Can Afghanistan and America achieve their good?

Baylee Auletta Period 2

The conflict between the United States and Afghanistan has been a large part of both societies for almost fifteen years[1]. This conflict started when the United Nations adopted Resolution 1267 which created the Taliban under the leader Osama Bin Laden. Since then, the two countries have acted towards each other in retaliation to the other’s movements. The United States is a more economically stable country than Afghanistan. But this war has taken a toll on both countries because of their long-lasting involvement. Does this war affect each society’s ability to reach their good? According to Aristotle, the end is the good and this end is happiness. Each society has incredibly different ways of living and social norms. Can the final end be reached by how each country lives? Through living in accordance with virtue, developing intellectual decisions through education, and obtaining virtuous friendships, the United States and Afghanistan may reach their final end, happiness, when living according to the studies of Aristotle and how each society is helping the individual.

Aristotle states that one way to achieve the final end of happiness is to live a life in accordance with virtue[2]. To live in accordance with virtue is to make decisions based on good habits, behaving in the right way and for the right reasons, and enjoy behaving rightly. The end is happiness. Happiness is neither pleasure nor virtue, but Aristotle describes it as the exercise of virtue rather than the virtue itself. To live in harmony with virtue is to live in the mean between living a life of excess and a life of deficiency. For every person, the life they live and the virtues they follow will differ depending on beliefs and experiences. In Afghanistan, the majority practice the religion of Islam. Although religion may not have anything to do with the virtues Aristotle was referencing to, but the religion and belief of the people will directly correlate with the virtues they follow. Muslims believe in virtues such as righteousness, generosity, gratitude, contentment, humility, kindness, self-restraint, and many more. All of these virtues are found in the Qur’an, which each Muslim is required to memorize and recite[3]. Good Muslims who follow the Qur’an closely will live in agreement with Aristotle’s idea of living in accordance with virtue to find their final end, happiness. In the United States the beliefs of the people range from a wide variety because of the diversity of the religions and backgrounds of Americans. A large portion of Americans believe in some type of religion that gives them guidelines of virtues to follow. The majority of Americans practice Christianity. Christians practice a wide range of virtues that agree with Aristotle’s thought of living in accordance with virtue.

Another idea Aristotle ventures into while describing how a society can reach its final end of happiness is that one must follow intellectual virtues as well[4]. There are five virtues he lists specifically. These virtues either consist of contemplative reasoning or calculative reasoning. The virtues Aristotle discusses are scientific knowledge, intuition, wisdom, technical skill, and prudence[5]. One must follow these virtues in order to behave in correlation to proper reasoning. In Afghanistan, due to war and conflicts, the society has lessened the importance of education. With the war, many educators and scholars were either killed or had fled the country for safety. It is estimated that the number of people in public schools is below 10%[6]. With this, it may be hard for them to comprehend the virtues Aristotle listed in Nicomachean Ethics. Although they may be able to properly reason their decisions right from wrong, it depends on the education and development of whoever taught them. It is hard for them to live accordingly with what Aristotle talked about when it may not even occur to them that they cannot make intellectual decisions. This may mean that it will be much harder for them to reach their final end in the terms of Aristotle. In America, although some are not educated, many have received at least a high school level of education. Having this education, may allow individuals to make properly reasoned decisions and will benefit the society as a whole. This is another way that an American society agrees with Aristotle’s views. To reach their good of happiness, an individual must be able to make well-reasoned decisions that agree with the intellectual virtues Aristotle emphasizes in his readings.

