This is a rendition of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics for contemporary readers.
Brief, understandable pieces with a short practice to integrate the wisdom into your life.
No philosophical background necessary.
There are many visions of the good life competing for your allegiance. How are you supposed to decide between them? In this piece Aristotle points us towards a tool that can help us find our way.
Everybody seems to agree that the highest good is happiness. Yet people strongly disagree about what this happiness actually is. The masses tend to say it is either pleasure, or wealth, or honor. Today we can add that the masses consider safety or comfort to be happiness. Some might try equate happiness with laughter.
But not only do different people contradict each other, individuals contradict themselves too. They are swayed by their circumstances. When one is sick, one wants health; when poor, wealth.
How fickle we humans can be.
If we look we can see that we lack clarity on what happiness consists of. Those who are aware of their ignorance on such a fundamental topic should do the sensible thing and seek guidance from those wiser.
If you do so, you may notice the wise men describing happiness in a way that you don't grasp. It might feel beyond your reach. As if their knowledge of what is good comes from divine inspiration.
The lack of understanding may stem from charlatanism, but it may also mean that we need to work harder to comprehend what is being said. We might need to stretch in order to reach those luminous stars.
And so when you hear somebody describing a good and it seems incomprehensible, not simply base, it would be wise to listen intently.
As Hesiod tells us:
‘This one is altogether best who himself understands all things But good in his turn too is he who obeys one who speaks well. But he who neither understands nor, in listening to another, Is a dumb piece of shit and a useless man’
Theoretical inquiry is not complete until the abstract ideas have been clothed in concrete reality. If you want this knowledge to truly influence your life, do this practice. Be serious about living well.
Make a list of 3 people who are wiser than you that you personally know.
Schedule a coffee, hangout or whatnot with one of them RIGHT NOW!
Ask them for advice about a problem you have. If you can’t think about any problems (DENIAL!) ask them about their vision of the good life or general advice they might have for you.
Great advice here, practical and profound!