Non-Muslim and non-Iranian philosophers - Part III
Justice, as Aristotle calls it, is a "complete virtue". It is the precondition of all value, the requirement for any kind of humanity (Nicomachean Ethics). It cannot replace happiness, but there can be no happiness without it (Comte - Spanvil, 2003).
In the argument (10.7) [of Nicomachean Ethics] that the life of study is the best life, Aristotle stresses that finest ethical virtues "require trouble, aim at some [further] end, and are choice-worthy for something other than themselves." (1177b 18-20) These virtues are necessary in light of the human condition, and the person, who lives the life of study, will choose to do actions that accord with virtue, whenever he has to deal with other people (1178b5-7).
Aristotle argues that happiness, function and morality are closely connected and virtue is dependent of all of them. Happiness is the highest of all practical goods.
Aristotle would have agreed that happiness could not be helped by philosophy in such an environment because people would philosophize themselves.
Aristotle says that sound ethical thinking should be focused on "eudaimonia", which we might translate as flourishing', "well-being", or "happiness". Yet, Aristotle's 'eudaimonia' signifies something which people can achieve simply by drawing on their natural, human resources (Davies, 2003).
Aristotle in "Nicomachean Ethics" believes that we always choose happiness for itself and never for the sake of something else, but honor, pleasure. reason, and every excellence we choose indeed for themselves (for if nothing resulted from them we should still choose each of them), but we choose them also for the sake of happiness, judging that through them we shall be happy. On the other hand, no one chooses happiness for the sake of this, nor, in general, for anything other than itself. Happiness then, is something complete and self-sufficient, and is the end of action.
Aristotle in the above-mentioned book states that excellent activities or their opposites arc what determine happiness or the reverse. That may be the reason why he is of the opinion that a happy man will be happy throughout his life; for always, or by preference to everything else, he will bear the chances of life most nobly and altogether decorously if he is 'truly good' and 'foursquare beyond reproach'. Aristotle believes that if happiness is activity in accordance with excellence, it is reasonable that it should be in accordance with the highest excellence; and this will be that of the best thing in us. Whether it is intellect or something else that is this element which is through to be our natural ruler and guide and to take through of things noble and divine, whether it is itself also divine or only the most divine element happiness. Since the intellect is the best thing in us, and the objects of intellect are the best of knowledge objects, the activity of wisdom is admittedly the pleasantest of excellent activities, and it is to be expected that those who know will pass their time more pleasantly than those who inquire. The life according to intellect is best and most pleasant. This life therefore is also the happiest. Happiness extends, just so for as contemplation does, and those to whom contemplation more fully belongs are more truly happy, not accidentally, but in virtue of the contemplation; for this is in itself precious. Happiness, therefore, must be some form of contemplation. Thus, Aristotle concludes that we must not think that the man who is to be happy will need many things or great things, merely because he can not be blessed without external goods; for self-sufficiency and action do not depend on excess, and we can do noble acts without ruling earth and sea; for even with moderate advantages one can act excellently.
Epicurus learned to take his pleasures as they came: when they are natural, satisfying them is as easy as attending the body's needs. What is simpler than quenching a thirst? What is easier -except in cases of extreme poverty- than satisfying the hunger for food or sex? What is more limited -unfortunately so- than our natural, necessary desires (Epicurus, letters to Menoeceus; quoted from Comte - Sponvil, 2003).
Epicurus was no epicurean glutton or wanton consumerist, but an advocate of "friends, freedom and thought" as the path to happiness.
How should we be happy since we were dissatisfied, and how should we be satisfied since our desires are limitless? What a joy it is to eat when one is hungry! What happiness it is to be no longer hungry after eating! And what freedom it is to have nature as one's only master! Temperance is a means to independence, and independence a means to happiness. Being temperate is being able to content oneself with a little; the little is not what is important: that which matters is the ability and the Contentment. The limitedness of desire, which condemns us to neediness, dissatisfaction, or unhappiness, is a disease of the imagination. (Comte - Sponvil, 2003).
According to Epicurus, one of the tasks of philosophy is saving us the incorrect designs for happiness. He himself had not a large house. His food was simple. He drunk water and not wine. These were the interests of a man who considered "pleasure" as the goal of life. He did not want to beguile anyone. His dependence, attachment and interest on pleasure was more than that his accusers to sensuality could even imagine. He, after an intellectual analysis, realized what made the life enjoyable. Epicurus believed that the necessary elements of pleasure, though mysterious, were not too expensive. He considered friendship, freedom and thinking as the main elements of pleasure and happiness. He believed that it was unlikely and improbable that wealth makes anyone unlucky and disastrous, but he thought that if we have money but be deprived of the bounties of friends,
freedom and analyzed life, we will never be really happy, but if we have these three bounties, but not possess money, we will never be unlucky. Epicurus divided our needs into three categories: some needs are natural and necessary, some are natural but not necessary, and some others are neither natural nor necessary. According to this, happiness is dependent upon some complex psychological affairs and is almost free from material affairs. We can conclude from his opinions that a little (or a necessary) money might be effective on man's happiness, but this happiness would not be increased with increasing money. The more money will not deprive us of the happiness, but the rate of our happiness will not be increased as compared with the happiness of the low-income persons. According to Epicurus, when we remove the pains from the needs, simple dishes will have the same pleasure as the sumptuous tables. We will not be happy in expensive cars without good friends, in villas without freedom, in silk coverlets but with a great anxiety that debars sleeping. Happiness will be greatly low as long as the immaterial needs are not satisfied. Epicurus believed that nothing could satisfy the one, who is not satisfied with a little, and possessing the most wealth cannot remove the spirit anxiety and it will not lead to a considerable happiness. It is impossible that our happiness is dependent on those needs that are satisfied with the expensive things (De Batton, 1969).
