Does Pope Francis’s views of happiness correlate with those of Aristotle ?

Estela Medina

Period 7


In a recent article, Pope Francis released his top ten secrets for achieving happiness. It makes one wonder; did Pope Francis align his interpretation of happiness with those of Aristotle?

For those who do not know, Pope Francis took his reign as Pope on March 13, 2013. The Argentinian native has naturally earned the love of the public; as each person listens to every word he proclaims with interest and awe. His holiness has a lighthearted appearance that makes his message easier to digest, which does sense to everyone tuning in on what he has to say. The complexity between Pope Francis and Aristotle, who are influential people, intrigues the mind, as they claim different things though mean is the same. While Pope Francis expresses the secret to becoming content with life, it makes one speculate if he based his survival guide off of the great Grecian scholar, Aristotle.

To reiterate what was mentioned above, in a recent interview with an Argentinian magazine, Pope Francis revealed his secrets to bringing greater joy to one’s life. One of his first claims begins with generosity, as he urges the idea of “giving yourself to others,” that encourages people to become ample to others, therefore, if not practiced; one becomes egocentric, forgetting the basics of being a Christian.[1] This is paralleled with one of Aristotle’s arguments; he describes in book II of Nicomachean Ethics that “the virtue then comes neither by nature nor against nature, but nature gives the capacity for acquiring them, and this is developed by training,” which ensures that becoming a morally virtuous person is only done by forming a constant habit through constant practice. [2] This hint toward our nature, giving us the capacity of becoming morally conscience people with practice that would ultimately bring out the greater person inside of one which is why “we ought to make sure that our acts be of a certain kind; for resulting character varies as they vary,” because again, it ultimately reflects on how one acts and who one becomes. [3] People can either be the generous person  who everyone appreciates or that egocentric disliked person that is despised by everyone, which in turn gets that one unloved person nowhere near  life of happiness. The Pope’s view within this, points out that one would must find happiness within the act of giving and generosity towards others, while Aristotle did not view it in that manner; he interprets it as the initial step to live a happy life. So, each person’s happiness is dependent on their acts, and if we repeatedly acted virtuously, it would bring us one step closer to the happy life both Aristotle and Pope Francis help us strive for.  Again, both express the initial step of living out the virtuous life that leads to happiness.

Aristotle’s approach toward assuring one has a function in life parallels with that of Pope Francis, as he calls the younger generation to knowledge and figure out what they enjoy doing to separate from the bad distractions; both knowledge the importance of figuring out ones calling or function at a young age. Pope Francis also insists on figuring out “innovate ways to create dignified jobs for young people… If they have no opportunity they will get into drugs. [4] This connects with his interpretation of happiness because if one figures out their likes and dislikes at such young age, it brings them a step closer to living a full and happy life, especially when bring their hard earned money home, giving one the sense of accomplishment. Aristotle brings up the intricate point that “Man’s function than being, that is to say, exercise of his faculties and action of various kinds of reason- the good man’s function is to do this well and beautifully… but the function of anything is done well when it is done in accordance with the proper excellence of that thing.” [5] Decoded, Aristotle explains that a man’s function with reason and talent brings them into the life of happiness, as long as it is in accordance with virtue. Again, the parallels between the two here are evident; Figuring out ones function at a young age helps one to live a happy life to where drugs or other unvirtuous things cannot lead us into the wrong path, rather they are not an option because the function is enough to make them happy, ultimately because the will enjoy doing their function. Both explain the importance of finding their pleasure within their job or function, making life bearable and overall enjoyable, which makes one live a truly joyful life.

Societies over consumes material based items, which helps prove Pope Francis and Aristotle’s claim.  Pope Francis’s fourth secret to unveiling happiness was to make aware that “Consumerism has brought us anxiety and stress, causing people to lose a healthy culture of leisure.”[6] Today, we live in an ad filled society that bombard us with the latest and greatest technology, causing us drift away from the arts and those liberating things that help refresh our minds. Similarly, Aristotle makes us aware “that all men are agreed; for the masses and the men of the culture alike declare that it is happiness, and hold that to ‘live well,’ or to ‘do well’ is the same as to be ‘happy,’” is not the ultimate form of happiness, rather what society perceives it to be. [7] Then as now, society always wants more than what they have, thinking that with the material they desire all their needs shall be fulfilled. That is why; Pope Francis and Aristotle’s belief about society’s consumerism do coincide because they both know that we naturally tend to drift toward, instead of  driving toward the  real picture, meaning in this case, living a truly happy life. Happiness is not items you desire, rather the method of living life that helps you fulfill a function, weather in your eyes that be spending time with your family or the fulfilling that one thing causes goodness in your life.

Although Pope Francis and Aristotle have several similarities, not everything they have to say about happiness goes hand in hand. Pope Francis, the religious leader of the Catholic Church, of course, aims to put God’s plans before anything else, while spreading goodness to others and spreading his word. The simplicity of his steps can make it towards where anyone can read his opinion and know what to do to fulfill a religious based life of happiness. In contrast, Aristotle’s complex vision requires serious intellectual thought that takes time and effort to truly understand. For example, Pope Francis urges the need to promote the respect of nature as it is an ongoing battle with the dangerous chemicals circling the earth. This correlates with happiness because the spread of awareness and action, not only are you promoting good, but also saving God’s creation. In difference, Aristotle, never mentions the need to preserve nature, rather focus on the individual, meaning that man’s function is to live a virtuous life in accordance with reason and using this reason to find a contemplative life.

In conclusion, these two intellectuals who proclaim different notions have similar thoughts when it comes to the idea of happiness, regardless if Pope Francis takes a religious approach and Aristotle takes a philosophical approach.  The initial steps taken by both means they stress their ideas up people and encourage us into becoming ample and virtuous people before truly accepting the life that is being happy. Lastly, as there are similarities, there are differences, but it just goes to show that both amazing public leaders express different methods to achieving ultimate happiness.


[1]        Glatz, Carol. “In Latest Interview, Pope Francis Reveals Top 10 Secrets to Happiness.” National Catholic Reporter. July 29, 2014. Accessed December 8, 2014.

[2] Aristotle. Nichomachean Ethics. Bernardo Aparicio, 2014, book II section 3.

[3]  Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Aristotle. Nichomachean Ethics. Bernardo Aparicio, 2014, book I section 7.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Aristotle. Nichomachean Ethics. Bernardo Aparicio, 2014, book I section 4.

Work Cited

Aristotle. Nichomachean Ethics. Bernardo Aparicio, 2014.

“Biography.” Biography. Accessed December 8, 2014.

Glatz, Carol. “In Latest Interview, Pope Francis Reveals Top 10 Secrets to Happiness.” National Catholic Reporter. July 29, 2014. Accessed December 8, 2014.

Withnall, Adams, Pope Francis. 2014 Available from :


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