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.


  1. (This comment is actually from Kaitlyn, who had trouble commenting.)

    This is in regards to Ly Nguyen's post:

    Does one choose the path he follows, or does his actions choose the path for him? Whenever Aristotle talked about goodness and happiness, he often spoke of how a person goes about achieving that certain status. When you say "paths that lead to the best quality of life," what defines the best quality of life?

    I enjoyed this viewpoint of things, and I would be interested to hear your take on what he meant about "pursuing happiness."

  2. Sorry about this response being so late, but I still wanted to answer some of your questions about my post.

    For me, I think Aristotle was saying that a man has choice in the path he chooses, which is the same as the choice of the action he wishes to carry out. The action determines which path one chooses to go on, so they are one and the same.

    As for quality of life, I would say the more unselfish the choices, the better the quality of life, which is why I believe Aristotle would favor a life of contemplation and moral virtue over that of honor or pleasure. He would still say that all three paths provide goodness to a person, but the the one which helps out the most people is the greatest good.


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