Cicero reminds of seeking knowledge respectfully, and believes that no vocation is as sweet as seeking knowledge. It equips us with the good and happy instruments. It teaches us how to spend out lives satisfactorily.
Lucretius had the same opinion as Epicurus. He helped us to realize the feeling of the pleasure of cheap things. According to him, man falls a victim to the abundant and unfruitful pains that he is suffering because of his inability in understanding the limit and border of acquiring the wealth and also in his inability in breeding the original pleasures. Arts can help this orientation be amended.
Augustine says that the reward of virtue will be God Himself, Who gives virtue, and Who has promised Himself to us, than Whom nothing is better or greater... God will be the end of our desires. He will be seen without end, loved without stint, praised without weariness (city of God, XXII.30). This is a description of the best state experienced by a person, or something analogous to it, extended without limit, not a combination or structure of all good activities and the like (White, 2006).
Augustine makes the connection between happiness and the good explicit: "Those who are happy, who also ought to be good, are not happy because they desire to live happily, which even evil men desire, but rather because they will to live rightly- which evil men do not". For Augustine, happiness cannot be attained, nor is it merited, by evildoers (Noddings, 2006).
Augustine believes that in the inner light of Truth, in virtue of which the so-called inner man is illuminated and rejoices. He thinks that we all do - and ought to - pursue happiness, which he equates with seeking to experience joy. As he sees it, all humans aspire to be happy. For Augustine, the happy life consists of joy grounded in and caused by God, but he is well aware that many people are mistaken about where to find happiness. They do not want to find in God their source of joy. Rut his view was that the happy life is joy based on the truth, a joy grounded in God who is the truth. Augustine begins his 'confessions' by addressing God, telling Him that "our heart is restless until it rests in You" (Quinn; quoted in Rorty, 1998)
Thomas Aquinas writes that 'people are perfected by virtue towards those actions by which they are directed towards happiness'. Yet, he adds, human happiness is twofold: 'one depends on the human nature and this is something that people can achieve through their own resources [while] the other is a happiness surpassing human nature, which people can arrive only by power of God, by a kind of participation in divinity'. And this participation, Acquinas argues, can be brought about only by God. 'Because such happiness goes beyond what can be produced by human nature', He says. 'People cannot arrive at it by virtue of what they naturally are; they have to receive from God that by which they may be led to supernatural happiness (St la tae, 62,1). Or, as Aquinas immediately goes on to say, they need the logical virtues and not just the cardinal ones. For him, the true good for people is not "eudaimonia" but beatitude, which he takes to be human flourishing, wellbeing, or happiness in union with God (Cf. ST Ia2ae, 3,8) (quoted from Davies, 2003).
There were some developments with plenty of significance for other philosophical issues besides the ones raised by quantitative hedonism. One of the most interesting of these was Aquinas' effort to evolve a view of pleasure that would combine important Aristotelian ideas about it with his Christian doctrines. This effort involved, in particular, locating the notion of the beatific vision that is identified as the supreme happiness. But Aquinas did not identify the basis of this happiness as pleasure. Rather, he maintained that we love God proper se, because of Himself or what He is (White, 2006).
But, Montaigne rejects severely the superficial knowledge seeking, because most of those who seek knowledge superficially are strongly unhappy. Montaigne was of the opinion that only those things deserve for learning that causes us to acquire a better feeling. So there may be a person who has read hundreds of books regarding philosophy but not to have the happiness of those ones who have heard nothing regarding philosophy. Montaigne considered, as wisdom. them more comprehensive and more valuable knowledge, all things that can help mankind to live happily and in harmony with moral principles (De Botton, 1969).
From the viewpoint of Spinoza, pleasure may be produced by a transition from a lesser to a greater state of perfection. Pain may be produced by a transition from a greater to a lesser state of perfection. For Spinoza, perfection is the same as reality (II, Def. VI). The more perfect a thing is. the more real it is. Inasmuch as God is absolutely perfect, God is also absolutely real. God is infinitely perfect and infinitely real. Spinoza argues that knowledge of good and evil arises from the awareness of what causes pleasure and pain. The greatest good of mind and its greatest virtue is to know God (Iv, prop. XXVIII). If we act according to reason, then we desire only what is good. If we act according to reason, then we try to promote what is good not only for ourselves but for others.
Spinoza admits that all emotions may not necessarily conflict with reason. Emotions, which agree with reason, may cause pleasure, while emotions, which do not agree with reason, may cause pain. Inability to control the emotions may cause pain (Wild, 1930).
Adapted from the book: "Foundations of Happiness"
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