The Virtuous Activity of the Soul

Abstact

The attention of this essay is focused on three key concepts of Aristotle: eudaimonia (translated as “happiness”), goods and virtue. Goods and happiness are normally perceived through the prism of one's individual life style. Relating on the study of the natural philosophers and Pythagoras, Aristotle described three ways of them, namely hedonism (the life full of pleasures and satisfaction), politicus (the political or state-oriented life; Aristotle regarded interests of the society to be more important than personal preferences), and opticus (the contemplative life).

 

This fact presupposes the multiplicity of meanings of “goods.” Even though one complex idea cannot be called “goods,” but in order to avoid ambiguity Aristotle suggests that all the actions performed for the sake of one's purpose may be called “goods.” Correspondingly, if there are several goals, the perfect of them will be “goods” in request.

Happiness Definition by Aristotel

According to Aristotle, happiness is an action not a state. Moreover, this is an action conformed to virtue. This claim is supported by a very vivid example:

“And as in the Olympic Games it is not the most beautiful and the strongest that are crowned but those who compete (for it is some of these that are victorious), so those who act win, and rightly win, the noble and good things in life” (Aristotle, 2011).

Retrievered from http://classics.mit.edu/

If you act in accordance with conscience and what is generally accepted to be right, then you reach the virtue (even though this way is more complicated). One should not neglect the importance of external factors (for instance, wealth, friends, inborn beauty etc.), which are used by a person as tools or help for good deeds. Despite the fact that virtue may be achieved due to one's awareness and deliberate choice, it bears a trace of divinity. The nature provides us with certain abilities that help us to develop and improve ourselves on the way to virtues (on condition that we behave in a correct manner). In order to stay on the right track, one should learn how to find a balance between two extremes and stick to the golden medium. Last but not least, Aristotle warned that people should beware of satisfaction and pleasure, as well as avoid hasty decisions and obsession while making a choice.

Aristotle used various ways in order to support his statements. His lofty metaphoric examples and similes are worth of mentioning. Often he referred to other philosophers and their opinions. In general, Aristotle demonstrated what was meant on realistic life situations. He traced all the possible ways of idea development, and proved why a certain option is right or why it is regarded as unacceptable. His justifications are simple and clear.

The Mean Relevant to Us

Aristotle's framework of virtues consisted of the following values (a middle ground between two opposite qualities): courage (two extremes: fearlessness and cowardliness), liberality (prodigality and meanness), good temper (irascibility and inirascibility), pleasantness (praise-worthy and worthy of blame) etc. It is difficult to state unequivocally whether this scheme may be applied to the modern generation. On one hand, the USA preaches diversity. It means that black-and-white way of thinking is not acceptable, as a matter of fact. At first sight, individualism, freedom of choice and respectfully-oriented character of the society provide a harmony in today's life.

However, Aristotle's values (regarded as classical ones) remain topical only de jure. De facto we are living in the epoch of the reversed morality. This issue may seem ambiguous due to relativism and contextualization of the values, as well as post-modernistic views (which gave birth to non-classical perception of the world). The opposite side of the coin shows that people tend to be more polar and drastic and the-winner-takes-it-all-principle is being implemented on practice more and more. For instance, numerous scholars consider the World Wars I and II to mark an ultimate decline of Aristotle's values.

What is war? It is fearlessness, an insatiable appetite for power, and immoderateness worth blaming. Let us face more current examples. With the recent death of Margaret Thatcher the following idea came to my mind: how do people react when a prominent figure passes away? The Internet becomes full of the R.I.P.-pictures and quotations once uttered by these people, and social network tags with a vague shade of mourning.

Summary

The same happened with Steve Jobs, Michael Jackson, and other celebrities. In fact, usually people do not know anything about the Iron Lady, apart from her relation to politics and Great Britain. People worshiped the Apple Titan who, actually, had a reputation of a too selective and a bad-tempered boss. People called themselves number-one fans of the King of Pop knowing 2-3 songs of him. What causes such a wave of exceeding sympathy which fades in several days? True admirers will not shout of the top of their voices about this loss. Looking for a happy medium is not a gift. It is something that has to be taught, developed, and practiced. Unfortunately, nowadays people are not looking for the best; they are looking for even better.

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