Happiness Theory

The book gave the following example: A gambler who has lost all evening makes one last bet with money that has been saved for the down payment on a house and wins back twice the sum. In some of the theories of happiness, namely Hedonism, this is perfectly acceptable. However, it does not have the most to offer the world. The Aristotelian philosophy on happiness would be the most helpful to the world because: its perspective, emphasis on virtue, and stance on reason.

Bon Jovi’s song “It’s My Life” illustrates the perspective much of the world holds today. It’s my life. My decisions are mine and mine alone. What I do affects only me. My cousin was recently incarcerated. His path to prison started with a decision many years back that his actions are his alone. This mindset seems to plague people’s minds today, and is especially prevalent among young people. What if the whole world adopted Aristotle’s perspective: what one does affects the whole. What if everyone was always mindful of how their actions would affect others? What a wonderful world it would be. Another aspect of perspective is it’s take on moments. In some philosophies each moment defines your overall happiness or misery. For Aristotle it’s not about one specific moment, it’s about your life in whole. One sad moment in an otherwise happy life does not mean your life was a failure. It’s about what you do with your life.

That said, it leads perfectly into Aristotle’s emphasis on virtue. It is unreasonable to think that one will not face opposition, and adversity in this life. Even for life on the most basic level, for example, a single-celled organism. That cell cannot live without facing the risks nature provides. It could be infected by bacteria or a virus, its environment could change rapidly causing damage or death, and it might not find food. Adversity is a natural part of life. That adversity should not depress us. Yes, life is difficult. But, if we always make the right decisions, we can be happy. There are moments of pain, there are moments of pleasure, there are moments of sadness, but if we are virtuous the life in whole is a happy one. It’s happy because we know, we did the right thing.

Lastly, Aristotle places emphasis on reason. His philosophy on happiness is the most logical of those we’ve studied. The other philosophies are impulsive (Hedonism), or reclusive (Epicureanism). Both characteristics have a negative impact on humanity as a whole. Those who take too many risks themselves and are concerned with merely themselves endanger society. Those who are afraid of risks, and thus hide will not contribute to society. Perhaps there was a great philosopher who hid himself away and was then unable to share his thoughts with the rest of the world. In an Aristotelian view, one can live his or her life normally, doing what is right, and no matter the circumstances one can find happiness. How much safer and more pleasant would the world be if everyone was concerned with the affects of their actions in the whole world? I once heard a story: A young boy was riding in the car with his father; he finished the banana he was eating, and tossed the peel out of the window. His father asked him, “Son, what would it be like if a million other people did exactly the same thing you just did?” The boy envisioned a mountain of banana peels on the side of the highway, and came to the realization that the actions of one are great. Conversely, what would happen if a million people did a good deed today? Or, what if a million people donated a dollar to charity today? Our actions can be amplified as a collective. We must use reason in our decisions.

It is important to be considerate of others, to do that which is right, and to keep things in perspective. Things I believe are all included in Aristotelian philosophy. Conversely, I believe being impulsive and selfish are bad things thus, I disagree with Hedonism.


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