Everyone strives toward a place in their life in which they feel satisfied with what they are accomplishing. Whether people are striving for excellence in academics, finances, morality, etc., they desire to reach a level of success that pleases them. Most would say that this success defines their happiness in their lives. Throughout the course of thousands of years, there has been a diverse selection of philosophical and historical teachings regarding happiness. Though Aristotle and Herodotus express some different insights, they similarly display how people’s endings display their happiness.
One insight that Aristotle delivers that Herodotus does not is his concept of the Golden Mean. The Golden Mean expresses one’s essence to act neither excessively or deficiently because to act directly between these two extremes would be the most moral choice. To act morally would be an action that brings contentment. Aristotle says, “Well, in our definition we assume that the actions and workings of the soul constitute Happiness…” (Phil. Rd. 38). Knowing that one is doing enough to be beneficial but also not depleting himself of his resources would please him. A canned food drive comes to mind. When one is participating in a canned food drive, he would love to give as much as possible; however, giving excessively would not leave him with enough resources, and not giving enough would not be morally satisfactory. It is the moment that he gives the perfect moderate amount that he achieves happiness because he knows that he is helping needy individuals while also maintaining the resources he needs for himself.
Aristotle and Herodotus both speak of the importance of the “End” in regards to happiness. Aristotle speaks of how people strive to reach the best possible End. He explains how the best possible End varies for many different situations when he says, “Again, since actions and arts and sciences are many, the Ends likewise come to be many: of the healing art, for instance, health; of the ship-building art, a vessel; of the military art, victory; and of domestic management, wealth; are respectively the Ends” (Phil. Rd. 37). He explains that all things aim for the Chief Good (Phil. Rd. 37) and that the best End “must be the Chief Good” (Phil. Rd. 37). Herodotus speaks of the end as the ideal point to determine one’s happiness. He says, “Look to the end, no matter what it is you are considering. Often enough God gives a man a glimpse of happiness, and then utterly ruins him” (W. Lit. 550). Herodotus is expressing that one’s life may seem happy at any moment before it has reached its end. No one knows what spontaneous setbacks may occur in one’s life or how long it will last; therefore, a person’s life cannot be judged for his happiness until he is dead. That way, his life can be assessed all the way through to the end.
While Herodotus specifically references change in life in conjunction with change in happiness, Aristotle did not explicitly express this relationship. On the other hand, one can infer that he had this same concept. He says, “And we must add, in a complete life; for as it is not one swallow or one fine day that makes a spring, so it is not one day or a short time that makes a man blessed and happy” (W. Lit. 38). He emphasizes that one should look at the complete life. One could infer that this is a parallel with Herodotus’ claim of how it takes a full lifetime to determine one’s happiness.
Both the historian and the philosopher expressed people’s endings as the way to determine their happiness. Happiness is truly an idea that all humans embrace universally, and the fact that Herodotus and Aristotle’s insights are very comparable aid in this universality.
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