What Aristotle Would Have to Say about Warren Buffet’s Way of Life.

Zoe Prendergast – Honorbound

Warren Buffett, considered as one of the world’s best investors, has a net worth of $74.1B, exceeding Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, by approximately $12B.  If one was to search his name, the first thing to come up would be something along the lines of “Buffett’s top 10 tips on how to get rich”.  Needless to say, Warren Buffett definitely has money on his mind.  As a result of this, most would admit that they look up to Buffett or envy him for his wealth, but according to Aristotle, Buffett is doing it all wrong.

The secondary quote, “When you’re aiming to reach the top of the mountain, it’s usually wise to closely follow the footprints of those who have successfully made the climb before you”[1] and another quote from Buffett directly saying that one should “view money as a long term game”[2] raises a large question: What is at the top of this mountain and what exactly is the end of the game that Buffett is playing?  If you were to ask Aristotle, that end would be happiness.  While happiness is often seen as subjective, Aristotle strictly highlights what happiness is not, and that is money.  He firmly states that “As for the money-making life, it is something quite contrary to nature; and wealth evidently is not the good of which we are in search, for it is merely useful as a means to something else”[3].  With this fact predetermined, we can now move on to our next question: If the accumulation of money is not the top of the mountain or the end of the game, then what is the point of everyone constantly trying to “get rich”?  To answer this, Aristotle considers two different types of wealth-gaining, one with a limit and one without.  He states that, “The source of the confusion is the near connection between the two kinds of wealth-getting… for each is a use of the same property, but with a difference: accumulation is the end in the one case, but there is a further end in the other”[4].  With that, one can gather that, if money is not the final end, then the first type of money making where “accumulation is the end” is invalid.  This ideal questions the motive of Warren Buffett, especially when considering one of his most famous quotes, “I always knew I was going to be rich. I don’t think I ever doubted it for a minute”[5]. If accumulation of wealth is not the end, then Buffett’s statement alone contradicts the main point of Aristotle’s teachings, however, if there is a greater reasoning behind the accumulation of this wealth, then Aristotle’s argument is supported.

Overall, the money that one accumulates is not the difference between whether or not they gain true happiness, but it is what one does with that money that sets them apart.  Aristotle emphasizes the importance of a limit of wealth to prevent wealth-getting just for the sake of wealth-getting, and in addition to this, it is stated that the reasoning behind wealth-getting should be “enabling [one] to achieve a good life”[6].  Therefore, it could be argued in either direction as to whether or not Warren Buffett’s way of living coincides with Aristotle’s teachings, depending on the purpose behind his desire for a constant accumulation of wealth, or if there even is one.

 

[1] Kirkham, Elyssa. “Warren Buffett’s Best Tips to Live by — Of All Time.” GOBankingRates. Toggle Navigation, 06 Mar. 2017. Web. 02 May 2017.

[2] Ibid

[3] Aristotle. Nicomachean ethics. “How to Find Happiness without a Free Lunch”. Edited by Bernardo Aparicio.  Ursuline Academy of Dallas. Accessed May 01, 2017.

[4] Aristotle. The Politics. “How to Find Happiness without a Free Lunch”. Edited by Bernardo Aparicio. Ursuline Academy of Dallas. Accessed May 01, 2017.

[5] “Warren Buffett Quotes.” BrainyQuote. Accessed May 02, 2017. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/w/warren_buffett.html.

[6] Aparicio, Bernardo. Editor’s note in The Politics.  “How to Find Happiness without a Free Lunch”.  Ursuline Academy of Dallas. Accessed May 01, 2017.

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