The Good Life

Over Spring Break, I have been doing a great deal of thinking about perhaps the most important philosophical question we can entertain: What is the good life? Many of my colleagues and friends have been jetting off to foreign (and warm) destinations, while I have been in Winnipeg trying to finish off my  thesis proposal and shovelling endless snow. As I was feeling sorry for myself, I friend of mine shared this video created by the University of Winnipeg Sustainability Office:

Aristotle? I had to start thinking back to first and second year university! I needed to reread Aristotle’s The Politics and also talk to my good friend, Dan Webb, who is a professor of political philosophy at the University of Manitoba and the Canadian Mennonite University. Here are the questions I asked and responses he gave back to me:

Who are you and what do you do?

What is the Good Life?
Part 1

Part 2

What is the Good Life according to you?

How is the Good Life related to notions of Sustainability?

So my question for all of us is: What is the good life? Do you agree with Aristotle? With Dr. Dan Webb? With the folks at the UofW? Please read The Politics, chapters 3 and 7, as these will provide you with a good understanding of what Aristotle was trying to suggest.

I would also ask you to include ideas from the film, Dr. Webb, and Aristotle (and other sources) in your response. You are also encouraged to comment on what other people are saying in our class.


22 thoughts on “The Good Life

  1. Going to SJR it is easy for all of us to say that we live “the good life”. Most of us have our own cars we drive to school, we have the opportunity to further our education, and the ability to use many different kinds of technology. I don’t necessarily find that as the exact definition of the good life though. As Aristotle points out to us, the act of being constantly happy is the definition of the good life, and I belive this to be true. Aristotle indicates that happiness is not of a temporary state, but a measure of continuous practice. I tend to feel that if I am constantly winning basketball games or getting good grades on tests then yes I will be happy, therefore I am living the good life. The other notion that Aristotle gave us, was that a person who doesn’t live in a city is either an animal or a god. I would have to agree with this because humans are designed for public interaction. To feel connected with one another is what every person wants in life. We feel connected by being a part of groups and societies. Being able to interact with one another by voicing our opinions or arguing against others ideas is just a simple way to live the good life. If people are not social and don’t interact with one another our society wont develop. I honestly find that people crave the ability to talk and socialize and to understand how others feel. If we don’t do this, I would find some individuals to not be as happy as others who do socialize and express their own thoughts, beliefs, opinions, etc. I find that if you are not achieving some sort of inner happiness by being connected or constantly practicing things that make you happy like getting good grades then you are not living the good life.

  2. Damian – You make some excellent points. I think where Aristotle might disagree with you is with your notion of seeking happiness through pleasure. I think he sees happiness as a long-term thing, based on some of the virtues he discusses and our ability to think deeply about life.

  3. I agree strongly with a few of Aristotle's ideas. The notion of having either an excess or a deficiency of different virtues and needing to seek a balance in life rings very true for me. I also agree that the most fundamental premise for living a good life is happiness. I disagree quite firmly, however, with the rest of his argument. Aristotle expresses the notion that human happiness is more than repeated pleasurable experiences. However, like Damian, I think that continuously seeking pleasure is one of the ways of living a good life. While Aristotle might not find eating good food to be a worthy enough activity of comprising the human good life, if someone decides that food is their passion, and travels around the world as a gourmet food taster, and they are happy doing that, I think that that person is living the good life. They may even be enriching others lives by writing or talking about their experiences. I also disagree with the notion that happiness can only be derived through social interaction. While in the majority of cases I agree that people are social animals, if someone would rather live their life self-sufficiently as a hermit, appreciating nature and their own company, that person can still be living their own version of the good life. They do not need politics or art to enrich it. Ultimately, my view is similar to Dan Webb's. The good life is different for all people. People need to find out what they enjoy most through education and varied experiences, and the government needs to give everyone a basic level of equity to ensure that they can achieve that good life. The problem arises when peoples' versions of the good life infringe on the good lives of others or contribute negatively towards society. In most cases, I think that people living their lives normally will contribute positively to others, in fields such as science, art, education, and law. What people do need to learn, however, is moderation – not necessarily living a life based around giving, because that may not be the good life to some people. If you are not giving, however, you also need to not be taking away. I recently discovered Gandhi's definition of the seven social sins: Wealth without Work, Pleasure without Conscience, Science without Humanity, Knowledge without Character, Politics without Principle, Commerce without Morality, and Worship without Sacrifice. If people avoid these flaws, while furthering themselves in their own chosen field and seeking moderation in all things, then I believe that everyone will naturally contribute toward a better society.

