This paper discusses the arguments by Aristotle, one of the most famous philosophers ever lived, from his book, Nicomachean Ethics. The author dissects through the articles and picks areas of agreement as well as areas of divergence from the contents of the article and makes a conclusion on the relevance of the article in modern society. In summary, Aristotle, in this book believes that every man’s ultimate goal is the pursuit of happiness and therefore all mans efforts in the world are geared towards finding the best and most efficient way of attaining this goal of happiness.
In one of the arguments, Aristotle notes that happiness is as a result of virtues and goes on to explain that virtues are not learnt but rather natural to man. And if one does good things, then they are happy, or they derive happiness from this actions. As the discussion goes on, Aristotle discusses the various virtues and their corresponding vices and their contribution to the goal of happiness.
For instance; confidence in fear, ability not to give in easily, being liberal as well as magnanimous among other virtues. These, he asserts are some of the important virtues that lead to happiness. Moral virtues, according to Aristotle are not all that matter. Intellectual virtues also contribute to ones happiness and they include technical skills and prudence.
The article then goes ahead and discusses a number of other issues but most significantly, friendship. According to Aristotle, there are several types of friendships and each has its own merits. For instance, there is friendship based on utility, on pleasure as well as the goodness of character and argues that friendship based on the greatness of character is the most important and lasting as its virtuous.
In conclusion of his book, Aristotle notes that man must think of themselves first, as this is a natural instinct. You have to love yourself first before you can love others, self love, according to Aristotle is much higher than friendship, although the latter is also considered important. As is the norm with the other early philosophers, Aristotle advises us to contemplate more, to meditate, to follow the practice sciences and to be ambitious in our quest for knowledge. He closes by arguing that we should go to the park to relax, but we should not forget to take with us, a book.
The above arguments by Aristotle, are important, and can have lasting impacts on our lives if we internalize them, and make it our responsibility to act in a virtuous way in pursuit of our happiness. A spot check of the human activities in pursuit of happiness will quickly reveal that our pursuit of happiness is not based on virtues but vices that we have institutionalized.
For instance, it’s conventionally believed that people who are wealthy, have positions in society, have many friends and generally live large are the happiest in life. While this cannot be confirmed or disputed, it’s evident that we commit more vices in the pursuit of this ‘happiness’ than the virtues and therefore hurt others in the process.
A case in point is governance. The levels of corruption that bedevil our nations of today have passed unprecedented levels. This is because we want to have a lot of money at the expense of others since we believe that more money will bring happiness in our lives. There is also no justice in today’s world because, common sense is no longer applied, but the law of the haves, the rich and the powerful is at work, and therefore we derive happiness at the expense of others.
While Aristotle’s work in this article is a good read, it’s evident that some of the ideas are not in touch with the present technologically advanced world, where for instance friends are virtual, crime is digital, and war is advanced. However, a deeper analysis of the article and practice of the teachings can greatly impact on the worldview of mankind in regard to morals and ethics.
Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. Batoche books, Kitchener, 1999.