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Aristotle and Epicurus

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Aristotle and Epicurus

According to Aristotle, the highest virtue of man is reason. He believes reason is what separates us from other living beings. Without reason, we would be no different than animals living on instinct. To understand exactly what he means, we must understand how Aristotle defines virtue. Virtue, according to Aristotle, is the excellence of function. Everything has a specific function and performing that function with excellence leads to having virtue. He believes the unique human function is the ability to reason.

Aristotle also goes on to explain that having virtue is how we attain happiness. So if we are not performing our function with excellence we cannot possibly be happy. For example, the function of a chair is to support those who sit on it, if a chair has three legs and can not even stand on its own the chair can not have virtue. If the chair could feel happiness, it could not possibly be happy because it is performing its function poorly.

Epicurus had a different take on the highest virtue of man. Epicurus believed the highest virtue was the pursuit of pleasure. We must keep in mind he is not referring to the physical, materialistic pleasures that come to mind in the modern day definition of the word pleasure. For Epicurus, pleasure is tied closely to satisfying one's desires.

Pleasure results from getting what you want and pain results from not getting what you want. This means that if the highest virtue of man were the pursuit of pleasure, the pursuit of satisfying desires would be where we find happiness. To find pleasure we must satisfy desires.

Epicurus also believed that happiness comes from the absence of pain. If a pleasant life comes from the satisfaction of desires, then an unpleasant life must come from the lack of satisfaction of those same desires. There are two ways to pursue any desire, either try to fulfill it or try to eliminate it. Because Epicurus believed happiness, and in turn living "the good life", comes from the absence of pain and pain

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