Aristotle's View On The Virtue Of Happiness

1645 Words7 Pages

are dedicated to eudaimonia, i.e. happiness in the “living well” or “flourishing” sense (terms I will be using synonymously). In this paper, I will present Aristotle’s view on the role of external goods and fortune for the achievement of happiness. I will argue that he considers them a prerequisite for virtue. Their contribution to happiness is indirect, via the way they affect how we can engage in rational activity according to the relevant virtues. I will then object that this view threatens to make his overall account of happiness incoherent. Fortunately, there is a way to reconcile the apparent tensions, in book III.
Any account of human happiness is subject to certain criteria to assess its satisfactoriness. One of the things we might …show more content…

We regulate our actions in part via the pleasure and pain we experience when exercising them. Virtue involves feeling pleasure in doing the right thing, and pain when doing the opposite. To develop this, we need to have been brought up in a particular way, with the right education from our early days (1104b20). These are external goods which presence (or absence) does not depend on the child. Although it might not be impossible to become virtuous if one has been raised in the wrong environment, it will be extremely difficult, since these experiences are deeply engrained in us. In addition, external goods are required in order to acquire particular virtues. Since virtues, like skills, are acquired via exercising the activity in such-and-such way, it follows that we need the same sorts of things required for the exercising of the activity in order to acquire it. In conclusion, there are two ways in which some external goods are required for virtue: they are necessary for their acquisition, and also for engaging in rational activities well. However, happiness does not consist in having those external goods: virtuous rational activity is really the core constitutive element of happiness. We don’t live well just by having external goods: we need to act according to virtue. Virtuous activity is really what …show more content…

However, this is at odds with his characterization of happiness as something attainable by everyone and stable –given that external goods and fortune can change quickly, are not within our power, and are necessary for happiness. Aristotle can bypass this objection, in most cases, by pointing out that [the indirect dependence of happiness on external goods] goes at a pair with [the partial dependence of what is to act well upon the circumstances]. When some external goods or fortune are absent, there is a change on what it is to perform rational activities well. This won’t solve the most extreme cases, as when all external goods and fortune are absent –like when one is taken to a desert island or to solitary confinement. However, these scenarios are so unlikely that we cannot expect our common sense view of happiness to have a say on them. If our account of happiness makes sense of all cases except of a few unlikely ones, it’s still a pretty good

Open Document