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Aristotle Wins Ethically: A comparison between John Stuart Mill and Aristotle on happiness

Satisfactory Essays
Simply defined, happiness is the state of being happy. But, what exactly does it mean to “be happy?” Repeatedly, many philosophers and ideologists have proposed ideas about what happiness means and how one attains happiness. In this paper, I will argue that Aristotle’s conception of happiness is driven more in the eye of ethics than John Stuart Mill. First, looking at Mill’s unprincipled version of happiness, I will criticize the imperfections of his definition in relation to ethics. Next, I plan to identify Aristotle’s core values for happiness. According to Aristotle, happiness comes from virtue, whereas Mill believes happiness comes from pleasure and the absence of pain. Ethics are the moral principles that govern a person’s behavior which are driven by virtues - good traits of character. Thus, Aristotle focuses on three things, which I will outline in order to answer the question, “what does it mean to live a good life?” The first of which is the number one good in life is happiness. Secondly, there is a difference between moral virtues and intellectual virtues and lastly, leading a good life is a state of character. Personally and widely accepted, happiness is believed to be a true defining factor on leading a well intentioned, rational, and satisfactory life. However, it is important to note the ways in which one achieves their happiness, through the people and experiences to reach that state of being. In consequence, Aristotle’s focus on happiness presents a more arguable notion of “good character” and “rational.”
John Stuart Mill believes in a utilitarian society where people are seen as “things.” Moreover, in utilitarianism the focus of the goal is “forward-looking”, in looking at the consequences but not the ini...

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...g the other consequences and harms of the decision made.
In conclusion, Aristotle’s elucidation of happiness is based on a ground of ethics because happiness to him is coveted for happiness alone. The life of fame and fortune is not the life for Aristotle. Happiness is synonymous for living well. To live well is to live with virtue. Virtue presents humans with identification for morals, and for Aristotle, we choose to have “right” morals. Aristotle defines humans by nature to be dishonored when making a wrong decision. Thus, if one choses to act upon pleasure, like John Stuart Mill states, for happiness, one may choose the wrong means of doing so. Happiness is a choice made rationally among many pickings to reach this state of mind. Happiness should not be a way to “win” in the end but a way to develop a well-behaved, principled reputation.
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