A great deal of Aristotle’s ethics are concerned with happiness. According to Aristotle, happiness is the end level of the human function, also known as the highest human good. It is self-sufficient, and sought simply for it’s own sake. Happiness of this kind is called complete, and requires a certain level of maturity to be attained. A teenager for example, cannot be truly happy because they lack this certain level of maturity. This may explain the recent popularity surge of emo-punk-rock-imanythingbuthappy- music among teens. Being happy means being virtuous. If you disagree, then Aristotle would say that you have mistaken about what true happiness really is.
For Aristotle, finding virtue as the mean between two extremes is essential to finding happiness. The virtue of courage for example, is the middle ground between cowardice and a brashness. All virtues involve deliberation and desire about what we ought to do. A person capable of using such deliberation well, in thinking about things they should do for the sake of self-benefit, is said to have prudence. To be worth anything, prudence requires a good (at least slightly virtuous) character; poor decision making will otherwise reign supreme in this case.
Often times we here virtue in-line with justice. Aristotle would agree that any discussion of justice in general is really a broad discussion about virtue, and therefore an argument not worth having. Paritcular justice, then, is where Aristotle finds focus. This particular brand of justice has several subcatagories (I touch only on three) that explore the balance of benefits and burdens. Distributive, rectifactory, political–all are forms of justice that fall into this catagory and adopt mathematical principles for ensuring a balance of benefits and burdens. Distributive justice is concerned with the allocation of scarce resources i.e. food shelter, clothing, cash… Aristotle says that we must first determine the criterion for distribution, then using a geometrical proportion of A/B = C/D, we can ensure a fair distribution. Depending on the criterion used, fair is not always equal. Rectifactory justice rights a previous wrong and is indicative our current legal system in the United States. It adopts a mathemtical proportion that seeks to determine whether or not the punishement fits the crime. Hence, we have the iconic scale of justice embossed on the face of most every court house in America. Political justice is when we pass laws to ensure the best possible citizenry. Men do not rule in politically just societes, laws do.
Virtue produces the most important kind of pleasure for Aristotle, and because we cannot be virtuous all on our own, the good character traits in us must be reinforced. Typically, this is done by our friends. Friendship, according to Aristotle, is the most important external good for this reason. There are three types of friends: Friends of pleasure: drinking/drug buddies Friends of utility: they have a car, truck, or SUV Friends of virtue: True friends are friends of virtue that reinforce good. Therefore, only ‘good’ men can have friends of this type; A bad person can not expect to find a friend of virtue when they them selves are not virtuous.
Wisdom involves scientific knowledge and understanding about the highest things, which would include the highest human good (go back to the first paragraph if you forgot what that was). A wise person would probably be old, and in possession of what Aristotle calls the most important kind of knowledge. Speeking on the subject of importance, we find pleasure. Admit it, pleasure is one of the greatest motivating factors in life. It can be defined as an activity (or reward) of the soul that completes another activity. Pleasure is most definatley linked to virtue as good pleasures come as a result of good actions. A person that commits to a virtuous act at the right time, to the right person, and for the right reasons will be rewarded with a reflective state of pleasure. If repeated over time, this will result in true happiness. Of course, the flip-side is that bad pleasures will result from bad actions. Thus, recognizing the difference between good and bad pleasures is very important. We are all responsible for own desires according to Aristotle, because as thinking things we deliberate and decide upon how to act. Virtue and vice are therefore within our power. To agree that pleasure is the involuntary force behind wrong actions would then mean to say that no one is responsible for anything. “We are what we often do,” says Aristotle.