Essay 1: “How does Aristotle say we should live a virtuous life?”
Probably Aristotle’s best known work on ethics, the Nicomachean Ethics explores the question: How should a man go about in order to live a happy and virtuous life? Well, Aristotle had said that in order for a person to really attain happiness, then the possession and exercise of a moral as well as intellectual virtue is the core constitutive element to happiness and living well. A formal definition of happiness or Eudaimonia as Aristotle would have described it as is “A complete and sufficient good. This implies that it is desired for itself, that it is not desired for the sake of anything else, that it satisfies all desire and has no evil mixed in with it, and that it is stable.”
Aristotle said that the attainment of certain goods or sets of goods is to be living well. There is a certain division of goods that one can attain or lose: external goods; things like wealth or fame or power, goods of the body; life, health, good looks, athletic ability, dexterity, etc., and goods for the soul; virtue, education, creativity, friendship, among other things. Certain good are without a doubt necessary preconditions for happiness, things like life of health, while other goods are merely embellishments to fill out an already good life for a person whom is already virtuous. One must survey the goods that we desire in order to know which goods are really related to true happiness and promote living a virtuous life.
So, as Aristotle puts it, virtuous actions express correct reason. These actions are acquired by an individual through practice and habituation. Or in other words: practice makes perfect – one becomes virtuous by acting virtuously! So by acting in the way that a virtuous person should, one will become to take pleasure in being a virtuous person. It is simply forming a habit, and by that same token one can fall victim to allowing certain defective and vicious ways of acting to become habitual. Virtue is difficult to attain, since if we simply follow our inclinations, we become vicious. Even though we have a natural desire for happiness, the nature of humans often lead us away from our true happiness. This is why it is imperative for a good upbringing as a child. If habits are developed from the beginning, and we learn how to both act and feel correctly, then living a virtuous life is more easily attainable. He said that a virtuous person takes pleasure in what is fine and noble and is pained from that which is shameful.
Through education and habit Aristotle believed that one can attain the knowledge and understanding of what it means to live a virtuous life, and in that one would find true happiness.