Both Aristotle and Mill gave various means on how to achieve ultimate happiness and gave definitions of happiness. Mill was more concerned about how best an individual could quantify or measure happiness. With his equation of higher pleasures with happiness, he was able to show the huge correlation between how individuals achieved pleasure and how the pleasure often led to happiness (Hensel, 37). Aristotle on the other hand agrees to some extent that pleasurable deeds likely result in happiness but not all pleasure is likely to result in happiness (Ackrill, 56). For instance, drug abuse may yield temporary happiness while it may be very harmful over the longer term especially where there is addiction as regret and self pity sets in when the drug wears off. Aristotle concentrated more on showing the positive correlation between virtue and happiness.
Mill attached great importance in considering the quality of the pleasure from which an individual could derive happiness. He was referring to the difference that exists between the direct satisfaction of sensual pleasures and desires, and happiness achieved through cultural and intellectual practices (Hensel, 39). Aristotle on the other hand describes happiness as a central objective of human life and enshrines it as an ultimate goal by itself. Most people pursue the goods that they thing will result in ultimate happiness and by so doing, they associate them with happiness such as power, money and pleasure (Ackrill, 80).
In his happiness equation, Mill is seen to give more weight to majority of the higher pleasures regarding intellect and lower weight to physical pleasures. Just like Aristotle, Mills states that the main reason we desire things is because they are part of our happiness or because we perceive them to be a means to the attainment of our ultimate goal which is happiness. According to Aristotle, A generally happy life needs the fulfillment of a myriad of conditions which comprise of mental well-being as well as physical conditions. He also agrees with Mill on the fact that happiness is more of a goal than a means to another goal because it signifies the ultimate purpose of life (Ackrill, 42). Happiness consist the achievement of all the goods such as wealth, pleasure, knowledge, friends etc. in the course of a lifetime that result in the perfection of the nature of human beings and an enrichment of their lives. He also underlines the importance of the acquisition of a moral character where individuals display virtues of generosity, courage, friendship, justice etc.
It is evident that both Mills and Aristotle understand that happiness is the ultimate reason for the existence of human race. Their perceptions of the means to attain happiness are somewhat similar in many aspects especially with issues regarding virtues (Hensel, 49). In my opinion, Aristotle’s view of happiness is more convincing and comprehensive due to the fact that he goes further to reveal that not all pleasures result in happiness. Mills may have overlooked this fact and hence his perception may not be as comprehensive as that of Aristotle. From a reality sense, it is true that some activities such as taking drugs and irresponsible sexual activity may not yield ultimate happiness in the long run but may provide considerable pleasure in the short term. Aristotle’s view may also be considered comprehensive because he highlighted examples of virtues that may yield happiness such as friendship and generosity. Mills concentrated more on the extent to which various pleasures yield happiness.
Ackrill, J. Aristotle the Philosopher Oxford: Oxford University Press. A comprehensive introduction to Aristotle 1981
Howard M. Hensel The Legitimate Use of Military Force: The Just War Tradition and the Customary Law of Armed Conflict 2013