Human Happiness and External goods
Happiness is a goal every human pursues, yet the ways in which it is pursued differs amongst people. Some believe prosperity will bring them happiness. Others believe material, power, fame, success, or love will bring them happiness. No matter what one believes is the right way to conquer this goal, every person will take their own unique path in an attempt to find it. But what is happiness? Happiness is often viewed as a subjective state of mind in which one may say they are happy when they are on vacation with friends, spending time with their family, or having a cold beer on the weekend while basking in the sun. However, Aristotle and the Stoics define happiness much differently. In Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle describes happiness as “something final and self-sufficient, and is the end of action” (NE 1097b20). In this paper, I will compare and contrast Aristotle and the Stoics’ view on human happiness. Aristotle argues that bodily and external goods are necessary to happiness, while Epictetus argues they are not. I will contend that Epictetus’ outlook on happiness is more consistent than Aristotle’s because Aristotle’s view is contradictory, while Epictetus’ view on the role of external goods is adequate. One does not need external goods to be happy, because in the long term they become obsolete.
I would like to begin by further discussing what happiness is according to Aristotle. People tend to view happiness as emotion, but to Aristotle happiness is not emotion. Emotion is a temporary state and happiness is something that perseveres. Happiness is something that is self-sufficient and cannot easily be lost. He thinks happiness is the goal of goals, which means th...
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...ll-rounded and balanced life and believe that Aristotle’s means to find happiness could suffice, but I strongly disagree with his thought that only those with sufficient external goods are capable of being happy. I believe that every human being is capable of achieving happiness, even the ugly, the poor, and the childless. The Stoics have a stronger case in showing that external goods are not necessary because we can’t control them. It makes more sense to focus only on the things we have the power to change. Epictetus says, “There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will” (Epictetus). External goods can be lost, damaged, and destroyed, but the soul, in which we have the power to control, will only die when we do. External goods hold no importance, because in the long run they will become obsolete.
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