What is the best life?

What is life’s supreme good?  What is virtue, happiness and fulfillment?

I read an account of the great Aristotle (aka Father of modern science) to pick his brains on this topic and this is summary of it.

happiness is the end goal of each human life. Why? “For we choose happiness for itself, and never with a view for anything further…”  Other pursuits like honor, intellect, pleasure, achievements, fame, etc are chosen because we feel we will become through them.

Saying happiness is the ultimate goal in itself is a truism and Aristotle wanted a more clearer definition / path to happiness and this is found in reason. Reason is the one feature found in man that helps him reign supreme over all other forms of life. So the fulfilment of reason is the path to happiness.

The chief reason for happiness thus defined is “…a life of reason – the specific glory and victory of man.”

But the reader is cautioned not to stray too much to an extreme and the “middle path” is favoured for an intellectual and reasoned person. “So between cowardice and rashness is courage, between stinginess and extravagance is liberation, between humility and pride is modesty…”

For a life so fulfilled with reason and enquiry, we also need certain external resources like wealth. Not too much of it but an adequate supply.

And here some excerpts from a summary of an ideal man by Aristotle:

“He does not expose himself needlessly to danger, since there are few things for which he cares sufficiently; but he is willing, in great crises, to give even his life, – knowing that under certain circumstances it is not worth while to live.”

“He is never fired with admiration since there is nothing great in his eyes.”

“He cannot live in complaisance with others, except it be a friend; complaisance is the characteristic of a slave…”

“He is not fond of talking…”

“He never feels malice, and always forgets and passes over injuries…”

“He does not speak evil of others, even of his enemies…”

and here is my favourite:

“He is his own best friend, and takes delight in privacy whereas the man of no virtue or ability is his own worst enemy, and is afraid of solitude.”

Source of the quoted text:  The Story of Philosophy by Will Durrant

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Categories: Life, Philosophy

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