Aristotle: On the Pursuit of Happiness

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”Happiness depends on acquiring a moral character, where one displays the virtues of courage, generosity, justice, friendship, and citizenship in one’s life.” Aristotle

Happiness, is a curious thing isn’t it? And it’s something I’ve recently consciously been thinking about; although it’s a universal concept, its not something everyone has or feels. This is evidenced by statistics, showing high levels of people being diagnosed with depression, and the high rate of people taking to drugs and alcohol to help them get through the day. So this curious nature of happiness brings many questions to mind; why isn’t happiness universally felt? Why do some feel it and others don’t? Is it something we inherently have or something we have to strive to achieve?

Looking into the works of Aristotle, in particular in his book Nicomachean Ethics, he speaks on the subject of happiness.In this book, Aristotle’s philosophy is that all actions performed by humans is to find our highest good, though many ends of life are only means to further ends, therefore our aspirations as humans, is for the highest human good, and this is the end in itself. And this highest good, is ultimately and simply known as happiness.  Aristotle called this happiness Eudaimonia, and considered ethics as the best way to accomplish it.


Due to the fickle nature of ethics itself, he made the point that it cannot be taught in a classroom or any such similar setting. This is because  human life takes on many forms, therefore, there must be plenty room for flexibility to deal with the vast variety and possibilities life holds, as he states that;

“our account of this science will be adequate if it achieves such clarity as the subject-matter allows; for some degree of precision is not to be expected in all discussions, any more than in all products of handicraft” Arisitole

Aristotle was a student of Plato, however his views contrasted considerably to his teacher; he turned Plato’s theory on its head (Plato:Reality vs Illusion). In contrast to Plato’s theory, Aristotle believes that we must trust our senses, as a result believes that the material world is not an imperfect copy of some ideal forms of themselves, but that the essential form of a thing is actually inherent in each instance of that thing. In other words the truth resides in the world around us.

Aristotle’s goal in his book of ethics is to determine how best to achieve happiness; his view is that it must be something practical and relatable to everyday human life, (in contrast to Plato more abstract view)

So for us humans, happiness is something we find anywhere and everywhere, and given how our lives are separated into; home, work, social etc, it requires different sides of us and thus our experiences vary, and Aristotle is aware of this, so explains we have to look at it from an individualistic view;

“Happiness is not pleasure, nor is it virtue. It is the exercise of virtue. … Happiness depends on acquiring a moral character, where one displays the virtues of courage, generosity, justice, friendship, and citizenship in one’s life.”  Aristotle

Therefore, there is no such easy road to success in finding happiness, its not a one size fits all kind of situation, its a matter of applying forethought, and authenticity. As the one thing that distinguishes us from all species is our mind and our ability to rationalise. Thus, Aristotle states; happiness is reasoning well in a rational way according to virtue; a person must do this throughout their lifetime, as it is a continual effort each and everyday; even if one is going through a rough time, it is possible to go through it with such grace and maintain a level of happiness;

“whenever someone bears up calmly under many great misfortunes, not because of any insensitivity to pain but because he is wellborn and great souled. “ Aristotle

I think a common mistake a lot of us make or have made, is that we will be happy once we have achieved this particular thing etc we want, instead of actually enjoying the process and the moment; and say if we do achieve that thing, that happiness it creates is only temporary as like Aristotle states happiness is something we have to work on everyday. And everyone is different since what makes me happy might be different to what makes you happy and so on. And given that the New Year is literally around the corner, I think working on our happiness each and everyday should be on top of the New Years resolution list!

And on that note I wish everyone an early Happy New Year! I hope the year of 2017 is full of happiness, virtue and joy, for you and your loved ones. 💝

Much love and Kind Regards,

-Sophia Alisa Ali©

xXx

P.s if you think someone will enjoy reading this post, feel free to share 💕

39 thoughts on “Aristotle: On the Pursuit of Happiness

      1. Thank you, and your most welcome 🙂💕 I do the same thing with blogpost I like, I find myself going back and reading them again and again at different times , it’s one of the many great things about blogs🤗

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Very good and meaningful post Sophia! Your timing is perfect. I think many people in our consumer culture expected Happiness through the act of acquirement. They received the gift “they always wanted.” but of course they now want something else. How perfect to bring Aristotle’s message to all of us. He was right all along. Our happiness resides in our being, in the process of fulfilling one’s human potential.

