The Pursuit of Happiness

Cassie Parkinson Morning

The purpose of a painter is to paint, but this is merely the purpose of his job. So then, what is the purpose of his life as a whole? If he derives happiness from being a painter, then who can say that he is wrong in thinking that it is his purpose for being here. Humans are amazing at comprehending complex ideas like solar systems, and how the body works, but the one thing we do not understand is our own brains.

Aristotle argues that the purpose of the human life is to continue to ask questions, and to live a contemplative life, and he suggests that all humans search for the truth. [1] He argues that we should live the life of a philosopher because that is the only way to truly be happy. However, if a plumber approached you and told you the only way to be happy would be if you were a plumber, wouldn’t you think his argument was biased? Even if a millionaire approached you claiming that money was the only way to happiness, his argument would sound biased. Though this could be the purpose of one human, is this the same for every man or woman? Why does my life have to have the same purpose as yours? This is an objective way of looking at the true meaning of life and what it means to be a human being. [2] While I agree that finding happiness is the most important thing in life, I do not believe that being a contemplative person is. Living a life of question is simply a means of getting there, like painting, or any other occupation. This was Aristotle’s means. Someone can still find happiness so long as they are doing something that contributes to the greater good of society, regardless if they are contemplative. Living a life of questions is something that humans naturally do, so is it really the meaning of being human, or is it just another part of our innate intelligence? So then, is Aristotle claiming that the human “end” is the meaning of life, or is he claiming that it is merely part of being human.

Aristotle also argues that pleasure is not the way to find happiness, but he derived pleasure from being a contemplative person. He continues to argue that we should not live a life focused on amusement, and we should focus more on serious matters. Pleasure is something that can be in our lives, but it should not be our main goal. [3] Pleasure should be a byproduct of happiness, but not something that we focus our entire lives on.

Humans are different than most other beings because of our level of intelligence and self-awareness. Because of our individuality, humans cannot all have the same meaning in life, though we will all search for happiness. Living a contemplative life of a philosopher should not be our main goal, but instead it should be live on the pursuit of happiness.


[1] Aristotle. Nichomachean Ethics, Book I. Ann Arbor, MI: J.W. Edwards, 1947.

[2] Metz, Thaddeus. “The Meaning of Life.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. May 15, 2007. Accessed June 24, 2017.

[3] Aristotle. Nichomachean Ethics, Book X. Ann Arbor, MI: J.W. Edwards, 1947.


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