Aristotle and Aquinas on Happiness

In his most renowned work, Nicomachean Ethics, the philosopher Aristotle explored the idea of a supreme good of people, which was associated with finding ways to live a life with a purpose and thus reaching true happiness. According to Aristotle, happiness lied in seeing an end purpose of an action and the nourishment of such an action through intellect, pleasure, and honor. This means that in his philosophical approach toward happiness, Aristotle acknowledged that the supreme good enabled people to live and act based on what reason told them; unlike pleasure, happiness is a continuous activity that is usually challenging and profound. When discussing happiness, the philosopher also pointed out the role of fortune in determining the supreme good. Such aspects as an individual’s position in society, material possessions, personal relationships, or even appearances also contributed to happiness. However, Aristotle remained certain that if people lived their lives with a purpose and followed reason when making decisions, they would become happy regardless of other factors.

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Aquinas’ understanding of happiness was faith-oriented; he believed that perfect happiness could not be achieved in mortal life but an imperfect happiness could be. This opinion is different to that of Aristotle who was sure that perfect happiness was achievable during a lifetime. Aquinas based his explorations of happiness on religious ideologies and suggested that the world was too much polluted by the continuous pursuit of people to find happiness. Also, the philosopher suggested that God did not create people for them to achieve happiness but to have perfect knowledge of Him through purifying their souls and thus experiencing the detachment from worry, fear, or sadness. Unlike philosophers who suggested that happiness cannot be achieved on Earth, Aquinas maintained the view that imperfect happiness was still plausible when people sought pleasure in exercising their natural virtues such as faith, wisdom, courage, and many others

Upon reviewing Aristotle’s and Aquinas’ views on the nature of human happiness, I understood that my stance on this topic was closer to that of Aristotle. In my experiences, I have always felt truly happy when acting morally or “doing good” for other people. For instance, when a friend or a family member needed by assistance in accomplishing a task, I have always felt happy and satisfied by the fact that my actions could contribute to the well-being of other people. For me, happiness also lies in my positive actions that reinforce my everyday behaviors and habits, which bring me closer to the true meaning of life.

Following Aristotle’s teachings, I would like to find a way to give my future life meaning and to set end goals that I can reach for becoming a happy and fulfilled individual. Despite not being a spiritual person who cannot find reasons for reinforcing my happiness with the faith in God, I understand the idea of imperfect happiness and how it applies to many people’s lives. In contrast to this, I would like to believe that perfect happiness can still be achieved through exercising such virtues as intellect, respect for others, courage, sympathy, and pleasure. Learning about different views philosophers had on happiness facilitated a reflection on my actions and experiences, and how they contribute to my reaching perfect happiness. While people have unique ideas on happiness, they all set the same goal of living their lives with a purpose, which, in my opinion, is the real representation of happiness.

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StudyCorgi. "Aristotle and Aquinas on Happiness." May 28, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Aristotle and Aquinas on Happiness." May 28, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Aristotle and Aquinas on Happiness'. 28 May.

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