In Book X of the Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle discusses the various lives that people lead in order to achieve true happiness. He suggests a particular few to be the best candidates for this, yet concludes the most pleasant to be the contemplative life. In this essay, I will examine Aristotle's reasons for believing that a life of contemplation and reason is the best one. I will also show how his argument is not persuasive due to his lack of support for a number of the premises stated.
In order to fully understand Aristotle's reasoning for saying that a life of contemplation is the happiest, we must first be aware of what "happiness" means to Aristotle. Every day of our lives, we use the word "happy" in a sense which means "feeling good". We use the word happy to describe pleasures that we are experiencing at any given moment. In this meaning of the word, it is quite possible for us to feel happy at one moment and not at the next.
This is not Aristotle's meaning of the word. For him, the human life may involve many pains and troubles accompanying the pleasurable moments, yet still can be considered a happy life. Happiness, in other words, is not an emotional or psychological feeling (Aristotle, p. 40). It is not the pleasure or the pains that we experience throughout our lives. It is a "complete life", according to Aristotle, involving pleasurable and not so pleasurable experiences (Aristotle, p. 41). This is why Aristotle believes that no child can be happy for the have not yet completed their life (Aristotle, p. 40). He also argues that a life must be finished before a person can call it a good or happy life. Not until it is really over can you say,