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