the quest for happiness

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Emotional intelligence plays an important role in our lives, which basically means that our bodies are in a certain state at any given time, and we aim to either preserve or change that state. Feelings are a reflection of what is going on in our heads. Feelings are described by psychology as a person’s emotional state, which includes happiness, love, affection, and fondness, among other things. Happiness is one of the most critical emotions. People also assess the quality of their lives and measure their acceptance and satisfaction with their circumstances as a means of defining happiness. When people are happy, their lives tend to be better mainly because they embrace a positive attitude towards life in general. Although most readers and scholars argue that happiness is something we are born with and therefore it is a rare occurrence, according to Aristotle happiness is the central purpose of human existence and it is a goal that people need to achieve and this is because happiness is attached to what we achieve in life rather than a state we stumble upon. People should hence consider happiness, not as a goal that we need to achieve in life but the state of mentality that we have towards our very circumstance.

Aristotle’s Argument

In the modern days, people often tend to pair happiness to the things that they own or their achievements in life. Many individuals that by having a good career, a spouse, having a lot of money or being famous are some of the ingredients of being happy. As a result, people define happiness as a state that one is in defined by the circumstances around them and not part of the various virtues that make up a human soul. Aristotle’s perspective towards happiness aligns to this type of mentality whereby happiness is not a state of the soul but rather a state of living. According to Aristotle, an individual’s happiness is threatened if the person lacks certain advantages such as friends, power, and wealth. The idea itself is misguiding because it makes people believe that by being ugly or not being influential enough one cannot be happy. Aristotle goes a step ahead to explain that we must be born to a fortunate family or be in a fortunate group to be virtuous.

Using this approach, it means that happiness depends on the external world and not our perception. Making happiness a goal means we must obtain certain goods or status in life in order to be happy; this is like looking at ourselves as imperfect beings with holes that need constant feeling. The question, therefore, is if happiness is intrinsic within an object, in what part of the object is it located? By being intrinsic the object must always be ready to give you happiness from the moment of its attainment till you die. Nonetheless, this is not the case we see in reality. On various occasion, we hear about the rich who commit suicide because they are depressed or people who have many friends and still feel lonely.

Having pleasure, good friends, honor, and affluence are all desirable things that make us feel accomplished as they satisfy our different needs to be in certain places or circumstances. Aristotle places happiness as a goal, the ultimate achievement that we attain at the end of our lives. The trouble with this idea is the fact that it lacks a sense of reality, and it is something that we cannot experience in our childhood or in our youthful stages. For Aristotle, happiness is something that we cannot lose once we attain it making it an ultimate value of life. It seems, therefore, that to Aristotle happiness is the end and the process itself of attaining good life does not encompass happiness. As he explained, just as one swallow or a good day does not make spring, a moment of bliss cannot make an individual happy or blessed. Aristotle perspective shows that there are numerous activities that one must do or particular qualities that he or she must possess to be happy, making happiness, not a state of mind but a state of living. This point of view points that we live to be happy and not that we are happy to be alive is an idea mostly promoted and practiced by hedonists. To Aristotle, therefore, happiness entails understanding a person’s distinctive function and it is a state that this profound and endless.

Refutation of Aristotle’s Argument on Happiness

It cannot be easily argued that Aristotle’s point on happiness is wrong but rather it leaves his statement vulnerable thus attracting scholars to argue that he is misleading by claiming that the sole purpose of our existence is to be happy. As already mentioned, Aristotle attaches happiness to objects and not self, and as a result, his statement claims that he who is ugly, poor (from material wealth) and young cannot claim to be happy at any given moment. Scholars like Socrates have found this statement to be misleading as it provokes the thought that happiness is not an innate feeling and instead it is a state of life. I believe that people should not attach their sense of happiness to material wealth or put it on a pedestal where it is a goal to be achieved. In its place, happiness is based on our perspective towards our circumstances and goods. One of the famous sayings concerning happiness is that happiness is a choice and there is no circumstance that defines our happiness.

