Share
Explore BrainMass

Aristotle and the good life

What do you think of Aristotle's conclusion that the good life is a life of intellectual contemplation? Are there other ways of life that could bring happiness?

Aristotle says that the common person's definition of happiness is different than the philosopher's. In what ways do you imagine it would be different, and why?

Which branch of philosophy do you think this discussion of the good life, or happiness, would fall under? Please be sure to explain your reasoning.

-

The Discussion Board (DB) is part of the core of online learning. Classroom discussion in an online environment requires the active participation of students and the instructor to create robust interaction and dialogue. Every student is expected to create an original response to the open-ended DB question as well as engage in dialogue by responding to posts created by others throughout the week. At the end of each unit, DB participation will be assessed based on both level of engagement and the quality of the contribution to the discussion.

At a minimum, each student will be expected to post an original and thoughtful response to the DB question and contribute to the weekly dialogue by responding to at least two other posts from students. The first contribution must be posted before midnight (Central Time) on Wednesday of each week. Two additional responses are required after Wednesday of each week. Students are highly encouraged to engage on the Discussion Board early and often, as that is the primary way the university tracks class attendance and participation.

The purpose of the Discussion Board is to allow students to learn through sharing ideas and experiences as they relate to course content and the DB question. Because it is not possible to engage in two-way dialogue after a conversation has ended, no posts to the DB will be accepted after the end of each unit.

One thing that unites all humans—despite culture or time period—is the desire to be happy. Since the beginning of Western philosophy, philosophers have been asking the question, "How can I find happiness?"

In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle asserts that all things have their own primary purpose, or end. He says that the good, or happiness, can be achieved by reaching that primary purpose. For example, an acorn's primary purpose or end is to grow into an oak tree. An airplane's primary purpose is to fly. And according to Aristotle, a human's primary purpose is to develop reason and intellect—and to develop this intellect to its fullest potential. If this can be done, he says that happiness will be found, and the individual will be living the good life. And yet, Aristotle says, the "common run of people" (i.e., the Average Joe) look for happiness through pleasure, wealth, or honor. Consider the following passage from Nichomachean Ethics (Baird & Kaufmann, 2000):

Since all knowledge and every choice is directed toward some good, let us discuss what is... the highest good attainable by action. As far as its name is concerned, most people would probably agree: for both the common run of people and cultivated men call it happiness, and understand by "being happy" the same as "living well" and "doing well." But when it comes to defining what happiness is, they disagree, and the account given by the common run differs from that of the philosophers. The former say it is some clear and obvious good, such as pleasure, wealth, or honor; some say it is one thing and other another, and often the very same person identifies it with different things at different times: when he is sick he thinks it is health, and when he is poor he says it is wealth: and when people are conscious of their own ignorance, they admire those who talk above their heads in access of greatness. Some thinkers used to believe that there exists over and above these many good another good, good in itself and by itself, which also is the cause of good in all these things. (1)

Solution Preview

Aristotle and Contemplation

Since all knowledge and every choice is directed toward some good, let us discuss what is... the highest good attainable by action. As far as its name is concerned, most people would probably agree: for both the common run of people and cultivated men call it happiness, and understand by "being happy" the same as "living well" and "doing well." But when it comes to defining what happiness is, they disagree, and the account given by the common run differs from that of the philosophers. The former say it is some clear and obvious good, such as pleasure, wealth, or honor; some say it is one thing and other another, and often the very same person identifies it with different things at different times: when he is sick he thinks it is health, and when he is poor he says it is wealth: and when people are conscious of their own ignorance, they admire those who talk above their heads in access of greatness. Some thinkers used to believe that there exists over and above these many good another good, good in itself and by itself, which also is the cause of good in all these things.

What do you think of Aristotle's conclusion that the good life is a life of intellectual contemplation? Are there other ways of life that could bring happiness?

Unlike Kant, Aristotle stresses that happiness is our end. In order to be so, what makes us happy must be permanent and, as Plato would say, unmixed with pain. It must be, in other words, a higher pleasure that leads to happiness. In my opinion, Aristotle is correct. His basic argument is that our other (public) activities are not ends in themselves. Politics may bring justice, but justice itself, ...

Solution Summary

What Aristotle's conclusion that the good life is a life of intellectual contemplation is determined.

$2.19