Aristotle on Pleasure
Abstract: Aristotle's ethics is
reviewed and his distinction between pleasure and happiness is explained.
A summary of Aristotle's ethics clarifies several important
distinction between happiness and pleasure.
- Eudaemonia: the state of personal well being, having self-worth;
exhibiting a zest for life; radiating energy; achieving happiness, "good spirit," or self presence.
- Hence, happiness is activity of the soul in accordance with arete (excellence
- I.e. Living well and doing well in the affairs of the world.
- Picture yourself at your best. Compare Maslow's self-actualizing
person or Jung's individuation of a person with Aristotle's
description of eudaemonia..
- Good is that to which all thing aim; i.e., the good is that which performs its
- What constitutes a good wrench or a good coffee cup? The peculiar
of excellence is established by its purpose. The peculiar excellence is
- What constitutes a good person?"
- Activity of the soul in accordance with reason (that
capacity which is unique to us
- This activity is both moral (doing the right thing at the right time) and
intellectual arete (phronesis).
- Aristotle notes that ome external goods are necessary for the exercise of that activity.
- Moral Virtue is not the end of life, for it can go with inactivity, misery,
- What is good for a person cannot be answered with the exactitude of mathematics.
- Ethics attempts to formulate general principles whose application is dependent
upon the circumstances at hand (i.e., initial conditions). (Note
that Aristotle's theory does not imply ethical
- The doctrine of the mean is not a doctrine of relativism but
doctrine applied to specific circumstances.
E.g., what and how much one eats differs for a weight-lifter and a ballerina--even
so, proper diet has guidelines and standards which apply differently
according to different initial conditions.
- Pleasure, itself, is a side-product of activity; pleasure results
from activity without hindrance.
- As Aristotle expresses it, pleasure is the natural accompaniment of unimpeded activity.
- Pleasure, as such, is neither good nor bad, but is something positive because the effect
of pleasure perfects the exercise of that activity.
- Even so, Aristotle emphasizes that pleasure is not to be sought for its own sake.
(Cf., the hedonistic
- It is Aristotle's reasoning, as we shall see, which breaks down Hedonism,
simpliciter, for otherwise the happiness or pleasure induced by a drugged state or the happiness of insanity
would be an intrinsic good.
Ethics: Aristotle's ethics is a common sense
ethics built on naturalism and self-realization. Of all the classical theories considered
here, his is the farthest from an ethics of self-interest.
Ethics: An excellent discussion from the Stanford
Encyclopedia of Philosophy of Aristotle's ethics drawn from the Nicomachean
Ethics and the Eudemian Ethics by Richard Kraut.