Aristotle-The Politics


Aristotle believes that the chief ingredient for a life of happiness is virtue. Virtue is a state of the soul that disposes and prompts our actions and is meant to guide our behaviors in society and enable us to practice moderation. Aristotle believes that human happiness, which is not to be equated with the simple-minded pursuit of pleasure, stems from fulfilling human potentialities. These potentialities can be identified by rational choice, practical judgment, and recognition of the value of choosing the mean instead of extremes. The central moral problem is the human tendency to want to acquire more and to act unjustly whenever one has the power to do so. According to Aristotle happiness is the highest good and the goo life comes from the realization and perfect practice of virtue.
In order to lead a life of goodness there must be a foundation of adequate health (goods of the body), adequate wealth (external goods, property), and goods of the soul (virtue, wisdom). People think that a moderate amount of virtue is enough, but set no limit to their desires of ?wealth and property, power, reputation, and all such things... ? - i.e. of external goods. (1323 a35-40) Happiness is more often found in those who are cultivated in their mind and in their character, and have only a moderate share of ?external goods,? than among those who possess extensive ?external goods? but are lacking in higher qualities. The good life you lead or experience is an inner sense of well being. This is the active life of virtue and this is all for the sake of the soul. We may therefore join in agreeing that the amount of happiness which falls to each individual man is equal to the amount of his goodness and his wisdom, and of the good and wise acts that he does. [1323b21]
Aristotle said we must act naturally in order to be happy. He believes nature is our guide and that nothing is good which is contrary to nature. According to Aristotle there are two types of reason that, if used well, will make you happy. The first type is calculative reason. Calculative reason is practical wisdom which leads to moral virtue. Included in the Aristotelian moral virtues are temperance, courage, liberality, gentleness, and proper pride. The idea behind this kind of practical wisdom involves knowing how to allocate time - judging the right moment to switch back and forth between practical action and intellectual activity, so as to strike the right balance between means and ends.
The second type of reason is speculative reason, which is used to deduce the true nature of reality. Speculative reason is also referred to as scientific reason. There are four ways Aristotle thinks it is important to use scientific reason to really know happiness. The first is thought. We are most like the gods when we use thought. Second is that the quality of the pleasures one pursues must be marvelous in purity and duration. Third is independent thought or self-sufficiency. The fourth is that the process of learning is a joy and is rewarding in and of itself. Thus reason, if exercised well, will bring happiness and well-being. ?Use your reason well and you will be fulfilled.? (Kaplan lecture, October 2000) Another important ingredient in the pursuit of happiness is leisure. There must be adequate free time to organize ideas and grow our knowledge or speculative reason.
The city or ideal polis facilitates the nature of a good life. A good life is a life of active goodness involving fortitude, temperance, justice and wisdom. Aristotle is clearly against imperialist and military cities because he believes they are unjust, however he believes fortitude is a virtue because a collective readiness to defend one's country is required (but not desirable). The ideal city should not be overly populous one so that top citizens can be properly acquainted with one another.
The ideal polis maximizes the opportunity for its citizens to display goodness and afford happiness. In the ideal polis, the foundation of the ideal social structure is based on serfs and slaves. That is, it is implicit in Aristotle's conception of the good life that not everyone is meant to achieve goodness and that these people are better off serving