One of the prominent concepts discussed in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics is that of the ultimate good. Aristotle rationally philosophizes that "every action and choice [
] aims at some good" and that this ultimate good is generally considered to be happiness (3). However, Aristotle makes it clear that happiness is a very subjective concept and that the connotations of the word are a topic of constant debate.
In ancient Greek terms, the concept of happiness was referred to as eudaimonia. Eudaimonia refers to happiness on a level congruent with social aspects, as opposed to the inner emotions we associate it with today. In Aristotle's time, an individual who had achieved a state of eudaimonia was cheerful and content with life as a result of obtaining success and affluence. Our modern day concept of happiness is the closest equivalent to eudaimonia, but because the translation is imprecise, the meaning of the text is somewhat affected.
Aristotle asserts that "happiness (eudaimonia) is something final and self-sufficient and the end of our actions" (15-16). According to his philosophy, eudaimonia is the highest good and an end in itself. An individual strives for this state, not because it is a step along the path to greater things, but because upon reaching it, there is nothing more to be desired. To someone who interprets happiness in Aristotle's work in the manner that we interpret it today, this philosophy would not seem rational. In today's society, many individuals consider themselves happy even in the absence of material wealth and success. Most people who live only modestly are still very content with their place in life. This can be attributed to the fact that our society does not correlate happiness with social status to the degree that society during Aristotle's time did. Today, most would probably agree that happiness is made possible through love and relationships between families, friends and significant others. Clearly,...
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