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Aristotle and Happiness

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Daniele de Groot

on 12 December 2013

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Transcript of Aristotle and Happiness

Aristotle's Happiness
Criticisms of Aristotle's Perception of Happiness
Happiness in
How the World Happiness Report relates to Aristotle's beliefs on Happiness

is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” “
is the settling of the soul into its most appropriate spot.” “
is an energy or activity of the soul according to its highest excellence.” “But still the
of the individual is so intimately involved with the good of his family and his country” “The superiority of the
and satisfaction derived from intellectual contemplation” “The
resulting from moral virtue is of a secondary kind” “We in our minds have conceived
to be something permanent” “
does not consist in amusement”
The Factors
The goal of the report is to show "how measurements of well-being can be used effectively to assess the progress of nations"
Real GDP per capita
Healthy Life Expectancy
Having Someone to Count On
Freedom from Corruption
Perceived Freedom
to Make Life Choices
The Results
Top Five:
1. Denmark
2. Norway
3. Switzerland
4. Netherlands
5. Sweden
17. United States of America
Pre-Enlightenment View of Happiness
Aristotle's Thoughts on Happiness
Question of Aristotelian view of happiness: How do I live life well?
Question of Pre-Enlightenment view of happiness: How do I gratify God?
The Role of Government
Moderation of Social Interaction
"Both [Buddha and Aristotle] believed that the tensions between the individual and the community could be moderated through an ethic of virtue, in which individuals live their lives in accordance with the dictates of human nature and social realities. And both believed that the “right path” (for Buddha) and “virtue” (for Aristotle) require training, education, practice, and cultivation of the mind" (WHR).
Pre-Enlightenment thinkers defined happiness much more from a religious standpoint than Aristotle. To them, happiness was much more about pleasing God.
Matthieu Ricard, Buddhist Monk
"Better to illuminate than merely to shine, to deliver to others contemplated truths than merely to contemplate." - St. Thomas Aquinas

How Positive Psychology Relates to Aristotle's View of Happiness
What is Positive Psychology?
Aristotle's argument:
P1) happiness = perfection of anything's nature
P2) humans = rational animals
C) human happiness depends on us perfecting our exercise of reason.
A branch of psychology focused on helping people improve their lives, mainly by helping people become happier.
Martin Seligman, Psychologist
Aquinas Argument:
1) Reason can never be perfected.
2) Even if we did perfect reason, reason itself is fallible.
2a) Reason cannot lead us to the truth.
3) Attempting to perfect reason will make us happier.
4) Happiness does not correspond to the truth.
5) Ignorance is bliss
Positive Psychology
Major Components:
Character strengths
Authentic happiness
Strong social relationships

Ayn Rand's Argument
"We agree with those who identify
, for
belongs with virtuous behavior and
is only known by its acts."
-Nicomachean Ethics I.7
"Without friends no one would want to live, even if he had all other goods."
-Nicomachean Ethics
"[Positive Psychology] takes you through the countryside of pleasure and gratification, up into the high country of strength and virtue, and finally to the peaks of lasting fulfillment: meaning and purpose."
-Martin Seligman
Rand's stance on happiness directly contradicts Aristotle's account of practicing virtues as the way to happiness.
Ethical Egoism
Rational self-interest
What Would Aquinas Say?
“The intellect is the highest thing in us, and the objects that it apprehends are the highest things that can be known . . . we are more capable of continuous contemplation than we are of any practical activity.”
Gallup Polling Results:
5.1 of 10 people reported being happy
How can one live a contemplative life AND a life full of friendship? How do we balance these two Aristotelian ideals?
-The World Happiness Report
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