This essay is going to be talking about whether achieving happiness is just a matter of good luck or if there is more to it than that. It will be considering the Greek philosopher Aristotle’s response to this question and will also be looking at what achieves a person’s happiness.
Achieving happiness comes from many different things at different times throughout an individual’s life. For example, a teenager might be happy going outside with friends or going to parties, whereas later they might want to have a degree and work towards their dream job, and an older person might look to get married and have kids with someone they love. People set goals for themselves throughout their lives, examples could be to pass a course with a certain grade, have a specific job, to work out more or even just be more adventurous. These goals can be split down into a path of achievements the person has to acquire before they get the final one. If someone wants to be a doctor, they must pick the right subjects in school, get good grades to get into medicine, furthermore, pass with a degree too. Everyone will have different goals like this that will be what they want to do and achieving these will give the individual a sense of happiness and proudness within themselves. Aristotle believed that happiness was acquired by understanding the precise function of a thing so one can understand its essence. Aristotle disagrees that an individual gets happiness from goals, achievements, jobs, and relationships but instead believes it is a virtuous life that brings true happiness for someone. While achieving those goals are still important and it does give a temporary happiness feeling, he believes it is nor a permanent way of becoming and staying truly happy. However, these goals make up a personal pathway for an individual to follow for what they want out of their life and achieving them does create some form of happiness. Aristotle also thought that a good goal to pursue is “that which is always desirable in itself and never for the sake of something else” (Craig, 2021). Following this Aristotle also believes that happiness cannot be from pleasure alone due to humans having much higher capacities which he then compares to animals who have much less. Achieving these goals is also not good luck but instead hard work, dedication, and commitment to getting to the end. Despite Aristotle disagreeing in some sense, achieving set goals for an individual’s self is a way to make someone happier and the goals an individual has should be taken seriously.
Virtue can also be a key component to achieving full happiness, as Aristotle believed that an individual needs to have a virtuous life before they can achieve happiness. Eudaimonia is a term that means to be flourishing and truly happy and Aristotle believed this is reached by living such a virtuous life, and he believed in building up certain traits until you do not have to think about what you are doing. Aristotle had a list of virtues which include courage, liberality, magnificence, patience, justice and more, these build up to make a person as virtuous as possible. Aristotle does not say that “we can’t break the rules. Just because a person is honest, for example, doesn’t mean they can’t lie when they need to” (Hendricks, 2018). This implies a person can break some of the virtues sometimes and stay happy and virtuous, even if they are not perfect. These virtues need to be practiced like anything else, for example, if a person wanted to be more patient, then they would have to regulate their temper, and both not get too angry or not get angry when it is justified. These different virtues are what Aristotle thought makes a person truly happy, and following them will also make the individual live a better, more just life. An individual does not need good luck to follow these, as these principles can be done by anyone all the time, they are available for anyone to learn and put into practice into becoming a virtuous person. Following from that, this means that complete happiness and eudaimonia is available to everyone. Aristotle’s views on this idea are still applicable in today’s day, and these virtues can still be applied in today’s modern world, and even though they may be more that can be associated with true happiness, living a virtuous life is a good place to start.
Friendship is another part towards happiness that Aristotle valued hugely, as he believed a friendship could be very virtuous, but also pleasurable and enjoyable for the moment too. He also believed that true happiness cannot be achieved throughout one’s life, but only at the end, as he describes it as “a goal, not a temporary state of being” (Craig, 2021). He believed it is not temporary or short-lived, but a permanent state of mind and only at the end of an individual’s life. Having the right friends around you can influence a person’s behavior, therefore, having virtuous friends could amount to living a more virtuous life. Aristotle also believed that happiness is “choosing the ‘greater good’, not necessarily that which brings immediate short-term pleasure” (Craig, 2021). This may refer to the virtues Aristotle suggested that one should follow to get to happiness, as not everything that happens or that must be done will make the individual happy in that moment, but can be for the best. For example, breaking up with a partner, even if you love them at the time, but only because you do not see a permanent future with them in. This is not something that would make someone happy at the time and would instead cause them to feel extreme feelings of sadness and possible withdrawal, but later down the line they will happier due to them being able to find and be with someone who they do see a permanent future with. Aristotle stated: “For as it is not one swallow or one fine day that makes a spring, so it is not one day or a short time that makes a man blessed and happy” (Craig, 2021). This is Aristotle talking about how one moment of happiness does not amount to a lifetime of happiness and achieving pure happiness in the end. This could also be interpreted in such a way as one mistake or breaking the virtues also does not mean that one will not achieve pure happiness. Aristotle’s views on this aspect are still applicable to today, individuals can be influenced by those they surround themselves with, if they are virtuous people that could amount to a more virtuous life. He also viewed doing hard things, even if they do not make you happy in the moment, as they are the right thing to do, this is also still applicable. These are not good luck but instead making good and the right choices throughout someone’s life, and those good choices will bring positivity and benefits and eventually lead to living virtuously towards happiness.
On the other hand, whether an individual is happy could need some good luck, for example, if someone experiences mental health issues like anxiety and depression, which can make being happy quite hard for some people. There are other external factors that may impact an individual’s happiness, such as their upbringing and attachment styles they develop as a child. This can influence it due to them not learning the proper way to behave towards others. This could result in difficult relationships and possibly the feeling of neglect, worry, stress, and like they themselves are not good enough. It could be difficult for a child that has had a hard upbringing to follow the virtues and to live a virtuous life if they themselves have never experienced it, however, not impossible and children will still be able to adapt and practice. Everyone is different and not everyone will be able to think so rationally all the time, some people will struggle to see further into the bigger picture of certain decisions, while others may struggle to create certain bonds with others. These can and possibly will lead to struggles to living such a virtuous life, but as already mentioned, it is okay for an individual to make mistakes or not follow the virtues completely perfectly. While these individuals may still struggle in certain aspects, if they are still trying and putting in the effort to try have a virtuous life, that is what matters. These are obviously extraneous variables that are possible, but out of an individual’s control, it is not impossible to achieve happiness even if these do apply, but it might be harder to surpass some hurdles. However, good luck would certainly help, it is not essential, and an individual can still achieve happiness without good luck. Aristotle believed this was the case too and believed anyone can achieve eudaimonia and be a virtuous person, even if they make mistakes, this is important as these variables may make it harder.
In conclusion, Aristotle believed the way to achieving pure happiness was through living a virtuous life and following certain virtues. These virtues are very important to living a happy life, there are more factors that go towards happiness. Individuality with personal goals is important, as these are set things that are personal and important to oneself. Surrounding yourself with the correct people, such as virtuous people, will influence your behavior and will cause you to become more virtuous naturally. It is also important to remember that mistakes are okay, and if someone does not follow these virtues all the time, they will still have a happy life. Aristotle’s views overall are good to follow leading a happy life, but there are more aspects to it.