Aristotle’s position in his texts seems to vex readers more concerning the fact of what happy life is. The readers try to comprehend whether it is contained life of all the virtues or is it gotten in the life of pure contemplation. The problem prevailed itself when Aristotle himself seemed to express of the entire views at various points in his Nicomachean Ethics. The contemporary scholarship has divvied itself into two main interpretations that are inclusivism and intellectualism with most of varieties in between the two maximum expressions.
The inclusivists simply declare that the practical and theoretical virtues are all needed for ethical life whilst the intellectualists claim although the moral virtues are nice; it is the contemplation life in which the true happiness lies. Another dilemma comes when Aristotle seems to support all of these views. The major complexity lies in the argument of convincing Aristotle that the life of meditation should be the happiest bearing the overwhelming amount of text he dedicates towards his practical virtues.
However, a satisfactory solution in this particular difficulty has not been gotten in a contemporary scholarship. I therefore propose for a satisfactory solution we have to rely on other interpreters of Aristotle outside the current intellectualist or inclusivist debate to medieval Aristelians. Particularly I will consider the al-Farabi’s interpretation towards Aristotle’s ethics. Al-Farabi implied that there are various types of happiness depending on different types of people. He claimed the theoretical life which is possible via illumination of human intellect combined with the required moral virtues forms the happiest life, though it is not possible for in all the humans which ensure the practical life is the happiest for the enormous majority of people.
It is significant to note the Al-Farabi’s interpretation is not ideal neither is it meant to be a perfect kind of interpretation of Nicomachean Ethics. In addition, the scrutiny of Aristotle’s ethics via al-Farabi’s projects enriches the comprehending of Aristotle’s overall ethical system. Thus it makes the al-Farabi interpretation regarding Aristotle’ texts and interesting manner to reconcile the practical and theoretical life. To fully understand this, it thus requires examining the dilemma in Aristotle’s texts and highlight some of the recent interpretation is scholarship, together with their strengths and weaknesses. This is requires exploring the al-Farabi’s interpretation in order to build up Aristotle’s ethics and connect it with his politics in a novel way.
The Aristotelian Dilemma
According to Aristotle’s view, it is the rationality which makes humans unique and thus means for any human to function properly, one should be thus rational. This indicates the human good is the activity of soul depending on rational principle which is the best and most inclusive. Happiness has been identified with several things though according to Aristotle it is the best appropriate activity for the soul according to perfect virtues. What precisely is inclusive to attain that kind of happiness remains to be verified in both Aristotle’s thinking and other later interpreters.
Aristotle has two main kinds of virtue that is moral and intellectual. He claims the moral virtues are not natural but lean and perfect via habituation. Virtue is gotten through keep away from excess and blemish that is maintaining the mean amidst the two extremes. The moral virtue has put by Aristotle is the state of character associated with the choice of mean and can be studied by emulating the morally honest in community. In addition, the morally virtuous people ought not to perform only in perfect actions but have the proper intentions. Rational capabilities are applied here as well and in order to learn appropriate actions and be able to choose between right and wrong, the rational soul is crucial.
To enable being morally virtuous, there is need for prognosis that is practical wisdom though that is not the only intellectual virtue. Manifestation of intellectual virtue occurs in various ways: scientific knowledge, intuitive reason, practical wisdom, and philosophical wisdom. Scientific knowledge deals with the judgment of universal and crucial (eternal) and has potential for demonstration. The practical wisdom has the reasoned capacity to perform towards the human ends in life. The consequence that political wisdom (practical wisdom) concentrates with city particulars.
The intuitive reason is the one which takes up initial principles from which scientific knowledge succeeds. Philosophical wisdom is the most finalized form of knowledge. It entails the combination of scientific knowledge and intuitive reason. We then assume that the two major intellectual virtues are philosophical wisdom and practical wisdom which are necessarily associated with each other. Actually, Aristotle states philosophical wisdom is the reason of happiness and practical wisdom creates a way for that happiness.
Aristotle’s discussion of happiness in book I contradicts that of book X
Aristotle clarifies that realistic wisdom is inferior to philosophical wisdom because it is apprehensive of human beings. Still, the moral virtues are essential for the practical wisdom which is crucial for philosophical wisdom. Both moral and intellectual virtues are concerned in happy life. They are necessary for the following reasons: man is political and thus moral virtues are crucial for happiness in political spectrum. In order to get the knowledge of these virtues, thus the practical wisdom is necessary. More so, in order to get the correct environmental contemplation, the practical wisdom is crucial.
The apparent problem arises in Book X of NE. Aristotle declares in Book VI that philosophical wisdom dominates and appears to comprise the ethical virtues in contented life as well. While in Book X Aristotle comes with some conclusions of his previous enquiries. The reason forms a basis of separating us from animals and thus making us who we are. This is only when we behave as rational animals that we fulfill our function and become happy. This directed Aristotle to argue in X.7 that being happy is experienced in the most proper sense, contemplation. The remaining challenge is how to reconcile the seemingly disparate views. This brings a question why Aristotle spends the first nine books in NE on practical life if the contemplative life was the best.
Interpretations in Current Scholarship
As stated before, there are two wide camps into which the current interpretation of Aristotle’s happy life is categorized: that is inclusivism and intellectualism. However, it would be more useful to classify interpreters by methods of those who get Aristotle’s ethical works reliable and the other who found Aristotle to be inconsistent. Within these classifications, there is further distinction between inclusivists and intellectualists.
Inclusivists claim the earlier books of NE review the Aristotle’s observation that is the happy life crucially involves practical and intellectual practical virtues. Thus, practical wisdom and moral character plus becomes eudaimonia (happiness). The inclusivists come with the conclusion that happy life for Aristotle usually expounds the inclusive doctrine of eudaimonia: happiness which requires moral and intellectual life. The prosperous life for humans essentially involves the assistance of others hence John Cooper states that the friendship is a crucial constituent for human to flourishing.
