Aristotle is one of the greatest of the ancient Athenian philosophers who lived between (384-322 BC). He was a student of Plato and later became the teacher of Alexander the Great. Aristotle is renowned for great contribution in philosophy and other fields like physics, biology, and ethics. One of the most influential works of Aristotle was the Nicomachean Ethics where he introduces a theory of happiness. Thus, this paper will focus on Aristotle’s theory of happiness and compare it to the modern day perception of happiness.
According to Aristotle happiness is the end or goal that encompasses the totality f one’s life. Therefore, happiness is not something that can be gained or lost within a short duration of time like pleasurable sensations. In other words, it is the ultimate value of one’s life as lived up to the current moment measuring how well one has lived to their full potential as a human being. Aristotle has gone ahead to distinguish his definition of happiness from other definitions by introducing the concept of virtue. He enshrines happiness as a goal in itself and also as a core purpose of human life. Another distinction that emanates from this definition is that of the modern conception of happiness. The current definition of happiness is that it is viewed as the subjective state of the mind. In this case, an instance of happiness can come about when one is enjoying himself with a cold soft drink on a hot day.
Happiness according to this article refers to the state of well-being characterized by emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. It can also refer to the emotions experienced when one is in a state of well being. The definition is different from that of Aristotle in that this one focuses on the emotions experienced at one point in time. On the other hand, the definition of Aristotle tends to focus on the life of the individual in general and emphasizes on the totality of life. This view is demonstrated when Aristotle compares the two scenarios that as one swallow or one fine day cannot make a spring so is one day nor a short time enough to make a man blessed or happy.
Aristotle view of happiness is typically different from the way happiness is perceived today. From the onset, for Aristotle happiness is the ultimate goal and purpose of human life. To the modern world, it is a short term period of contentment and intense joy. It contrasts Aristotle’s view which advances the argument that it is not just a temporary state; it is achieved at the end of one’s life. Another distinguishing feature of Aristotle’s happiness is that it depends on acquiring moral character where it calls for the display of various virtues like generosity, courage, justice, friendship and citizenship (Hutchinson 11). It is the perfection of human nature thus involves striking a mean or balance between an excess and deficiency. In the modern world, this case is different because people derive happiness from engaging in excess behavior thus failing to strike a balance.
Aristotle’s conception of happiness and virtue is not relevant in today’s world because people have been unable to live up to the virtues proposed by him to achieve happiness. For example, Aristotle notes that one of the most important attributes of achieving the goal of happiness is friendship. He says that friendship based on virtue is one that requires an individual to wish good for their friends regardless of pleasure or utility. In the society today, such people are absent therefore failing to live up to Aristotle’s version of happiness. If this kind of happiness were to exist, then the world would be a beautiful place to reside. Heinous acts such as terrorism, genocides and cyber bullying afflicting the world today could not have been present as they are common.
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