What I’ve Learned from Aristotle

My friend Adrian Lory asked me recently to describe the essence of what I’ve learned from all of my Aristotle readings over the last few years as I prepare to write a book about his views on human flourishing.

Here’s a brief summary.

  1. Happiness or eudaimonia is a matter of living and doing well, of succeeding at a truly human way of life.
  2. Living well is a fulfillment of my nature as a social and rational being.
  3. Fulfillment is an activity, not a feeling (well being is objective, not subjective).
  4. Character is destiny: the self is not a natural endowment but a personal achievement.
  5. Good activity is grounded in the choices I make.
  6. Choice is a matter of making commitments that result from deliberation about the purpose of life.
  7. The goal of human activity is doing what is beautifully right in any given situation.
  8. It is not enough to commit myself to good activity: I must continually be aware of and actualize my ideals.
  9. True freedom consists of serious leisure devoted to activity for the sake of those I love and inquiry into the sources of human meaning.
  10. The love and practice of wisdom is a way of life.

This is all still rather abstract, whereas Adrian is most interested in how my encounter with Aristotle has changed how I live. Here I’d say that I’ve become more focused on human relationships, more intent on improving my character, more deliberate in forming commitments, more aware of seeing my commitments through in action, and more serious about devoting my leisure time to projects that truly matter to me (especially in the realms of philosophy and music).

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