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Everyone admires to live a good life, though there is a differing opinion on what the good life is exactly. Each and every individual has his or her own perception on defining good life. Though many would associate good life to wealth, love and happiness but it still remain different with different individuals. In modern age many individuals think that the good life is leading a happy life while capitalist societies money and goods are the only things that can make one happy. Differences between shaped desires and aptitudes, between cultures and individuals make it difficult to have a common definition of good life. The good life can be regarded as a condition or state in which an individual will experience the most happiness. Individualists believe that pleasing oneself is the good life whereas utilitatrians believe that doing good for the entire society is the good life. Different philosophers have their own different interpretation on the good life. This paper therefore seeks to explore different views of the good life by various philosophers.
Plato holds that the good life is a state or condition when an individual exhibits his or her total virtue. He views that an individual will only show total virtue after his or her desires and expectations have been put out. According to Plato the good life is attained through lack of desires and the perfect love. Plato considers a virtue as absence of desires. Therefore happiness is the satisfaction beyond a point where an individual does have desires. However, this happiness and satisfaction can only occur when an individual comes to terms with the world’s mystical understanding. Nonetheless Plato believes that everybody has the power and opportunity to be virtuous. These powers can be obtained and are only hidden in people’s nature. Plato has a feeling that each and everyone has the same good life. Plato definition of “good” is much tailored to the person it affects. He agrees that though the opportunity may not be in an equal measure but is available. Plato held happiness as the condition in which individuals have everything at their disposal and want nothing.
Plato believes that love is the source of the good life because with love people can rid and deny themselves desires. He further says that it is not that every good can be achieved from a loving relationship as love is only a quest for that that is good. Plato holds on the believe that love is a midpoint between perfection and reality, mortality and immortality. Love can never be a god since it is the mother of all worldly desires and beautiful things.
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On the other hand Aristotle a great philosopher believes that in virtue in men can be brought forth by the perfect state. He asserts that the good life is much different for each person as it comes from leading an individual’s life in accordance to his or her virtues. Each individual has different virtues. He acknowledges that luck plays a role in the good life. However, he argues that though the good life can be self sufficient, it is communally self-sufficient. Since the good life is dependent on luck, it cannot be self-sufficient. Aristotle holds on the believe that the good life for people would only be optimum realization of the task that was meant unique for human beings. Unlike Plato, Aristotle understood reason as the unique quality human beings possessed. Therefore according to him “good” for people or human beings was the ability to reason well. Human beings exercise their good in their virtuous acts. There are two kinds of virtues according to Aristotle, the moral virtues and the intellectual virtues. Moral virtue was under the control of practical wisdom and its development was owed to habit. On the other hand, intellectual virtue comprised practical wisdom, theoretical wisdom and understanding. Time and experience were mandatory in developing intellectual virtue.
Aristotle noted that slaves, people in the lower class and women could not experience the good life as they could not decide on their own, could not choose what to do, therefore they not in a position to practice the virtues. Animals were not included in the good life because they were unable to exercise rationality. Children too were not included in the good life since they had not reached a level to practice the virtues, especially the intellectual virtues. Individuals who had experienced difficulties and great losses in life could not lead the good life. This is because it was difficult for such people to learn new friendships and a requirement to lead the good life is friendship. Aristotle excludes the chronically sick people from the good life as good health was a key requirement in experiencing the good life. Too according to Aristotle, gods were excluded from the good life as lacked the limit. They would always long for more and more riskier things as can be deduced from their fall in love with the mortals. Isolated individuals could not experience the good life as virtues required an action, as an example a clear state of deprivation is required for generosity. External factors or factors beyond one’s control prompted Aristotle to exclude these groups and individuals from leading a good life.
Aristotle believes that for one to experience the good life, he or she had to come from the correct social class, family and be of a desired age. As such, these individuals could not encounter illness, isolation and bereavement. Individuals who wanted to lead the good life they had to know what they were doing, made an independent choice and must be firm with unchangeable character apart from having the change to take an action on the virtues. Aristotle therefore justifies that the good life depends on favorable external factors which are beyond an individual’s control. Aristotle subscribes to the school of thought that the good for many outweighs the good for a few. Though many people believe that happiness is honor, wealth, pleasure and virtue, Aristotle thinks otherwise. He argues that wealth is only pegged on monetary value but can at some point be used to gain happiness. Like wealth he asserts that honor is not happiness. This is because honor only focuses on people who honor other than the honoree. He further disagrees that pleasure is not happiness as life of gratification is slavish. He lastly postulates that virtue in itself is not happiness as an individual could be virtuous and not make use of it. Therefore Aristotle concludes that the good life is experienced by individuals who express complete virtue in their activities, with adequate access to external goods, not for a particular time but for an entire lifetime.
Christians view on the good life is founded on the Socrates’ philosophy of the good life. Socrates believed that he was called upon by God to lead his life with an eye of guard on others and himself. Socrates believed that doing what one thought was right even before opposition face. Therefore Socrates chose to lead a life of truth and cared less of the things that did not matter to him. Socrates believed that it would be untrue and an act of disobedient to God if he did not lead his life according to His plans and requests. Religious believes on the good life rests on transcendent values of human beings. Christians recognizes all duties entitled to human beings as divine commands. Individuals can live the good life by establishing an atoned relationship with the Almighty God. Religion views the good life as barely a meaningful life and moral goodness. Christians view the good life as a life that is in harmony with fellow human beings, with nature and with oneself and with God.
Christians hold that the good life must allow individuals to work and concentrate on the things that have a personal satisfaction and are expressive of themselves. This is referred to as “subjective” value of work by Pope John Paul. Leisure is also a necessity of the good life as leisure is the foundation of human culture. The good life should offer chances for contributing to the common good and pursuing personal happiness. Too the good life should have time for friends and family, for worship and prayers. The good life allows opportunity for fasting because fasting is part of gospel. It helps individuals to focus on nourishment that only come from the Almighty God. Fasting also helps in balancing body’s physical functions. Christians do not take the good life as having wealth. From the parable of the Sower, Mark 4:19, Jesus makes an alternative of riches as one that opposes God and claims an individual’s loyalty and service to God. According to Luke 19:23-27, the story of Jesus and the rich young man, the young man’s wealth does not allow him to follow Jesus and attaining the Kingdom of heaven. Therefore, Christians do not view wealth as the good life. However, Christians view the good life as being rich in eyes of God. This is a believe from the story of Jesus and Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10). According to the epistles of Apostle Paul, riches are a sign of the activity and character of God and Christ. Thus this is a spiritual blessing (Romans 2:4, Corinthians 8:9).
The quest for the good life full of happiness is central to human activity. Different people have different way of looking at the good life. Some may view the good life as having everything at their disposal whereas some may believe that being happy is living the good life. All these approaches and views to the good life are subject to value judgment.
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