Carly Jaspersen Period 3. Consider a billionaire – one of the wealthiest men in the world. He has 5 houses in exotic locations, a big family, great friends, and most importantly, time – time to travel, to enjoy food and drink, to golf, to watch football, and more. He explores and enjoys this material world first-class.
One would think, “He has everything. His life is perfect. He should be a happy man.”
But he does not feel happy. He feels empty.
In Aristotle’s argument about happiness, he emphasizes that a person is wasting his potential if everything he does is for himself; people are here for other people.
What is the point of living, after all? Is it to gain and take as much from the world as you can? Or is it to give love, helping everyone you encounter live happily until the end of his or her time?
Aristotle’s overall drive is that people need other people to reach happiness. He says, “…there must be a union of those who cannot exist without each other; namely of male and female…and of natural ruler and subject…” We are the type of animal that will never reach the end, happiness, without a state or community. It is difficult to deny that without other people, happiness cannot be achieved.
Imagine a sailor, stranded in the middle of the sea.
Unable to find his destination.
Lost and alone for days. Months. Years.
Without human contact for so long, he will go crazy. He will forget how to socialize. His brain will go into panic mode, ultimately causing him to lose hope and wonder why he’s still alive. He needs human contact. For example, in the story of Castaway, the main character Chuck is stuck on an island by himself. He starts talking to a volleyball, treating it like a human, because he needs something to talk to. But the volleyball gives no feedback. He convinces himself that the volleyball can listen and understand – that the volleyball can use reason, much like a person. This volleyball eventually floats away from him, causing him to truly lose his mind.
Therefore without a family, a community, or state, there is essentially no point to living. The reason that life is life is because generation after generation, people learn, grow, and reproduce with each other.
But it’s sort of like the chicken and the egg – which came first: the family or the people? To create people, you need family. However you must have able people to create the family. Parents teach and raise a baby to grow up to know the ways of life, which includes virtue. The way that a family works can be compared to the government, for the government works for the good of the people, while parents work for the good of the children. The good of the people includes the ability to use reason and virtue, to grow up and become a functioning member of a family or community. If a government or guardian were to work for the good or itself, the learners would in turn fail to receive knowledge of virtue and live selfish, confused lives, which would produce an unfulfilling society overall. Therefore the “state is a creation of nature” as long as the guardians work for the good of those who must learn the virtue.
Aristotle considers why people need virtue, concluding that people need virtue to reach the destination: happiness.
Aristotle analyzes happiness as a man’s destination. Happiness is the good of life. He emphasizes that happiness is the end, for everything that a man does is for the acquisition of happiness. The reason behind anything that someone does is to be happy. Why did I take out the trash? I did so to make my mom happy and avoid her wrath, therefore making myself happy. Why did that woman become a prostitute? She needed to feed her child, to make her baby happy, which would lead to her happiness.
I do strongly agree that happiness comes from virtue. A man with no virtue, no ability to make other people happy, cannot be happy. We live for other people.
Many could argue this statement. Many find problems with sharing, to a certain degree.
Lack of sharing virtue could be the cause of the apparent “social classes”. We see people, such as the billionaire, who have 5 houses. We also see the African mother of 4 diseased kids who eats dirt cakes for dinner. One must question who would be happier in this case. If happiness comes from success, and education is the driver of success, then ultimately education would produce the happiness.
So how can an educated individual with so much unnecessary money and materials fail to give a little to help those who struggle to put food on the table at night? The problem is, so many people become blinded, caught up in the wealth, and lose care enough to forget about those who struggle just to stay alive.
Although some fail to use their education to better the world, there are many people who see the choice – the choice of giving or keeping. One woman, Melinda Gates, uses her education and wealth to give. She is an alumnus from the school I attend called Ursuline Academy which is a rigorous and academically challenging school. Therefore, Mrs. Gates received a great education and graduated with the potential to make a good amount of money. However, she chose to not be selfish with it. She realized that there is more to life than the amount of money made. She and her team work to eradicate polio and malaria in third world countries, using her financial means to run a foundation that helps multitudes. Her education essentially saves lives; she can go to bed at night knowing she is helping change the world through love and care. And that is what we are here for.
Melinda feels fulfilled because she lives for other people. And even the poor mother in Africa spends her time giving everything she can possibly give to her children.
I also understand what Aristotle means when he says that happiness is living a life in accordance with reason. However, contrary to what Aristotle so passionately argues, happiness is not only living a life in accordance with reason. Happiness is an emotion. It’s the upbeat song you hear that lifts your spirits and makes you dance. It’s the unexpected yet unforgettable moments that make you smile and laugh freely. It’s looking around a room full of people you love, knowing they are safe and healthy. I do agree that humans are born with reason; therefore, everyone has the potential to exercise virtue. No matter what a person does with his life, as long as he is not alone, he uses reason. But does that mean animals cannot be happy? When a dog wags its tail, it is happy. When a baby laughs, it is happy. Therefore Aristotle’s view does not cover the scope of happiness.
On the other hand, Aristotle is completely correct in what he says about how virtue cannot be taught in a classroom. Virtue comes from the heart. It comes from the way people treat you, especially as you grow up. You learn and prosper with others.
I rarely see the negatives in life. I am blessed, to say the least. I see the world as good; I believe everybody has a good heart. I believe everyone has virtues, or some sort of concept of what it means to live a life in accordance with these gifts. Because of my disposition, I can by no means relate to the bad guys who look to murder and robbery as their answers or way of release. It seems as though they were unfortunate in their childhood and received no form of virtue from their parents, and therefore are inadequate to show others virtue that they’ve never been taught. It’s like when people find Jesus; some people get to know Him, some turn away after getting to know Him, and others never even meet Him.
I tend to believe the power of God’s love and His promises of eternal life in heaven can change the world. But my perspective is sheltered. I am a white teenage girl with an awesome family who attends a private school in a first-world country. My idea of hardship is what color dress to wear to prom. Who am I to say anything about the meaning of happiness? However, as it stands now, my perspective is the only perspective I can give.
I believe doing great things is not measured by your success. It is measured by the number of people you reach out to. The number of hearts you change. The way you treat people – showing them that they matter. Love can conquer…but everyone must work together.