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As Aristotle writes,. He is happy who lives in accordance with complete virtue and is sufficiently equipped with external goods, not for some chance period but throughout a complete life. Nicomachean Ethics, a According to Aristotle, happiness consists in achieving, through the course of a whole lifetime, all the goods — health, wealth, knowledge, friends, etc. This requires us to make choices, some of which may be very difficult.

Often the lesser good promises immediate pleasure and is more tempting, while the greater good is painful and requires some sort of sacrifice. For example, it may be easier and more enjoyable to spend the night watching television, but you know that you will be better off if you spend it researching for your term paper. Developing a good character requires a strong effort of will to do the right thing, even in difficult situations.

Another example is the taking of drugs, which is becoming more and more of a problem in our society today. Yet, inevitably, this short-term pleasure will lead to longer term pain. A few hours later you may feel miserable and so need to take the drug again, which leads to a never-ending spiral of need and relief. Addiction inevitably drains your funds and provides a burden to your friends and family. All of those virtues — generosity, temperance, friendship, courage, etc. Aristotle would be strongly critical of the culture of "instant gratification" which seems to predominate in our society today.

In order to achieve the life of complete virtue, we need to make the right choices, and this involves keeping our eye on the future, on the ultimate result we want for our lives as a whole. We will not achieve happiness simply by enjoying the pleasures of the moment. Unfortunately, this is something most people are not able to overcome in themselves.

Aristotle and the Science of Being qua Being

As he laments, "the mass of mankind are evidently quite slavish in their tastes, preferring a life suitable to beasts" Nicomachean Ethics, b Later in the Ethics Aristotle draws attention to the concept of akrasia , or weakness of the will. In many cases the overwhelming prospect of some great pleasure obscures one's perception of what is truly good. Fortunately, this natural disposition is curable through training, which for Aristotle meant education and the constant aim to perfect virtue. As he puts it, a clumsy archer may indeed get better with practice, so long as he keeps aiming for the target.

Note also that it is not enough to think about doing the right thing, or even intend to do the right thing: we have to actually do it. Thus, it is one thing to think of writing the great American novel, another to actually write it. When we impose a form and order upon all those letters to actually produce a compelling story or essay, we are manifesting our rational potential, and the result of that is a sense of deep fulfillment. Or to take another example, when we exercise our citizenship by voting, we are manifesting our rational potential in yet another way, by taking responsibility for our community.

There are myriad ways in which we can exercise our latent virtue in this way, and it would seem that the fullest attainment of human happiness would be one which brought all these ways together in a comprehensive rational life-plan. There is yet another activity few people engage in which is required to live a truly happy life, according to Aristotle: intellectual contemplation. Since our nature is to be rational, the ultimate perfection of our natures is rational reflection. This means having an intellectual curiosity which perpetuates that natural wonder to know which begins in childhood but seems to be stamped out soon thereafter.

For Aristotle, education should be about the cultivation of character, and this involves a practical and a theoretical component. The practical component is the acquisition of a moral character, as discussed above.

Form vs. Matter

The theoretical component is the making of a philosopher. Here there is no tangible reward, but the critical questioning of things raises our minds above the realm of nature and closer to the abode of the gods. For Aristotle , friendship is one of the most important virtues in achieving the goal of eudaimonia happiness. This type of friendship is based on a person wishing the best for their friends regardless of utility or pleasure. This type of friendship is long lasting and tough to obtain because these types of people are hard to come by and it takes a lot of work to have a complete, virtuous friendship.

Aristotle notes that one cannot have a large number of friends because of the amount of time and care that a virtuous friendship requires. Aristotle values friendship so highly that he argues friendship supersedes justice and honor. First of all, friendship seems to be so valued by people that no one would choose to live without friends.

People who value honor will likely seek out either flattery or those who have more power than they do, in order that they may obtain personal gain through these relationships. Aristotle believes that the love of friendship is greater than this because it can be enjoyed as it is. The emphasis on enjoyment here is noteworthy: a virtuous friendship is one that is most enjoyable since it combines pleasure and virtue together, thus fulfilling our emotional and intellectual natures.

