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The Good Life. Essay

1167 words - 5 pages

Aristotle views the good life as a life in which the individual behaves virtuously, and he regards such a life as a prerequisite for human happiness. By "happiness", however, Aristotle makes it apparent that he is not thinking in terms of self-indulgence or a selfish pursuit of pleasure but, instead, of the living of that type of life which is most in accord with the human person's rational faculties. Aristotle follows the Hellenic tradition in seeing the city-state, or polis, as the highest form of rational organization, with the result that he identifies the living of the good life with citizenship in a good state.While it would appear plausible that the living of a good life is essential to happiness as Aristotle conceives of happiness, some might question his view that a good state is a prerequisite to the living of a good life. In modern times, for example, there has developed a tradition associated with thinkers such as Thoreau and Tolstoy according to which the life of the inner person is more significant than the outward form of the state. Aristotle would no doubt have disapproved of Thoreau for seeking to "opt out" of society and the state, but his example raises the question of whether it might be more important for a person to stick by his principle than to make the compromises involved in exercising the right of citizenship even in a supposedly "good state" such as America.A related consideration lies in the fact that Aristotle's idea of a "good life" would not necessary correspond in all particulars to our ideas. Aristotle, for example, wrote of the relation between masters and slaves: "there is in some cases a marked distinction between the two classes, rendering it expedient and right for the one to be slaves and the others to be mistress: the one practicing obedience, the others exercising the authority which nature intended them to have. The abuse of this authority is injurious to both, for the interests of part and whole, of body and soul, are the same, and the slave is a part of the masters, a living but separated part of his bodily frame". Aristotle in effect adopted Plato's view that the slave could not aspire to the ideal of the good life because he was ruled by his physical urges and passions rater than by the rational faculty, although Aristotle went beyond Plato in extending this distinction to women as well. Thus, Aristotle's identification of the good life with membership in a good state was related to his view that neither virtue nor citizenship could be exercised by the overwhelming majority of persons who happened to reside in a state such as Athens. Only the relatively small minority who were free, native-born Athenians me could be regarded as members of the state and, hence, only this relatively small minority could realize what Aristotle viewed as the god life.Thus, one criticism of Aristotle's identification of the good life with the good life is that benefits of the former are restricted to those persons who are...

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