swanson 391 aristotle

swanson 391 aristotle - 1 Deceased: Leona Helmsley,...

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Eudaimonia”: How It Defines Human Life How does someone achieve happiness? Is it by doing good deeds for other people, by being rich or famous, or even just getting everything anyone ever desired? There are many answers for these questions, and the fact that there are many different answers 1
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gives us an idea of how hard it is to come up a singular, tangible one. Aristotle wrote the The Nicomachean Ethics and Politics to start what he believed was the highest action possible: debate towards an answer of what makes us good. His writings he gave us an outline on what he believed constituted the qualities of a people who lead excelled in character and lead good and happy lives. Theodore Macklin, Leona Helmsley and Daniel Brewster are three examples of people who either: a) had excellent moral character and were thus good and happy, b) had very bad moral virtue and lead bad unhappy lives, or c) had qualities of both bad and good moral character and lead lives that expressed both tendencies. To understand what made these people happy/unhappy, it is necessary to understand what Aristotle meant by happiness. Happiness, as described by Aristotle, has a slightly different meaning for him than for us. For one, he uses the word happiness as a reference to the quality of a whole human life -- what makes that life good as a whole, in spite of the fact that we may not be having fun every minute of it. Human life involves both pleasure and pain naturally, so happiness is not made by the pleasures we have nor marred by the pains we suffer. (NE II:3:32) Happiness is assigned to a complete life, one that is filled with a variety of philosophies and ideas. A happy life is a good life, according to Aristotle and happiness is the end at which all of our activities ultimately aim to reach for. All our activities aim to some different end, though most of them are means towards other ends. (NEI:1:1) For example, we go to the doctor because by going to the doctor, we are pursuing the end of being healthy people and living healthy. Through action, people recognize what happiness is and that they want it; the problem lies in agreeing on what makes for a happy or good life. (NE I:4:5) 2
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For Aristotle, happiness is the supreme good and the only thing all humans understand first as good. To attain happiness (or the supreme good), he says we need to act in accordance with virtue and what makes us human, reason. A virtuous person is someone who performs a distinct activity of being human well; for example, a person has virtue as a pianist if he plays the piano well since playing the piano well is activity of being a good pianist. Being rational is our distinctive activity. In other words, it is the activity that distinguishes us from animals. Having a rational soul governing thought is something that animals do not possess. (NE I:13:26) Reason is the highest good because
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This note was uploaded on 04/07/2008 for the course PHIL 291 taught by Professor Swanson during the Fall '07 term at BU.

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swanson 391 aristotle - 1 Deceased: Leona Helmsley,...

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