For example, the purpose of a knife is to cut, and it is by seeing this that one best understands what a knife is; the goal of medicine is good health, and it is by seeing this that one best understands what medicine is.Now, if one does this for some time, it soon becomes apparent that some goals are subordinate to other goals, which are themselves subordinate to yet other goals.
As Aristotle writes: “He is happy who lives in accordance with complete virtue and is sufficiently equipped with external goods, not for some chance period but throughout a complete life. To Aristotle, happiness consists in achieving, through the course of a whole lifetime, all the goods; health, wealth, knowledge, friends, etc.
that lead to the perfection of human nature and to the enrichment of human life.
For this reason, happiness is more a question of behaviour and of habit—of virtue—than of luck; a person who cultivates such behaviours and habits is able to bear his misfortunes with balance and perspective, and thus can never be said to be truly unhappy.
“Happiness depends on ourselves,” according to Aristotle.
Also it is not enough to think about doing the right thing, or even intend to do the right thing: we have to actually do it.
There is yet another activity few people engage in which is required to live a truly happy life, according to Aristotle: intellectual contemplation.
What, asks Aristotle, is this goal that is an end-in-itself? And of this nature happiness is mostly thought to be, for this we choose always for its own sake, and never with a view to anything further: whereas honour, pleasure, intellect, in fact every excellence we choose for their own sakes, it is true, but we choose them also with a view to happiness, conceiving that through their instrumentality we shall be happy: but no man chooses happiness with a view to them, nor in fact with a view to any other thing whatsoever. For Aristotle, it is by understanding the distinctive function of a thing that one can understand its essence.
Thus, one cannot understand what it is to be a gardener unless one can understand that the distinctive function of a gardener is ‘to tend to a garden with a certain degree of skill’.
, the philosopher Aristotle tries to discover what is ‘the supreme good for man’, that is, what is the best way to lead our life and give it meaning.
For Aristotle, a thing is best understood by looking at its end, purpose, or goal.