In philosophy, the idea of the good life is a concept that has been examined by many scholars who have presented thoughts on what contributes to a productive life. The philosophical understanding of the good life is the life that individuals dream of living. According to Aristotle, in Nichomachean Ethics, where he inquired into the nature of the good life, the philosopher posed that all human life consists of activity. He explained that humans engage in various activities to achieve some end, which they all hope to be good. Otherwise, if the result is not good, no one would choose to pursue it. Aristotle’s views on the good life are based on two main factors, the ends and means, as he felt that all our actions are inherently aimed at satisfying the ends we want to achieve. Ultimately, for Aristotle, the ultimate end of human life is to flourish, live well, and have a good life.
So, what makes a good life? According to Aristotle, the good life is achieved when we possess the things that are really good for us, throughout our lives. However, what makes up a “good life” is different from one person to the next since each individual has a plan for living their life. The goods that Aristotle felt that each human being needs to obtain to live a good life are:
· Bodily goods: health, pleasure, strength
· External goods: commonly known as basic human needs of food, shelter, clothing, sleep
· Goods of the soul: knowledge, love, friendship, self-esteem, honor.
Aristotle felt that when we develop good moral character, we can achieve all these goods as necessary parts of achieving the good life. We only achieve a good life when we use all our means to reach the end goal, which is a life where we can fulfill all our natural needs.
Another philosopher whose ideas on the good life are exploratory is Plato, who defined a good life like that where an individual would be happy. As Socrates’ student, Plato’s ideas were based n the achievement of both external and internal goods, with knowledge and its attainment gaining almost equal value. One of his arguments stems from Socrates’s statement that “the unexamined life if not worth living,” which meant that human beings should not take something as truth without examining it. Plato’s interpretation of the quote was that life without reflection cannot support development since that would be akin to living without reason. Thus, the good life, in this instance, is a life where reason triumphs over desires. A man who overlooks reason will fall for unchecked desires, and in extent, their actions will not serve the common good.
Plato felt that the virtues that will help a person to lead a good life are: wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice. These virtues, mainly, can help a person contribute to harmony in society and realize a fulfilling life. Plato’s argument for what makes up a good life reveals that to live a good life requires one to be happy, and this reality stems from more than just the acquisition of wealth. Leading a good life while following the cardinal virtues can be a start to realizing true happiness in a world where expectations change. However, while the three philosophers above urged people to rely on set moral principles and other ideals such as those introduced by religion as guides to living a good life, Nietzsche felt that human beings could achieve excellence on their own. As a moral critic, Nietzsche believed that happiness was in fact, not relevant to a good life, and neither is morality. Nietzsche felt that a good person already does the right things for themselves and those around them and his argument was that to live a good life, we need to distance ourselves from moral guidelines. Following biblical commandments and the church’s obligations as hindrances to human growth and the realization of excellence in life.
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