Socrates Plato Aristotle and Immanuel Kant Views on Happiness Government Religion and Objectivity

Topics: Religion, God, Monotheism Pages: 6 (2508 words) Published: March 6, 2013
We are taught at a very young age that we are to seek out happiness, yet no one really knows what that is. When you are a child, happiness could be found by playing with toys, and schoolmates. When we are children, our concept of happiness is minimal. As years passed, our concept of happiness becomes much more expansive. We are schooled to think that if we succeed at something, whether it is at a career, college or in relationships, we are seeking to be happy. Some people seek out happiness through religion, or a spiritual leader, "Who so trusteth in the Lord is happy" (Proverbs 4:7). It seems that everyone has their own idea as to what makes them happy. It becomes ingrained in us that seeking happiness is the point of our existence. To find happiness, then we will be living a complete life. What makes happiness, or better yet, where happiness exists is a question that has been pondered by many great thinkers. Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, Plato and Socrates had quite a bit to say on the subject. All of these well-known philosophers have a road map to happiness, religion, passion and objectivity. Yet, their theories differ ultimately in how to go about attaining each of them. For both Plato and Aristotle the good appears to be happiness. For Plato, this is where his interpretation of the meaning of Eudaimonism takes precedence. Eudaimonism takes a three part definition in this respect: (1) living in harmony with one’s self (i.e. justice), (2) living in truth to one’s self (i.e. integrity), and (3) which is somewhat of a combination of the above two: a feeling of happiness or self-satisfaction associated with the activity of self-fulfillment. This happiness, which appears to be the good, is only attainable through the exercise of certain virtues (i.e. cardinal virtues). However, after a grueling inspection of each philosopher's beliefs, Kant's conception of the good was found to be more compelling than Aristotle's, in that Kant's view addressed the good in a universal sense through the categorical imperatives of man. Conversely, in Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant proclaimed, "A good will is good not because of what it effects or accomplishes, nor because of its fitness to attain some proposed end; it is good only through its willing, i.e., it is good in itself" (Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, 7). Socrates makes it clear that the key to happiness is not to be found in the goods that one accumulates, or even the projects that form the ingredients of one’s life, but rather in the agency of the person himself who gives her life a direction and focus. Also clear from this is a repudiation of the idea that happiness consists merely in the satisfaction of our desires. For in order to determine which desires are worth satisfying, we have to apply our critical and reflective intelligence (Spinelli). The religious views of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle form the genesis of monotheistic religious thought. They each form ideas that differ from the traditional view of a polytheistic religion where the gods each have their own personalities and judgments. The succession of each scholar paints a picture of how a monotheistic religion can gradually come to be. Under the assumption that the Gods have quarrels and differing opinions, Socrates questions the authority of the Gods who can have contradicting opinions. Socrates appears to believe in multiple Gods. However, he does hint at a unified God with one unwavering opinion on what is pious and what is impious. In a long debate with Euthyphro, Euthyphro agrees to both the statement that the pious is what is dear to the Gods (Trial and Death of Socrates 18) and also to the statement that some things are both loved by the gods and hated by the Gods (Trial and Death of Socrates 9). He is therefore contradicting himself and revealing a disjointed and contradictory image of the Gods. Since one God can believe that something is pious and another God can believe that the same...

Cited: Aristotle, Harold P. Cooke, Longinus, and Demetrius. Aristotle. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1926. N. pag. Print.
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