Aristotle’s Idea on Leading a Good Life and That of Happiness




Aristotle’s Idea on Leading a Good Life and That of Happiness

Philosophers always play an essential role in trying to explain and give reflections on day to day events. Philosophies always take the belief and logic direction. Among major philosophes who are remembered to date is Aristotle. Aristotle is an ancient Greek philosopher who contributed much to the idea of morality and ethics. In doing so he defined what it means to leave a good life. He also gave his views on living well and leading the good life. In this paper, I will major on Aristotle’s ideas on leading the good life and opinions on happiness as part of a good life.

Aristotle’s ideas on living a good life start with explanations of ends and means that are when someone wants a house; the house is the end and the way he or she will acquire it is the means. One can obtain a house through stealing, buying or borrowing, it is these ways that determine the good life. Getting the house means one has to get a family or house help which implies that it one end drives someone to another end. Also in the house, one has to buy food furniture and appliances (Homia, Wayne, and Daniel Pg.78). Such situations made Aristotle think if there is an end for something, that is he wanted to know if in human life there is an ultimate end or purpose.

Aristotle further argues that the end of every human life is to live the best life, to flourish and he generalizes this as humans have a goal of living a good life. According to Aristotle, “the end of human life is to flourish, to live well, to have a good life,” (Aristotle, W D. Ross, and Lesley pg.11). He says as we grow we tend to act more mature and act more purposefully and less aimlessly. To know what we are trying to live and do in life everyone tends to develop a purpose in life. Without a plan, we don’t know what we are trying to do or live and despite having a plan we need one that is the best to live a good life. All actions should aim at the end of living a good life which involves having a good shelter, clothing, and food. Aristotle thinks that living well is the end of every human and that no one wants to live a miserable life.

A contradiction arises where different people have their ways of a good life where to some it is materialistic for example wealth and some it is intrinsic such as power. People have different desires thus different plans on how to live well. Aristotle answers this differences by saying that we all have different desires. Acquired desires are different between individuals where they correspond to our wants while natural desires are nearly the same for all people and correspond to our needs. With this idea, Aristotle states that I quote, “the good life consists in the possession, throughout a lifetime, of all those things that are good for us,” (Aristotle, pg. 43). According to Aristotle, natural desires are the things that are good to us whether we like it or not and these are the real goods whereas acquired desires appear good to us when we need them thus they are apparent goods. Regardless of their differences, our desires lead to a good life.

Good habits and moral character shape the good life. Aristotle tells us that developing moral character is one way to create a gap between knowledge of the good life and living it. Developing good habits is what shapes character, and we can get this through making rational decisions such as avoiding excessive drinking and habitually studying hard (Aristotle, W D. Ross, and Lesley pg. 31). The habit of making good choices ensures we live well unlike bad choices which can lead to living a mediocre life. From Aristotle’s idea, we can say that we need to develop good morals and habits to help us get what is best for us unlike bad morals which lead us to things that are far away from being good (Cottingham, pg12).

Aristotle also against leaving everything to good luck. We shape our lives and not through luck even though it exists. I quote from his book “to turn what is greatest and best over to luck would strike too false a note,”(Aristotle pg44). If we say everything is by good luck, then everything that humans desired or need would be out of control. Despite him urging against lady luck, Aristotle also supported the fact that luck played a role in leading to a good life. He tells us the, I quote, “most people suppose that the eudemon [benevolent spirit] life is a fortunate life, for without these external gods who control of luck. It would be impossible to enjoy a ‘good life!” (Homia, Wayne, and Daniel Pg.78) this shows that luck did play a role in leading a good life, but we should not depend on luck but develop habits and values that will drive us towards achieving a good life.

Aristotle gives an exception of people and things that could not lead a good life. Children were exempted from this since they were young and had less knowledge on how to practice intellectual values and virtues. Also, in the ancient Greek, the lower class, slaves and the women were not in a position to choose to lead a good life since they could not make independent choices (Cottingham, pg.56). They had a very little chance of practicing their virtues. The reason for animals not being included in the good life is because they were not in a position to make rational decisions. The sick people were not in a place to lead the good life since they could find it had to adjust to the desires of the healthy people. Generally, those excluded from good life by Aristotle had issues that were out of their control.

Further, he tells us that through leading contemplative lives, one attains happiness or good life. . He talks about eudemonia as the good demons which makes life choice worthy and self-sufficient. A complete life is the best since it automatically brings happiness. Life of completion is considered as best by Aristotle as it the source of perfect happiness. Contemplation is indeed good which can have the best outcomes by not relying on other people to make one happy. A life of contemplation is low life with fewer needs. Contemplation helps one achieve good virtues of highest degree such as self-consciousness (Kazez, Jean pg. 88). As believers., everyone was created in the image of God who wants us to lead good lives full of good virtues

In conclusion, we should all aim at being happy through doing what is good. We all desire to live well; thus we need to practice what is good and have goals in our lives. Goals act as a driving force toward getting the desired life. Cultivating our habits increases our chances of having a good life. There is happiness in good life unlike living a life that you did not want, one will always be sad thus we should still practice good habits that lead us to the best life.

Work Cited

Aristotle, W D. Ross, and Lesley Brown. The Nicomachean Ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. Internet resource.

Aristotle, New Translation of the Nichomachean Ethics of Aristotle. Read Books Ltd, 2013.

Cottingham, John. Philosophy and the Good Life: Reason and the Passions in Greek, Cartesian, and Psychoanalytic Ethics. Cambridge, U.K: Cambridge University Press, 1998. Internet resource.

Ellsberg, Robert. Modern Spiritual Masters: Writings on Contemplation and Compassion. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2008. 

Homiak, Marcia, Wayne J. Pond, and Daniel Gunn. Aristotle and the Good Life. Research Triangle Park, N.C: National Humanities Center, 1989. Sound recording.

Kazez, Jean. The Weight of Things: Philosophy and the Good Life. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub, 2007. 

YOUNG, MARK A. Negotiating the Good Life: Aristotle and the Civil Society. S.l.: ROUTLEDGE, 2017