Aristotle in his publication Nicomachean Ethics analyses what moral philosophy entails and how being morally responsible affects one’s virtues and perception of happiness. He notes that in every activity one undertakes the ultimate goal is to achieve an end to it in form of happiness/being happy. Every individual item has its own use, for humans for instance, ultimate good can only be achieved once every aspect of his life is well functioning in accordance to one’s nature (Aristotle, ‘Nicomachean Ethics’ 2004).
A person’s happiness is connected to what his mandate or function is and only upon accomplishing his goal(s) will one be happy. Each person has his individual goal distinct from that of others, achieving this goal will need both the intellectual and rational sides of a person. Happiness thus entails activities of both the intellect and rational person and the combination of both these activities call for the need to have ethical virtues. Aristotle considers achievement of a virtue as more important than acquisition of material goods.
He believes that true happiness can only be achieved through nurturing one’s virtues that play a part in making life of man complete. Achieving a final good creates a sense of happiness, as one’s ultimate goal has been achieved (David Carr, Jan Steutel, Virtue Ethics and Moral Education’ 1999), final good is always self-sufficient in the sense that it not only benefits individual but a whole lot of other people with which one has connections with.
Aristotle categorizers virtue into two, intellectual virtue which is acquired from teachings, corrections, experience and repeated actions; this category believes ethics to be a practical discipline, the other category is moral virtue which is of the idea that virtue comes as a result of habits and that having a good conduct is never a product of nature. One’s virtues or vices determine how one will be viewed in the society, it is never about what one is passionate about, and never the faculties but rather it is about an individual’s character (Robert C. Bartlett, 2011).
Aristotle’s concept of ethics focuses on the growth and development of one’s character and ability to acquire certain virtues such as courage, caution and integrity. He considers virtue to be a ‘golden mean’ between two extreme states. Virtue calls for flexibility in actions der to balance between the two extreme situations: it must aim at the intermediate state, equidistant from both ends (Pojman, Fieser, ‘Discovering right and wrong’ 2009). As moral virtue is concerned with passion, actions and an equilibrium state, it must strive to attain an equilibrium state of neither excesses nor deficits.
Achieving such a state is considered successful and worth recognition, and such benefits is what virtue entails, a ‘mean’ of two extreme states. Further, Aristotle links happiness to ability to achieve all the good life can offer, in terms of good health, friends, education and being wealthy; such lead to perfection of one’s life and improvement of one’s life (M. F Burnyeat, ‘Aristotle on Learning to be Good’ 1980). However, to reach this state, one needs to ask himself tough questions and have a conceptual approach to issues.
He notes that as people we need to focus on the ultimate goal irrespective of the difficulties we may face through the journey; to do this one must have a strong character and virtues to make the tough decisions. Later in his view of ethics, Aristotle talks of the concept of weakness of will, this he explains as being overwhelmed with the short term pleasures that obscures one’s perception and ideas of achieving a greater ultimate goal (May, Hope, ‘Aristotle’s Ethics Moral Development and Human Nature’ 2010).
He however notes that this deficiency can be conquered through rigorous training of education and perfection of one’s virtue; he notes that having your eye on the ultimate goal/aim is what matters. Not only is having a goal enough but it is what one does to achieve that goal that counts. Further, Aristotle notes that it is important for people to engage themselves intellectually in the sense of having an intellectual curiosity aimed at perfecting our natures by rational reflections. This can be achieved through vigorous educational nourishment of both practical work and theoretical approaches.
Aristotle also links friendships to happiness, not just ordinary friendship but that based on virtues which believe in wanting the best for their friends disregarding what is at stake for them in terms of their accrued benefits thereon. This is referred to as ‘complete’ friendship as it is long lasting and built on loyalty and selflessness (Pangle, Lorraine, 2003). He prefers friendship to honor in the sense that friendship can be enjoyed in the way it is as opposed to honor which is sought for personal gain and the need to build one’s networks for personal benefits.
From this point of view, he notes that friendship is sought for its own sake as opposed to honor which is associated with hidden agendas. A virtuous friendship is one which combines virtues and pleasures thereon satisfying one’s intellectual and emotional needs. To Aristotle, happiness is the ultimate end goal for human existence, it cannot be termed as neither pleasure nor virtues rather it is the exercise of the virtues instead.
To achieve happiness then, one needs to acquire a moral character and display the basic virtues of courage, caution, integrity, generosity, citizenship and friendships. Such virtues will call for the need to have a ‘mean’ between the excesses and deficiencies; and this is the only way to achieving true happiness which is the definitive recognition of one’s rational capacity. On excellence in human living, Aristotle points out that excellence is as a result of a number of attributes such as intelligent executions, sincere efforts and objectivity.
To him, the concept of excellence boils down to one’s virtues such that when one is grounded on what is considered right, just and source of happiness then excellence can be achieved in executions. Further he notes that excellence can be achieved through training and habituation, through such initiatives one’s conceptual outlook is broadened and one obtains classified insights on a number of issues, such expertise and skills can then be applied in picking the wisest choices from various alternatives, that have long term impact and that results in ultimate happiness for the concerned party.
He also associates excellence with nurturing and practice, to him excellence is a habitual activity that calls for continuous repetitions and observing strict virtues that guide one’s actions, giving up is not tive for him as one need to pile pressure on his goals and conquer any challenges or threats without giving up (Warne, Christopher, ‘Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics’ 2007). He notes that such determination and commitment is what brings about excellence in whatever undertaking one engages in.