Compare and Contrast Plato and Aristotle on Well-Being

Topics: Virtue, Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle Pages: 14 (6148 words) Published: December 14, 2010
Compare and contrast Plato and Aristotle on well-being.

Well-Being: The state of being healthy happy or prosperous. It seems obvious to suggest that the goal we all are aiming at is total happiness; total success and fulfillment. In the Nichomachean ethics, Aristotles' main aim is to provide a description of what this so-called happiness actually is, and how we can go about our day to day lives in order to achieve the best life that we possibly can. He begins book one with what philosophers call a 'Teleological conception of life'. That is, everything we do is aiming at some end: 'every art and every investigation, and similarly every action and pursuit, is considered to aim at some good. Hence the good has been rightly defined as 'that at which all things aim' ' (NE 1.1) What Aristotle means here by 'good', is not the generic term that we use to describe something enjoyable or favourable, but more of an ultimate, supreme good; a satisfactory and wholesome end. An end at which we all are aiming. In book 1, Aristotle calls the ultimate end (or telos) eudaimonia, which is commonly translated as happiness, but also as success or fulfillment. (1097a28-34). He proposes that we ought not to regard happiness as a property, but as a goal for the sake of which we act. So Aristotles' examination of happiness is a practical one, practical because he not only wants us to befall upon a theory of what happiness actually is, but his approach is guided by the thought that such an end is nothing less than the object of all rational action. Aristotle proposes that the first step we can take towards acquiring a successful life, is to realise what good action consists in, and to use this to guide us in our pursuits. He goes on to say that we should use the criteria of this supreme good to 'evaluate (other) goods, such as pleasure, wealth, honour, moral virtue, and philosophical contemplation' (Lear, G.R Happy Lives and the Human Good,1.1)- we are to take these to be the keys to our happiness. So, we can assume, so far, that the Human Good, according to Aristotle, is what we concieve to be the formal object of rational endeavour. Since the theory in question is a practical one, and one involving the exercise of rational activity, and each of our pursuits is aiming at some end or good; then all actions and their ends are subordinate to some other action. For example, A is aiming at B, and B is aiming at C and C is superior to both A and B, however, C is aiming at D...And so on. So, we must rightly conclude that there must be some sort of ultimate end (Human Good) relative to each of us. Aristotle's next aim is to resolve exactly what such an end consists in. G.Lawrence, in his analysis of the Human Good and Human Function, points out that Aristotle makes it clear that there are two distinct realms in which success is achieved. One lies in the target and the end of actions being disposed correctly, and the other is to find the actions which allow us to arrive at the end. So it seems that these things are what provide us with an object for our practical reason, for it is Aristotles' argument to express that a common starting point we all generally accept, is that we are pursuing a successful or great life. And it is in the fulfillment of the actions neccesary for success that we achieve it. What logically follows on from this is that, once we have realised the end which we personally desire (telos) we should look to the basic function of ourselves as humans; as rational beings, at how we are situated and our particular circumastances, circumstances that are quite obviously going to infuence our endeavors en route to the desired end. Thus Aristotle opens his argument for Human Function. Lawrence suggests that this argument has not been proposed to stand alone, but that, in addition to the understanding of the practicable good (which I shall elaborate on later), our success in life is dependant upon our function, because performing it well...
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