Aristotle on Happiness and Thought

Outline and a Critical Reflection

Gregory Linder

Outline of the Nicomachean Ethics, Book X (sections 6-8)

I. Nature of Happiness

a. The sum of what is already, Happiness is…

i. It is not a disposition, Happiness is an activity

1. "Happiness must be placed among those desired in themselves, not among those desirable for the sake of something else; for happiness does not lack anything, but is self-sufficient."

b. Pleasure and amusement.

i. One is led to neglect one's body and property

ii. Not a good type of pleasure/amusement

1. Anacharsis-"For amusement is a start for relaxation, and we need relaxation because we cannot work continuously. Relaxation is not an end; it is taken for sake of activity."

II. Happiness in accordance with Virtue.(Endymion?)

a. Happy life thought to be virtuous, requires exertion, not consist of amusement.

b. Serves as an end in itself, highest goal in life.

i. We should not confuse happiness with pleasant amusement

1. "Happiness does not lie in such occupations, but…in virtuous activities."

c. Highest form of happiness is Contemplation.

i. Only good for a god (as a constant). Mans aim to be godlike as best he can in terms of contemplation. The questioning of the gods and their contemplative activity.

ii. Necessary are the moral virtues of life.

1. The Devine activity of contemplation is secondary

III. The secondary degree of life accordance

a. The good life. Learning about happiness not sufficient.

i. Requires practice and habituation. Can take seed only in a person of good.

ii. "We must not think that man who is to be happy will need many things or great things, because he cannot be supremely happy without external goods."

iii. The claim of Anaxagoras.

1. About rich vs. poor man being happy.

The topic of the reading that was assigned was on happiness and thought. This reading can be found in the book Nicomachean Ethics, Book X. This work of Aristotle goes into detail about a number of different topics such as pleasure to the extreme of who should be responsible for teaching politics. However, happiness and thought were the two items examined in the sections six through eight that I read. I believe that happiness is important to analyze, for everyone seeks from the start to the end of their lives how to get the most of it. We need to examine it and study it to fully understand how to obtain it and be at our highest point of self actualization so we can be at one with oneself.

The nature of happiness in one that was previously describes as not a distortion. Happiness is also an activity. These are words that describe happiness in the early parts. This section in then reading is to describe what is already known about happiness in order to find the unknown. This is important to the basis of what happiness is, because it provides a base and gives the argument a type of control. Pleasure and amusement are also made known by this action. This is a key point that immediately got my attention. For many people think that happiness is derived from pleasure and amusement. This is partially true. Anacharsis, one of Aristotle's friends states, "For amusement is a start for relaxation, and we need relaxation because we cannot work continuously. Relaxation is not an end; it is taken for sake of activity." This is such an important point because how many individuals in today's society work continuously then get stressed out and are not happy? This point drives the fact that we do need pleasure in the form of perhaps relaxation to make us happy. Without a means of relaxation we would not be motivated to work. However, that is half true as I said before. The way it is not true is that not all pleasures are going to contribute to the overall happiness of one's self. Sure they might play into the instant gratification of feeling happy, but is the individual truly happy? I believe this is not true, that the individual is not happy. For example, one may claim to be able to buy ones pleasure through bought items, sex, or friends. But do these pleasures and amusements contribute to individuals overall happiness in the long run? I claim that those types of pleasures will never make anyone truly happy.

When it comes to virtue and happiness, Aristotle clearly is defending them in section eight of the Nicomachean Ethics. He provides examples and this is when one of his main ideals about happiness is revealed. He talks about the state of being "Endymion" and then leads to contemplation. I was puzzled by "Endymion" when it was first read. But I read further and eventually looked it up to understand it. It is about reaching your highest potential with the mind set of being all you can be. From there you can only grow to the best of you capability. This is so important because it means that if you achieve and practice virtues it would lead to happiness. This can be done by being all you can be. The next point in the reading is contemplation. Contemplation is important to virtue because contemplation is the activity that refines and discovers virtues. If carried out continuously it allows you to reach your potential.

The next main point in the reading was about contemplation. This point was that all men aim to attain a type of contemplation. This means that one tries to have a certain understanding full or deep consideration of life to make them happy. It was said that man aims to attain this contemplation level but cannot stay at it. This is because it is for the gods to have this level of happiness. The highest level of happiness is then made out to be contemplation and to be only suitable for the gods. I believe that this claim true, that one can aim to be in a meditation and be spiritually connected with the gods and thus be happy. I believe that Aristotle's ideals of contemplation are seen today in many places. One place is that Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Maslow's ideals parallel that of Aristotle in the idea that you work your way up to being self actualized and at one with one self. With Aristotle you need to be at one with one's self, and contemplation is that level of self actualization.

The final main point of Nicomachean Ethics is the secondary degree of life accordance. It talks of the good life and how learning about happiness is not sufficient, that is should be practiced. I strongly agree with this part of the reading. In order to be happy you cannot only learn about it but you have to put into action by doing. Words cannot alone convince people to do well. But actions speak louder than words and need to be implemented in order to give back to show ones good character.