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Aristotle and Happiness Research Papers

It is the purpose of a research paper on happiness in philosophy to discuss the notion of happiness as it appears in Aristotle’s work. A good research paper on Aristotle and happiness will point out that for Aristotle actions have purposes; that is, when we do something we usually do it for the sake of something else.  Thus we go to school for the sake of having a career, we pursue a career for the sake of the ability such gives us to enjoy security, possessions, and to do our share of society’s work.  But we do these things for the sake of something else in turn. 

Aristotle's Notion of Happiness

Here are some ways to write a research project on how Aristotle defines happiness:

  • Outline the chain of actions that Aristotle says must happen to end in happiness
  • Nicomachean Ethics outlines the path to happiness, outline the book
  • Compare your definition of happiness with Aristotle'sAristotle and Happiness

There is thus a chain of actions each of which is done for the sake of the next one in line.  Aristotle says that this chain ends in happiness.  Happiness is the one thing pursued for its own sake; it is not pursued for the sake on anything else. That is the first attribute of happiness we should note; it lies at the end of a chain, it is the endpoint at what human behavior aims at.

Aristotle, in his work Nicomachean Ethics, outlines the path to happiness for man. Happiness is an end that is reached through steps of achieving a “good”, and if one’s character is sound and the goods are all achieved, one can look back, after death, and declare one’s life happy. According to Aristotle, happiness is not an emotion, as we think of it today but rather an activity that achieved through steps towards a larger good that will ultimately end in a happy life.

In order to explicate Aristotle’s notion of happiness, first one must look at the word eudaemonia, the Greek word used to connote happiness in Aristotle’s day. Eudaemonia does not translate directly into the current English language word happiness. It is not a subjective feeling, as the English language defines happiness; rather, eudaemonia is more complex and encompasses the concept of living and being well or faring well in one’s life.

Eudaemonia references one’s whole life, therefore, Aristotle’s definition of happiness does not quite equate to momentary “happiness”. Artistole notes that someone can only be said to be happy after they have died because eudaemonia requires their entire life be judged; however a judgment of expectation of eudaemonia can be made while he/she is alive. Aristotle notes in Nicomachean Ethics, that this judgment is done with criteria such as whether he/she engages in virtuous activities so that one can endure “many turns of fortune’s wheel. Ultimately, what this means for the study of happiness, in relation to how Aristotle defines, it is that it is seen as something that is possible rather than something that one is. For simplicity’s sake, this writing will discuss Aristotle’s eudaemonia as one and the same as today’s English language concept of happiness.

In order to achieve happiness, Aristotle states that there are two reasons why a person does what he or she does: for the sake of something, meaning to help achieve another goal, or because a person deems that action to be worth doing in and of itself. For Aristotle, every action is aimed at a final good but, “not all goods are final ends; but the chief end is evidently something final…we call final without qualification that which is always desirable in itself and never for the sake of something else”. What Aristotle is saying is that the good, which is achieved as a final end, meaning for the sake of itself alone and done purely for its own good, is happiness.

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