How to be happy: Aristotle's 11 guidelines for a good life
People often ask "What should I do?" when faced with an ethical problem. Aristotle urges us to ask "What kind of person should I be?"
While most of us ask “What should I do?” when we think about ethics, many philosophers have approached it by asking, “What kind of person should I be?” These thinkers often turn to virtue ethics for answers. Aristotle, one of the most influential philosophers of all time, developed a comprehensive system of virtue ethics that we can learn from even today.
Why be virtuous?
In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle proposed that humans are social, rational animals that seek to “live well.” To that end, he proposed a system of ethics designed to help us reach eudaimonia, a world that means living well or flourishing.
Eudaimonia is reached by living virtuously and building up your character traits until you don’t even have to think about your choices before making the right one.
Such a person will be happy, but not in the same way as a hedonistic person. They will strive for self-improvement and will live their lives to the fullest. They will be the kind of person that others want to be like. Above all else, they will flourish.
What are virtues?
Aristotle sees virtues as character traits and tendencies to act in a particular way. We gain them through practice and by copying 'moral exemplars' until we manage to internalize the virtue. We become temperate by practicing temperance, courageous by practicing courage, and so on. Eventually, the virtue becomes a habit.
He further explains that each virtue is the “golden mean” between a vice of excess and deficiency. Taking the example of temperance, if we have the vice of deficiency we will be intemperate but if we the vice of excess we will never drink at all. Aristotle sees both traits as vicious. The virtuous person will know how much they can drink without having too much or teetotaling.
What are Aristotle's virtues?
The virtues he lists in his Nicomachean Ethics are:
Courage: The midpoint between cowardice and recklessness. The courageous person is aware of the danger but goes in any way.
Temperance: The virtue between overindulgence and insensitivity. Aristotle would view the person who never drinks just as harshly as the one who drinks too much.
Liberality: The virtue of charity, this is the golden mean between miserliness and giving more than you can afford.
Magnificence: The virtue of living extravagantly. It rests between stinginess and vulgarity. Aristotle sees no reason to be ascetic but also warns against being flashy.
Magnanimity: The virtue relating to pride, it is the midpoint between not giving yourself enough credit and having delusions of grandeur. It is a given that you also have to act on this sense of self-worth and strive for greatness.
Patience: This is the virtue that controls your temper. The patient person must neither get too angry nor fail to get angry when they should.
Truthfulness: The virtue of honesty. Aristotle places it between the vices of habitual lying and being tactless or boastful.
Wittiness: At the midpoint between buffoonery and boorishness, this is the virtue of a good sense of humor.
Friendliness: While being friendly might not seem like a moral virtue, Aristotle claims friendship is a vital part of a life well lived. This virtue lies between not being friendly at all and being too friendly towards too many people.
Shame: The midpoint between being too shy and being shameless. The person who has the right amount of shame will understand when they have committed a social or moral error but won’t be too fearful not to risk them.
Justice: The virtue of dealing fairly with others. It lies between selfishness and selflessness. This virtue can also be applied in different situations and has a whole chapter dedicated to the various forms it can take.
Each virtue is the midpoint between a vice of deficiency (red) and excess (blue). The virtuous person will tend to the center.
Aristotle sees ethics as more of an art than a science, and his explanations purposely lack specifics. We have to learn what the right approach to a situation is as part of our moral development.
He also doesn't mean to say that we can't break the rules. Just because a person is honest, for example, doesn’t mean they can’t lie when they need to. This makes virtue ethics more flexible than deontological systems of ethics but also harder to use since we have to determine when we can lie, get angry, or be prideful on our own.
This list seems a little strange
Keep in mind that this list was designed for upper class, Greek men who had a decent education and a fair amount of luck. The virtue of magnificence, for example, would be impossible for a person of limited means to practice.
Most of the virtues on the list always have relevance to us though. As philosopher Martha Nusbaum explains, “What [Aristotle] does, in each case, is to isolate a sphere of human experience that figures in more or less any human life, and in which more or less any human being will have to make some choices rather than others.”
We must all face danger at some point, so we must ask how to be courageous. We must all deal with other people, so we must ask how to be friendly. We all get angry, so we must ask how to be patient. The virtues Aristotle lists remain relevant even if the world they were created for has long vanished.
While the exact nature of what the good life is and how to reach it is subject to never-ending debate, the ideas of great minds are always relevant. While some of Aristotle’s views may not be as relevant now as they were 2,000 years ago, they can still inform our efforts to live better lives. While not every person that tries to live up to the virtues will succeed in every case, wouldn’t we be better for trying?
What would happen if you tripled the US population? Join Matthew Yglesias and Charles Duhigg at 1pm ET on Monday, September 28.
Whether or not women think beards are sexy has to do with "moral disgust"
- A new study found that women perceive men with facial hair to be more attractive as well as physically and socially dominant.
- Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength, social assertiveness, and formidability.
- Women who display higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, are more likely to prefer hairy faces.
