“Happiness depends on ourselves.” More than anybody else, Aristotle enshrines happiness as a central purpose of human life and a goal in itself. As a result he devotes more space to the topic of happiness than any thinker prior to the modern era. Living during the same period as Mencius, but on the other side of the world, he draws some similar conclusions. That is, happiness depends on the cultivation of virtue, though his virtues are somewhat more individualistic than the essentially social virtues of the Confucians. Yet as we shall see, Aristotle was convinced that a genuinely happy life required the fulfillment of a broad range of conditions, including physical as well as mental well-being. In this way he introduced the idea of a science of happiness in the classical sense, in terms of a new field of knowledge.
Essentially, Aristotle argues that virtue is achieved by maintaining the Mean, which is the balance between two excesses. Aristotle’s doctrine of the Mean is reminiscent of Buddha’s Middle Path, but there are intriguing differences. For Aristotle the mean was a method of achieving virtue, but for Buddha the Middle Path referred to a peaceful way of life which negotiated the extremes of harsh asceticism and sensual pleasure seeking. The Middle Path was a minimal requirement for the meditative life, and not the source of virtue in itself.
In conclusion, according to Aristotle, what is happiness?
- Happiness is the ultimate end and purpose of human existence
- Happiness is not pleasure, nor is it virtue. It is the exercise of virtue.
- Happiness cannot be achieved until the end of one’s life. Hence it is a goal and not a temporary state.
- Happiness is the perfection of human nature. Since man is a rational animal, human happiness depends on the exercise of his reason.
- Happiness depends on acquiring a moral character, where one displays the virtues of courage, generosity, justice, friendship, and citizenship in one’s life. These virtues involve striking a balance or “mean” between an excess and a deficiency.
Happiness requires intellectual contemplation, for this is the ultimate realization of our rational capacities.
Tell us what makes you HAPPY!!!
Credit: Pursuit of Happiness