Discussion #1: The Virtues

Part 1: Aristotle says that the virtues are necessary for humans to attain happiness, but he means this in terms of something we might call “flourishing” or “living well”, which he considers quite different than simply feeling good. Thus, according to Aristotle some people might feel that they are happy, but because they lack the virtues they are not truly flourishing. However, imagine someone that is deceitful, selfish, greedy, self-indulgent, and yet enjoys great pleasure and appears to be quite happy.

  • Is someone like this “flourishing” or not?
  • Explain your answer this by referring to this week’s readings and media, and if possible provide examples from real life and/or from literature, film, TV, etc.

Part 2: Aristotle claims that if you are suffering terrible misfortune, you cannot truly be considered happy or flourishing. However, there are many examples from current and past history, religious traditions, and fiction of people that might seem to contradict this claim (for example, in the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-12, Luke 6:20-23) Jesus describes people that seem to be suffering in various ways and calls them “blessed”; some translations say “happy”).

  • Leaving aside any religious assumptions and considering this from a strictly philosophical perspective, do you think that it’s possible for people to be happy or flourishing even if they are suffering terrible misfortune?
  • Provide at least one example to illustrate your answer, and refer to the readings and media to support your view.