Thursday, July 18, 2019

Aristotle’s Theory of Virtue and Happiness Essay

Aristotle was one of the most respected philosophers of all time. He wrote on many subjects covering a wide range of topics; politics, psychology, metaphysics, logic and ethics. In the article â€Å"Nature of Virtue† written by Aristotle, his theory of a persons happiness and good morals is explained. I agree that a human’s goal in life is to be happy, and to live a good life but happiness and good do not come hand in hand. In this paper, I disagree with Aristotle’s proper function argument. The word happiness is a much broader term to Aristotle than what we think of. (Johnston, Para. F) By happiness he means successful, living a good life and physical well being. A fully happy life would include success for themselves, their family and descendants. The idea of good and happiness according to Aristotle is based around the proper function argument. The proper function argument is basically that every man is brought to this earth to have a function. Happiness is the main goal in someone’s life, and this comes with a function. â€Å"For all things that have a function or activity, the good and â€Å"well is thought to reside in the function. † We are not on this earth to merely live, but to do our best to live well. (Cahn 113) Something is good if it performs its proper function for example, a good movie. If you watch a movie and you think its good, than it has performed its proper function. The purpose of broccoli is to feed and give people nutrition, the purpose of a truck is to transport objects, and the purpose of one human may to be a plumber. Fixing sinks and toilets is this human’s function, and if done successfully, happiness will be achieved. â€Å"The function of humans is an activity of the soul and must act in accordance with virtue, or goodness. † A person can only be happy when they are fulfilling their function. (Cahn 114). When a person is fulfilling their function, they are eudaimon. Eudaimonia is the Greek term for happiness and living well. When someone takes part in Eudaimonia, they are taking part in â€Å"the activity of the soul in accordance with excellence, virtue or what is good for† (â€Å"The Human good and Function Argument†) In Aristotle’s view, human beings are the only species that have the potential to live a better life. He believes living well creates happiness, the final goal for human beings. Reaching a goal drives every behavior, and the goal of humans is to attain goodness and excellence. He also states that every man should pursue happiness and happiness is attainable by all people. (â€Å"Traditional Virtues and The Skeptic†. ) I disagree with these statements; being happy, and being evil can happen at the same time. For example, the Romans lived very happily even though their actions were evil. The Roman’s believed they were the most superior and advanced society yet they found pleasure and happiness in torturing and killing Christians for sport. The Roman’s lived in a world of evil, and they were undoubtedly happy. Aristotle’s objection to my example of the Romans would be that the Roman’s took their pleasure to the extreme with their lavish lifestyles, which lead to their downfall and demise. Aristotle would use his theory of the â€Å"Golden mean† to object to the Roman’s happiness. For Aristotle living life well involves â€Å"using the virtues we were intended to use, including chiefly reason, but also courage, honesty, and moderation in pursuing pleasure. † (Stevenson 67). Every good thing exists between two bad things. So anything is achievable as long as it is not taken to excess. Aristotle’s example for this is that if 10 pounds is too much for someone too eat, and 2 pounds is too little, than 6 pounds being the mean, would not be the exact amount that person should eat to be satisfied, but is something to aim towards. (Cahn 117). Aristotle’s â€Å"golden mean† says that you should not do anything to the excess, or you will only hurt yourself. â€Å"If you overindulge in physical pleasures, your health will deteriorate. † (Stevenson 67. ) In other words, the Roman’s overindulged in their pleasure, which lead to their own pain and suffering in the end. If it is true that you cannot experience goodness unless you are happy, and you cannot be happy if you take action into extremes, than it must be true that the people in poverty cannot be good. Every society has had its rise and fall in power, so does that mean that people that live on the under side of the extreme, or in Aristotle’s example, to only eat two pounds of food, can never achieve goodness because they are not happy? For example there is a poor child in Africa who is living in severe conditions, with no food, and not enough water. He is doing everything he can in pursuit of happiness. He goes to church, he helps his parents out with the family, and he is doing his best in school. However, he is hungry and living in unhappiness because of his terrible situation. Because this boy is not happy, does this mean he is not a good person? Happiness is attainable to all people, but how is happiness attainable by this boy? Living to the extreme may cause unhappiness in some situations, but it is quite often that living in moderation can lead to unhappiness as well. Moderate behavior will not always bring happiness. For example, someone who is very passionate and romantic may find that moderate behavior does not suit his or her needs. â€Å"One can not be happy if forced to control oneself in all situations of life. † (Popkin 10) A human wants to live life the way they desire, and to seize from acting how you feel does not lead to happiness. Aristotle’s theory is based around the fact that good morals come from habit. You must be taught to be good in order to be good. According to Aristotle, your characteristics come from your actions; in other words, you â€Å"become good by doing good† (Cahn 113). Under Aristotle’s theory, to be a good person, you must have been taught to be good at a young age to acquire good morals. â€Å"In order to profit from the sort of study he is undertaking, one must already have been brought up in good habits†(â€Å"Traditional Virtues and The Skeptic†. ) This means the group of people with potential to have virtue and happiness is limited. It is limited to the people who come from a family with good ethics. The only people who are going to become good, are the people who are already well on their way to be good because their family is training them to be this way. But what about the people who come from bad families? Or what about the people who were raised by ethically good families? For example, a child who was brought up by parents who had no ethics or good morals at all. The mother was a drug addict, and the father ran away while the child was at an early age. The child wasn’t taught anything about morals, and did not have a proper upbringing what so ever. Everything the child knew was learnt on his own, and he decided who he wanted to be an acted in relation to this. This child ends up being a good person, has a good job, and lives in happiness. When Aristotle makes the point that you must have had exercise in virtues, he does not have any proof that this is always true. â€Å"What Aristotle owes us, then, is an account of these traditional qualities that explains why they must play a central role in any well-lived life. † (â€Å"Traditional Virtues and The Skeptic†.), Aristotle must explain to us why being trained by a guardian is required in order to end up living a complete life. In conclusion, Aristotle’s theories are applicable in some situations, but should not be applied in all situations. You can be happy and evil at the same time; you do not have to be good in order to be happy. Aristotle objects by saying you cannot be happy and live to extremes, however you can also be happy and over indulge at the same time. It is also possible for someone to live well, have virtue and happiness even when they had not been brought up this way. They can learn on their own, characteristics can be defined by who you want to be. Aristotle says that happiness is attainable by all, but if you follow the Aristotle’s theory, you will find that happiness is limited to a certain group. Works Cited Johnston, Ian. † Lecture on Aristotle’s Nicomachaean Ethics. † Records. November 18th, 1997. http://records. viu. ca/~johnstoi/introser/aristot. htm. April 15th, 2010. Cahn Steven. â€Å"Exploring Ethics. † Aristotle: The Nature of Virtue. Ed. Steven M. Cahn. New York: Oxford University Press. 2009. Pg 113-117. â€Å"The Human Good and Function Argument. † Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2001. May 1st, 2001. http://plato. stanford. edu/entries/aristotle-ethics/#HumGooFunArg. April 15th, 2010. â€Å"Traditional Virtues and The Skeptic. † Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. N. P. May 1st, 2001. http://plato. stanford. edu/entries/aristotle-ethics/#HumGooFunArg. April 15th, 2010. Stevenson, Jay. â€Å"The Complete Idiots Guide to Philosophy. † The Golden Mean. Ed. Drew Patty. 2nd Edition. 2002. Pg 67. Popkin, Richard. â€Å"Philosophy Made Simple. † Criticism of Aristotle. Richard Popkin and A. Stroll. New York, 1993. Pg 10-11.

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