“We must consider it, however, in the light not only of our conclusion and our premisses, but also of what is commonly said about it; for with a true view all the data harmonize, but with a false one the facts soon clash. Now goods have been divided into three classes, and some are described as external, others as relating to soul or to body; we call those that relate to soul most properly and truly goods, and psychical actions and activities we class as relating to soul. Therefore our account must be sound, at least according to this view, which is an old one and agreed on by philosophers. It is correct also in that we identify the end with certain actions and activities; for thus it falls among goods of the soul and not among external goods. Another belief which harmonizes with our account is that the happy man lives well and does well; for we have practically defined happiness as a sort of good life and good action. The characteristics that are looked for in happiness seem also, all of them, to belong to what we have defined happiness as being. For some identify happiness with virtue, some with practical wisdom, others with a kind of philosophic wisdom, others with these, or one of these, accompanied by pleasure or not without pleasure; while others include also external prosperity. Now some of these views have been held by many men and men of old, others by a few eminent persons; and it is not probable that either of these should be entirely mistaken, but rather that they should be right in at least some one respect or even in most respects.”
Aristotle. (350 B.C.). Nicomachean Ethics. (Book 1).
The paragraph above by Aristotle, translated by W.D. Ross, refers to the idea of happiness in relation to goodness and what goods are, both within us and externally. Aristotle mentions that ‘a happy many lives well and does well’, meaning, that those that do good will live a happy life. It also mentions the end, which I can only assume to be the end of life, and how the goods within a person are much more important than the physical goods that a person may have. Some people may think of themselves as happy because of the objects they have, but the true key to happiness is being a good person and doing good deeds.
I chose this paragraph because it answers some of the questions that I ask myself on a regular basis: what is the key to happiness. In today’s society, many of us, including myself, find happiness in objects- watches, shoes, clothes, bags, etc. However, this happiness is only acute happiness; it only provides us a feeling of ‘happy’ for a short while, whether it be 5 minutes, an actual short while, or 5 months- which in relation to a life long time period, is in fact a short while. What makes us happy when we look back on our lives? I wont be happy in 2020 because I bought myself a nice watch that I’ve been thinking about for months- I probably wont even remember the watch that I’m actually waiting to come in the mail any day now. But for right now, it seems to be all I can think about. It seems ridiculous that I base my happiness on something material when some individuals don’t even have the necessary material objects in life- food, clothes, etc. and still find a way to be happy. What makes my happiness different from anyone elses? Perhaps, what I base it on. I find myself dissecting my thoughts like this often.
And so, I chose this post because it made me realize that we are not content with ourselves as human beings, we are not ‘good’ people, doing ‘good’ things or deeds as often as we should, and so we try to find a short period of happiness in material objects to satisfy our need to feel pleasure and happy, and content with ourselves, really -because we have not yet reached the point of ‘goodness’ to give us everlasting happiness. While I recognize the fact that material object do in fact make me happy, simplicity and goodness make me happy too.
My questions: I find myself to be a generally nice person, with good intentions, and yet I find happiness in material objects as well as helping people and doing good deeds. Is that wrong? Is it wrong to treat myself once in a while, if at the end of the day I am a ‘good’ person?
I agree with Aristotle that the ultimate goal in life is to strive for happiness, whatever makes us happy- its what drives us. If providing for our family makes us happy, we work; if helping people makes us happy, we help. Happiness is interpreted differently for everyone and so that is why everyone finds themselves at a different point in life and in the world. But at the end of the day and at the end of our lives- happiness is the goal and what has driven us to this point.
Notions of happiness may be different based on your foundation, or the type of family you come from, your religion and belief system, etc. For example, if your family values close ties with one another, spending quality time with your family and helping your family members out may bring you great joy. In terms of class- if you’re part of the lower class, if may bring you great joy to go to college or be able to provide for someone to get an education because it is so far fetched from what you thought possible- as opposed to an individual from a wealthier family may not find great joy from going to college because they may take it for granted.
I find myself questioning the meaning of life often. Maybe the meaning and purpose of life is happiness. My concept of happiness is being content with yourself as a human being. My idea of happiness is spending time with my family and enjoying life as a gift from a higher power.
Based on my previous comment and question in relation to the fact that I find happiness in both being a good person and material things, I am going to mention the concept of virtue. Virtue is regarded as a mean, not an excessive amount, and not a deficient amount. Virtue is the balance. So then, if I balance the things that bring me pleasure, material goods and helping people, well then I have virtue, and in that happiness.
I think Aristotle’s definition and concept of happiness is useful in trying to understand true happiness and trying to attain it eventually. However, I do not feel that most people are on the right path, and have virtue in their lives, or balance. I think we, as a society, have very addictive personalities and try to mask the fact that were not happy with ourselves as moral human beings.
When looking at good people and people that help others on a regular basis, I do believe that Aristotle’s concept on happiness is very legitimate and useful in understanding the moral motivations of people. Doing good and being moral brings some people extreme happiness, and that is a beautiful thing.
Simplicity. Innocence. Happiness.