristotle does not explicitly speak of meaning, he surely considered the reality of impartial values and meaning. While his primary concern was on the happiness gained by accounting for these values, he does not say that the happy life means the meaningful. However, we can infer that he thought that the good life and the meaningful life are equals. Therefore, Aristotle’s plan in order to live a good life is understandable, and is a guide to a meaningful life.…

    • 933 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    Happiness is a highly debated topic, and both John Stuart Mill and Aristotle have distinct ideas of what happiness is. These two men have their own, views and opinions. Aristotle and John Stuart Mill have come up with two theories on what is the good for a society. Although these men come from a different time, their theories are used from time to time. The Aristotelian and Utilitarian views are two different viewpoints, yet they continue to influence people.…

    • 555 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    Aristotle

    • 980 Words
    • 4 Pages

    Aristotle believes that there is only one goal, one ultimate end for every individual—that is eudaimonia, translated as happiness, not as a feeling but happiness as the highest human good or a life full of activity. He claims that a person should live a way of life distinct from the lives of animals, where they only live for the sake of living or pleasure.1 As human beings, people should use their power of speech to communicate and make rational decisions within a polity, striving to live their lives up to their full potential and to their full capacity for a happy life.2 The life of politics, the via activa, is thus the key to the chief good or the best life for humans; however, the life of action must be of certain type of quality, in accordance with reason, since different actions may lead to the good or the bad life. In other words, a person’s actions must be in line with arête, with virtue or excellence.3…

    • 980 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    In Chapter 2, What Utilitarianism is, Mill presents the aforesaid definition of Utilitarianism as the criterion of an action to be right or wrong. We have seen that Utilitarianism puts great emphasis on happiness. »By happiness is intended pleasure and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain, and the privation of pleasure.«3 The fact that pleasure is the only good for Mill makes his Utilitarianism a form of Hedonism which is most associated with the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus who claims that »Pleasure is our first and kindred good.«4 The difference to Epicurus' Hedonism, however, is…

    • 1512 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Good Essays

    His first endeavor is to say that humans should act wholly rationally in all situations, as rationalism is the highest form of thought that we can aspire to, and therefore would enable us to make the most sound decisions. Secondly, he argues that people have a “function” or purpose which they must fulfill, and said “function” is to achieve the Greek concept of “eudaimonia,” or happiness. Finally, we should aspire to have “excellences of character.” To have an “excellence of character,” one should seek intermediates between traits, an example being that the intermediate of cowardice and recklessness is courage. When combining these three principles, Aristotle believes that a person will achieve eudaimonia, a Greek word meaning overall happiness, or a general satisfaction with one’s own life, a polar opposite to the French word…

    • 1047 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    It is clear that Aristotle thinks happiness is what every human desires. He defines happiness as the highest good (Ethics 1095a), which by definition every person pursues as an ultimate end (1094a). Furthermore, he says that happiness can only be achieved through fulfillment of our characteristic activity, which is the thing that something does which makes it be that thing; for example, the characteristic activity of a flute-player is playing the flute. The good of anything with a characteristic activity is to perform that activity well (1097b). The characteristic activity of a human, says Aristotle, is a life concerned with reason (1098a), or more specifically, the activity of a soul concerned with reason. Therefore, the good of a human is to perform this activity well; that is, to live a life in accordance with virtue. Because this is a good of the soul, and goods of the soul are the best type of good (1098b), and because achieving the good of a human is the ultimate goal of being a human, Aristotle says that a life in accordance with…

    • 1551 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Better Essays

    In the quest to find out what is the ultimate human good, Aristotle dedicated Book 1 of the Nicomachean Ethics to provide an account of what is the ultimate human good, and what it consists of. This essay will examine why Aristotle thinks that eudaimonia (happiness), is the ultimate human good. Through this discussion, we will see Aristotle suggest four central views which are critical to eudaimonia being the ultimate human good. Firstly, one has to live a life according to one’s function. Secondly, natural, virtuous activity is required in order to live a life of happiness. Thirdly, one requires possessing external goods such as wealth, power and friends in order to be happy. Last but not least, in order to live a life of happiness, one has to live a whole life in accordance to virtue in order to determine if the person lived a happy life.…

    • 1794 Words
    • 8 Pages
    Better Essays
  • Good Essays

    In John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism, Mill discusses the concept of utilitarianism, defined as, “The doctrine that actions are right if they are useful of for the benefit of a majority.” Mill elaborates on this idea and within the second chapter of his essay, addresses many misconceptions towards this view. Addressing the given quote, one misconception made is that utilitarianism degrades the meaning of life. Some people oppose this view because they think that it is wrong to say that there is no better end than pleasure and freedom from pain. Mill replies to this by saying that there are different qualities of pleasure. He professes about a higher quality pleasure being one which you would choose above another pleasure even if it meant pain…

    • 249 Words
    • 1 Page
    Good Essays

Related Topics