I’m currently enrolled in a honors class for Barrett and for the first few weeks I swear it was just another filler class like my online class (History of Women in Music, hold your laughter). The set up was identical to higher level English and being an engineering major, I wasn’t very interested in analyzing yet another trite novel. The class discussions were okay, at least better than high school. The books weren’t the worst things I have read. I just couldn’t see the practicality of the course when I could already interpret and write about texts well. Then a certain piece of literature came along with much needed serendipity.
Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle
In general, I enjoy humanities but not the academic study of them. I play piano but would not attempt a career. I write but do not expect any book deals coming my way. Philosophy was something to read during summer when bed-ridden for some time. I could not find the practicality of seeking an unreachable understanding of the universe when it would not effect my actual living on a day-to-day basis.
When reading Aristotle’s book I finally saw and gained an understanding of the need of philosophy and how it compliments daily life, not ignores.
Aristotle argues that all actions and goods aim towards the goal of happiness, whether directly or indirectly. The virtuous man reaches this lofty ideal through his own virtue. He defines virtue into numerous categories as the text goes on. Virtues of character are the result of finding a medium between excesses and deficiencies, such as the mean of wastefulness and stinginess (generosity). The virtuous character is not a passive one; deliberation and willingness are key to the development of such character.
One must be acutely aware of the excesses and deficiencies of his actions which makes the path to self-development a conscious one. Instead of comparing oneself to an unreachable archetype of existence, the masses are encouraged merely to put consideration into actions. The fool does not become a saint by mere luck.
I could ramble on and on about the intricacies of his ethical system but this is not the time. What is beautiful about Aristotle’s idea of happiness is that it puts it within reach. It is no longer a reward you must wait for in another life or something that may come along if luck abides. With the application of wisdom, deliberation of your actions, and awareness of your own character, happiness will result.
If interest is shown, I will post my essay further defending Aristotle’s prescribed means of living.