Happiness in Nicomachean Ethics and Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today

625 Words 3 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
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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
and happiness. One of the main ways to achieve happiness, according to
Chittister, is by working. While Aristotle says that the ability to reason
makes us human, Chittister says that working makes us more human.
Furthermore, unlike Aristotle, in Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today,
Chittister minimizes the need for contemplation and maximizes the
importance of work: “Adam was put in the garden to till it and to keep it,
not to contemplate it.” This statement clearly flies in the face of Aristotle’s
belief in the importance of contemplation. However, like Aristotle,
Chittister believes that work needs to be pursued as a mean between the
extremes of workaholism…

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