Thoughts on Aristotle- The Highest Good

  1. What does Aristotle think is the highest good and why? Aristotle thinks that the highest good is that of the best of us, the ability to reason. If happiness is in correlation to living in virtue, the happiest anyone can be is the one who lives in the highest virtue. So, the question is then asked, what is the highest virtue? Aristotle explains how common virtues of bravery, justice, and temperance is not in comparison to the virtue to reason, which is done through contemplation. Since reason is the best within us, then it is the highest virtue or the highest good. This leads to Aristotle’s next point, that happiness in itself is not the best, but philosophic exploration is the most pleasant of all virtuous activities.
  2. What brings lasting happiness? Philosophic exploration brings to lasting happiness, this is because, according to Aristotle, philosophic wisdom is more pleasurable than all other virtuous activities. The understanding that those who pass their time and know, rather than inquire, live more pleasantly. Happiness for the sake of itself is not lasting and does not lead to the truest form of happiness, because in itself it cannot contemplate.
  3. How does Aristotle define the terms virtue, good, happiness, God, and human nature? Virtue is each persons’ natural ruler. Whatever is found in each person to be good is a virtue (bravery, humility, just, honest). That good leads to some form of happiness, war, even though its intention is to bring peace, is not a good because it does not lead to happiness. War is exhausting and does not lead to a higher state of contemplation. The highest happiness is The Good. The idea of God is the highest governing authority over all things that exist and that do not exist (governs over the nonexistent, in so far as a God governs what is new that is to be created) so if the highest good (the element which is each persons’ natural ruler), and if that highest natural ruler (which is a virtue) is to contemplate, then God is reason as opposed to nonreason.
  4. What is contemplation? What are practical activities?  Which does Aristotle think are superior and why? To pursue philosophic exploration is to undergo contemplation. Contemplation is notably different than meditation such that contemplation is to think and use reason on a topic, heavily; whereas meditation is the process of thinking on and recalling a written work (such as the Hebrews for religious texts- chants). Practical activities are those that a person has to do in order to live their life. Seeing how humans are not immortal and cannot spend every moment in contemplation, practical activities, too, cannot lead to ultimate happiness. It is also important to note, that the philosopher can contemplate by themselves rather than needing to be with other philosophers, whereas the brave man needs to be with the brave. Seeing how happiness is thought to be dependent on leisure, to be absorbed in practical activities is then to contradict the very concept is proposes. The preposition, again, is that happiness is dependent on leisure, but if that is the case then, seeing how practical activities are not necessarily leisure in nature, practical activities therefore do not lead to true happiness. Therefore, contemplation is superior.
  5. Why is the life of contemplation too high for humans? The life of contemplation is not, necessarily, too high for humans because we are mortal but rather because the life of contemplation is divine, therefore because we cannot be divine and mortal at the same time, this life is too high for humans to fully reach. That being said, it should be our every effort and strain to make ourselves immortal (leading to what is immortal: the life of contemplation).
  6. What is the relationship between leisure and work for humans? Leisure is typically associated with happiness whereas work is associated to the opposite. If leisure is truly associated to happiness then the question must be asked, what is truly leisure. All other activities besides reason have some alternative goal or point behind the work, whereas to reason and contemplate is completed for the pure sake of contemplation, because contemplation leads to knowing and one who lives life knowing is a person who spends his time at the highest state of happiness.
  7. How can we know if we have lived a good life? We can know that we have lived a good life if we have dedicated ourselves to contemplation, because contemplation is the best and most pleasant of virtues, so therefor there is nothing more human then to contemplate.

Background Understanding:

-Plato’s Theaetetus

-Aristotle and the LNC

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