    Thank you so much!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Paul! Yes I agree gifts only give that temporary satisfaction, where as ones virtue and moral character brings about true happiness🤗 And your most welcome, it makes me happy when my blogposts add value as this is what motivates me to keep on writing 🙂
      Cheers,
      Sophia 💕

      Liked by 1 person

  2. QUOTE: “Happiness is not pleasure, nor is it virtue. It is the exercise of virtue. … Happiness depends on acquiring a moral character, where one displays the virtues of courage, generosity, justice, friendship, and citizenship in one’s life.”
    Could you consider the possibility that Aristotle was completely wrong, utterly deluded? I’m not being facetious, but deadly serious. Aristotle was either deluded, or we subsequently got the concept of “happiness” turned upside down. Can a moral character exist in the midst of an immoral and amoral environment? Yes. Will that bring happiness? Impossible. Happiness is tied to well-being. Without well-being there can be no happiness. Can someone being held in a place of torture, and being tortured, retain a moral character? Yes. Will that person experience happiness? Surely it’s self-evident that there will be no happiness in such circumstances.

    Conclusion: a moral character does not equate happiness; does not create happiness.
    Why then exercise a moral character when everything screams for the opposite? Why, for example, maintain a state of non-violence when the whole world is exploding in violence of all sorts? Why go against the flow of society? Of civilization? Is there something much greater, much better, much more lasting than a state of happiness that calls for one to exercise a moral character? There is, and the virtuous path was given that we may find the fulfillment that makes us (or should make us) human beings. What the human being seeks subconsciously is not happiness but joy.

    The virtuous path leads to compassion, and compassion leads to joy. And yes, joy is found in the most terrible of circumstances, and it is utterly reliable. The power of joy lies in the fact that it is twinned with sorrow. Joy and sorrow. These never deny the reality, but absorb it within themselves and make the avatar a true human. To properly exist, happiness must eradicate, or deny, the existence of pain and suffering. Conversely, joy and sorrow in full partnership, simply absorb them and transmute them.

    These are the teachings I received as an avatar of compassion and subsequent experiences have proven them true. It is offered as food for thought.

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    1. Thank you Sha’Tara, for your response, Aristotle, is just one of many views on happiness , and you have made many great points 👍 What makes one happy vary, from person to person😊 Because of the different views on Happiness, it’s something i will look more into as it’s better to have a Birdseye view and see which resonates the most rather than sticking to one theory alone💕
      Sophia 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    2. You have in fact correctly articulated Aristotle’s view. As distinct from the Stoics, Aristotle does not hold that happiness follows from virtue. For Aristotle, virtue is a necessary condition for happiness, but it is not a sufficient condition because happiness involves things such as friendship and external goods, the acquisition of which are outside of our control and involve moral luck.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you for your great response. Yes I agree, Aristotle view is of things of which are external, and yeah I guess in a way they require moral luck, but I also think if one knows what’s acceptable and good for them they will make it possible for themselves, for not only their sanity but for the sake of their happiness 🙂

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    1. I like to challenge the “dead smart guys” but I have to agree with HDT on that one. Besides, it got me following your blog… very nice pictures. At first I thought it was more northern Canada, then I read Michigan. I really, really like your header picture. Itchin’ to throw my kayak in there!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You would not be alone with your kayak on the Au Sable. There’s a spot a little further downriver than the header picture people beach their kayaks at the foot of what is called a “rollway.” The Au Sable used to be a prime waterway for sending logs to mills on Lake Huron, back in the day. Lumberjacks would roll the logs down the steep banks to the river, leaving large sand slopes. Some are still bare and people like to climb them and then run back down. Wait, I think I have a picture. 😉
        https://spiritinpolitics.wordpress.com/au-sable-9-6-15-009/

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  3. “The aim of life is self development. To realize one’s true nature perfectly, that is what each of us is here for” -Oscar Wilde

    Always a favorite quote of mine, I’ve had it among a trio of favorite quotes on the back of my cards for a long time now. It’s in line with Aristotle’s teachings.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. We must count Oscar Wilde’s final words among his greatest quotes; while lying upon his deathbed in a less than tastefully decorated room, he quipped to his friend, “This wallpaper is killing me, one of us has to go” 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. we are people who mostly trust people who are successful, Happiness is the not part of success .It is a path you have to choose but there several other things also which are more important than happiness like responsibility towards your parent, family and etc. Major people are left with Hope only to find the satisfaction and happiness as they have to live for others also. It’s very difficult to believe others when you walk on the road, Its very hard to give the help to the needful person because mostly help those who know them or some mutual benefit. People talk big shit , war n all but they have lost the ability to see inside.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, for your response, you’ve made some very great points 👌 and I totally agree! I think sometimes the word responsibly sounds so serious and gloomy, but it’s part of life and we mustn’t leave anyone out, it’s important to help and do our duties which brings about happiness. I always say do it with love or no point otherwise 💕
      Thank you once again,
      Sophia 🙂

