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Philosophy: Is Aristotle right in his definition of happiness ?

My essay question is :

1. Is Aristotle right in his definition of happiness, or in his claim that the best life is that which achieves happiness?

My professor says this essay is missing a counterargument and a thoughtfully developed argument defending my thesis that goes beyond just repeating points from the text.

I already got the summary part of it in my essay. But I really need help on a counterargument and a thoughtfully developed argument to prove my point. Please help me take a look and give me some feedback/suggestions! Thank you.

Happiness is a difficult emotion or state of mind that is hard to define. It is exceptionally difficult because every person on earth has a varying view on happiness and not all these views may be the same. So what makes an individual's life completed with happiness? Happiness should be understood as something that satisfies the person's abilities. If he or she is doing something that satisfies him or herself, then he or she achieves happiness. If he or she achieves happiness, then that equates to a balance of pleasure, honor, and self-sufficiency (574-575). I believe Aristotle's theory of happiness is precise in arguing that happiness is achieved when the principles or virtues of an individual is completed to the fullest potential and he or she is content. Men undoubtedly live the "best life" relative to him by achieving happiness when they follow their own virtues and live out those virtues by displaying them to its fullest potential.

Aristotle was an interesting individual who possessed profound and rational thinking skills. He was a man who believed that following virtues meant achieving happiness for oneself. What were these virtues of life that Aristotle spoke about? Aristotle, in "Nicomachean Ethics" says "men... seem to identify the good, or happiness, with pleasure... further, men seem to pursue honour in order that they may be assured of their goodness." (574-575). Aristotle argues that men define an ideal life by achieving happiness, and this can be done by living life to its full potential, by having a balance of moral excellence and righteousness in society. But he says that boys can neither be happy or unhappy, for the primary reason that they have not lived a complete life.

It is basically a sense of feeling, a feeling that if he or she performed the best he or she could possibly do, he or she will be living their virtues to its fullest potential thus will be content with life. Life will equate to happiness if a person is able to live out their virtues. He says men and pleasure are connected, which men enjoy a life filled with pleasure and also with minimal distress. Still, a life may involve many different paths of pain and still be a life of happiness. Happiness is not defined by the amount of pleasure but a combination of pleasure and pains that men go through their lives. Aristotle also proclaims that men should live moderately, for example, having a balance of kindness means do not be exceptionally kind to others and do not beg for kindness. Aristotle says, "...but honour, pleasure, reason, and every virtue we choose indeed for themselves... we choose them also for the sake of happiness... for the final good is thought to be self-sufficient" (575). That is, people should supply one's own needs without any outside sources helping them but the only key thing is to try your best and that will be good enough. That will be happiness.

The final good, Self-sufficiency, is not restricted to oneself, but rather, extends to "parents, children, wife, and in general for his friends and fellow citizens" (575). Perhaps men were born unhappy, but are destined in their own rights to pursuit this happiness. Aristotle says that this happiness is attainable in all men, even the most "vulgar" men. "Happiness, then, is something final and self-sufficient, and is the end of action," a life cannot be filled with happiness until once it ends, therefore, we can also assume that death gives us happiness (575).

Aristotle's definition of happiness is one that involves self-fulfillment, regardless of how life is liven, a man's pursuit of happiness is one that he lives to its utmost potential until death. But it should not be forgotten that life should be a balance of moral excellence, by following one's own virtue and not following the norm. The pursuit of happiness can be identifiable in all men whether it consists of pleasure and painful paths, even the most outrageous men are in pursuit of happiness. Men are thought to have to be self-sufficient with their virtues in life and that men should accomplish this by living moderately.

EF_KevinThreads: 8
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Dec 6, 2008   #2
Oh, there are a few counter-arguments!

Theists: You can cite religious arguments that hold the highest good to be service to god.

Utilitarians: Other people would say that the highest good is to make a great contribution to society -- which would be contributing to the happiness of others.

Buddhists and Taoists: More interesting is the argument for enlightenment, as in the Buddhist and Taoist traditions! Enlightenment is a way to transcend duality altogether, so that you have gone beyond happy vs. unhappy.

So, read a book or article about each of those things, and cit what you read as part of a counter-argument.

Incidentally, if one is a theist, or a utilitarian, or a Buddhist or Taoist, it is still true that you seek happiness. Whether you find happiness in pleasing God, or helping others, or achieving enlightenment, it is still all pursuit of happiness.

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