Some like T.H. Irwin would go to that level of saying Aristotelian virtues dominates happiness. However, this has been an appealing view for various reasons. Aristotle claims the happiness is activity for the soul according to the virtue and it categorizes virtue in two kinds: intellectual and moral. Consequently it has the benefit of involving both intellectual and moral in happy life. It further takes Aristotle honestly when he argued that theoretical and practical lives are related. The philosophical kind of wisdom could not be gotten minus the practical especially in the terms of political purposes.
However, it goes wrong in one major aspect, that it lacks to account for Aristotle in X, and inclusivism seems to avoid Book X. NEX. 6-8 states clearly that happiness is consideration should be taken responsible. On other side there are intellectualists who claim the entire of NE ought to be studied via the lens of Book X.6-8. Therefore when the moral virtues are nice, it contemplates that leads into a true happy life. As Aristotle states, the philosopher remains to be the happiest (X.8.1179a30). That guides intellectualists like Richard Kraut to claim the perfect contentment is involved in just one good, the theoria that is actualization for theoretical wisdom.
Inclusivist claims are justified while intellectualists are arguable
The other virtues and goods are admirable only as a way to happiness though is not components of happiness. Some like pre-inclusivist Cooper claim the moral virtue acts virtually no duty nevertheless in ideal of intellectual life. The interpretation has the benefit of taking into consideration the Aristotle’s direct argument in Book X that the life of consideration is the happiest life. More so it is considered in Aristotle’s ideology that the rational faculty leads into human flourishing.
Moreover, Aristotle states at beginning of X.6 he had not yet come with any conclusions concerning the happiness to be claimed so easily Books I-IX were unfinished attempts to comprehend the happiness. After the saying, Book X is not the sole book in NE. Thus, though the intellectualism is persistent with Book X, it lacks to console itself coherently with the former books. The reason is: if happiness is the only contemplation, it doubts whether Aristotle spend more than enough time discussing the practical life. It puts into clarity that Aristotle could spend more than enough time on moral virtue if it was crucial or even secondary to happy life.
This lead into some interpreters claiming that Aristotle was inconsistent towards his overall argumentation. Martha Nussbaum for example argues the NE X.6-8 never fitted with the rest of Aristotle’s ethics in addition to being in outright contradiction with much argument in NE. She offers various examples for that contradiction as in that and other ethical works, Aristotle claims the eudaimonia is formed of several parts involving contemplation and virtues; in X.6-8, and says that is single: theoria. Elsewhere in NE, Aristotle forcefully adds the excellences of personality are for their sake and thus not for contemplation sake. Furthermore, Book X identifies us with theoretical intellect while Book IX (1166a16-17) recognizes us with an applicable reason.
These examples amongst others caused Ackrill and Nussbaum to argue Aristotle was simply inconsistent. Nussbaum claims further for Aristotle, it is illogical to struggle for divine since that involved wishing for the life which could not be lived by a human of the same sort like us. Thus she supports the inclusivist in conviction that the immensity of Aristotelian texts sustains eudaimonia as compost of contemplation and virtue. It is also tempting to carry this argument in the apparent light difficulties in text as this should be the final resort and unfair to Aristotle.
For Aristotle he claimed while he has discussed virtues, friendship and pleasures in X.6 he has not though defined the nature for happiness. This clearly implies Aristotle is keen of his claims in the former nine books and he has not attained anything conclusive. This is not inconsistency but rather Aristotle acknowledges that he gave some incomplete or unsuccessful accounts of happiness. In addition, the argument that happiness is contemplation and it is in agreement with his former arguments. Again, the works of Aristotle shows his partiality to think he is being consistent.
Rather than claiming Aristotle is just inconsistent, I believe it becomes more beneficial to view Aristotle as a way between inclusivist and intellectualist extremes. There are other kinds of intellectualism less tough than Kraut and more useful. One interpreter of that kind is David Keyt who advocates for the moderate intellectualist position and calls for superstructure view. Briefly stated, this gives the view that value for moral life is incommensurable with the theoretical activity value though that value is not absolutely prior. Thus, the moral life sets particular least requirements that should be accomplished before one engages in theoretical activity though the view never demands one to shirk for a duty however trivial for the chance to contemplate.
Aristotle himself was unclear enough in his ethical writings to give room for several interpretation that existed by then. He is not satisfactorily clear on how the practical and contemplative lives ought to be associated. Nevertheless, it is apparent the al-Farabi’s views explain Aristotle’s views in a manner that has heretofore been assumed. It is my hope to bring forward the al-Farabi’s comments on happy life; it shall have clarified the issue. Though it is by no means complete, but it will form a starting point for later discussion.
Initially it was seen as if al-Farabi was too platonic in the notion of polis but that is true his accomplishment of Happiness is the first book in succession of reconciliation of Aristotle and Plato. However, the hierarchy formed in al-Farabi’s thought can be gotten in Aristotle’s NE likewise to his politics, he (Aristotle) has platonic tendencies as the structure for his polis was not doubtfully influenced by Plato’s republic. It has more importantly explained the hierarchy by al-Farabi offering an appealing resolution to venerable dispute amid inclusivists and intellectualists.
Aristotle devoted nine books on practical life and argues the theoretical life is the happiest since very few are capable of happiest life. This doubts his political and uncomfortable incorrect solution towards modern readers. More so his theory is arguably and al-Farabi’s thought can be utilized to develop Aristotle’s ethics alongside linking it to the politics in a novel way.