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HAPPINESS AS THE END OF MAN IN THE PHILOSOPHY OF ARISTOTLE

Philosophy Project Topic: Happiness as the End of Man to The Philosophy of Aristotle


CHAPTER ONE

1.0   INTRODUCTION

Aristotle sees every human action as a means to end seen as good. But some ends are sought only as a means to future ends. However, there is one end sought for its own sake and not as a means to another end. This says Aristotle is happiness. Every other end serves as a medium to this ultimate end. He equally believes that happiness is the ultimate end for man since it is self-sufficient and final.

Since the history of humanity, all human effort is for man to achieve happiness. There is no normal person who deliberately does things which will make him unhappy. We must admit that everyone who is not happy is miserable and lacks the intrinsic incentive that ought to belong to his being. The yearning for happiness is unquestionably universal that it serves as the reason behind all the actions of men. Man’s desire for happiness is clearly manifested as he struggles to be in power, to acquire wealth, honor, pleasure etc. No person is ever different in his own way. For instance, a thief is happy whenever he steals successfully unharmed. It stretches to every field of human life, the aim always is to achieve happiness. Even when people engage in war with one another, at the end, the side or person who conquers the other will be very happy. All these are steps made in order to achieve happiness, whether consciously or unconsciously.

Not only that the desire for happiness is universal, it is also irresistible as all men desire to live happily. No wonder, the Eudaemonists, champions of happiness expressed it saying that:

To achieve happiness is our duty, if happiness is our end, and the fulfillment of such a duty necessarily results in happiness.[1]

That one seeks happiness in the abstract is seen in all one does. The fundamental questions are whether one can or cannot happiness in reality? Can one’s pursuit of it be successful? Do all human beings seek happiness? Do people think that happiness is attainable? Where can one find happiness, if anywhere? These questions need to be addressed because despite man’s search and efforts, man often ends up sad, despondent and even pessimistic. What man often calls happiness is only a mere satisfaction of pleasure or contentment which does not last. For this reason then, man’s search for happiness often looks like a chase of the wind. The aim of this research is to expose the concept of happiness according to Aristotle in order to see how we can achieve happiness.

In view of the above objective, this memoir is divided into four chapters. Chapter one deals with the background of the study, the statement of the problem, it’s relevance in philosophical discourse and definition of terms such as happiness, pleasure, ultimate end, virtue and mean.

Chapter two is the literature review on happiness, while chapter three discusses on Aristotle’s concept of happiness. Happiness as man’s ultimate end, the distinction between happiness and pleasure, and moral life as the path to happiness.

Then the last chapter is evaluation and conclusion.

THE BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY

    1. ………

1.2   THE STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

From the time of his existence, man has been struggling to avoid pain and live happily. This presents man as a rational being different from other creatures. The search for happiness became one of the central aims of human efforts; everyone is bent on achieving happiness. This must be the reason why Aristotle in his ethical theories opined that every human action is a means to an end that is good (happiness). But some ends according to him, are sought only as a means to future ends. However, there is one end sought for its own sake and not as a means to another end. This says Aristotle is happiness. Every other end serves as a medium to this ultimate end. He equally opined that happiness is the ultimate end in man since it is self-sufficient and final.

To achieve happiness is our duty if it is our ultimate end, and the fulfillment of such a duty necessarily results in happiness. That we seek happiness in the abstract is shown in all we do. But the problem is: To what extent is happiness our ultimate end? Do all people seek happiness? If, can our pursuit of it be successful, or are we doomed to be ever chasing a wind that constantly lures us on but ever eludes our grasp? The purpose of this research is to explain and assess the extent in which happiness is the ultimate end of man. It will give a more philosophical insight in the Aristotle’s concept of happiness.

In order to make an attempt to tackle the above question or problem, I wish to delve into the Aristotle’s concept of happiness to see if it can offer a solution to the universal quest for happiness by man.

1.3   THE RELEVANCE OF THE STUDY

One of the essential characterizations of man by philosophers is that he is by nature a knowing being. Aristotle even said it that all men by nature desire to know. Man endeavours to study or have the knowledge of everything in nature including himself. Man cannot do this without the aid of philosophy. This explains the special role of philosophy in human life. Philosophy studies the nature of things as they are in themselves. It studies man to the point of presenting man with the essence of his life.

Now, one of the good desire of man is happiness. All men by nature desires to be happy. If this is the case, it becomes very necessary to have a philosophical insight about good desire of man. Happiness is very important to man but very difficult to achieve. People seek for it so much that they do not stand the delay in waiting for it, and impatiently snatch at its partial and imperfect forms that vividly appeals to their senses here and now. Every person is bent on finding happiness by any means possible. Some at a point, feel like committing suicide when they can no longer find happiness again in their life. For them, unhappy life is not worth living. All these horrors of human life, boil down to the fact that many people have no knowledge of what happiness is all about and how it can be achieved.

A philosophical insight into happiness as the ultimate end of man can help the problem above. With a philosophical discourse into the matter, people can now come to a better understanding or knowledge of what happiness is all about and the best approach to achieve that in this life. It is only with the aid of philosophy that the necessary awareness that needs to be created in people when we say that happiness is the ultimate end of man as Aristotle opined can be done. This will make people to know that real happiness is not found in material wealth. And this will be a solution to the problem of happiness for man.

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