Happiness, according to Aristotle, is encapsulated in some notion of happiness as fundamental to human existence. Happiness, in this sense, is the primary reason for living and a self-sufficient goal. According to Aristotle, happiness must be done over time rather than something that can be accomplished after a specific phase. Happiness, according to Aristotle, is based on a series of conditions that must be met which are influenced by a person’s physical and mental state. Happiness is a state that can be truly fulfilled when virtues are cultivated; virtues must be founded on a balance between two excesses that are referred as the meditative path by the Buddha (Aristotle, 2009).
The Ultimate Purpose
According to Aristotle in the Nicomachean ethics happiness is both a good as well as an end that denotes the aim of all human activities. Al human activities are aimed towards a certain end (Burton, 2013, Para 1). The final end or the end results of all these activities aim at achieving happiness. Aristotles philosophy aim at happiness as the ultimate end towards which all other activities aim for, and no other activity can have such an end as happiness. People go to school to learn, so s to get jobs that will make them earn money. The money is used to achieve other purposes in life such as acquiring property, eating, treating diseases and a myriad other purposes. All these activities continue with a cycle that ends at happiness, therefore conclusion that happiness is the ultimate human destination (Hughes, 2001). Happiness, according to Aristotle is complete and totally sufficient. In this sense, happiness is enough and desired for itself and not the fulfillment of anything else. Happiness can satiate all other desires and cannot mix with negative things or evils. There is stability in happiness (Hughes, 2001).
According to Higgins, Cornwell and Frank (2014, 2), motivation is the foundation of Aristotles happiness model. In this regard, all actions are aimed at a certain good. The good, in this case, is that at which all things aim at. The aim, according to Aristotle denotes motivation, which Higgins, Cornwell and Frank (2014) express as being directed towards something. Happiness, therefore, is experienced through motivation. By being central to happiness, motivation is the basic aspect that enables living organisms to pursue some objectives. When the objectives or the aims are met, driven by motivation, happiness ensues. Considering that happiness ensues as a result of a combination of the conditions that led to the eventual achievement of the goals and objectives there stems a big question on what the true meaning of life entails.
Concept of Happiness
The general concept of happiness is descriptive. It is a word that is indicative of an experience as opposed to a series of steps that lead to the achievement of the state (Gilbert, 2006). Gilbert, in his work, suggested that happiness cannot be expressed in terms of what led to its achievement and thus can be as a result of negative actions as exemplified by the action of someone getting happy as a result of committing murder (Gilbert, 2006, 37).
According to Newman et al. (2015), happiness is directly influenced by the agent that experiences it. This situation is exemplified by a person who experiences happiness as a result of little positive experiences in life and greater magnitudes of negative experiences. In such a scenario, the person might be happy for living a life that is morally good or a morally but one, but having some inner satisfaction or happiness. The concept of happiness, according to Philips et al. (2017, 166) is based on biased notions, psychological states and an evaluative concept. According to these authors, happiness, through bias or distortion is descriptive and can result from erroneous considerations. Secondly, happiness can be descriptive and the agents states determine it. Lastly happiness can be independent of peoples concepts or attribution and thus fundamentally evaluative (Philips, 2017, 167).
Happiness and Economics
Aristotle ascribes happiness to the use of material goods to have a good life. The concept is fundamentally a constitution of the fact that economics adds to happiness through enabling people to acquire good things for a good life (Crespo and Mesurado, 2014, 3). Smith, on the other hand, has been touted to view happiness as a result of tranquility as well as enjoyment. A commercial society, in Smiths sentiments provides freedom as well as security while at the same time ensuring that they are promoted (Crespo and Mesurado, 2014).
In Nicomachean ethics, Aristotle states that someone is happy when they are sufficiently equipped with goods throughout their lives and also have complete virtue. In this regard, the philosopher suggests two conditions for happiness; being virtuous and having some stability in material things. In essence, Aristotle meant that people need to have stability in material life as well as remain virtuous (Aristotle, 2009).
