Conceptions of Happiness in the <i>Nicomachean Ethics</i>

Terence H. Irwin

in The Oxford Handbook of Aristotle

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780195187489
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

 Conceptions of Happiness in the Nicomachean Ethics

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Aristotle begins the Nicomachean Ethics by asking what the final good for human beings is. He identifies this final good with happiness, and in the rest of Book I, asks what happiness is. In I 7, Aristotle reaches an “outline” of an answer, claiming that the human good (that is, happiness) is activity of the soul in accordance with the best and most perfect (or complete) virtue in a perfect life. But he does not say what the best and most perfect virtue is. Towards the end of the last book of the Ethics, Aristotle seems to answer this question by arguing that the best and most perfect virtue is theoretical wisdom (sophia), exercised in theoretical study or contemplation (theôria) of universal and necessary truths about the universe. He believes that self-sufficiency follows from finality. This article considers Aristotle's conception of happiness, its relation to other goods, happiness as fulfillment of the human function, a monist conception of happiness, complete life, the counting condition, rational life, and moral virtue.

Keywords: Aristotle; happiness; Nicomachean Ethics; self-sufficiency; goods; human function; moral virtue; counting condition; rational life; complete life

Article.  16743 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Classical Philosophy ; Moral Philosophy

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