The Best Life Essay

1907 words - 8 pages

In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle argues that the ultimate good is eudaimonia or happiness and that ergon, the human function, determines what that happiness is. While some may argue that there can be more than one form of the ultimate good other than happiness, Aristotle believes that not all ends are complete. Unlike happiness, wealth for example, is not complete and thus, eudaimonia is the only ultimate good. In order to determine which good or goods happiness consists in, Aristotle asks what the ergon of a human being is, and argues that it consists in activity of the rational part of the soul in accordance with virtue. Aristotle also provides his view of what the best life is and ...view middle of the document...

All other subordinate goods such as wealth or health, are sought because they promote well-being not because what well being consists of. In order to determine which goods happiness consists in Aristotle asks what the ergon or function of a human being is, and says that it is “activity of the soul in accord with reason or requiring reason.” (1098a) Aristotle develops his argument by analyzing different souls and goes on to say that plants have a “life of nutrition and growth” (1098a) and the life next in order is “some sort of life of sense perception” (1098a) so the remaining possibility for humans is “some sort of life of action of the [art of the soul] that has reason.” (1098a5) He concludes that humans are the only species that not only have a life of nutrition, growth and sense perception, but have a rational soul. Since the good of a human being must have something to do with being human, what sets humans apart from other species, giving one the ability to live a better life, is the ability to be guided by rational contemplation. Using reason well is what happiness consists in. Since doing something well requires virtue or excellence, living well, therefore consists in activities caused by the rational soul in accordance with virtue or excellence.
While Aristotle presents an inaccurate description of the best life for all human beings, he does however, present a valid reason for eudaimonia or happiness being the ultimate good. First, Aristotle believes that the ultimate good must be something complete. He argues that since there can be many ends, “we choose some of them (for instance, wealth, flutes, and, in general, instruments) because of something else, it is clear that not all ends are complete. But the best good is apparently something complete.” (1097a25) In other words, incomplete actions such as wealth, are only committed to achieve something else. For example, good health might be an end one might pursue, however, it is always in sake of achieving something else, and never done for itself, which fails to meet Aristotle’s requirement of the ultimate good being “choiceworthy in its own right, never because of something else” (1097a30). Aristotle also says that honor, pleasure, understanding and every other virtue, are chosen by people because of themselves, since one chooses them even if there is no further result; but people also choose them for the sake of happiness, supposing that through them, one can be happy. In contrast, happiness is never chosen for the sake of anything else. If something is complete, according to Aristotle, it must also be “self-sufficient”. Aristotle regards something self-sufficient when “all by itself it makes a life choiceworthy and lacking nothing; and that is what we think happiness does.” (1097b10) These conditions for the ultimate good end up ruling out many countering views regarding the possibility of having more than one ultimate good. Many people in todays material world stride for financial...

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