Is Someone that is Deceitful, Selfish, Greedy, Self-indulgent, and yet Enjoys Great Pleasure and Appears to be Quite Happy Flourishing?

PHI208: Ethics And Moral Reasoning – Week 4 Discussion

Aristotle says that the virtues are necessary for humans to attain happiness, but he means this in terms of something we might call “flourishing” or “living well”, which he considers quite different than simply feeling good.  Thus, according to Aristotle some people might feel that they are happy, but because they lack the virtues they are not truly flourishing.  However, imagine someone that is deceitful, selfish, greedy, self-indulgent, and yet enjoys great pleasure and appears to be quite happy.  Is someone like this “flourishing” or not? 

Sample Answer

According to Aristotle, in order for humans to attain their happiness, it is important for them to have virtues. Aristotle means this through something that might be called “flourishing” or “living well” that he considers to be quite different that just feeling good. However, I do not think someone who is deceitful, selfish, greedy and self-indulgent and yet enjoys great pleasures and appears to be quite happy will flourish.

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            In order to flourish, one needs to achieve a balance of happiness for oneself and others. Human beings are social beings and live in a world where relationship with others is important. Aristotle points to the fact that the individuals that are of superior refinement and of active disposition often identify their happiness with honour. The selfish person identifies and defines their happiness as the process whereby they give themselves possessions and objects.  Whether such people are willing to help others to achieve happiness will determine if they are flourishing in their lives. As outlined already above, as we are social beings and live in relationship with others, the main goal in life should be happiness for all rather than self-happiness.

            According to Aristotle, everyone wants to flourish (Warburton, 2013). However, he believed that certain ways of living would promote flourishing in similar way as the certain way of caring for a plant would lead it to grow, blossom and fruit (p. 53). According to Aristotle, the cultivation of virtues is the true way for humans to flourish. A virtue can be defined as the patterns of behaviors and feelings; tendencies to act, desire and feel in specific ways in appropriate situations.

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 The virtues that can be cultivated by humans include generosity, honesty, courage, benevolence and loyalty among others. Now considering the situation under discussion, someone who is deceitful, selfish, greedy and self-indulgent may actually enjoy happiness but such an individual cannot be considered to live in a virtuous life and thus may not flourish. At least according to Aristotle, the virtue cultivation is the key to flourish. However, deceitfulness, selfishness, greediness and self-indulgence are vices and not virtues. Such a person may do self-control and seem to be virtuous but owing to the evidence of vice cultivation then definitely they will not flourish despite being happy and enjoying their life.

            There are many external things that humans need to live, which include food, shelter, clothing and water. If people cannot live then they cannot flourish. Yet some people live on little yet they flourish than others who are wealthy, for example the case provided for this discussion. The theory virtue asserts the importance of character than the circumstances. In asserting the need to act morally, Aristotle points that human flourishing requires actions and not only what once experiences.

According to (Tuckness & Wolf, 2016) it is the idea of Aristotle that people find happiness in not seeking pleasure but by becoming the sort of person who acts in a virtuous manner. Aristotle further recommends that the greatest happiness is living a life that involves the exercise of the virtues. As part of the virtues, happiness involves getting pleasure from things that are objectively good. In addition, he recommends the development of a character that allows one to act in virtuous ways as one value the good for its own sake. In reference to the scenario under the discussion, someone who is deceitful, selfish, greedy and self-indulgent and yet enjoys great pleasures and appears to be quite happy will not flourish. Such a person enjoys pleasures but not true happiness that is essential for one to flourish. Moreover, such a person is acting immorally, by being deceitful, selfish and greedy. Their character is a reflection of lack of true virtues of life.

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