One of the biggest question Aristotle asks in his ethics is what, does it mean to live a good life? This question in ways seems somewhat difficult to answer at first, especially to narrow it down to just one thing. According to Aristotle, “the answer to the question what is the good, is going to be an answer in which we can guide ourselves, our behaviors, and our actions” (Westislandcollege).
What is one thing we all desire in life? (Westislandcollege).This varies from person to person, to some people it could be freedom, power, love, or money. For example, take Rosa parks, a woman who played a big part in the American civil rights movements. Rosa Parks stated, “I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free and other people would be also free” (Voa News). Then, on the other hand, there are people who simply just desire money.
For example, there are many people in the United States or just people all over the world that believe that money will bring them a good life. We are all kind of brainwashed in that sense that money equals a good life. In the end, Aristotle narrows it down to one thing we all desire and that is happiness (Aristotle 301). Aristotle enshrines happiness as a central purpose of human life and a goal in itself (United Themes). Overall Aristotle, is saying that happiness is the key to living a good life. According to Aristotle, happiness is the number one thing we all desire (Westislandcollege). To completely understand why happiness is the number one desire, we have to ask ourselves as individuals what is happiness(Westislandcollege)? To most human beings happiness can mean a number of things. For example, happiness for me is going back home during summer and spending time with my family whereas happiness to my grandpa would be playing tennis on a Sunday afternoon.
Happiness is really the one thing that brings us all together in the world, for once the one thing we can really agree on. At the end of the day all, we truly want as human beings are to be happy. According to Aristotle and many other greeks, “happiness was not a psychological state of mind, they called it Eudaimonia which mean flourishing, realizing your potential being the best you can possibly be” (Westislandcollege). Eudaimonia or happiness is not so much something you can feel within but it’s more a declaration you make when you look back on something that happened in your life and say yes that was good (Westislandcollege). For example, over the weekend, I was at Walmart and while I was checking out at the self-checkout station I noticed there was $60 still left in the machine. As soon as I saw the money, I took it and went right over to the employee standing behind me and gave them the money and explained the situation.
At that moment I didn’t feel honorable, there was no debating in my head as soon as I saw the money rather I should keep it or give it to the employee. I had no thought process that went through my mind, in a way it was like second nature. My body did the action before I could even process it in my own head. Again, I didn’t feel honorable in that specific moment but now looking back at the moment I can agree that was honorable behavior (Westislandcollege).
Im, sure there are many scenarios just like mine that we don’t realize we are being honorable and tell we look back at them later in the future. To Aristotle, every single thing you can possibly think of has a function (Westislandcollege). For example, a function of a pilot is to fly planes or a function of an auto mechanic is to fix cars. It could also be something as little as dirt having a function. Aristotle’s point is that everything that surrounds us in the world has a function or a purpose (Westislandcollege). I think we tend to maybe forget that human beings aren’t the only ones that have a function. Aristotle brings up the point that “something that functions well, we call it good, therefore, a virtuous life is one that is living according to its purpose” (Westislandcollege). His statement brings up a lot of questions, especially the question of what is the reason why we are here? In all, what is our purpose (Westislandcollege)? According to Aristotle the one thing that really separates human beings from animals is virtues (Westislandcollege).
For instance, animals are governed by their appetites, and they don’t stop and think about things (Westislandcollege). I can clearly see this statement as being true from just watching my dog. My dog’s whole life is basically around his appetite and hunger for food.
Don’t get me wrong I know my dog loves me but as soon as he smells food or sees it, he is gone within seconds. On the other hand, people are rational, we all make up our own mind on different situations (Westislandcollege). Human beings have intellectual virtues such as knowledge, wisdom, and understanding (Westislandcollege). For example, I wasn’t born being open-minded.
Nobody is born with thinking that equality is good or bad as soon as they are born. Just like nobody is born a racist. The hate some people have for others was something they learned over time. In my case, I got open-mindedness mainly from my parents, family, and just people I surrounded myself with as I was growing up. Open-mindedness is something we learn, it doesn’t come naturally to us (Westislandcollege).
Furthermore, Aristotle believes we need to have free will in order to choose how we as human beings want to live our lives (Westislandcollege). Another question that arises is firstly how do we exactly do this? Aristotle’s then comes up with the golden mean,”moral behavior is the mean between two extremes, at one end is excess, at the other deficiency”(Bucks Journalism). If you find the golden mean, then you are acting morally (Bucks Journalism). For example, if you use the virtue of honesty, “it’s knowing what you need to put it there and knowing what you need to keep quiet about” (CrashCourse). In all, it knows just the difference between what is right and wrong to do something. For instance, everybody knows it would not be the best idea to give liquor to an alcoholic or a gun to someone who is suicidal. In all, where the golden mean is, depends on the given situation (CrashCourse).
Overall, what Aristotle is trying to tell people through his ethics is in order to have a good life, you need happiness (United Themes). Aristotle writes, “a life of Eudaimonia is a life of striving, it’s a life of pushing yourself to your limits, finding success and a eudaimonia life will be full of the happiness that comes from achieving something really difficult, rather than just having it handed it to you” (CrashCourse). Aristotle is saying that life is not easy, that we as human beings are gonna face so my difficult times. It’s about what we do with those struggles we are faced with and how we are gonna respond.
You can either let those difficult times destroy you, or you can get up and do something about it. At the end of the day, Aristotle is saying that you should own your strength and continue to work on your weakness (CrashCourse). That your weakness doesn’t define you unless you let it. Aristotle is saying to turn that weakness into a positive.
In conclusion, a good life for Aristotle is by having “virtue because if you are you could contain the pinnacle of humanity and it allows you to achieve eudaimonia” (CrashCourse). Overall, if a person lives their life with virtues, then that person will continue to give back and no doubt do great things for the world.