Aristotles approach to happiness is diverse. In the first place, Aristotle asserts that for plants and animals to be stated as functioning in accordance to their purpose and intent, they need to do so in accordance to their nature. Concomitant with this assertion is the statement that the function of a human being should be one that is dominated by reason with reason; there is moral as well as intellectual virtue. Therefore, happiness, which is the result of living well, is achieved by a person when he or she is able to practice virtue and thus be able to live well. In line with this approach is the fact that people are always pursuing material substances that they desire in the pursuit of happiness. The goods that people pursue in a bid to seek happiness can be categorized into external goods, goods of the body and goods of the soul. External goods are issues such as money and power that are external to the human person. Goods of the body are those associated with the person such as physique, health or strength. Goods of the soul are those connected to the persons intrinsic being such as virtue, creativity and friendship. In Aristotles views, the goods contribute differently to happiness. Some of them are necessary for happiness to be achieved, while others contribute to the good life that later generates happiness. In this regard, happiness is a combination of things/goods that people can control as well as those that they cannot control.
Controlling vices in the society
Aristotle denotes pleasure as an animal requirement, and do not characterize the good life. In this regard, and in accordance to the Nicomachean ethics, good life, which brings about happiness, is not characterized by pleasures like money or even sex. When pursuing pleasure, people engage in bad habits that need to be controlled, in order to find complete happiness in life. Moral virtue encompasses both pleasures and pains, whereby due to the pleasures bad things happen, and due to the pains, good things are avoided. The stated notion of happiness is based on Stuart Mills formulation of minimizing pain and maximizing pleasure (Loizides, 2013).
Aristotle notes that pleasure needs to be controlled by virtue in order for happiness to ensue. When people are virtuous, then it is possible for them to find pleasure in their acts. Additionally, people need to be dedicated to the achievement of a happy life by engaging in virtuous activities and also develop virtuous habits. For such a state to be achieved, the manner in which someone is raised comes in handy, where the habits inculcated during growing determine the habits someone acquires. Education is also of good importance, and a critical determinant to a virtuous life (Peterson & Seligman, 2004).
There have been various criticisms to this notion of pleasure. Firstly, it has been argued that some things are pursued irrespective of whether they lead to pleasure or can lead to pain. Additionally, Mill added that irrespective of whether the issue being pursued brought pleasure or led to pain, the basic desire to pursue the thing led to some kind of satisfaction. In this regard, and according to Mill, if someone is pursuing something, fulfilling it to the final end led to personal satisfaction, and not achieving the end objective led to some kind of pain. This can be referred to Mills assertion that hedonism is a standard that controls all motivation as well as experiences, be they positive or negative (Hollander, 2015).
Mill also criticized Aristotles notions by asserting that pleasures differ. He delineated some pleasures from others by exemplifying the situation using the different pleasures derived from understanding mathematics as opposed to those derived from eating. To substantiate his argument, Mill used utility as the measure of value that is achieved by engaging in pleasures in comparison to other actions that can be taken. Further, he asserted that individuals tend to engage in those actions that will earn them maximum utility (Miller, 2010). According to Mill, therefore, happiness aims at maximizing and all means that would ensure that the maximization is achieved are desirable. In line with Aristotles contributions, which tried to fix a balance between two extremes, Mill took this moderation to be the way through which it would be possible to maximize pleasure and minimize pain. Similarly, achievement of motives needs to be maximized as it results to satisfaction (Hollander, 2015).
Aristotles denotes happiness as the ultimate end to what people do and thus a determinants of human existence. Further, he noted that happiness does not have to be a pleasure but the exercise of virtues for the achievement of these pleasures. Happiness is connected to material economics, whereby above virtues, it results from the achievement of external, bodily and soul goods. Happiness according to Aristotle is an ongoing thing that is dependent on a moral character balanced by two extremes. The extremes are then refuted by Mill, who asserts that pleasures can be maximized for the achievement of pleasures.
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Classics (Original work published c. 350 B.C.).
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Gilbert, D. 2006. Stumbling on happiness. New York: Vintage Books.
Higgins, E.T., Cornwell, J.F. and Franks, B., 2014. Happiness and the good life as motives working together effectively. Advances in motivation science, 1, pp.135-179.
Hollander, S., 2015. John Stuart Mill: Political Economist. Singapore: World Scientific.
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Loizides, A., 2013. John Stuart Mills Platonic Heritage: Happiness through Character. Maryland: Lexington Books
Miller, D., 2010, J.S. Mill: Moral, Social, and Political Thought, Cambridge: Polity Press.
Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. 2004. Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. New York: American Psychological Association, Oxford University Press.
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