The philosophy of Aristotle: happiness



[CONCLUSIONS REGARDING HAPPINESS - ARISTOTLE]

WE must revert once more to the question of pleasure and pain. To say that pleasure is not good is absurd; he who does so stultifies himself by his own acts.

It is desired for its own sake; its opposite is admittedly undesirable. But since it may be added to other good things, it cannot be the good: though to say that what every one desires is not good at all is folly. That it is not a 'quality,' or that it is 'indeterminate,' are irrelevant arguments, both statements applying to what are admittedly among 'goods.'

The doctrine that it is a process, again, will not hold water. Pleasure is a thing complete; whereas a process is complete at no moment unless it be that of its termination. It is the completion of its appropriate activity; not in the sense that a habit makes the activity complete, but as its accompaniment and complement. Continuous it is not, just as the activity is not. It is not the complete life, but is inseparable from it.

Pleasures, however, differ specifically and in value, as do the qualities with whose activities they are associated. The pleasures proper to men are those associated with the activities proper to man as man, those shared with other animals being so only in a less degree.

It remains to recapitulate the sum of our conclusions regarding happiness. It is not a habit, but lies in the habitual activities--desirable in and for themselves not as means--exercised deliberately, excluding mere amusement. Man's highest faculty being intelligence, its activity is his highest happiness--contemplation; constant, sufficient, and sought not as a means but as an end.

This kind of happiness belongs to the gods also. Exclusively human, but below the other, is the fulfilment of the moral life, conditioned by human society, and more affected by environments and material wants. For contemplative activity, the barest material needs suffice. But this does not of itself induce the moral life, being apart from conduct.

To induce morality, not only knowledge, but the right habit of action--which does not follow from knowledge and may be implanted without it--is absolutely necessary. Compulsion may successfully establish the habit where argument might fail. Compulsion, therefore, is the proper course for the State to take.





Return to Outline of Great Books Volume I