The Good Life

Emily Khoury – Period 5, Honorbound

How can I live the good life?

As a teenage girl in 2016, the typical answer would be to have a boyfriend, make good grades, get into my top college, be skinny, and have lots of friends. But is this really a good life? Aristotle would not agree.

In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle discusses the common human goal of happiness. He begins with making the point that happiness would be fulfilling our human function: “Thus it seems that happiness is something final and self-sufficing, and is the end of all that man does.”[1]. He further writes, “…so man’s good would seem to lie in his function…”[2]. Next, he concludes what man’s function is: “exercise of his faculties and action of various kinds with reason”[3]. In other words, our function is using our uniquely human skills of reason in our actions and our thoughts to discover truths. How can we fulfill our function and thus attain happiness? In Book X, Aristotle claims that “happiness is a kind of speculation or contemplation.”[4]. Contemplation is getting to know yourself and truths, which uses reason. This uses the best part of you, the part that makes you human, leading to happiness.

But, how can I practice contemplation in 2016 as a teenager? Simply put, we must think about what we do and why we do it. Teenagers are notorious for making rash decisions without thinking. We can consciously put more thought into what we do and reflect on our motives, questioning if they are truly good or not.

In terms of academics, contemplation can be incorporated into any field. On the surface many only see reflection and analysis in humanities subjects, but they can be found in the STEM fields too. STEM classes follow logic and fact, but in the traditional classroom environment they often lack the contemplation and questioning. As my STEM classes have gotten more advanced, opportunities have opened for questioning and contemplating. Sometimes it is good to have ambiguity or not a single right answer. It can be frustrating in a sense but it challenges us to further use these uniquely human capacities that the humanities focus on (it does have the word “human” in it).

We go to school to educate ourselves and prepare for a career. Contemplation can be incorporated into any field of study, any career, allowing us to attain happiness while still being active. For instance, I aspire to be a doctor. I would enjoy a visit with a doctor who is pleasant and caring rather than one who is cold and apathetic. Both are still doctors and went to medical school with the same training. However, the compassionate doctor might be happier (as well as get more business) because of the genuine care for the person he or she is treating and the thought that accompanies compassion. Learning to contemplate and to think allows us to develop relationships where we live out virtues. No matter what we do, we are humans and need social interaction. Virtuous relationships with other humans allow us to contemplate and thus fulfill our function and be happy. No matter age, career, or interests, all people can be happy, as Aristotle explains, through contemplating in their life.

[1] Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, ed. Bernardo Aparicio (Dallas, TX: Ursuline Academy of Dallas, 2016), 5.

[2] Ibid., 6

[3]  Ibid., 6

[4] Ibid., 18

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