Does the “Good Life” in a State Exist Today?

Rachel Holl/ Summer School Morning/ Mrs. Hansson

Continuously throughout Aristotle’s The Politics, we are told that human beings cannot be self-sufficing when isolated; we are social beings that need to be involved with a community.  As humans, we tend to find ourselves congregating into states and cities.  It is in our nature to do this because like Aristotle said, “The state is by nature clearly prior to the family and to the individual,” thus meaning that it is not natural for us to be alone.  States are communities of freemen and of families all in well-being, coming together “for the sake of a perfect and self-sufficing life.”  In other words, the purpose of the state is to allow human beings to live a good life.

A good life consists of society, the necessities, achieving our end goal or happiness, and making righteous decisions throughout our lives. A good life gives meaning and purpose to someone.  The state aims at the highest good which in my opinion is having a “good life.” Aristotle points out the fact that the state solely exists for humans to have a good life; for if life was the only purpose of a community, animals and slaves would have formed states.  And, according to him, this action of creating a community is impossible for animals and slaves because they do not possess happiness or the gift of free choice.  Therefore, when a state forms, the state’s sole purpose is to help its citizens achieve a good life.

In order for a state to succeed in giving its citizens a meaningful life, the state must have rulers that have an interest for the common good and not for themselves.  It does not matter if the state is ruled by one person, a few people, or many people, as long as their principles coincide with the people’s interests.  If a state is able to have a true and honest government, the people will be able to have a good life.

Now, some people may disagree completely with these teachings.  Some people might say that because the government within a state puts limits on the people, they are not allowed to fulfill their life.  However, I can refute these claims.  The state limits us and places restrictions on the people in order to keep peace and fairness throughout the community.  For example, there are anti-trust laws so more people can start a business and succeed in a certain industry rather than being crushed by a monopoly business that controls the industry.  Also, there are laws forbidding stealing and robbing banks, so that way each person has to earn an honest living.  Governments do this not only to keep the playing field fair, but also to show that working hard and earning money is more rewarding than stealing.  It gives a person a feeling of achievement when they can see the progress they are making.  This gives them more confidence to pursue their dreams, and eventually, all the accomplishments they have made will lead them to have a good life.  These restrictions do not diminish the opportunity for a good life, but promote the opportunity for a good life by permitting us to achieve our goals and to make righteous decisions.

All of these claims were written over a thousand years ago, yet they still apply today.  Throughout the centuries, we as humans have developed and so have the communities we live in.  Aristotle had no idea what would occur in the future, but his teachings were so advanced and educated that they continue to pertain to events in the twenty first century.  First of all, nothing has changed on the fact that we are social beings.  In fact, we might even be considered more social than during Aristotle’s time period due to advanced technology and easy transportation.  Also, we still cannot survive without being a part of a community.  Our communities enhance our lives greatly.

Within these states and communities, we have governments that give us the tools we need to have a successful life.  Since the United States of America has a capitalistic government, Americans are able to become entrepreneurs, make a living, and provide for themselves with the necessities of life.  This form of government optimizes the opportunities presented to the people by allowing them to make their own decisions and really have a role in the economy.  Capitalism gives the people more freedom which leads them to have a good life.  The people do not live in a place where the government controls every aspect of their lives.  The sole purpose of capitalism within states is to further benefit the people.

Today, we make daily decisions that they help us reach our end happiness or limit us from achieving our end happiness.  As Aristotle said, cities should be focused on the people and what benefits them; and, that is exactly what most of the states do today.  They allow us to make personal decisions so we can ultimately have a self-sufficing and good life.  For example, by being able to choose our education, what we want to study, and what degree we want to receive, we are able to grow closer to achieving our life goals.  During Aristotle’s time period, education was important, and I would say that in this century, education is even more important.  Not only do people need an education just to get a job, but people need an education to reach their ultimate happiness.  Our society is more advanced and competitive, thus, making education a key piece to having a prosperous life.

When living in a community, one has more opportunities to grow as a person and to truly find what makes him or her happy.  Communities come together and create clubs and sports that help others communicate and become more social.  By doing this, people have more chances to not just survive in the world, but to have a good life.  We are able to play any sport we want and have hobbies like playing instruments or taking pictures that give us pleasure. The twenty first century is full of fun and engaging activities that allow humans to have the good life Aristotle speaks so highly of.  As I mentioned before, the whole point of the state is to further benefit the people.  We do not just want to live a life with no meaning or purpose; we want to live a life that can help us develop and reach our ultimate goal, happiness.

We do not live in communities so we can only eat and sleep.  We live in communities because we want to do something with our lives; we strive to live Aristotle’s good life whether we know about it or not.  We search for our one true love to find happiness and to make our lives better.  We do not just search endlessly for love in order to have a legacy.  As humans, we are more complex than that.  We want to be satisfied in every aspect of our lives.  We cannot be satisfied without at least trying to have a good life.    Most of the time we are never completely satisfied with ourselves, but that is not the point.  The point is to strive for a good life, so in the end we will recognize our ultimate happiness.

In The Politics, Aristotle emphasizes that states are formed so the people can live a good life.  Cities and communities are in everybody’s best interest.  We are social beings, so being in a community is beneficial.  We strive to have a good life, and states can help provide that.  Even though Aristotle wrote this article many centuries ago, it still applies to us today.  We live in cities and states to provide ourselves with the best life possible.  We still do not like to be isolated and we still strive for some end goal.  The fact that people who have never even read Aristotle are searching for a meaningful life proves that what Aristotle wrote in The Politics is accurate and relevant to life today.

Below:  This picture is of a happy community in the twenty first century not just surviving in the world, but living a good life.

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Above: This is a photograph of a stone statue of Aristotle, the Greek philosopher.

Bibliography:

Aristotle. The Politics. Greece: Aristotle, 350 B.C.E.

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