Courage, for example, is a mean regarding the feeling of fear, between the deficiency of rashness too little fear and the excess of cowardice too much fear. Justice is a mean between getting or giving too much and getting or giving too little. Aristotle is not recommending that one should be moderate in all things, since one should at all times exercise the virtues. Milo the wrestler, as Aristotle puts it, needs more gruel than a normal person, and his mean diet will vary accordingly.

Similarly for the moral virtues. Aristotle suggests that some people are born with weaker wills than others; for these people, it may actually be a mean to flee in battle the extremes being to get slaughtered or commit suicide. They presume that he eventually freed and married her.

Phillip and Alexander both held Aristotle in high esteem and ensured that the Macedonia court generously compensated him for his work. On and off, Aristotle spent most of the remainder of his life working as a teacher, researcher and writer at the Lyceum in Athens until the death of his former student Alexander the Great. Art was also a popular area of interest. Members of the Lyceum wrote up their findings in manuscripts.

When Alexander the Great died suddenly in B. To avoid being prosecuted and executed, he left Athens and fled to Chalcis on the island of Euboea, where he would remain until his death a year later. Over time, they came to lay the foundation of more than seven centuries of philosophy.

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Quick Facts

Socrates was an ancient Greek philosopher considered to be the main source of Western thought. He was condemned to death for his Socratic method of questioning. Ancient Greek philosopher Plato founded the Academy and is the author of philosophical works of unparalleled influence in Western thought. Euripides was one of the great Athenian playwrights and poets of ancient Greece, known for the many tragedies he wrote, including Medea and The Bacchae.

Although Hippocrates probably didn't write the famous oath that bears his name, it serves as foundation for the oath medical school graduates take at the start of their careers.

Ancient Greek statesman Pericles, leader of Athens from — B. The Greek poet Homer is credited with being the first to write down the epic stories of 'The Iliad' and 'The Odyssey,' and the impact of his tales continues to reverberate through Western culture. Blaise Pascal was a French mathematician, physicist and religious philosopher who laid the foundation for the modern theory of probabilities.

Francis Bacon was an English Renaissance statesman and philosopher, best known for his promotion of the scientific method. French philosopher Auguste Comte greatly advanced the field of social science, giving it the name "sociology" and influenced many 19th-century social intellectuals.

2. Prime matter

Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, together with Socrates and Plato, laid much of the groundwork for western philosophy. Several of the books covering topics like contrariety, unity, the nature of mathematical objects, and others are usually neglected, as they show less originality compared with the key points of the Metaphysics. Book XII, on the other hand, is usually considered the culmination of Aristotle's work in metaphysics, and in it he offers his teleological system.

Before he draws any grand conclusions, he begins with the idea of substance, of which there are three kinds: changeable and perishable e. If all substances are perishable, then ultimate destruction of everything is inevitable. But Aristotle asserts two imperishable entities: motion and time. If time were created, then there must have been no time before the creation, but the very concept of "before" necessitates the concept of time. On the other hand, as he argued in his works of natural philosophy, the only continuous motion must be circular.

Thus he returns to the idea of the Unmoved Mover, for only such a being could generate eternal circular motion. The Unmoved Mover is the ultimate cause of the universe, and it is pure actuality, containing no matter since it is the very cause of itself. In order for the Mover to be unmoved itself, it must move in a non-physical way, by inspiring desire. Aristotle gives the Mover the name of God, but this figure is unlike most standard conceptions of a divine being. Though Aristotle asserts that it is a living creature and represents the pinnacle of goodness, it also has no interest in the world and no recognition of man, for it exists in a completely transcendent and abstract state.

The activity of God—if it can be called such—is simply knowledge, and this knowledge is purely a knowledge of itself, because an abstracted being is above sense and experience and can know only what is best.