#46- Defining Happiness: Scott and Karl Discuss Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics
This week, Scott and Karl discuss Book I of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. Aristotle may seem like an intimidating figure that you can’t tap into, but this just isn’t true. As the author of the first book on ethics, Aristotle treats human behaviors like a science. If you believe in reason, if the world is a place you want to learn about and explore, what things must hinge on each other? Are things good because we aim at them or do we do things because they aim at the good?
Aristotle asks readers to consider the highest good and how it can be achieved. In doing so, he devotes his first book to a preliminary account of happiness. But as Karl points out, you must first differentiate the English and Greek definitions of happiness.
Happiness is not the correct word for what Aristotle is talking about but it’s as close as we could get. “In English, happiness means a smile on your face, it is related to the word happen,” Karl continues, “so you’re walking down the street and find $20 and you’re happy because something happened to you. But you didn’t make it happen.”
Aristotle uses the Greek word eudaimonia, meaning “good spirit” or flourishing. Unlike the English definition, Aristotle believes this is the only human good that is desirable for its own sake. According to Aristotle’s definition, happiness is action in accordance with virtue, not contentment. It’s an activity, not a product.
Tune in to this week’s episode and let us know your thoughts!
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Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle definition of happiness is action in accordance with virtue.