Happiness is more of a long-term state of being, more of an end goal than a momentary feeling. He explains that people should search for the chief good for ourselves and no one else, “that which it is always desirable in itself and not ever for the sake of something else” (Nicomachean Ethics, 1097a30-34). We often search for money and pleasure in today’s society because we believe that these materialistic elements will bring us instant happiness, but it simply brings momentary enjoyment.
Aristotle demonstrates that these goods, combined over time, can be means to attain happiness even if happiness is the end of one’s search to a virtuous life. Eudaimonia, a term Aristotle uses often, is very misleading since Aristotle uses it to describe happiness as more of an end goal encompassing the totality of one’s life, rather than what we associate it with today. For him, it is not something impermanent, such as feeling temporary enjoyable sensations. Eudaimonia describes the total value of an individual’s life, meaning you cannot claim to have lived a happy life until it is complete.
In order to live a happy life, one must live a virtuous life. To have a good moral character is one of the key elements; it is also essential to act virtuously in every situation during your life. The individual seeking happiness must seek the most virtues possible as well and this process can be tedious, but it is worth it in the end because you gain happiness. By reaching for perfection, one augments their chances of truly reaching that end goal. Aristotle notes that is it important to reach for the goods that have long-term benefits rather than the short-term benefits for any situation.
For example, one must eat a balanced diet and exercise in order to live a long and healthy life, even if eating junk food bring immediate pleasure – it has no long-term benefits. Another example would be the use of drugs – a very prominent problem in our society. For a small price, you can momentarily eliminate your daily stresses and experience some sort of euphoria, but once you come down from that “high”, the problems arise again which often leads to addiction which takes away your virtues and separates you from a virtuous lifestyle.
Aristotle despises the culture of instant gratification, and that is a main concept in today’s society. In order to live a virtuous life, you must stay away from this instant gratification. To live a happy life; you must work for it. There is no easy way to live happily. Aristotle then uses another term – akrasia, which basically means weakness of will. It is something we see across our society today as well. Through hard work and education, it is possible to repeal these instincts and by doing so, you may gain some virtues.
Another key element to a happy life is to constantly be curious about everything that surrounds you. By searching for new information, you are constantly cultivating new ideas and lessons around you. Education should be pursued as a life-long goal rather than a childhood element. Therefore, Aristotle finds that the purpose of life is to live virtuously no matter what situation you are put it. You must search for long-term benefits rather than short term ones and by doing so; you can diminish your weakness of will and continue on your path of virtuousness.
In conclusion, Aristotle was able to provide information on his definition of the purpose of human life. He was able to show the readers his understanding of life and therefore demonstrate that the goal is to attain happiness. He explains that you must live virtuously in order to live a happy life, and that happiness is reachable once life is complete. You may enjoy aspects of your life and feel good, but that does not necessarily define happiness for Aristotle. Happiness to him is an end goal rather than a shortterm feeling.
He demonstrates the importance of living a virtuous life because it is in doing so that one can truly attain happiness. He goes on to explain that the Mean and the soul are important in order to understand yourself. They must be in order for an individual to live virtuously. He demonstrates that one must understand the world around them in order to understand themselves, and he classifies the world in four categories, such as the minerals, the vegetative, the animals and then the humans.
Aristotle then demonstrates that the virtue of friendship is a crucial one in order to find happiness. Friendship is an enjoyable part of life and by having few virtuous relationships, one can further their notion of what it is to be happy. He explains that humans must search for long-term benefits rather than short-term ones in order to live virtuously. As a result, Aristotle reveals that the purpose of life is to life virtuously in order to achieve happiness.