From the day we are born and throughout our lives we grow up with preconceived ideas about who we are and practically everything that surrounds us. These philosphies condition us to develop, live and act in a certain manner within our culture, religion, morality, ethics, etc. They all become deeply rooted within our beings that we barely even take the time to question what we believe and why we believe it. We do not analyze the substance of our creeds; if they are a true reality or a mere illusion that lacks the power to change our innermost being or will take us to acquire that which we are longing for. Whether we realize it or not, we live in intranquility because we try to find what is real and what is truthful. This is part of our human nature, “the seeking of the essence of all things, the purpose of the universe, and the reason of our being.” In other words, “Why are you/ is it/ am I here? Why are things done?”
In our pursuit we become desperate in discovering what is tangible that a time arrives in which we end adopting the next philosphy that is exposed to us, not percieving that it is not ultimate in what it mentions. Today’s Western thought is fundamented in the “combination” of the philospohies of ancient Greek thinkers that were determined by their own civilization. Even though we might purpose ourselves to absorb the “good” of their thoughts and omit the inconvenient, I believe that we will inherit, at some point or another, whether consciously or unconsciously, their whole manner of thinking and believing. Of course, we will also include to their ideas our definite conceptions of what is true until we create an entirely combined structure of thought. The result of those actions will be looking something like our current Western Civilization.
All of this to say that we cannot and must not believe something just because it sounds “pretty” or “benevolent” to our ears and hearts.
Aristotle was an intelligent greek philosopher who intended to propose a manner to acquiring the living of a good life. He basically said that we do goods in order to attain other goods, but we ultimately endeavor for a final good. According to Aristotle there are three types of goods: 1. instrumental goods, like wealth 2. mixed goods (both instrumental and intrinsic), such as honor, pleasure, reason, and virtue 3. only one intrinsic good (a final goal or motivation) and that is happiness or eudaimonia.
Different than to the happiness we normally refer to, eudaimonia alludes to something like “human flourishing”. Human beings are ultimately desirous of living up to their full potential. Eudaimonia, which is in its essence virtous activity, is the one that chaperones us to unfold our absolute human capacity.
However, to obtain eudaimonia, we are compelled to initially understand what our purpose is. The knowledge of our destiny is revealed to us when we notice what makes us unique and, for Aristotle, this is reason. In other words, we reflect things before acting upon them and this enables us to make rewarding decisions. When we comprehend this fact, we will become upright human beings, because we will be doing what we were made to do.
We were meant to actualize all our human abilities, but specially our reason. The necessity of our being is to live according to reason and engage in rational activity to win eudaimonia.
In other terms, rational activity creates in us virtuous activity, that yields true pleasure. Doing the correct thing becomes our second nature in seeing that it is good for YOU to treat others well. Assimilating this way of thought propels us to be trained in the practice of virtue until it becomes a habit to do the proper thing. Eventually, our reason will lead our virtues to be perfected and live a balanced life between two extremes. For example, generosity is the balance between prodigality and illiberality.
Lastly, Aristotle speaks about friendship and tries to show the satisfying relationships virtuous people will tend to have. First, he says that there are three kinds of friendships: of utility, of pleasure, and of the good of virtue. This last one points out that it is a relationship where people seek what is best for one another. Aristotle concludes that friendship brings the opportunity to implement virtues and reinforce the development of each other’s character.
It all sounds so beautiful, but how many people have achieved or made the intent in acquiring all of this and not ended up in eudaimonia? One could probably say, that the reason for that matter is because they did not fulfill it to the essence of what Aristotle meant. Yet, I think that even if they performed it to the letter, they would still not be able to completely flourish. Now, before you conclude that I am crazy, allow me to explain.
I think that the things Aristotle mentioned cannot be executed to the plenitude of their significance. Primarily because thriving according to our reason will never usher us to live up to our full potential. We have a mind and soul, but we also have a spirit and as I mentioned in Ancient Greece’s Contribution, the spiritual realm is boundless and therefore many times irrational. Secondarily, because relationships that are based on YOUR own good or ego (“it is good for YOU to treat others well”) can become unstable. What if your friend starts acting inadequately with you? Will you still believe that it is good for YOU to treat the other one well?
You see, that is when true love is tested. I believe that true love is when you are willing to give your life for the other. In other words, you care for the other more than you care for yourself. The other’s good is most important to you than yours. And I know that sometimes you do not miss the Christian that does not understand the Bible and says that Jesus said we must love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Yes, Jesus did say those words, but He too said that you must love your enemy and love God above all things, and that includes yourself. This means that when you learn to love God in absoluteness, your ego (or you) will be no more.
I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me. That life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me. Galatians 2:20
By this we know love, because he laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 1 John 3:16