  4. I do not completely agree with Aristotle's definition of The Good Life. I feel strongly that there is no definition to such a statement, or an Idea. I agree that The Good Life is the act of being constantly happy, yet I do not believe this is an attainable life style. it is impossible for all beings with the correct brain capacity to be constantly happy. Aristotle points out that The Good Life is always searching for what makes on happy while being social as humans were meant to be. I agree with the former, but disagree with Aristotle's latter statements. When someone does this and finds something they truly enjoy doing, I feel they are living the Good Life. I believe anything that does not harm one or the people around them is a worthy enough activity to refer to the Good Life of that person. On the social side, as humans are social by nature, I do not believe that they have to be to be immersing themselves in social activities, talking about what makes them happy all the time. There are many people who enjoy the time they get by themselves, and want to live their lives in solitude, just as Ryan pointed out. It is unfair to tell them they are not living the Good Life if they are doing what makes them happy. I dont believe there should be a definition for the phrase in question either then the following. The Good Life: a life truly enjoyed by the person living it, despite what how they may obtain it.

  5. I think that in today’s society, which is very different from Aristotle’s time in a couple aspects, the idea of living “the good life” is excessively used by the media in order to convince us to buy a certain product or living a certain lifestyle is the best. I agree with Aristotle in the notion that in order to live the good life you need to be happy with what you do. There is something wrong if you drag yourself out of bed every morning, dreading to go to work or can barely look at yourself in the mirror because of the things that you have done in order to get ahead in the game. I am on the fence with his notion that we need social interaction in order to be happy and that only Gods or animals live in the country. While I agree that in the city and around other people there are more possibilities in order to enrich your life and knowledge, whether it is through art, politics or sports. I do not think that everyone that lives in the country is an animal. I think the ability to be able to choose where you live, whether it is the city or the country is a part that goes towards personal happiness. Just like an introvert prefers to be alone sometimes and recharges through personal time, an extrovert recharges through other people, but that does not mean that the introvert is unhappier then the extrovert, just because they are not connecting with others every hour of the day. I agree with Dan Webb in the sense that every individual should be able to choose to do what makes him or her happy, in the way that it does not harm others. Even if it’s only temporary happiness, like Damian pointed out. People have the capacity to change, which is sometimes directly related to the situation they are put in and I think that happiness or the way that they find happiness also has to be able to commentate with that notion, be able to find that middle way that makes it work for themselves only.

  6. Many of us do not think twice about what it means to be living the “good life”. Most of us are provided with everything we need to survive; beyond that many of us are very fortunate as we are also provided with many things that we want. In the minds of children, this could very well be known as living the “good life”, being provided with everything needed and many things wanted. However, as we grow older, “the good life” takes on a different meaning. It is not so much about getting things you want, but more about living a healthy and stable life. Aristotle defines “the good life” through the practice of happiness all throughout one’s life. Further, he believes that happiness is the uniqueness of human life. People can learn to live the so-called “good life” if we, as a society, learn to be virtuous. We also must be truthful and friendly. I agree with Aristotle’s assumption that the ability to live “the good life” is derived from personal happiness. The idea of achieving personal happiness makes one feel successful and therefore, reinforces his or her “good life”. A life filled with meaningful family relationships and friendships are the true markers of success, rather than the amount of money or the number of material things one possesses. These markers contribute to living “the good life”. Finding meaning in life by doing something that one is passionate about and that makes one feel good and worthy about themselves, makes for a successful and happy person. Making a lot of money and being able to acquire the goods and services that we desire is simply an added benefit that can come with some forms of success. So while it is important to make a reasonable income in order to have a comfortable life, material wealth does not trump personal happiness, nor does it guarantee a good or happy life. If one has a meaningful life, doing meaningful things and having meaningful relationships, they will be living “the good life” and will be fulfilled.

