Assignment Three : LUSENET : Walsh Intro to Philosophy : One Thread

After reading "The Rational Life", my initial reaction was that Aristotle brought up some good points that undoubtedly deserve attention. However, on re-reading it, paying more attention to specific claims he made, I found it very difficult to fully agree with any. One that I did agree with however, was that we choose honour, pleasure, reason, and every other virtue for happiness. I believe that we, as humans, constantly act selfishly in pursuit of our own happiness. I also believe that we become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temerate acts, and brave by doing brave acts. To be considered a brave person, not only by others but ourselves too, we have to engage in brave activity. The same goes for everything, from generosity to intellegence. The final claim that Aristotle made that I agreed with was that amusement is a sort of relaxation, and we need relaxation because we cannot work continuously.

Although I agreed with one of the claims Aristotle made about happiness - that it is what humans are ultimately after - there were several others that I strongly disagreed with. He claims that man is the only creature who can reason, and reason leads to happiness, therefore this life we lead as humans is the happiest. We, as humans have no way of knowing exactly how animals think or reason. Even if they can't reason, how can we presume that they are not happy with their simple lives? They don't go through prejudice or war like we do, and these could be the keys to a happy life. Aristotle goes on to say that other animals in no way share in contemplation, which is the link to activity from God. How does he know that God doesn't openly communicate with every creature except humans because of our corrupt lives? Aristotle finally claims that philosophers, above everyone else, will be happy because the Gods delight in reason and will reward those who love and honour it. Even if this bizarre statement were true, how does he know that the rewards from the Gods are the ultimate form of happiness? It all comes back to two questions - how do you define happiness, and is that definition limited to this life? and does every person perceive happiness as the same? In my opinion, the latter is not the case.

Aristotle also claims that we are adapted by nature to receive virtues and are made by perfect habit. He compares this to the fact that a stone cannot be habituated to move upwards. This is because of the laws of gravity. On earth, everything experiences this phenominon - what goes up, must come down! However, we cannot compare a live person to a rock. A rock has no mind and therefore cannot decide to fly just because you are throwing it up in the air over and over to try and form a habit. People can learn behaviors depending on their background and experiences. Our habits can change with age or with a change in our environment and the only things that don't change - such as the rock never flying - are due to the laws of nature.

I also disagreed when Aristotle said that actions are only called just and temperate when it is an action that a just and temperate man would do, or by the man who does them as the just and temperate man would do - he is not the just and temperate man. This statement led me to a question - what makes a man just and temperate? If a man performs a just and temperate act, how is it that he has not just been just and temperate? Is there a certain required number of just and temperate acts that man has to perform before he can be considered such? Or are we born just and temperate with no way of learning this behavior? I believe that people who are considered just and temperate can sometimes perform acts completely out of their nature and vice versa. I do not believe that as a man performs a just and temperate act, he is doing it because it is what his just and temperate friend would do, but because it is what he wants to do for whatever reason and he should be respected for this decision.

-- Anonymous, February 22, 2000

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