Happiness… (Do Ursuline girls have any?)

Mary Frances L. Period 5. Aristotle and John Stuart Mill both write on ways to achieve an individual’s happiness in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism. Aristotle believed that each person in life wants happiness but does not know how to attain it. While John Stuart Mill believed that a person should do whatever he or she wanted to do as long as there was a balance between pleasure and pain. The two both agree that humans want to have happiness in their lives, but disagree on how people are to actually attain happiness. Never the less, their works of literature and philosophy will continue to be studied by people for many years to come.

Looking into Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, he believes that every man seeks happiness in his or her life. However, happiness means different things to different people due to the fact that people all have different wants and needs. Knowing this Aristotle discovered that the poor would want money, the weak would want strength, the lonely would want company and the sick would want health all because it would bring them happiness. Aristotle realized that there were other goods out there known as external goods that could lead people to happiness. Those goods were objects such as money, gadgets, cars, and other things that lead people to happiness. However, Aristotle concluded that happiness was the chief good in life. In order to live a happy life, Aristotle believed that a person must complete his or her function in the world. In order to complete one’s own function they must live in accordance to reason and virtue. In Aristotle’s view, “virtue [is] not an emotion, nor a faculty, but a trained faculty or habit.” (Aristotle) Therefore, the virtue of a person is the trained habit or faculty that enables them to be a good person and helps him perform his function. So if a man or woman decided to become a doctor they should practice medicine in order to become a good doctor, so they can fill their function of helping sick people. Overall Aristotle believes that in order to attain happiness, a person must complete his or her function which is to live in accordance to reason and virtue, and in order to live like that one must have a trained habit or faculty, and when that happens they will reach their final end of happiness.  Also looking more in depth into a virtuous person, it is proven that a virtuous person has less of a difficulty handling setbacks in his or her life.”The happy person is one who expresses complete virtue in his activities, with an adequate supply of external goods, not just for any time but for a complete life.” (Aristotle) This explains that with the perfect balance that anyone can achieve happiness.

Aristotle believes there is a difference between short term happiness and long term happiness. He refers to short term happiness as, pleasure, and long term happiness as, happiness. Pleasure is a momentary feeling that a person may feel when something good happens, or something that brings excitement.  An example of this is could be that a little girl may want a real live pony for Christmas. Why? Because she wants a live pony just like any other little girl, and if she does in fact get a live pony for Christmas, how will it make her feel? A live pony will make her feel happy.  She may even scream out joyfully, “This is the happiest day of my life!” However the feeling she experiences at that moment is in fact actually pleasure so instead she should shout out, “This is the best joy I have felt ever!” This is because the joyful and fun feeling she experiences then is only momentary; she may go on with the rest of her day and eat a huge Christmas feast and get a stomach ache. Will the little girl be happy then with her stomach ache? The answer is no! The fact that the little girl was only “happy” for a short moment in life proves that instead of her experiencing happiness she indeed was experiencing pleasure. Happiness it is the only thing that cannot be used to get another good. This proves that all aimed goods lead to happiness. One person does not want happiness in order to live a successful life. The person will live a successful life in order to be happy. This is because once a person is truly happy they will not want anything else in life.

John Stuart Mill wrote Utilitarianism, discussing his opinion on how an individual could find happiness in life.  John Stuart Mill’s main principle was copied from Bentham, “Actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to promote the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain, and the privation of pleasure.” (Bentham) This indicates that only actions that bring people happiness are good, and actions that promote unhappiness are bad. However, John Stuart Mill changed Bentham’s principle by determining the different kinds of pleasure there are rather than just focusing on the fact that there is pleasure. John Stuart Mill uses quality of pleasure over pain in order to calculate a person’s happiness in life. John Stuart Mill explains his idea of the importance of quality of pleasure over quantity of pleasure by saying, “It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, is of a different opinion, it is because they know only their side of the question. The other party to the comparison knows both sides.” (John Stuart Mill) As a utilitarian, John Mill believed that people should base their decisions on whatever brought them the most pleasure in their life whether it was moral or not. John Mill also believed in two types of pleasures: higher pleasures and lower pleasures. The higher pleasures were of the mind and the lower pleasures were of the body, making the higher pleasures more important. An example of a higher pleasure would be teaching a person something new while a lower pleasure would be putting on clothes when you are cold or eating a delicious hotdog.  However, this to me makes sense, there is one belief that Mill has that I do not support.

Considering all of this information, Aristotle and John Stuart Mill have a couple ideas about individual happiness that are similar and a few more that are different. The first idea that they both have is that everyone looks for happiness. And they both have two separations of happiness; Aristotle’s being happiness and pleasure, while Mill’s is higher pleasure and lower pleasure. Each represents a different quality of emotion and feeling. One difference between utilitarianism and Aristotle’s view on happiness is that Aristotle believes that in order to attain happiness you must have values and morals. Whereas John Stuart Mill believes that people should base their actions on what brings them more pleasure. Another difference in their beliefs is that Aristotle’s belief of pleasure is basically the same thing as Mill’s definition of true happiness. Mill focuses more on the consequences of an action than Aristotle, but that is probably because utilitarianism does not really have morals. Overall Aristotle and John Stuart Mill both want happiness they just want to achieve it in different ways.

Overall, Aristotle and John Stuart Mill both had some interesting ideas on how an individual could attain happiness. Aristotle believed as said in his Nicomachean Ethics that a person can achieve happiness by completing their function in order to live a good life. While in Utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill believed that as long as there was more pleasure rather than pain, any action was morally just. Both philosophers agree that people want happiness; however they disagree on how to attain it. Either way, both of their works, the Nicomachean Ethics and the Utilitarianism, are brilliant works of philosophy that every person should think about reading.

Works Cited
“Aristotle.” Aristotle. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2012. http://pzazz0.tripod.com/id11.html.
“Aristotle.” ThinkQuest. Oracle Foundation, n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2012. http://library.thinkquest.org/18775/aristotle/morar.htm.
“Intro to Aristotle.” Intro to Aristotle. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2012. http://www.class.uidaho.edu/ngier/103/aristotle.htm.
“Mill.” Mill. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2012. <http://www.harryhiker.com/ms/mill–00.htm&gt;.
“Notes on Aristotle.” Notes on Aristotle. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2012. http://www.bergen.edu/faculty/gcronk/aristotlenotes.html.
“Understanding Philosophy.” Mill’s Version of Utilitarianism –. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2012. http://www.netplaces.com/philosophy/utilitarianism-a-philosophy-of-pleasure-and-happiness/mills-version-of-utilitarianism.htm.
“Utilitarian Philosophy.” Utilitarian Philosophy. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2012. http://utilitarianphilosophy.com/definition.eng.html.
“Utilitarianism.” Utilitarianism. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2012. http://www.utilitarianism.com/utilitarianism.html.

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