Happiness is one of those emotions that each person in the world strives to have in their own different ways. Throughout history, different philosophers have developed theories to explain how people can live a good life filled with happiness. However, there is arguably Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle provides the best information that can answer the age-old questions regarding happiness such as, what is the nature of happiness?, how does a person achieve happiness? and why do people fail to achieve happiness? Plato and Aristotle are arguably considered the two greatest written philosophers in ancient Greek history. Aristotle was Plato’s student; however, over time he began questioning some of his mentor’s philosophies a factor that led Roger Crisp, to describe Aristotle as the most notable thinker and the most cultured individual in the history of humankind (Anderson and Karen, 271). One of the issues that led to such high praise was his analytical and in-depth analysis of happiness. Aristotle states that happiness is more than merely a subjective emotional state that has no clear definition, but it is an objective state that explains the principles of human well-being. In an era of increased mental ailments, such as depression from triggers such as social media, there is a clear need to breakdown how Aristotle’s premise developed almost 2,500 years ago to aid achieve happiness in the 21st century.
What is Aristotle’s point?”
In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle suggests that in order for a person to be happy, he or she ought to live in harmony with the function of human nature. He states that the function of a knife is to cut while that of an animal is to enjoy sumptuous pleasures. With this in mind from Aristotle’s perspective, the function of any human being is to act ethically through retinal thinking which is part of nature.
What is the nature of the universe?
Aristotle believed that the nature of the universe is set between two extremes firstly, subjects in the universe exist as a form without matter and matter without form. The description of matter into form ought to be done in various stages in the world of nature. To achieve this goal the object of Aristotle’s physics or philosophy of nature indicated that everything in nature has its end as well as function. Subsequently, no natural object exists without its purpose. From Aristotle’s point of view, knowledge is a natural process that exists in the real world and it allows an individual to differentiate the two forms of nature. Meaning, it is natural for an animal, in this case, humans to achieve its potential through rational consciousness. The ability to comprehend intelligible or law-governed structures, as well as the changes taking place around an environment, is what allows a person to achieve their potential. In a reality that is made up of materials as well as the cognitive aspects allows a person to expand their reasoning and thinking activities. Additionally, there exist particular principles in reality that are governed by laws, structures, as well as connections that aid in allowing people to develop an open mind that challenges pre-set laws. Meaning that there are no contradictions in nature.
What is the nature of man/human being?
According to Aristotle, the nature of man, as well as human actions, is pegged on purposeful conduct, which is developed from the active exercise of a person’s ability to have rational thought. Man’s ability to have a cognitive process identifies the best possible outcome in any situation separates humankind from all other living organisms in addition to providing unique means of survival as well as flourishing in unpredictable environments. As explained by Aristotle’s definition of happiness, pleasure is arguable as the function of animals. With this in mind, he states that humans are driven by their natural instincts to be happy. Nevertheless, with the ability to think and disuse aspects of decision making, human beings are special animals. “Moral virtue is concerned with pleasures and pains; it is on account of the pleasure that we do bad things and on account of the pain that we abstain from noble ones” (Miller, 80). The above statement suggests that pleasure tends to lead people into acting without control and thus there is a need for rational thinking in order for an individual to have long-lasting happiness as opposed to temporary pleasure that is derived from a vice meaning humans are driven by both materialisms from natural instincts and idealism from rational thought.
What must we do to be happy?
To be happy, Aristotle explains that, “…he is happy who lives in accordance with complete virtue and is sufficiently equipped with external goods, not for some chance period but throughout a complete life” (Miller, 127). Meaning, for one to be happy, one needs to fulfill two conditions, first, he or she ought to be entirely virtuous as this is a natural character as well as the purpose of being human. Second, for a person to be happy he or she must have the ability to have stable material comfort, which includes stable shelter, food, and friendship.
Aristotle describes defines human happiness as an objective feeling that is different from sensuous pleasures. In Nicomachean Ethics, he states that the primary function as human beings is not pegged perusing pleasures such sex or wealth, but instead to pursue virtues linked to knowledge, courage, as well as temperance as the lead to virtuous actions. From the paper presented, it can be argued that the purpose of human beings is to enrich their environment, and thus happiness is developed from virtue. Therefore, for a person to be happy they ought to follow their natural instincts as well as have a level of materialistic goods that sustain a good life.
Anderson, Margaret, and Karen F. Stephenson. Aristotle: Genius Philosopher and Scientist. Berkeley Heights: Rosen Publishing, 2015. Print.
Miller, Jon, ed. Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics: A Critical Guide. Cambridge University Press, 2011.