Monday, September 5, 2011
Long distance over the short sprint
Reading through Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, it's clear that he favors certain paths to goodness over others. He describes three different ways in which men pursue happiness. The first and most obvious is a life of pleasure. This path, Aristotle places at the bottom of the ladder of goodness since he believes that "the most vulgar" of men equate pleasure to goodness and happiness (13). Pleasure is much too physical and personal to be considered the greatest goodness. The second path mentioned is that of honor. Honor is higher than pleasure, but still Aristotle says that honor "seems too superficial" to be the greatest good (15). For him, to achieve honor is to receive self-glorification, so honor in itself doesn't bring goodness to all, mostly for oneself. Aristotle's other argument against honor is that it can be tarnished too easily. Virtue seems to be an answer to these short-lived paths of selfishness, and conveniently, the life of contemplation is the last path to goodness Aristotle acknowledges. Virtue is not something that can be taken away like that of honor since it's something that is learned continually through life. It's like a "pattern" one learns to help determine right from wrong (25). Also, living a life of virtue entails not only looking out for oneself, but others in the community as well, so it contributes to the goodness of many. In the end, Aristotle is trying to say that many types of paths lead to happiness, but paths that lead to the best quality of life and also those that benefit the most people are the better ways to pursue happiness and goodness.