How do virtue and chance contribute to happiness?
Happiness has been subject to debate for centuries. What is happiness? What does happiness consist of? What contributes to happiness? Among many others, Aristotle, Epicurus, and the school of Cyrenaics, prominent ancient Greek philosophers, have greatly contributed that virtue, which is excellence of a certain part, and chance, which consists of any event outside of human control and prediction, may play a role in happiness. After analyzing the works of these philosophers, it has been concluded that virtue greatly contributes to happiness. On the other hand, although chance can either contribute to or hinder one’s happiness, the influence is often not as significant as virtue and can often be overcome by virtuous actions. During the course of this essay, the viewpoints of Aristotle, Epicurus, and the school of Cyrenaics will be utilized to determine the extent to which virtue and chance contribute to happiness.
However, before progressing further, for the basis of this argument, a clearly defined vision of happiness is required, as individuals may perceive and, thus, define happiness in slightly or vastly different ways. As a result, for the purpose of advancing this discussion, happiness will be defined primarily by Epicurus and Aristotle’s definition of happiness, which consists of fulfilling the primary purpose of a human being, which is to reason well and to act in accord with reason, which is to possess and utilize prudence, intellectual virtue, and moral virtue in every action and choice.
In Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle discusses the notion that virtuous actions, in moderation, lead to a virtuous life and, in consequence, a happy ...
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... pleasure and enjoyment from it, which leads to a virtuous and happy life, as acting virtuously is acting with reason and fulfilling the purposes of a human being. On the other hand, although it is important to understand that the influence of chance can almost never be removed completely, the influence that chance has on happiness can be limited, as it can be overcome with truly virtuous action.
Aristotle. Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. Trans. Robert C. Bartlett and Susan D. Collins. Chicago: University of Chicago, 2011. Print.
Epicurus. "Letter to Menoeceus by Epicurus." The Internet Classics Archive | Letter to Menoeceus by Epicurus. Trans. Robert D. Hicks. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2014.
Laertius, Diogenes. "Life of Aristippus." Lives of Eminent Philosophers. Trans. Robert D. Hicks. Vol. 1. Cambridge: Loeb-Harvard UP, 1972. Print.
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