  7. Part 1In my opinion, a good life is a life that makes you happy. If you feel happy all the time, thenyou’re living a good life, and everything else doesn’t have to be taken into account. However, thephilosophies of a good life differ based on different understandings of different individuals. AboutAristotle’s view on a “good life”, I only partially agree, because to totally agree with him I wouldfirst have to agree that I’m not human. However, I certainly agree with the idea that we have to gettogether and socialize.After thinking it over, I found this point correct. When I first heard this idea, I found it interestingand funny, because I’m pretty much a house-bound person, so when I first heard this idea, I waslike “Oh, I’m not only living a miserable life, but also not even considered human!” But when Ithought it over, I discovered that I actually socialize a lot everyday, just in different ways. When Iheard the idea of “getting together”, the first things that came up in my mind were clubs andparties. I don’t do these, so I wrongfully thought that I don’t socialize. But it’s not true. I come toschool everyday, I talk to people, I use the internet, I use social networks like hotmail andfacebook, and I read news everyday. So, in fact, I’m not only socializing with people around me,but also making contact with the entire world. There is no way I can avoid socialization ineveryday life. However, in different times and situations we have different ideas, so did Aristotle.Most of us probably don’t agree with the idea that those who don’t engage in great public eventslike art or politics are not human. According to my understanding, this radical conclusion was aresult of limitation of the ancient world, because that time there was no such thing as “diversity”,which we strongly believe in today. Aristotle was so eager to find something about us in commonthat he forgot everyone of us is different, and he just considered us all the same. Besides, today,we wouldn’t call an unsocial person “not human” or “an animal”.

  8. Part 2According to Aristotle’s idea that to be human and to live a happy life we must get together, thengetting along with others becomes extremely important. Valuing is the key to getting along with aspecific person or group, and therefore, valuing each other becomes valuing a good life. I just reada very moving story, and I think there is some good philosophy in it about “a good life”. The storyis like this: A husband had affairs with a different woman after 10 years of marriage with his wife,and he eventually expressed his intention of divorce to his wife. He felt so guilty that he agreedthat after the divorce he would let his wife own his house, his car, and 30% of his company. Butthe wife rejected the wealth. Instead her only two conditions were, to live one more month ofnormal life together in order not to disturb their son’s preparation for oncoming exams and tocarry her from the bedroom to the door every morning during that one month. So, the man did,and he felt his intimacy with his wife growing everyday, and he notices the growing wrinkles onher face and her body was getting thinner everyday, so he finally understood how much pain hehad put into her and how much he loved her. He said he is divorcing with his wife not becausethey didn’t love each other, but because they didn’t know how to properly get along with eachother. (properly getting along with people is important)So, on the last day of that month, he turnedaway his other woman and bought her wife a bundle of roses, but when he got home he was onlyto find his wife died of cancer. His wife’s cancer had reached its terminal stage in that month, and she wanted him to carry her every morning only to make their son think the man is a loving fatherand therefore not hate him for the rest of his life. Weather the story is true or not, that doesn’tmatter. The most important thing is that there are some good points in it. I quoted this quote fromthe story,“The small details of your lives are what really matter in a relationship. Itis not the mansion, the car, property, the money in the bank. These createan environment conducive for happiness but cannot give happiness in themselves.” In think in this quote the word “relationship” not only applies on a spouse, but also on friends and people around you. This quote is what I think believe in about a good life, and I think it’s somehow related to Aristotle’s philosophy that a good life comes from getting along with people”.

  9. I had never really thought about “the good life” up until this assignment. I know I live a good life, and so does everyone around me but when I thought more about it, I realized a lot of these people probably don’t live “the good life” or even know how to live “the good life.” Aristotle defines the good life as being constantly happy, but not the happiness that I would be used to. Happiness to Aristotle is a skill that you train yourself to use. I agree with Aristotle in the sense that happiness is a skill, and that you must be constantly be happy to live “the good life” but I also disagree with his opinion on the relationship between happiness and pleasure. Aristotle thinks things like winning a soccer game and getting good grades aren’t the things that truly make you happy in life, he believes those things only bring you pleasure. Personally, if I’m constantly getting good grades and succeeding in the things that matter to me, I believe I’m happy and my attitude towards life itself is very positive versus if I’m doing poorly at everything. I do think pleasurable things and happiness are directly related and one cannot live “the good life” without things that may give one temporary pleasure. Other aspects that I believe one must have in their life to achieve “the good life” are aspects like honesty and healthy relationships. You cannot live a truly happy life if you are a) not living an honest one and b) surrounding yourself with people who you care about and who care about you. If you can train yourself to be happy even during rough times, while surrounding yourself with honest and caring people, you can achieve and live “the good life.”