Socrates states that happiness is not to be found in goods that an individual accumulates or even the various things that make up a person’s life, but rather it should be innate and a state of mind. With Socrates, we have the capability to dictate our satisfaction of our desires and happiness is the approach we have towards our external and internal environment. Contrary to Aristotle’s idea, we cannot dictate our existence or the circumstances but we can decide on the approach that we have towards these circumstances. For example, Aristotle states that if one is ugly he or she cannot be happy and that only people who are beautiful are happy; this is quite the dissimilar to reality as defining one’s beauty begins by accepting self first.

Being happy needs wisdom and perhaps this is the point that Aristotle missed. To be happy, one needs to understand what things that bring the best in them and sometimes this has nothing do with the material world such as affluence or beauty; this, however, entails applying critical and reflective intelligence. Aristotle aligns happiness to material things and he extended by saying that happiness once attained cannot end; this is like saying that if one achieves wealth it can never run out, or that as long as one is born beautiful then the beauty can never fade, which is totally impossible and unrealistic. Everything materialistic is bound to end at one point and therefore, basing our happiness on such things is quite impractical. Instead of looking at happiness as the goal, the most realistic approach is finding happiness in the process of attaining our goals. Socrates exemplifies this point by stating that any life that is worth living is that which has attained the vision of a soul being beautiful. By achieving this vision, one no longer finds happiness in the world but within him; this is the type of happiness that cannot end.

The counterargument against the philosophy of Aristotle is also supported by other disciplines such as religion who believe that God is the true source of happiness and not earthly things. Christianity as well as Monks by far advocate for the fact that happiness should be from the soul and not from physical things such as wealth and physical beauty because these are things that cannot satisfy a human soul. It, therefore, means that poverty, ugliness and many others do not determine if one should be happy or not. People should realize that the aspects mentioned by Aristotle only compliment the work we do constantly and should not be confused with being the source of happiness. Understanding the perspective of Socrates and other disciplines like Christianity enables us to acknowledge the fact happiness, as a matter of fact, a state of mind, and a choice that anyone can make at any point regardless whether they are rich or poor. Socrates simply explains happiness as justice which is similar to the harmony that exists in different parts of a human soul, and being unhappy is the result of rebellion in different elements of the soul. As long as the soul of a human is in harmony then it is possible to be happy regardless of age, status or having no friends. Any person who attains this level clearly understands that having many friends, being affluent and being beautiful are but compliments to a happy being.

Conclusion

Aristotle stated that happiness is a goal that one needs to achieve in life, however, this statement is clearly false, misguiding and hedonistic. Happiness is not a goal but a condition in which we put ourselves and can be attained by anyone at any time. As the paper has clearly discussed, no matter what life offers someone, as long as one can maintain his inner composure then he will always be happy. The most reasonable way to understand happiness is the fact that it is aligned with our inner benefits and not worldly benefits as one can control the world within him and not the world he lives in. Happiness is a result of wisdom and unlike Aristotle’s idea allowing people to do whatever it takes to be happy in the end; happiness mainly is a result of a just life free of guilt and stress. In summary, happiness is not found in the goal but rather in the process of living and the goal is just a reward.

Bibliography

“Aristotle.” Pursuit of Happiness. September 10, 2016. Accessed July 03, 2017. http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/history-of-happiness/aristotle/.

Burton, Neel. “Aristotle on Happiness.” Psychology Today. January 28, 2013. Accessed July 03, 2017. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/hide-and-seek/201301/aristotle-happiness.

Kraut, Richard. “Aristotle’s Ethics.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. April 21, 2014. Accessed July 03, 2017. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-ethics/.

“Socrates.” Pursuit of Happiness. September 10, 2016. Accessed July 03, 2017. http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/history-of-happiness/socrates/.

Vlastos, Gregory. “Happiness and virtue in Socrates’ moral theory.” SpringerLink. Accessed July 03, 2017. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00138646.

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