Aristotle states that friendship is also very important when reaching the final end of an individual or society, happiness. While he acknowledges different kinds of friendships, he emphasizes on friendships based on virtue.  This bases friendship on the best wishes for the other “regardless of utility or pleasure[7].” Aristotle says it is a “complete sort of friendship between people who are good and alike in virtue[8].” These friendships will not allow personal gain, but allows for long-lasting friendship of the highest value. In an Afghanistan society, there is a lot of diversity between ethnic groups[9]. Although there are ethnic loyalties, this does not mean these diverse groups do not interact. During wars, these ethnic groups are brought together and the lines of ethnic loyalties are blurred. America is also a very diverse country. People have migrated to the United States from all over the world. But I think with any friendship, it is more common for people to make an intimate connection with someone rather than use them for a personal gain. Although in all societies there will be people to make superficial friendships with people in order to benefit them in some way. So it is difficult to make a definite decision about each society. To get to the societal goal of happiness, individuals must make long-lasting, virtuous friendships that fulfill our emotional and intellectual needs. These societies surely include many of those friendships, so Afghanistan and America both live in agreement with Aristotle in this way.

Happiness is the ultimate goal and purpose for an individual. This end can only be reached at the end of one’s life[10]. When an individual uses their means to reach their end, it benefits their society as they are living a virtuous life that benefits everyone. A society is ultimately only as good as the individuals in it and the life its members live. It is understood that Aristotle valued his virtues as he stressed the need to live in accordance with virtue. Both countries, Afghanistan and America, have completely different infrastructures of society. But both countries live in agreement with some aspect Aristotle described in Nicomachean Ethics. In reality, every human being aspires to be happy, whether in their work, family and friends, or school. It is only natural for them to do everything possible to achieve that goal. Whether from Afghanistan, America or outer space, it is human nature to seek a happy life. Aristotle describes the path to this end as virtuous, contemplative, and just while abstaining from aspects of life that people use for personal gain or pleasure. It is up to the individual to choose which path they will follow to achieve their good and benefit the entirety of their society.


Endnotes

[1] Bruno, Greg. “U.S. War in Afghanistan.” Jun, 2013. Accessed Dec, 2014.

[2] “Macroeconomics Packet.” Nicomachean Ethics. January 1, 2014. Accessed December 9, 2014.

[3] IslamonDemand.com. “Islamic Virtues.” Islamic Virtues. Accessed December 9, 2014. http://www.islamondemand.com/islamic_virtues.html.

[4] “Macroeconomics Packet.” Nicomachean Ethics. January 1, 2014. Accessed December 9, 2014.

[5] Sparknotes Inc. “Nicomachean Ethics.” SparkNotes. January 1, 2014. Accessed December 9, 2014.

[6] University of West Florida. “Society and Norms.” Afghanistan. January 1, 2010. Accessed December 9, 2014. http://uwf.edu/atcdev/afghanistan/society/.

[7] “Aristotle.” Pursuit of Happiness. January 1, 2014. Accessed December 9, 2014. http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/history-of-happiness/aristotle/.

[8] “Macroeconomics Packet.” Nicomachean Ethics. January 1, 2014. Accessed December 9, 2014.

[9] University of West Florida. “Society and Norms.” Afghanistan. January 1, 2010. Accessed December 9, 2014. http://uwf.edu/atcdev/afghanistan/society/.

[10] “Aristotle.” Pursuit of Happiness. January 1, 2014. Accessed December 9, 2014. http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/history-of-happiness/aristotle/.


Bibliography

Aird, Sgt. Brandon. “U.S. Army in Kunar Province.” Flickr.com. May 6, 2006. Accessed December 9, 2014.

“Aristotle.” Pursuit of Happiness. January 1, 2014. Accessed December 9, 2014. http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/history-of-happiness/aristotle/.

Bruno, Greg. “U.S. War in Afghanistan.” Jun, 2013. Accessed Dec, 2014.

IslamonDemand.com. “Islamic Virtues.” Islamic Virtues. Accessed December 9, 2014. http://www.islamondemand.com/islamic_virtues.html.

“Macroeconomics Packet.” Nicomachean Ethics. January 1, 2014. Accessed December 9, 2014.

Sparknotes Inc. “Nicomachean Ethics.” SparkNotes. January 1, 2014. Accessed December 9, 2014.

University of West Florida. “Society and Norms.” Afghanistan. January 1, 2010. Accessed December 9, 2014. http://uwf.edu/atcdev/afghanistan/society/.

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