Posted by: ellen | March 2, 2009

11 – Aristotle: Happiness and Virtue

Book: Contemporary Moral Problems: Happiness and Virtue by Aristotle

Library Reference: N/A

Amazon.com Reference: http://www.amazon.com/Contemporary-Moral-Problems-James-White/dp/0495553204/

Quote: We can do noble acts without ruling the earth and the sea, for even with moderate advantages one can act virtuously.

Learning Expectation: I am expecting to:

· Knows what is Happiness for Aristotle

· Learn on how we be happy

· Understand why virtue and pleasures go hand in hand with happiness

Review:

Happiness, this word is what I always heard from Utilitarianism, Debate over Utilitarianism and now on Aristotle Happiness and Virtue.

Like what Rachels asked, what is Happiness? For Aristotle happiness is a virtuously activity of the soul. It is something that you can gain through contemplating. Happiness is said to be related with virtue because according to Aristotle, virtue is a state of character that concerned with the intermediate, mean or what we commonly known as middle. We need to be on the mean because like what the old saying goes, having too much and too less is something that be consider as dreadful. To Aristotle, having something that is excessive and deficiency can destroy our own happiness.

Pleasure, this is something that always put hand in hand with happiness. For Aristotle, pleasure like what almost people said so is also happiness, but it can be considered as the lowest form because it will only give people temporary happiness. Unlike what Happiness on Aristotelian point of view, that it will give you something that even your soul can be fed up.

Aristotle also said that Moral virtue is what makes the mean. Moral virtue is something something that a product of training and habits, it is also the mean between the vices of excess and deficiency. According to him, moral virtue wasn’t arises by nature because you can’t change natural things, like the way you can’t train the rain to pour from you feet upwards. He also said that moral virtue is like a good work of the art, excessiveness and deficiency on it can destroy its beauty but the mean can preserve it. In addition, moral virtue should be feeling on the right time, with the right objects towards the right people. Moral Virtue is the mean that makes things right.

What I have learned:

Aristotle Happiness and Virtue is my main favorite among the 12 chapters because it really gave me a hard time to understand what he is talking about.

I really learned that Happiness is easy to have, as long as the person knows how to contemplate and think of the things that “really” makes him happy. Things that he knows he will regret if ever he didn’t do it, something that can last for maybe a lifetime.

I also learned that we are the one who create our own happiness. Happiness is very subjective that you alone can tell whether you are happy or not. You alone can also dictates on when or how can you be happy.

Review Questions:

1. What is happiness, according to Aristotle? How it is related to virtue? How is it related to

2. How does Aristotle explain moral virtues? Give some examples.

3. Is it possible for everyone in our society to be happy, as Aristotle explains it? If not, who cannot be happy?

Answers:

1. Happiness according to Aristotle is a virtuously activity of the soul. Virtue is the state of character that concerned on the intermediate, or the mean, because excessiveness and deficiency destroy something. Virtue is related to happiness because it is the one who find the mean or the  best thing inside of us that we doesn’t see because we are blinded by the excessiveness and deficiency of the our wants. Pleasure is related to happiness because most men and those who are a vulgar type define happiness as life enjoyment, and great example of it is what we called Pleasures.


2. Aristotle explain the moral virtue as something that a product of training and habits, it is also the mean between the vices of excess and deficiency. According to him, moral virtue wasn’t arises by nature because you can’t change natural things, like the way you can’t train the rain to pour from you feet upwards. He also said that moral virtue is like a good work of the art, excessiveness and deficiency on it can destroy its beauty but the mean can preserve it. In addition, moral virtue should be feeling on the right time, with the right objects towards the right people. Moral Virtue is the mean that makes things right.


3. On what I read, I can say that everyone has the possibility to be happy because all you need is to have a moral virtue that we said is a product of a habit or training. And this can be achieved by the means of contemplating, like what stated on the chapter, “Happiness therefore must be some form of contemplation”. In addition, I really like what this sentence is implying “we can do noble acts without ruling the earth and the sea, for even with moderate advantages one can act virtuously”, this quotation is a proof that it is easy to be happy, as long as you know how to be morally virtuous.

Discussion Question:

1. Aristotle characterizes a life of pleasures as suitable for beast. But what, if anything, is wrong with a life of pleasures?

2. Aristotle claims that the philosopher will be happier than anyone else, why is this? Do you agree or not?

Answers:

1. I think it is because Life pleasures are all temporary and just can satisfy your physical self. We know that we also have moral and spiritual self unlike the beast who is here just to live, nothing more, so they all need to find food and mates. Human isn’t like that, we also seek for something beyond physical things, and pleasure is something that just can satisfy you for a year or so, but it can never bring you absolute happiness.


2. He said that the philosopher will be happier that anyone else because even by himself he can contemplate, and contemplation is some form of happiness. I do agree on him because people aren’t used to contemplate, instead of doing contemplation, you most probably see him enjoying life pleasures that we are all know as temporary. In addition, I personally think that philosopher see life in a much sensible perspective due to their willingness and habit to contemplate. Contemplation really defines happiness because this is the way you can know your self more and realize the actions you need to do in order to experience self-fulfillment. In addition, have you realize that every time a hardship or feeling of lacking comes to a person’s way, he tend to contemplate because that is the only way to find the best solution that will lead to their own happiness.

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