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Happiness In Nicomachean Ethics And Living The Rule Of St. Benedict Today

569 words - 2 pages

Essay written by Elizabeth Sippel

From pursuing pleasure to avoiding pain, life seems to ultimately be
about achieving happiness. However, how to define and obtain
happiness has and continues to be a widely debated issue. In
Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle gives his view on happiness. According to
Aristotle, different types of people pursue different ends. “The many,” or
ordinary people, pursue pleasure, whereas politicians seek glory. However,
people of superior refinement seek happiness. Happiness is the highest
goal because it is an end desired entirely for its own sake, and it is selfsufficient.

In order to define happiness, the function of man must be considered.
Aristotle says that what makes man unique is his ability to reason. Thus
reason must be connected to happiness in some way. Aristotle further
argues that virtue is also tied to happiness. Virtue can be categorized as
either intellectual or moral. Intellectual virtue, as the name suggests,
corresponds to the reasoning self. Moral virtue, on the other hand,
corresponds to the desiring self. Thus moral virtues must be cultivated
through practicing virtuous actions. Moral virtues, however, have the
potential to be destroyed by defect and excess. Thus virtues must be
pursued as a mean between extremes. In conclusion, happiness is to live a
life of virtue according to reason. However, happiness correlates to the
highest virtue: philosophic wisdom. This is the highest virtue because it is
self-sufficient and it is an ultimate end. Furthermore, philosophic wisdom
reflects the contemplative nature of the gods. Thus the philosopher is
dearest to the gods. Therefore, philosophy is the key to happiness.

An alternate view of happiness is found in Joan D. Chittister’s Living the
Rule of St. Benedict Today. According to Chittister, Benedict’s Rule is a
guideline for ordinary people. Unlike Aristotle, who believed that only the
superior seek happiness, Chittister says that anyone can attain spirituality

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