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Denisse GarciaHonors 2Dr. Jeffrey BroddNovember 18, 2017Happiness Through Virtue Aristotle asserts that an ideal life culminates in life through living virtuously. In his famous piece of literature, Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle defines happiness and how it is achieved. In a similar style Zhuangzi and Plato reveal the meaning of happiness through their works of literature and how it is achieved. All three have similar ideas of happiness and what it means, but what differs is how happiness is attained and approached. In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle explores what is the ultimate purpose of human existence. Throughout his work Aristotle describes happiness and what it is as well as how it is attained. Aristotle discloses that happiness does not depend on anybody else, but rather it depends on the person itself because they are in control of themselves. Also happiness is not measured by moments or parts of life, but rather the final results of life. As well as measuring how you lived up to your life and potential you had as a human throughout. Aristotle argued that happiness in life should not be measured by one day because the entire life span should be taken into consideration in whether a person had a happy life or not. One day can not possibly determine an entire life, “for as it is not one swallow or fine day that makes a spring, so it is not one day or short time that makes a man blessed and happy.”(Nicomachean Ethics, 1098a18). He argued that because one day does not show the overall life of a person it is inaccurate to portray happiness of a lifetime in a single day. Furthermore, Aristotle goes on to claim that the most important factor for happiness is to have complete virtue. In order for a person to be happy they have to live a virtuous life in all aspects of their lives. Aspects such as friends, love, wealth, and health that determine who you are. All are important aspects because they reveal who someone truly is. Happiness is a mixture of balance and if there is no balance in those aspects of life then the overall balance is overthrown and happiness is offset. In order to have happiness you must be have complete virtue, “He is happy who lives in accordance with complete virtue and is sufficiently equipped with external goods, not for some chance period but throughout a complete life.”(Nicomachean Ethics 1101a10). For Aristotle reaching state of happiness was the ultimate purpose and goal, and although it could not be achieved in a matter of days it was achieved over a period of a lifetime. However, it can not be achieved without practicing virtue because ultimately that is how happiness is attained, throughout the practice of virtue. Plato perceived the ideal life to be attained differently as seen in his piece of literature Plato on Love. In the Symposium there is dialogue that takes place on the topic of happiness. It is claimed that the god of love and desire is the one who brings happiness, for Eros is the driving force giving life to things. However, in the Symposium it is revealed that for Socrates, Eros is important for seeking happiness, but the soul does not find complete satisfaction until the person can be educated to move away from the love of beautiful things. Therefore detaching oneself of those materialistic objects and beautiful things in order to see the real happiness. When that happens you will never again be tempted by beauty, “And once you have seen it , you will never be seduced again by the charm of gold, of dress, of comely boys, you will care nothing for the beauties that used to take your breath away.”(Plato on Love 212d). In the speech Aristophanes, Aristophanes applauds male to male relationships. In his speech he is able to recognize that love is more than just physical needs it is longing to regain a lost happiness. It reveals that we are not so much attracted to a person’s qualities, but rather the person themselves so the other half.   Also in the Agathon speech Agathon suggests that the god of Love is the happiest because he is the most beautiful. As well as Agathon praising him because all good things come from him. Agathon claims that it was the desire and love that led Apollo to discover archery, medicine, and prophecy. By separating the desire for pleasure and the practice of virtue it is where one finds happiness. Overall Plato revealed that every human naturally seeks happiness and one is able to obtain it through effort on avoiding things by their beauty. A person has to educate oneself on desire and train the soul to not look at the physical features because it detracts from looking and learning to love knowledge and virtue. Virtue goes hand to hand with happiness, therefore if virtue is not present it is impossible to have happiness and vice versa. In regards to an ideal life Zhuangzi portrays that the ultimate happiness is through doing nothing, through the “Way” (Dao). Zhuangzi draws a line between the two types of happiness that people consider. Most people will try to find happiness in vague objects like wealth and attractive objects, but with the obsession they will try to gain more and more and once they are unable to do that they become disturbed. However, by following the Dao there is a deeper source of happiness. Inaction leads to the unattachment of objects and the ability to fully find content within something.When a person has desires they are fogged and unable to truly see the bigger picture because they are so focused on attaining that one thing. The “Perfect Man” has no fogged or uncertain visions because they are following the Way and the freedom of values is not being held down by definitions that were created by people. Confucius gives a perfect example of why inaction makes everything clearer and allows people to see what they should be doing, “‘Men do not mirror themselves in running water- they mirror themselves in still water. Only what is still can still the stillness of other things.”‘(Confucius 64). If men are able to take no action they see everything else around them clearly. Being able to see your surroundings clearly allows for a better perspective on life, playing a major role in happiness. Zhuangzi just like Aristotle considers virtue to be an important factor of happiness. However, the way virtue is approached differs from both. Aristotle believes that happiness comes from the practice of virtue unlike Zhuangzi that believes virtue comes from the Way and the ability to not act. Both approach the attainment of virtue differently, but ultimately both believe that in order for a person to have happiness they must be virtuous. Aristotle, Zhuangzi, and Plato all had a similar perspective on happiness and what it meant, however they each approached how to attain happiness differently. Aristotle believed that happiness came through the practice of virtue, Zhuangzi believed it came from not acting and following the Way, while Plato believed that happiness is attainable through human effort and through the education of desire. All three works of literature put a heavy emphasis on virtue and how it is linked to happiness.


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