Ends, Means, and Happiness.

Let's say you really want to look cool. That's the goal. How do you go about it? Well, it depends. Maybe buying an iphone, or learning how to dance, or becoming REALLY good at philosophy (maybe not). those are the methods. In Aristotle's words, those methods are the means to your ends.

So you spend money (means) to buy an iphone (end). And you buy an iphone (means) to look cool (ends). Each small goal is a step to reaching a bigger goal.In Aristotlespeak, each end is a means to another end. The biggest goal is what Aristotle calls the most complete end. So what's the biggest goal of all? What's the most complete end? Happiness

Think about your life here as a trapped, stressed out student:

You want to get a good grade on an exam, so you study. Studying is the means to an end. But, why do you want to get a good grade on an exam? Because you want a good grade for the year. Because you want to get into a good college, because you want to get a good job, because you want to make a lot of money.. because you want to be happy.

Happiness is why you do anything, as far as Aristotle's concerned. And why do you want to be happy? Just because. No one wakes up in the morning trying to become more unhappy. It's just the way we are. That's right. Nothing's better than being happy. In Aristotle's words, happiness is "complete without qualification, since we always choose it for itself and never for the sake of anything else"(1097a-b). (you want to be happy because you want to be happy)

SO, what's happiness? Because so far, nothing too extraordinary. You knew you wanted to be happy already. However, Aristotle's got a method AND a definition. Happiness it is "the activity of the soul in accordance with virtue". We only need to make sure we're clear on the various terms in the sentence, and you're on our way to guaranteed happiness. It's that simple.

Activity, that's easy. It means doing stuff. You can't be happy if you do nothing. No surprise. You wouldn't necessarily be unhappy either. You'd really just be more like a rock or a plant.

The soul: some people think it's complicated, but aristotle makes it simple and tells us its got three parts: reason, desire, vegetative. Reason is logical thinking, desire is wanting stuff, and vegetative, well, that's just his weird word for the body section- hunger, thirst, breathing etc.

Putting those two terms together, we know that "activity of the soul" is the soul (reason, desire) being active (reasoning, desiring). So far, so good —if you 're alive, think, want stuff, and try do something about it, you're on your way to being happy. Now lets look at the last concept in his definition of happiness: Virtue.

VIRTUE. it's in caps because this is the bad news. It should come with thunderous music or something. Virtue is, well, hard to explain. It's what the rest of the book is about. But when we figure it out, just act in accordance to whatever it is, and you'll be happy. I promise. (actually, Aristotle promises, which really is much better).

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