Is Wisdom Necessary to Achieve Happiness?

Paige Morrison- Aparicio PM

Aristotle argues that a child cannot fully understand happiness due to lack of life experiences. Ever since we were born, we are familiar with the concepts of pleasure and pain, good and bad. We know what we like and what we don’t like. “…in educating the young, we use please and pain as the rudders of their course” [1]. Therefore, pleasure connects with our innermost understandings of our nature. Although, pleasure and wisdom must be aligned. “…it is reasonable to suppose that the time passes more pleasantly with those who possess, than those who are seeking knowledge” [2]. Aristotle explains that one is happier when they are among others who are smart, rather than those who are still in search of learning. Therefore, a child, who has yet to fully develop their brain and is still learning from the world around them, cannot yet reach the level of happiness that Aristotle is describing.

“…the life which consists in the exercise of reason will also be divine in comparison with human life” [2]. This means that man is happiest when they do what is most natural to them; the most natural thing being the exercise of reason, and therefore when man is wise, they will be happiest. A child has not yet had the life experiences to learn and gain knowledge of reason.

Another point of view referenced in Aristotle’s teachings is that we cannot be happy without external goods. “…there are some things whose absence takes the bloom off our happiness, as good birth, the blessing of children, personal beauty…” [3]. Some may say that one cannot be truly happy until they have either found love or had the blessing of children. Since children cannot yet bear a child, know the pleasure of making friends, or find true love in a spouse, then one may think that they don’t have the capacity to know how happy they have the potential to be.

Although, one could argue, in the same way, since a child cannot know the pain of losing friend, the struggle of appearance, or being of low birth, then they have not yet experienced the harmful things in life. Therefore, they may actually be the happiest in life; ignorance could be bliss.

For example, our society as a whole has been consistently facing issues within the realm of politics. Even though the closest of friends and even family find themselves arguing over their opposing viewpoints. This leads to friction, which causes a level of unhappiness at our dinner table. However, hypothetically, if we were to be unware of the current political circumstances, then less conflicts would arise and a happier environment would persist. In this way, one would have to sacrifice wisdom to maintain our happiness. Yet Aristotle says that must have wisdom to truly understand happiness. In this situation, the opposite is true. Wisdom is unhappiness; ignorance is bliss.

 

[1] Aristotle. “The Nicomachean Ethics.” How to Find Happiness Without a Free Lunch, 2017, Ed. Bernardo Aparicio (Ursuline Academy, 2017), Book X: Ch. 1.

[2] Aristotle. “The Nicomachean Ethics.” How to Find Happiness Without a Free Lunch, 2017, Ed. Bernardo Aparicio (Ursuline Academy, 2017), Book X: Ch. 7.

[3] Aristotle. “The Nicomachean Ethics.” How to Find Happiness Without a Free Lunch, 2017, Ed. Bernardo Aparicio (Ursuline Academy, 2017), Book 1: Ch. 8.

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