  10. I think the “good life” isn’t so easy as to just be defined. I strongly agree with Aristotle’s perception of the good life: the practice of happiness. However, everyone’s view of happiness is different. While some find happiness in eating, others find it in exercising. Therefore happiness cannot have a definition or rules. Happiness is simply doing/having/being around something that one loves. This leads me to Ryan’s thoughts on Aristotle’s notion that “happiness can only be derived through social interaction”. I agree with Ryan here. As I said before, the good life changes from person to person. It is impossible to say that happiness is defined by being social. I know many people who are happier being alone, rather than being around others. For people like this, they can still be living the good life, even while others may not think so. One idea that tends to recur with a topic such as this is: money versus friends. The overall consensus is that money can’t buy happiness, but friends can. I disagree with this. It isn’t our place to tell someone that money cannot make a person happy. If someone chooses to work hard and as a result, make money, that could potentially be their own version of the good life. I also found what Ryan said about Gandhi’s definition to be quite interesting. Gandhi’s definition of the seven social sins: Wealth without Work, Pleasure without Conscience, Science without Humanity, Knowledge without Character, Politics without Principle, Commerce without Morality, and Worship without Sacrifice. This definition fits perfectly with the idea of the good life. If everyone follows this simple guide line, I believe we would all be able to live a happy life, and ultimately accomplish the good life.

  11. While everyone would agree that the good life is a life of constant happiness not everyone agrees on how to achieve this kind of life. A point made by Aristotle is that in life we search for the good life while having interactions with others on the way. In this sense the good life is not something actually obtainable, rather its something to strive for. In the pursuit of obtaining "the good life" you end up having a pretty good life, even though there is always rough spots. I agree with the point that everyone is trying to get the good life and that it isn't a real thing. I find it interesting that the good life is one thing that everyone wants yet everyone goes about getting it in different ways. Some play sports, some enjoy fine meals, some shop obsessively and some hurt others. Anything that does not hurt anyone, but brings you closer to getting the good life is perfectly acceptable in my mind. I completely agree that humans need social interaction to get the good life. Humans are social animals; social interaction not only helps us achieve great feats, but we also find it entertaining and enjoyable. While it is true that some people are introverts, most much prefer the company of other. The corporate world has given the idea that to get the good life you need the sports car, the house in Florida and all the money to afford this lifestyle. A lavish lifestyle like that would be amazing and extremely enjoyable, but where this image lies is that it makes you think to be happy to need all that. The good life is not about thinks, or even people, its about personal happiness. While I see nothing wrong in getting happiness from material goods this kind of happiness should not be the only kind of happiness bringing people to the good life.

  12. When asked what the good life meant to him, my father explained that to him, "the good life means to love and be loved by those you love. It means to have unmoving faith in God, never doubting his presence and never fearing loneliness". And this belief, the belief that a life lived with God equates to having a good life is not all that unusual. Religion, or lack there of, plays a large role in today's world, whether it be in politics, education, or rights. Some follow no religion and some are willing to sacrifice themselves for it. One wonders what the purpose of really religion is. Is it a manmade system put in place for control, or is it there to instil a sense of security, goodness and happiness. My father would argue that religion, or more specifically Christianity, serves as a beacon of hope for him. In my house, when something bad happens we pray for comfort. We understand that bad things happen and we cannot begin to understand why, or what purpose these trials serve. And this faith and acceptance may give us a sense of security. Religion in our home is important in that it brings us happiness in some ways. However, is happiness all that is important in order to lead a good life? I think yes. I think the level of happiness in your life is a measure of the goodness of your life.As I began to think of it more and more, I started to understand what my dad meant. Believing in God and being a "true" Christian enables you to feel secure, thrive in your friendships and have confidence in yourself and in your surroundings. You strive to be moral and unprejudiced, and you live life trying to make others happy. It seems that in today's world, where Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are the most used social media, people are very conceited, scrambling for "likes" and "favourites" for every selfie or picture of their #healthy bowl of #muesli. If they do not get the encouragement they wish, it affects them greatly. Actually, social media plays a large role in teenage depression. By this thinking, it makes sense that the "good life" be made of a balance between being good to yourself, being good to others, being healthy, knowledgeable, and active; having faith in whatever it is you believe in, or having faith in yourself if that's what you believe in, and living empathically. In order to live a happy life, you must be able to accept hard times and savor good times. The "good life" is a life devoted to doing good onto others and onto yourself.

