Eudaimonia and Human Flourishing
Aristotle describes three types of life in his search for human flourishing: lives of gratification, politics, and contemplation. He contends that there is a single Idea of Good that all men seek, and he finds that happiness, or eudaimonia, best fits his criteria. Aristotle investigates the human purpose to find how happiness is best achieved, and finds that a life of activity and contemplation satisfies our purpose, achieving the most complete happiness in us. Aristotle is correct regarding the necessity of activity, but restricts the theory to only the life of study. We will reject this restriction, and instead allow any life of virtue and ...view middle of the document...
Granting him this postulate, we allow his conclusion 5. that there are some things we choose for their own sake. This satisfies Idea of Good Claim 1).
Aristotle’s criteria for the Idea of Good are self-sufficiency and completeness. Regarding these criteria he says, “not all ends are complete. But the best good is apparently something complete. And so, if only one end is complete, the good we are looking for will be this end; if more ends than one are complete, it will be the most complete of these ends.” (Irwin 7) Aristotle has not given good reason why there must be only one end from which all actions are a means, rather than several such ends. At this point I will not contend with Aristotle if he can posit this singularity and avoid contradiction further into his theory.
Postulate 2: There is only one Idea of Good.
Aristotle explores and finds happiness to be the best fit for these criteria of the Idea of Good. We must pause for a moment to clarify the translation of eudaimonia, translated to “happiness” in the text. In Greek, eudaimonia translates to “living well” or “doing well”, “Happiness is the complete end […] [one’s] complete happiness depends on himself, and not on external conditions.” (Irwin 333) Regarding happiness as the single Idea of Good Aristotle says, “Now happiness, more than anything else, seems complete without qualification. For we always choose it because of itself, never because of something else. […] The same conclusion also appears to follow from self-sufficiency. For the complete good seems to be self-sufficient. […] [We hold an end to be self sufficient when] all by itself it makes a life choiceworthy and lacking nothing; and that is what we think happiness does.” (Irwin 8) Aristotle makes a good argument here for why happiness is the Idea of Good because he appeals to one’s intuition. My own intuition does not conflict with Aristotle’s proposition that eudaimonia is the most complete and self-sufficient end, to which other human objectives are means to. Aristotle has satisfied Idea of Good Claim 3) if we allow him to postulate the first two claims. Aristotle has solidified his claim that eudaimonia is the Idea of the Good by satisfying the three claims. With this information, we progress to investigate which of the three types of lives reaches eudaimonia the best. Aristotle claims that the life of activity and reason achieves this goal best, and denies two alternatives: the life of gratification and the life of ambition.
Aristotle argues that happiness is not a state or possession, but rather an activity that we engage in. Aristotle proposes that someone who is asleep for their entire life could not be eudaimonia. This is consistent with the definition given earlier of eudaimonia. Just as the function of a harpist is to play the harp, and the function of the physician is to care for the body, the function of the human being according to Aristotle is to remain active and...