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    2. I like your comment. Quote: “People talk big shit , war n all but they have lost the ability to see inside.” I think that the “imposition” of public education as some sort of “right” made it look for a time as if people were evolving mentally (ability to look inside) but it was just a passing illusion. Education didn’t do it. People are no better with it than without it. They just believe they are, and that is even more dangerous…as Alexander Pope said:

      A little learning is a dangerous thing;
      Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
      There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
      And drinking largely sobers us again.
      Fired at first sight with what the Muse imparts,
      In fearless youth we tempt the heights of Arts;
      While from the bounded level of our mind
      Short views we take, nor see the lengths behind,
      But, more advanced, behold with strange surprise
      New distant scenes of endless science rise!
      So pleased at first the towering Alps we try,
      Mount o’er the vales, and seem to tread the sky;
      The eternal snows appear already past,
      And the first clouds and mountains seem the last;
      But those attained, we tremble to survey
      The growing labours of the lengthened way;
      The increasing prospect tires our wandering eyes,
      Hill peep o’er hills, and Alps on Alps arise !

      In other words, what really happened was, a shallow level of “learning” was established and people settled on that and stopped climbing. People know enough to blabber on social media but how many can intelligently follow through a philosophical discussion, or intelligently dig into the morass of information available to the shallow pool of “knowledge” instilled by public school and academia? They cannot, so they follow “fake news” and feel good offerings where one’s painted toenails, a war in Syria or a pet’s malady take on about the same level of importance.

      Like

  5. I enjoyed your post very much. Not necessarily for its specific philosophical content but rather for the fact that it spurred my mind to once again ponder upon itself.
    There have been many influential philosophers and teachers in the past and many have had diametrically opposite ideas. Was one “right” and “another” wrong? I wish I knew. Then I could be one too.
    Is the journey more important than the destination? Sometimes but not always. Does pain negate happiness? Again not necessarily. I have constant pain due to a life saving surgery and every ache reminds me of my ongoing existence.
    I like your post because it makes me think.
    And what a wonderful thing that is!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, for your lovely response, I’m really glad you enjoyed reading it💕 you made some really great points to think about👍 I hope your pain heals, stay strong and as cliche as this sounds stay happy too😊 You’ve made my day by your lovely words, if you ever need to think just visit my blog hopefully it will help you in some way. Just to let you know I post Articles like this one every Thursday, and I post my poetry every Sunday.
      Get well soon,
      Sophia 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow! This is so profound! So happiness is not something that is dependent on the day’s circumstances. It is a state of being and it can be in existence irrespective whether one is going through positive or negative experience. Laughter is not happiness and shoul be confused as such.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I think a common mistake a lot of us make or have made, is that we will be happy once we have achieved this particular thing etc we want, instead of actually enjoying the process and the moment; and say if we do achieve that thing, that happiness it creates is only temporary as like Aristotle states happiness is something we have to work on everyday.

    Quite right. I would say the fullest happiness involves both aspects: the achievement of one’s (rational) goals in the world, and the enjoyment of the process of pursuing goals. But I’d add that there are certain basic requirements that we have to meet to be successful and to continue to enjoy pursuing goals. If the goals we pursue are not thought out, (irrational) so that they can’t possibly be achieved in reality, then we’ll find we’re doomed to failure. If we pursue goals that are actually self-destructive, then we will find our motivation drained away over time. But if we pursue goals that we have thought out and would be good for us if achieved, then even if we fail due to unlucky circumstances, we will have a basic happiness that comes from knowing we tried our best and did everything in our power to succeed. We really lived in the full sense and really valued the goal.

    There’s another, more recent philosopher in the Aristotelian tradition that I think you’d be interested in. She wrote novels as well as nonfiction books. Have you ever read any of Ayn Rand’s works, like Atlas Shrugged?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your incredible response 😊 I’ve not read any but now that you have mentioned it I will look into the works of Ayn Rand, sounds like it will be a great read. I totally agree with you in the sense we must pursue worthy goals as appose to worthy ideals, we will sure be more fulfilled in life 👌
      Thank you once again for your great response,
      Sophia 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Great post and I love it. But, as human, we are born to be happy, happiness is in us by default but some negative energy surrounding us are the factors that make us pursue happiness that is already within us. So we must surround ourselves with positivity in all its form and we will be happy and experience a wonderful life that is worth living.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, for your great response, I agree, we mustn’t let negativity get us down, we have to focus ourselves on the positives, because everyone deserves to be happy, it’s our birth right 💕
      Thank you,
      Sophia 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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