  13. "The Good Life" can be defined differently by every person you ask but to me the good life is to have a job where you can live care free and have people around you who care for you. In Aristotles opinion the good life is teaching yourself to be happy all the time and some people have that skill and lead a good life. I agree with some of my classmates who have said that repeated happiness can cause you to have a good life, but some people do have the wrong idea of this. A lot of people now are starting to see pleasurable things as material items and money. In today's society the term "money buys happiness" is more relevant then ever. The media is trying to convince us that the good life is driving around in an expensive car and wearing nice clothes and having the newest technological items. These things are not what brings happiness, they may bring joy for a little but to live a good life and to have sustainable happiness you need to do good things in your life. "If you watch an episode of tv it'll bring you happiness for an hour, if you go to an amusement park you'll have happiness for a day, but if you go out and change someones life it'll bring happiness for a life time." I read this quote along time ago and it makes a lot of sense because if you are a good person and help people out throughout your life that hopefully you will lead the good life. To live "the good life" you need to have a mix of small pleasures that bring common everyday happiness and larger things like constantly being a good moral person.

  14. I utterly agree with Aristotle’s definition of “the good life”: the practice of happiness. He describes it as a skill that is used in order to obtain happiness, and that varies from individual to individual. I believe that to be happy means to find something you love –whatever it is that it derives from- and to make it a part of your life. “The good life” can’t precisely be defined for it is different for all people. As some have stated, I find that “the good life” should only be linked to money if money is what brings that person happiness. Driving a nice car to school, and getting good education does not necessarily make one happy. Wealthy people can be extremely miserable too. Like Ryan, I disagree with the notion that happiness can only be derived through social interaction. Unlike animals, us humans are designed to interact. However, being social does not bring happiness to all people. I disagree with the idea that “happiness is only real when shared” for I believe that some people are happier being alone. Ultimately, I believe that society is unable to define the true meaning of “the good life”, for each individual finds happiness in something different. It is not up to us to say that to be happy is to have money or have a social life.

  15. Everybody wants to live "the good life". What is the good life? If you were to ask a hundred different people that question, you would get a hundred different answers. This is evident within everyones post on this blog. However, within those different answers, you would notice common areas that are important to everyone. Aristotle defines "the good life" as the practice of happiness, and I agree with this. To live a good life I believe that you have to be happy. Different things make different people happy, and contrary to what some people have said, driving that expensive car and having the latest gadget is what makes some people happy. So, to say that money doesn't buy happiness, is incorrect. I think the good life is to do whatever you want, as long as it makes you happy, even if it means not leaving the house on the weekend. You don't have to live a social life, to be a happy person. In James post he mentions that he is a "home-bound" person, and James is probably the happiest person I know. This proves that you don't have to go out and party or hangout with people all the time to live a good life, or to be happy. I feel like I am getting repetitive as I keep mentioning that everyone person has their own idea of the good life and happiness, but that's because it is the truth. Don’t let the media twist your perception of happiness, live your own good life.

