Aristotle and Plato – How Their Views On Happiness Can Help Us Today
We've all heard of Aristotle and Plato. Great philosophers in their time, their work is still essential today. Aristotle and Plato had a lot to say about the world and the human spirit and a few choice words on happiness. In the modern world, where everyone is still trying to achieve happiness, are their ideas still relevant?
A Brief Look At Aristotle And Plato
Plato is one of the big reasons why the world operates the way it does today. He created the Academy, the first place of higher education in the West. While his life is shrouded in mystery, Plato’s works have survived for thousands of years, and he was a teacher to many people, including his most famous student, Aristotle.
Aristotle joined Plato's Academy as a young adult and continued studying there for 20 years. He became one of the biggest influences on the Western philosophy of values, and like Plato, his works have survived, continuing to influence modern society.
Plato's Opinion On Happiness
Plato wrote his ideas on happiness in The Republic, so if you're interested in reading more about it, it's worth checking out. He believed that those who are happy are those who are moral and follow the four cardinal values. He taught that these were character traits that could be used and practiced until one could utilize them without thinking about it. These four values are:
Temperance involves moderation in one's desires or a middle road between excess and deficiency. To exhibit restraint in one's actions and stay balanced. For example, Aristotle would judge a person who never drinks alcohol in the same way as someone who drinks alcohol to excess.
It's an interesting concept. Of course, not everyone is going to do everything in moderation. You could argue that even moderation needs to be done in moderation. However, by studying temperance, you can determine elements of your life where it is beneficial.
Also known as courage, fortitude is an inner strength in the face of adversity. When you're courageous, you can resist temptations and overcome difficulties. You remain tenacious and fight on despite the troubles you may face. Those who have fortitude are going to persevere. Fortitude is a necessary component in accomplishing your goals, which, in turn, will help lead to happiness overall.
Prudence involves being reasonable and using that reason to self-govern. Those who are happy can self-judge and choose moral actions. They can be mindful, learn from their mistakes and strive to improve. Reason can help make one happy, as more intense and irrational emotions can lead to unhappiness.
Plato's definition of justice is slightly different from what we may think of when we think of the word. It is the most abstract of the virtues. Basically, justice is the middle road between being selfless and selfish. Plato believed that while one should pursue their own desires, it is essential to help those around them flourish.
To summarize, Plato believed a happy person has principles and sticks to them.
Aristotle's Opinion On Happiness
Aristotle spent a lot of time talking about happiness. He believed that happiness was the goal of life, achieved by living virtuously. One lives virtuously by nurturing their inherent good habits and developing new ones. Doing so enables one to make good choices and lead a happy life.
Humanity itself has a function, and that is to reason. We are set apart from other creatures because we are self-aware and have critical thinking skills. Aristotle believed that we need to use our reasoning to be happy, which will help us live a virtuous life.
Plato and Aristotle believed in having a system of values and sticking to them to achieve happiness. They also believed in living by the mean - making choices and acting in the middle ground between excess and depravity.
What Can We Learn From This?
There have been many philosophers after these two who have explained happiness, and Aristotle and Plato are certainly not infallible beings. However, their words can apply to many people, and you can strive to improve your life by thinking about what they said. Some ways you can do this include:
You have a moral code, but you may not have given it much thought. Think about what you believe to be right or wrong, and stick to it. By enforcing your principles, you may find yourself happier than ever. If you mess up, learn from your mistakes and remember that no one is perfect.
Live In The Present
To reason, one must be mindful of the present. It is okay to think about the past or plan for the future, but if you dwell on either too much, it can make you unhappy. Instead, practice temperance and fall somewhere in the middle. Live in the here and now instead of dwelling on one side or the other.
Live With What You Have
Striving for goals and achieving something great is one way to achieve happiness, but your goals should center on what you have. It's a good ambition to become a billionaire, but you should think smaller if you're an average Joe. Try to get a better job and achieve a realistic income bracket. Those who reach too high may be upset when their arms can't reach the stars.
Humans are creatures of extremes. Temperance is one such solution to this problem. Think about parts in your life where you do too much. Social media, for example. Checking it too much can distract you from your life, and the images and messages you find there can depress you.
However, not having social media can make you feel isolated. A person with temperance would be one who checks social media on occasion, making sure that their job is accomplished by doing so.
Therapy Can Help
It would be great to have Aristotle or Plato as your mentors, but their time has long passed. If you're looking for someone to help you achieve your happiness, consider going to a counselor. Counseling can teach you ways of achieving your goals and actions, thus increasing your happiness. On the other hand, if you are unhappy due to something on your mind, it may help you seek therapy and treat your mental condition to the best of your ability.
Online therapy is an excellent option if you’re ready to talk to someone but aren’t interested in meeting with a counselor face-to-face. In online therapy, you meet with your therapist from the comfort of your home or wherever you have an internet connection. Plus, you can reach out to your therapist anytime, even if sadness hits you in the middle of the night, and they’ll get back to you as soon as they can.
Online treatment is effective, too. One study showed that online therapy resulted in “significant and clinically meaningful improvements in depression and anxiety scores relative to baseline that were observed postintervention at 12 weeks and sustained at program month 6.” Whether you’re showing signs of depression or you just need help finding your happiness, reach out to a BetterHelp therapist to get started.
The opinions of the Ancient Greeks still ring true to this day. Even though our society is much more advanced, their words are common sense philosophies we can apply to our lives to achieve happiness on a much larger scale. Think about how you can improve your happiness, and try to set goals to make it possible. Everyone deserves to be happy. If you are unhappy, get out there and figure out why. You'll be glad you did.
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