Author’s Introduction & Conclusion
- It appears to be something of a logical truth that happiness and unhappiness, like pleasure and pain, are exclusively properties of the living. Even those who believe in divine reward and punishment after death find it necessary to believe in an afterlife1 as well. But Aristotle seems to agree with Solon that happiness transcends life, and that no man can truly be called happy while he lives. Since my students agree among themselves that this is the Achilles' heel of Aristotle's notion of 'happiness', I shall yield a half a foot towards their opinion by referring to this doctrine as 'Aristotle's sole'.
- All the ingredients of Aristotle's eudaimonia are transcendent desires. Accordingly, their satisfaction may come, or may be denied, long after our lives are spent. If the honour of one's children is, as Aristotle thinks it must be, necessary for eudaimonia, then surely a man cannot truly be called eudaimon until considerably after his death. Unlike Aristotle, we do not insist that happiness consist so extensively of transcendent desires, and this, rather than the 'externality' of eudaimonia and the 'subjectivity' of happiness, is our main disagreement with him. Yet our values of success and friendship, our concern for the welfare if not exactly the honour of our families, and our atavistic prejudices of religion and patriotism, betray our own stress upon transcendent desires. And if transcendent desires are so much a part of our lives, then we too cannot truly be called happy while we live. Aristotle's sole is satisfied
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2018
- Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)