The Good Life.

Essay by ValsinatCollege, UndergraduateA+, November 2003

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Aristotle views the good life as a life in which the individual behaves virtuously, and he regards such a life as a prerequisite for human happiness. By "happiness", however, Aristotle makes it apparent that he is not thinking in terms of self-indulgence or a selfish pursuit of pleasure but, instead, of the living of that type of life which is most in accord with the human person's rational faculties. Aristotle follows the Hellenic tradition in seeing the city-state, or polis, as the highest form of rational organization, with the result that he identifies the living of the good life with citizenship in a good state.

While it would appear plausible that the living of a good life is essential to happiness as Aristotle conceives of happiness, some might question his view that a good state is a prerequisite to the living of a good life. In modern times, for example, there has developed a tradition associated with thinkers such as Thoreau and Tolstoy according to which the life of the inner person is more significant than the outward form of the state.

Aristotle would no doubt have disapproved of Thoreau for seeking to "opt out" of society and the state, but his example raises the question of whether it might be more important for a person to stick by his principle than to make the compromises involved in exercising the right of citizenship even in a supposedly "good state" such as America.

A related consideration lies in the fact that Aristotle's idea of a "good life" would not necessary correspond in all particulars to our ideas. Aristotle, for example, wrote of the relation between masters and slaves: "there is in some cases a marked distinction between the two classes, rendering it expedient and right for the one to...