Aristotle’s Claim of Contemplation as Complete Happiness
Secondly, to further give reasoning as to why contemplation is superior over deliberation, a discussion of the relationship between philosophical wisdom and practical wisdom will be mentioned. In conclusion, Aristotle’s argument claims that moral life is a secondary happiness to contemplation. He gives evidential reasoning which will be discussed to show that he does not undermine his Virtue Ethics by making this claim. Because Aristotle is basing his argument on virtue ethics, he is not trying to derive a rule but, deriving a good person. An overall good human should possess character-traits to be a morally good person.
To start his argument, it must be mentioned that he begins by stating that, “Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and pursuit, is thought to aim at some good: and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim… if, then, there is some end of the things we do, which we desire for its own sake (everything else being desired for the sake of this), and if we do not choose everything for the sake of something else (for at that rate the process would go on to infinity, so that our desire would be empty and vain), clearly this must be the good and the chief good. (Aristotle, pg. 124) In Book X, Aristotle reiterates that the final end of all activity is this chief good and this chief good is happiness. Aristotle then, gives his Function Argument. When we know what that function is, then and only then can we aim to function at our best. When we function at our best, we can reach our final end, and that final end is happiness. As happiness is something final and self-sufficient, and is the end of action (Aristotle, pg 129). This argument concludes that if we are to function well, we must first know what our primary function is.
He claims that this commonality in humans resides in reason and rationality. However, he further explains that it is much more than that. If reason and rationality are performed well, “the function of man to be a certain kind of life, and this to be an activity or actions of the soul implying a rational principle… human good turns out to be activity of soul exhibiting excellence” (Aristotle, pg 129). Aristotle more clearly defines this as such: a good human, and also a happy human, is one who is capable of achieving the rational exercise of the soul’s functions of virtuousness (Aristotle, pg 132).
Contemplative/scientific is classified as philosophical wisdom and deliberative/calculative wisdom is classified as practical wisdom. These are both parts of the rational soul. Nutritive, associated with growth, and Appetitive, associated with desires are part of the irrational soul. The deliberative part of the soul controls the irrational part (mainly the appetitive part) and Aristotle claims that because the contemplative part of the soul does not contain any portion of the irrational soul, and thus is the truest from of happiness.
He later gives two kinds of virtues: intellectual virtues and moral virtues. As Aristotle suggests, this subdivision in virtue, is much like the soul, whereas one subdivision has it in the strict sense and in itself, and the other having a tendency to obey as one does one’s father (Aristotle, pg 133). The intellectual virtues are related to the rational part of the soul. These, again, consist of philosophical wisdom and practical wisdom. Intellectual requires experience and time to develop whereas moral virtues are formed by habit.
Aristotle sums up his account of virtues by stating that in order to do virtuous acts we must do them until they become habit (moral virtues), however, we must have the intellect and knowledge to know how to choose the virtuous action that is correct for the situation (practical wisdom. ) It must be said that practical wisdom is not deliberation; however, practical wisdom is the virtue of deliberation, if done well. We deliberate about things that are in our power and can be done and we also deliberate on a means to an end and not the end in itself. The ends are based on a rational wish.
It is about inquiry and if we come on impossibility, we give up on our search (Aristotle, pg 143). The activity of deliberation is to form a habit of making good choices and habitually making good choices results in a practice of virtuousness. Moreover, one would be considered making good choices when these choices are not extremes of virtues. This leads the discussion into the relationship between contemplation and practical wisdom. Aristotle refers to Intellectual virtues and contemplation, as a scientific knowledge, combined with intuitive reason of the things that are highest by nature.
Practical wisdom on the other hand is concerned with things human and things about which it is possible to deliberate (Aristotle, pg 154). He later argues that man must possess practical wisdom and it is impossible to be practically wise without being good and a good man is one who is happy. However, he proclaims that philosophical wisdom is superior to practical wisdom even though practical wisdom is a capacity and a disposition to act upon what is good for human beings. He states his case by explaining that philosophical wisdom is the truth or falsity of unknowns.
It is the foresight of knowledge and experience to be able to deliberate upon correctly. Because philosophical wisdom rationalizes with things that are the highest by nature, one can suggest that this would allow for the human being to reach and obtain the highest level of happiness. “If happiness is activity in accordance with virtue, it is reasonable that it should be in accordance with the highest virtue; and this will be that of the best thing in us… this activity is contemplative we have already said. Aristotle believes that if the human can achieve the best of the intellectual state (i. e. contemplation) we then can achieve this complete happiness. Aristotle’s argument for this view is, “Firstly, contemplation is the best activity, since not only is reason the best thing in us, but the objects of reason are the best of knowable objects); and, secondly, it is the most continuous, since we can contemplate truth more continuously than we can do anything. ” He also claims that this is the part of reason that does not touch the irrational soul as does practical wisdom.
Now, after giving a background of Aristotle’s theory of Virtue Ethics, the argument to give for this view, the relationship between contemplation and practical wisdom, it can be concluded that Aristotle does not undermine his Virtue Ethics by claiming that the moral life is a secondary happiness to contemplation. As Aristotle states, “Happiness extends, then, just so far as contemplation does and those to whom contemplation more fully belongs are more truly happy… ” (Aristotle, pg 174) this can be presumably true today.
It can be argued that in today’s civilization, there is war, poverty and hunger and a human being may look to find more happiness in health and wealth, however, a well nourished mind is what can be our solution to these issues. Ignorance and improper upbringing in today’s society can be found to be problematic. Intellectual virtues bring us to a more divine state of mind; sciences have been formed, legislation has been wrote, and differences have been made within cultures as a result of proper contemplation.
Moral virtues are still needed in society but, they are secondary as they carry human qualities (i. e. what actions to be taken to achieve happiness for the individual at that moment. ) They require the use of more faculties and require more exertion. The human can only do so much to apply virtues in life. Unless there is a pay-it-forward, nationwide that becomes viral globally, we cannot guarantee a nirvana or utopic society worldwide. Culture amongst man has a lot to do with this as well. That is why I believe that Aristotle is not undermining his view of Virtue Ethics.
Not all human beings can agree upon moral virtues, however, they can all agree to become closer to some divinity by practicing contemplation. Thinking, rationalizing and reasoning are the most powerful tools that a human can possess. We already know that human beings possess these tools, with contemplation; we can continue to try and acquire the knowledge necessary to make others see through poverty, disease and hunger. WORKS CITED “Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. ” Ethics: History, Theory, and Contemporary Issues. Trans. W. D. Ross. New York: Oxford UP, 2012. 124-77. Print. Books I-BookX.