Aristotle and Plato both are both well known for their focus on defining the purpose of being human. To them, humans have a particular characteristic that no other living thing possesses. That characteristic is that humans strive to achieve a level of goodness. Although they agree with each other that there is a highest good one must achieve in order to live a fulfilling life, they have different ideas on what that good is.
On Aristotle’s search to find the highest good of a human being, he first asked what the ergon, or task, of being human is. His main focus was mostly on what the purpose or goal of human existence should be. Aristotle said that everyone is trying to reach happiness, whether it is by having money, love, or being honored. However, according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, he believes that the good we are trying to reach is one ultimate level of experience and that it is “desirable in itself and never for the sake of something else.” All the other good that we experience throughout our lives is just pushing us toward the one thing that will make us happy in the end. Although we may think of being happy as a state of mind, Aristotle thought of it as how you lived your life. In other words, the happiness will not come and go within a couple of minutes or hours. It is a goal that is reached “at the end of one’s life and is a measurement of how well one has lived up to their full potential as a human being” (Shields).
To find where this happiness comes from, Aristotle explored nature through biology. Based off the Stanford Encyclopedia for Philosophy and a website called The Pursuit of Happiness that talks about the history of Aristotle, he knew that what would ultimately make humans happy would have to be something that no other living thing has. Looking at mineral (rocks), vegetation (plants), animals, and humans - and the souls within these - Aristotle realized that humans were the only ones who had the ability to be rational (“Aristotle”). Not only did he find that humans are the only living organism with a rational soul, he also discovered that we were the only ones to obtain all of the other parts of the soul; “the nutritive soul which is in control of growth and development, the locomotive soul for motion, and the perceptive soul for perception.” Aristotle found that the good of being human is achieved by using reason well. He said that “what gives us the potential to live a better life is our ability to guide ourselves by using reason” (Shields).
Having defined this concept of reasoning, Aristotle continued on his search for happiness. If we live well by using reason, then consistently doing activities that require reason is what makes us happy. According to W.D. Ross, who translated and interpreted Aristotle’s work, Aristotle claimed that everything we do, we do for a reason. For example, we go to school to get an education and we get an education to get a job. We get a job to get money, and so on. So, what...