Beards and perceptions of masculinity<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg0MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzkxMjM3N30.cH-GqNwP5GVqvstgJWAhBPn1B_lYpVEAI0I7iax7EQw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C1900%2C0%2C849&height=700" id="caae6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cb0a355a4e8e1899789bc45f3f7aef56" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo Credit: Wikimedia<p>The study used 919 American (mostly white) women ages 18-70 who rated 30 pictures of men they were shown with various stages of facial hair growth. The photographs depicted men with faces that had been digitally altered to look more feminine or more masculine, with a beard and without a beard. The women rated the men according to perceived attractiveness for long-term and short-term relationships. The study found that the more facial hair the men had, the higher the men were rated on their attractiveness, particularly for their suitability for a long-term relationship.</p><p>Part of this might be attributed to facial masculinity — i.e. protruding brow ridge, wide cheekbones, thick jawline, and deeply set narrow eyes — which conveys information to a woman about a man's underlying health and formidability. Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength and social assertiveness. It can also indicate a man with a superior immune response. The researchers suggested that their findings favoring bearded men could be due to the fact that facial hair enhances the masculine facial features on a man's face, like creating the illusion of a thicker jaw line. This could communicate direct benefits to women like resources and protection that would enhance survival among mothers and their infants. In other words, while a beard doesn't mean superior genetics in and of itself, it might be a primitive, ornamental way of saying, "Hey girl, I'm a testosterone-fueled lean, mean, pathogen fighting machine." <br></p><p>It could also be that a beard becomes its own destiny. The researchers in this study cite prior research that found that by growing a beard, men felt more masculine and had higher levels of serum testosterone, which was linked to a higher level of social dominance. They also tended to subscribe to more old-school beliefs about gender roles in their relationships with women as compared to men with clean-shaven faces.<span></span><br></p>
What does disgust have to do with beard preference?<p>Obviously, not all women dig beards. The researchers were particularly interested in what traits make a women prefer bearded men over clean-shaven faces. They looked into several factors including a woman's disgust levels on various concepts, her desire to become pregnant, and her exposure to facial hair in her personal life. </p><p>According to the study, women who were not into facial hair were turned-off by potential parasites or other critters they imagined could be in the hair or skin. Women ranking high on this "ectoparasite disgust" scale might have viewed beards as a sign of poor grooming habits. However, women who ranked higher in levels of "pathogen" did find the bearded men to be desirable, possibly because they perceived beards as a signal of good health and immune function. An intriguing discovery in the study was links to morality. Women who displayed higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, were more likely to prefer hairy faces. The authors opined that this could reflect a link between beardedness, politically conservative outlooks, and traditional views regarding performances of masculinity in heterosexual relationships.</p>
Additional findings<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg1My9vcmlnaW4uZ2lmIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDI1NjUyOX0.P9B8WbmJR0q4nfzYZKbuNSA-2SAigVWJgrQE-_Gxlds/img.gif?width=980" id="49143" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2ed3b1d6f20fc170bf2974646e565e8d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />Giphy<p>The correlations that existed between married and single women's rating on the attractiveness of beards were not particularly clear, although the researchers noted that single and married women who wanted children tended to find beards more attractive than the women who didn't want children. They also found that women with bearded husbands found beards to be more attractive, which might indicate that social exposure to beards influences how desirable they are perceived of as being. Or it could be that men with wives who like beards grow beards.</p><p>It's important to note that culture plays a huge role in how attractive women perceive certain male characteristics as being. This study looked at a small, culturally specific group of American women, so no big, universal claims should be made about masculinity, facial hair, and male desirability to women. However, research like this is important in highlighting how human grooming decisions are driven by much more than fashion trends. Sociobiological, economic, and ecological factors all play a part in the way we choose to present ourselves.</p>
Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America with three Michelin stars, joins Big Think Live.
Having been exposed to mavericks in the French culinary world at a young age, three-star Michelin chef Dominique Crenn made it her mission to cook in a way that is not only delicious and elegant, but also expressive, memorable, and true to her experience.
Controversial physics theory says reality around us behaves like a computer neural network.
- Physicist proposes that the universe behaves like an artificial neural network.
- The scientist's new paper seeks to reconcile classical physics and quantum mechanics.
- The theory claims that natural selection produces both atoms and "observers".
Vanchurin interview:<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="539759cbfd8fcd5b6ebf14a3b597b3f9"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/bmyRy2-UhEE?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Vanchurin on “Hidden Phenomena”:<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="18886ffd5e5840bb19d4494212f88d82"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/2NDVdNwsHCo?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>Vitaly Vanchurin speaking at the 6th International FQXi Conference, "Mind Matters: Intelligence and Agency in the Physical World." The Foundational Questions...
43% of people think they can get a sense of someone's personality by their picture.
If you've used a dating app, you'll know the importance of choosing good profile pics.
Quarantine rule breakers in 17th-century Italy partied all night – and some clergy condemned the feasting
17th-century outbreaks of plague in Italy reveal both tensions between religious and public health authorities.