Rachel Portner – Period 1

happyAristotle’s Actual Achievement of Human’s Purpose in Life:

An Analytical Essay Comparing Switzerland and Haiti

Aristotle believes that humans achieve their purpose in life separately than other living things such as animals, vegetation, and minerals by means of reasoning.  Humans are the only animate thing capable of this aptitude.  Also, no one else can take responsibility for their actions; whenever an animal commits a wrongdoing, people don’t blame the animal fully because it had no clue what it was doing, but a person does.  Aristotle claims that:

…the function of man is to live a certain kind of life, and this activity implies a rational principle, and the function of a good man is the good and noble performance of these, and if any action is well performed it is performed in accord with the appropriate excellence: if this is the case, then happiness turns out to be an activity of the soul in accordance with virtue (Aristotle).

In this analytical essay, two countries have been selected to compare who can help their citizens reach their purpose in life that Aristotle has defined despite their state of poverty or wealth better.  Switzerland is ranked the ninth richest country in the world based on its gross domestic product of about $46,500 per capita while on the other hand Haiti is ranked number 165 on that scale, only bringing in the bare minimum of $1,400 per capita (Pasquali).

Switzerland has a very highly qualified labor force that produces a selection of much desired high-quality goods.  This is their certain kind of lifestyle that Aristotle would assign them. They depend highly on trade due to the fact that it is very mineral deficient. In fact, over 90% of their own goods are exported on top of what they have to import to get what they need; these goods include chocolate, watches, and cheese (Swissworld).  Because of this, Switzerland allows for more jobs to be made letting more people have the opportunity to find a job that is in accordance with their soul and virtue, something that the person working has a passion in doing.  Just as virtue is something that is a “trained faculty of choice,” according to Aristotle, the Swiss are training themselves in their jobs that are all readily available to them in their county.

Also believing in free trade, Switzerland maximizes their economic output by not putting taxes or quotas on the goods that are being either imported or exported (Swissworld). This allows for the country to better focus on comparative advantage of their goods and make it easier to exchange with other countries that have comparative advantage in their goods.  Aristotle clearly states that “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.” The Swiss are always equipped with their high quality goods living in accordance with complete virtue as noted above, which Aristotle explains is something learned through constant practice.  However, the Swiss pay the price for their outstanding goods.  Their workers have to report to work for an average of 41.6 hours a week and may only have 20 days off per year for whatever reason is necessary (Swissworld).  Clearly Aristotle would see that they do have a certain function in life.  On the other hand, the money gained from their hard working is more than most countries; a survey around the world was taken and proved that Switzerland was capable of earning enough for one hamburger than in any other country (Swissworld).

On the other end of the totem pole comes Haiti with over 80% of its population under the poverty line (Pasquali).  Maybe they can prove that happiness is not all about the money and the riches.  They, like Switzerland, have a free trade economy system; however, this is mainly because they cannot afford to do otherwise with their economic status being so low.  With their few goods that they do produce, they can offer a somewhat comparative advantage with other countries to get what they need this way.  Despite their being poor in wealth, they are rich in their cultural and environment (Pasquali).  Aristotle claims that the way to define that which is truly happy in their life is by saying that he is

One who exercises his faculties in accordance with perfect excellence, begin duly furnished with external goods, not for any chance time, but for a full term of years…we may say that those living men are blessed or perfectly happy who both have and shall continue to have these characteristics (Aristotle).

Haiti clearly has struggled in their wealth over the years, yet it seems that they cannot achieve full happiness until they get back on their feet financially.

After recent events in Japan form an earthquake happening due to one of their nuclear power plants, Switzerland decided for the best of all people that they should eliminate all nuclear power plants from their system to preserve the safety of their citizens.  Because of this, Switzerland began their SwissEnergy Action Plan which is basically a plan to help evolve a way to make energy more efficient in all of their mechanical and technological advances (Swissworld).  Although Switzerland may be prosperous in monetary means, their people take a different route.  In 1998, there were more deaths that took place in that year than there were births.   Since then, birth rates have been steadily declining making the average age of the country rise.  Of their almost 8 million population in the country, the Swiss have almost 5 million of that 8 in the 20-60 year old range.  On top of that, the divorce rate in Switzerland is very low which definitely does not help people achieve their goodness in life rather makes them more depressed than content which is their main purpose (Swissworld).

Compared to Switzerland, Haiti has had to muddle through tragic earthquakes and hurricanes time and time again which just devastated the economy (Pasquali).  Already low in means to attempt to fix the economy before, Haiti truly struggled to recover from two back-to-back natural disasters, something Switzerland would have easily been able to fix and hop back onto its feet from.  In Aristotle’s words, “nevertheless, true worth shines out even here, in the calm endurance of many great misfortunes…through nobility and greatness of soul.” He is trying to say that it’s not that Haiti will never truly be happy because of these misfortunes that have come across it, but, rather, that Haiti has the potentiality to overcome them and prove themselves to be noble for it.

Overall, it seems Switzerland is blessed to have such abundance in their monetary riches; however, they are lacking in some of their other categories of life leading to what Aristotle would claim to be a mediocre state of happiness that they are in.  While on the other hand, Haiti has far more than many struggles to be faced in its economy yet with their strong faith and desire to try hard in what the citizens of Haiti are capable of, they too reach a mediocre state of happiness. Because if it is virtue that brings happiness, Aristotle claims virtue to be the means between an extreme excess and an extreme deficiency, the happiest country would then be one between the two levels of Switzerland and Haiti.

Nicomachean Ethics. : , 340.

Pasquali, Valentina. “The World’s Richest and Poorest Countries.” Global Finance.             http://www.gfmag.com/component/content/article/119-economic-data/12529-the-worlds-  richest-and-poorest-countries.html#axzz2zYiRF43V (accessed April 15, 2014).

“Swissworld.org – Switzerland’s official information portal.” Family life.             http://www.swissworld.org/en/people/families/family_life/ (accessed April 16, 2014).

2 thoughts on “Rachel Portner – Period 1

  1. I really enjoyed this blog! I didn’t know much about Switzerland or Haiti so the article provided a lot of interesting information. I especially loved all that you wrote about Haiti! It was interesting to see Aristotle and the views he would have on the two societies, and then compare his ideas with my own.- Caroline B

  2. This was interesting, Rachel! This gave me a huge insight on Switzerland that I had not known. Good Job!
    -jackie g

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