Aristotle: Happiness and Values

March 2, 2009

Book: Contemporary Moral Problems by James E. White (7th Edition)

Library Reference: N/A

Amazon Reference:


Quote: But such a life would be too high for man; for it is not so far as he is the man that he will live so, but in so far as something divine is present in him; and by so much as this is superior to that which is the exercise of the other kind of virtue.”


In this chapter, the great philosopher Aristotle discussed different types of virtues and how an individual can achieve happiness. According to the first few paragraphs, Aristotle explained that happiness coming from the humans is a “life long process.” He also added that happiness is something that isn’t constant – it keeps on going and going until the ‘purpose’ of it is finally met. Happiness, as what he explained, is an ‘activity of the soul’ on which actually, virtue takes place to the soul’s potential.

In the next few paragraphs, Aristotle defined virtue. According to him, being virtuous is ‘self-sufficient in itself’, which later leads to human happiness. Aristotle was able to clearly define the difference between the two kinds of virtue: the moral virtue and the intellectual virtue. As when he stated, “Moral virtue comes from training and habit, and generally is a state of character that is a mea between the vices of excess and deficiency.” This talks about the means and the extremes of a certain action. On the other hand, Aristotle defined intellectual virtue as a virtue that “produces the most perfect happiness and is found in the activity of reason or contemplation.

.There were ideas coming Aristotle which are mainly discussed, such as having a behavior should be imposed in a person, where a relative mean is present in his action/s. This relative mean is between two extremes – one is for deficiency and another for excess. For a person to be ethical in his virtues, he/she should learn how to master these extremes, controlling them, in any circumstances might happen. The ability to ‘balance’ between the two is quite challenging for most people. Usually, people end up working with either of the extremes, rather than keeping themselves intact in the relative mean.

Aristotle addressed his ideas about intellectual virtues. Intellectual virtues create a ‘separation’ between human forms to animals – making us humans have the ability to rationalize. Humans think and reason, while animals can’t. What Aristotle wanted to tell his readers is that we should make ourselves more virtuous as we face the daily challenges of life. Being virtuous is self-fulfilling and self-rewarding – it makes you feel delighted and contented on what you are doing.

If we allow ourselves to experience this in a very long time, in Aristotle’s eyes, we can achieve true happiness.

What I’ve learned:

  • How Aristotle defined happiness
  • What are the kinds of virtue and what is a relative mean
  • Learning to become virtuous makes a person happy

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