Destruction By Greed: Has Man Become His Own Gravedigger?

Mariana Sereno – Period 1 – Honorbound

Societal influence has much to do with our needs, which can actually just be wants in disguise. Growing up, you might have heard that having infinite riches makes a person happy, but what aspect of money actually makes someone happy? Is it the ability to buy temporary pleasures, or is it the humble facade one hides behind to mask the greedy interior? Either way, no amount of money, or any pleasure for that matter, can fill the bottomless void of dissatisfaction that we as humans selfishly possess.

Throughout The Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle continuously mentions this ultimate end that will lead man to be fulfilled with happiness. He acknowledges the fact that moral relativism has to do with everyone’s unique definition of happiness, saying, “Men agree that the good is happiness, but differ to what this is.” [1] Although there are a million ways of defining happiness, there are also a million ways to achieve it. In the tenth chapter of his work, Aristotle mentions that one of the key components of reaching ultimate happiness is eliminating any type of amusement from the equation, as he states, “…The happy life is thought to be that which exhibits virtue; and such a life must be serious and cannot consist in amusement.” [2] Though Aristotle raises the discussion of what man is willing to give up to reach the ultimate end and pure happiness, it also brings to light another question: What makes a man choose temporary pleasures over the ultimate good, better yet, what makes a man greedy?

Aristotle stands firm on the ideal that “happiness lacks nothing” and that “it is sufficient in itself,” but what does this mean for people who are completely immersed in pleasures and are still unfulfilled? [3] Aristotle takes into account that man has distorted the definition of happiness that should be followed, stating, “…all the characteristics that men are expected to find in happiness seem to belong to happiness as we define it.” [4] Essentially, man has become so selfish in achieving self-benefit that what should be considered temporary pleasures have become our need for more. Instead of being fulfilled with what is already given to us or, in the case of The Nicomachean Ethics, working for the ultimate good that comes with complete happiness, we as humans have become blind to what the ultimate good and happiness should come from: the exercise of our human facility in accordance with virtue.

As previously mentioned, everyone’s definition and means of achieving happiness differ. Some people can choose to have everyone benefit, and others can selfishly act for their own needs. Although this may be, Aristotle warns that not all good rewards bring good endings, stating, “There is a similar uncertainty also about what is good, because good things often do people harm; men have before now been ruined by wealth, and have lost their lives through courage.” [5] Through his corrupt definition of happiness, leading to many selfish decisions, man’s greedy, unfulfilled needs have led him to be his own destructor.


[1] Aristotle. The Nicomachean Ethics. Print.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

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