  16. Aristotle's definition of "the good life" is the practice of happiness. For me, the key word is practice. Like Aristotle, I acknowledge the fact that happiness is a skill that needs work. It's much easier to be gloomy and negative than to always try and see the positive side. In my opinion there is no such thing as a good or bad thing. It's all about how the individual perceives and interpets it. Every negative situation has the possibility of containing something positive. It's how you look at it that matters. I believe that having the ability to constantly learn and grow from whatever life throws at you is what will ultimately decided wether or not you are happy. Living the "good life" means having good health. My mother always told me that in life the two most important things are family and health and I strongly agree with that. You want to spend your life with the people you love for as long as you can. Maintaining your health will not only extend the length of your life but also improve the quality of the life you live.No "good life" would be complete without experiencing everything this world has to offer. Having the desire to go out and explore and try new things will certainly bring about the experiences that you'll remember forever. This could include trying new food, travelling, or even conquering a fear. The "good life" is all about living to the fullest with as little regrets as possible. Having a positive impact on somebody is one the greatest joys in life. Knowing that you directly had an effect on the happiness of an individual is a great feeling. I think that in order to live "the good life" you have the sense that your effecting people in a positie way. When the time comes, leaving this world knowing you helped make it better would be the ultimate satisfaction.

  17. Everyone has different opinions as to what they think the "good life" entails. Aristotle believes that happiness is a skill that is perfected by practicing it continuously, and others may think that it is as simple as frequently getting good marks on tests. I think that the good life is whatever the person wants it to be. I strongly believe that there is no set definition for such a statement. If someone were to stay home all day every day and be completely anti-social but is happy at the same time, who are we to say that they are not living the good life? For all we know, that is what makes them the happiest and they could be living in complete bliss. Not everyone wants to be social at all times, and I do not think that to be happy you have to always be making an effort to interact with other people. If some people are happier alone, that's completely up to them and it is not our place to decide if they're living the good life or not. Even though winning a basketball game is not practicing a skill of being infinitely happy, once again I'm not one to say that person is not living the good life. If it brings them happiness and they truly believe that they are living the good life, then that's all that really matters.

  18. Living the "Good Life" is a very vague term open to interpretation; although, most definitions of this so called "Good Life" would include words like: "happy", "positive", and "content." Aristotle defined his idea of the "Good Life" as practicing happiness. This idea is very cool because being continually happy is something that can be very difficult – but if you live your life constantly practicing happiness, in tough times it can be much easier to find. Another major part of the "Good Life" is doing things you enjoy; landing a job doing something you are passionate about is a great way to ensure happiness. You only have one life – make it count!

  19. Living the good life is when ones goals and hobbies can be completed and the person is considered happy, money does not necessarily mean the good life although it can help make doing the activities that someone enjoys doing more accessible. Many people do not need to think about what it means to live the good life, because the majority of people that live in the lifestyle that I am apart of are considered very fortunate. As a young child being able to receive materialistic things would probably be considered the good life for them, but as a person matures these materialistic things may take a back seat to emotional items like a life partner or a family. The good life is a mere matter of opinion, because I believe “living the Good life” is to be happy and certain things make different people happy. When parents tell their Children to do something they love and that money does not matter Children tend to disregard this because they want to be considered successful? Children obviously want to make their parents proud but why is money considered success why can’t finding a job that a person is passionate about and having a family and being happy the definition of success. Obviously making an income that has the ability to support your lifestyle is important but being happy should no longer fall second place too Income.

  20. Coming from a society where most of the people I know have more resources, money, and opportunities than they know what to do with, it is clear that it takes more than monetary wealth or power to be truly happy. As Aristotle believed, to live a truly good life, you must be in a state of constant happiness, and although new video games, or a new movie may entertain you for a few hours, they do not increase the state of your happiness overall. Although a good mark on a test, or winning a sports game may make you happy for a short time, to “live the good life” you have to appreciate every moment and every experience that you have. Aristotle also brought forward the idea of social isolation, and the idea of being a good person or living a good life outside of the confines of society. As he put it, a person such as this must be either an animal, or a god. This is because without other people to compare to, it is impossible to know whether you are better or worse than other humans. This means that the only thing a hermit has to compare against is himself and because it is immeasurable, the only thing that matters is the persons opinion of himself, which would either be that he is too good for society, (a god), or so inhuman that they must be distanced from society (an animal). Because one's opinion of oneself is central to true happiness, it is important to have a realistic self image, because in society, cocky people are often brought down a peg or two, and shy people often find that they have missed out. So to truly live life well, one must know themselves, so that they know that they have made the right choices, and have achieved all that they can. In my opinion, this is how a person becomes fulfilled in life, and the only true way to live the good life

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