Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics: Explain The Nature Of Happiness

1843 Words 8 Pages
Erin O’Keefe
Philosophy 240
Midterm Essay

Mastering Happiness

Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics aims to explain the nature of living well through particularities of virtues which can lead to happiness. He takes pains to describe what happiness is, why it is the highest human good, and how it can be achieved through his virtues of character and of intellect. As well, he identifies three preconditions of virtue that highlight the role of the individual in exercising these virtues. Aristotle argues that we are responsible for our own happiness because it is the result of the learning and habituation of virtues, which we are capable of achieving through choice.
In Book I, Aristotle alleges that the function of the human being is “activity of the
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His conditions for happiness as the best good are that it is complete and it is self-sufficient. Something is complete if it is “an end that is always choiceworthy in its own right, never because of something else” (Aristotle, 8). While we may choose pleasure or money as a means to achieve happiness, we do not choose happiness for the sake of anything else. Aristotle’s explanation of something that is self-sufficient falls in line with his argument for completeness. He says, “all by itself it makes a life choiceworthy and lacking nothing” (Aristotle, 8). While this definition of a self-sufficient activity is very similar to that of a complete activity, the former can be synonymized as an activity that is final in a such a way that adding anything to it would not make it any better. Aristotle makes a point to distinguish his definition of happiness from some common misconceptions of happiness. In his distinction between happiness and the typically sought-after lives of pleasure, honor, and wealth, Aristotle draws attention to how these things cannot fulfill the aforementioned conditions for happiness. While these can be further examined, Aristotle’s main point is that these misconceptions are ultimately chosen for another end, which is happiness itself. It is also important to note the use of ‘choiceworthy’ in the …show more content…
He first distinguishes between voluntary and involuntary actions, citing actions done by ignorance and by force as the only conditions of an involuntary action. According to Aristotle, an action done by force “has its principle outside the person forced, who contributes nothing,” and an action done by ignorance is caused by ignorance of the particulars (Aristotle, 31). These particulars are specific aspects of a situation and Aristotle identifies them as: “who is doing it; what he is doing; about what or to what he is doing it;…what he is doing it with…; for what result…; in what way” (Aristotle, 32). An important distinction here exists between the terms ‘by ignorance’ and ‘in ignorance.’ Aristotle denounces that an action done in ignorance be considered involuntary. He gives the example of a man who does something when drunk – such actions, while done in ignorance, are still voluntary because the man made the choice to get drunk in the first place. Therefore, he is still responsible for his actions when drunk. This precise distinction leaves little room for an action to fall into the category of something that is involuntary, leaving the majority of actions to be voluntary and therefore a personal responsibility. When Aristotle describes a voluntary action as one that “has its principle in the agent himself, knowing the particulars that constitute the action”

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