February 4, 2014

The Virtue of Happiness

Hello there, how have you been? Last week, I had a philosophical moment in one of my vlogs, which is embedded here below. (It begins toward the end if you wanted to fast forward to there.)

I'm currently taking and introductory ethics course, and my professor describes the content as "learning how to live your life." She is probably one of my favorite professors this semester; she has a cat, loves clean chalk boards, and does her best to be kind to all of her students.

We're currently studying Aristotle, whose Nicomachean Ethics describes living a happy life. How does one define happiness? How is happiness attained? How do we know if a person has achieved living a happy life?

Well, there are many interpretations for the definition of happiness, but Aristotle says that it is essentially living a full life. His term for this sense of a flourishing life is eudimonia.

Although happiness can be attained through many ways, eudimonia is something much more distinctive. Aristotle would argue that humans are unique from all other things of the universe because they are able to practice eudimonia. Plants and animals live and experience pain and pleasure, but only humans can pursue a full life. Humans have a working conscience that sets us apart from the world. This is so important because this is our purpose. Since we are the only ones on Earth that can think intellectually, it is up to us to improve our knowledge constructively.

On Aristotle's terms, we must exercise rational activity in a virtuous manner. Basically, virtuous person will do the right thing at the right time for the right reason and in the right way. Virtue is done for its own sake, and good people exercise virtue for its own sake.

And what is virtuous can be pinpointed through the Doctrine of the Mean. (Mean as in average, not rudeness.)

Take confidence, for example. If you have too much confidence, you're arrogant. But if you don't have enough confidence, you will miss opportunities that you otherwise have the skills to attain. This could apply to nearly every personality trait, and it's unique to each situation or case.

There's something really harmonious about the Doctrine of the Mean. Do you think it's a good way to find happiness? Let me know in the comments below!

Take care,
-Riley XO

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