Many people try to define and consider different definitions of what happiness is, and I think that Plato and Aristotle offer interesting views of happiness and what it means for one to live a good life. Both philosophers agree that happiness is an important factor in one’s life and essentially the essence of how to live a good life. Plato offers many theories and definitions of justice leading to happiness, while Aristotle argues that happiness is the main goal that all humans aim for in their entire life.
Plato offers a philosophical view of a happy life for an individual by explaining a just state and what it would entail and also the theory of the forms that one must understand to achieve happiness. After learning about both philosophers, I have come to the conclusion that I agree with Aristotle’s view of happiness more because he gives us a broad outline of what a good life is. Although Plato was Aristotle’s mentor, Aristotle offers a view of happiness that is more plausible and relevant than Plato’s because it places a large emphasis on the idea of the function of a human being.
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Therefore, in this paper, I will argue that I agree with Aristotle’s view of happiness over Plato’s because of the way Aristotle describes how humans can achieve the greatest good in life: happiness. Firstly, I would like to compare Plato’s theory of becoming a just person to achieve happiness, to Aristotle’s idea that the capacity of happiness relies on the surroundings we are raised in. In Plato’s Republic, he attempts to ask the question how does one live and what it takes to search for universal good life for all human beings and not just Athenians.
Plato states that for one to be happy or a good person, they must act morally and participate in just activities. Justice is not stealing from one another and being honourable. When we harm others, we’re being unjust and we will not lead a moral life and therefore not be happy. For example, not stealing from a neighbour would make a person just and therefore happier than if they chose to steal. Plato’s focus was to have the majority of people of people in the world live just lives and live happily.
If one acts justly toward one another, more people will be just and happy and therefore have a just community. Plato states that no one can be just alone, and that we need others to be just with. This view leads me to my next point of Aristotle’s view of mimicking others to become good human beings. Aristotle thought that whatever is natural to humans in good and that we all aim for good which should bring us happiness. Aristotle states that it is easier for one to lead a happy life if they are surrounded by good role models.
If we are surrounded by people that set good examples of happiness it will be easier for us to understand how to be good. For example, if one is born into a family that does not display good actions or does not live a balanced life, it is more difficult to live a happy life than the person that is born into a situation with good role models to mimic. However, mimicking others that lead happy lives is problematic because many people in the world do not live completely true happy lives, similar to Aristotle’s view of true friendship.
Aristotle says that the human goal is one that we must recognize in order to understand how to have a good life. Therefore, I agree with Aristotle’s point that it makes a significant difference how we grow up when we have good influences to raise and us to become happy individuals. Plato’s view of happiness differs from Aristotle’s because he focuses on how one must become a just person which then leads to more rules about a just community, state, ruler, and finally the forms.
To further enforce Plato’s theory of justice, he tells us that to be just, we must be just with each other and therefore have a just community. All of this combined will give us happiness, but it doesn’t end there. Plato continues to say that a just community needs a class system which includes soldiers, craftsmen, and guardians. For one to be ultimately happy, they will enjoy what they do in their class and be able to continue being happy by not meddling in the works of others. For example, a soldier is born to be a solider.
He has certain characteristics that separate him from being a craftsman or a guardian. He will also be unhappy if he tries to challenge the tasks of the craftsmen and guardians. I disagree with Plato on this point because I think that in present day, many people are capable at doing many jobs and often succeed at more than one field of work. Therefore, I agree with Aristotle’s view of everyday life more than Plato’s. Aristotle speaks of balance and what it means for one to live a balanced life to achieve happiness.
Many of us have a subjective view of happiness because certain things can make us happy, but that does not mean they’re good. For example, completing numerous hours of community service work which could make us feel happy and think we are doing good, but that does not mean in itself that we live a life of happiness. Aristotle says we must find the balance. We cannot do too much or too little of certain aspects in our lives. However, he says that happiness is an action. It is something we must do not a feeling or emotion.
Therefore, I agree with his view of happiness because of the importance of balance in order to be rational. Plato continues to relate the categories of a just state to the individual soul. He says that the soul has different parts to it as well and for them to be in harmony is for them to function together justly. He categorizes the soul into three parts, but more significantly speaks of another realm. Plato’s theory of the forms explains a visible world and the intelligible world. The intelligible world is one where things we cannot see are: justice, wisdom, the soul, etc.
I disagree with Plato on his view of the world of two realms. I think that Aristotle explains the world much better because he tackles the idea of how to be good and achieve a life of happiness in the world that we live in. However, Plato continues to argue that for a just state, a just ruler is needed and for a ruler to be just, they must have the best intentions for the citizens and also understand the forms in the intelligible realm. When one understands the forms, they will understand the highest possible form, which is good.
Plato, similar to Aristotle, says that the best mind is one that is philosophical. If one understands the highest form, they will be a great ruler for the state. Aristotle similarly argues that one will lead a good life if they contemplate. Aristotle’s view of contemplation leads me to my next point. Aristotle’s view that contemplation is the best possible life makes sense to me because it is something that we all do every day, and the thing we can do the most without taking a break. For example, an athlete cannot train forever. They must take a break eventually and rest.
One that lives philosophically uses reason and never stops contemplating or thinking. Contemplation is also self-sufficient and doesn’t require equipment like other exercises may need. Aristotle’s view is similar to Plato’s because he thinks the best ruler would be a philosopher who understands things that others usually cannot. However, Aristotle still believes that every human has the capacity to be a good human being and live a happy life. He says it’s out function or our duty to live a good life. The function of our human life is how well-lived our lives are.
A watch performs well if it works to its standard that is to tell time correctly. Its function is to tell the time. Similarly, humans have a function that is to live well. We must fulfil our function as humans. I agree with Aristotle and think that this point is hugely significant to his theory of a good life. This idea of the human function allows all people to try to live a life of complete happiness, unlike Plato’s view that is very strict that has set guidelines and categories. Finally, I would like to agree with Aristotle’s view of friendship.
Many of us have friends, even best friends, but according to Aristotle, that doesn’t mean that they themselves are living a happy life. Many of us cannot have true friends because in order to be a true friend, you have to have a happy and balanced life. Many of us ourselves have not achieved that, so it is unlikely that our friends have reached the human goal of happiness. Aristotle says that we mainly have friends for utility or pleasure and rarely have true friends and that the only way to have a true friend is if we have both reached the human goal of happiness and as friends we participate in actions that enforce our happiness.
I agree with this point because I think that if we ever did achieve happiness and found another person who also flourishes and lives a happy life, I think it is absolutely necessary to continue acting out happiness and continue doing good. In conclusion, Plato and Aristotle both tried to reveal what it takes for humans to live a good life and ultimately be happy, and I continue to agree with Aristotle and his view. Plato describes his view of happiness through the heaves and realms and the idea of justice, while Aristotle explained through examples of others surrounding us, and people close to us, such as our friendships.
Aristotle gives us a way to look at the good life in a broad sense, whereas Plato sets out rules and guidelines to follow to achieve justice and eventually happiness. I prefer Aristotle’s view of a good life of one that flourishes, one that is able to perform their function as a human being well. A life of happiness, courage, wisdom, and living up to one’s obligations are necessary for one to usually live the best possible life, which is what most of us live. However, this is not the happiest life that we can achieve, but still a good life.