Aristotle and Utilitarian View of Happiness


Aristotleand Utilitarian View of Happiness

Aristotleand Utilitarian View of Happiness

Happinessis a state of being happy with oneself and the world around a person.It is a concept that has been described by many philosophers andphilosophical theories. It is important to discuss happiness from theperspective of these two aspects. In this regard, it is rational todiscuss and compare the idea of Aristotle, main originator of theconcept and utilitarian idea the philosophical theory that relatesto happiness. While Aristotle holds that happiness is a personalstate of being, utilitarianism asserts that happiness is the greatestthing that people seek and all activities have an impact on it.

Accordingto Aristotle, happiness depends on the people and nothing elsedetermines the state of happiness. Aristotle takes happiness as themain thing that drives the life of a human being. He perceiveshappiness as the central purpose of life and the main goal thatexists for any person in life. By enshrining happiness to the purposeof human life, Aristotle views it as the most personal element oflife. According toReeve (2014), Aristotleviewed happiness as the end that all activities in life lend to.

Onthe other hand, utilitarian philosophy takes happiness as the biggestand that people look for. According to utilitarian philosophy,everything in life that leads to happiness is a good thing. AccordingtoRachels and Rachels (2012), utilityis derived from everything in life that leads to happiness. This isbecause utilitarianism is focused on two main components, thehappiness component and the consequentialism component. In this case,happiness is the element of life that determines what is good andwhat is not (Rachels&amp Rachels, 2012).However, Aristotle takes a different view in regard to happiness as adeterminant. He views happiness as the ultimate purpose of existenceof a person. Therefore, happiness is the end goal that all activitiesshould be directed to. For example, the end goal of a student is toget a good grade which becomes the central source of happiness. Inthis view, it is the activities that should be directed to happiness,and not happiness that determines the goodness of the activities.

Accordingto utilitarianism, consequentialism is the evaluation of actionsbased on their results (Rachels&amp Rachels, 2012).Therefore, the philosophy suggests that all activities should beevaluated based on their consequences of happiness. This means thatan activity will be rendered good or not based on the consequence ithas on happiness. However, Aristotle perceives happiness as theresult of many other conditions. According toReeve (2014), Aristotlebelieved there are several conditions that should be fulfilled toachieve happiness. For example, a person wishing to build a home willfind certain conditions to fulfill, especially in terms of legal andarchitectural requirements. According to Aristotle, the conditionsare achieved by the cultivation of virtues that lead to happiness.However, Aristotle asserts that these virtues are individuals and notpart of the societal perspectives of virtue.

Determiningwhat is good

Thetwo perspectives contribute to the determination of what is good andwhat is not. From the Aristotelian perspective, it is rational toconclude that happiness does not lead to good things as peoplecommonly perceive. According to Aristotle, happiness is the end goalof the life of a human being and cannot be achieved on instant basislike good things (Reeve, 2014). This is a different perspective basedon the current perception of happiness as an aspect that comes tohuman life at any time. According toReeve(2014), theancient Greeks, including Aristotle had a long term view of happinessand goodness. Therefore, it is the good things in life that lead tothe achievement of happiness as the end goal.

However,utilitarianism has a different role of influencing the perspective ofgood things. The philosophy uses happiness to determine the goodthings in life. The good things are taken to be those that have apositive impact on happiness by bringing happiness or enhancing it(Rachels&amp Rachels, 2012).For example, a graduate looking for a job will judge events as goodif they are leading towards the job and not otherwise. In thisregard, people can be judging things in life by evaluating theireffects on the state of happiness. Taking this perspective, peoplecan evaluate things in life so as to know what to pursue and what notto pursue. By taking a utilitarian perspective, people will beseeking to get what has more utility by having the desired impact onhappiness.

Fromthe perspective of Aristotle, good things are those that lead tohappiness or fulfill the conditions of happiness by cultivatingvirtues. Therefore, people will be pursuing the good things that leadto the discovery of happiness as the ultimate purpose of existence(Reeve,2014).For example, a young couple wishing to start a family will find awedding as a good thing it leads to the discovery of the family. Atthe same time, the good things to a person must entail the entirehuman life, and not just a section of it. This is an individualexpression where a person determines what is good based on his or herindividual purpose of existence.


Happinessis a state of being that is differently explored by differenttheories, philosophies and philosophers. While Aristotle viewshappiness as an individual state that is determined by the peoplethemselves, utilitarian philosophy view happiness as the state thatdetermines good things. In regard to the determination of what isgood, Aristotle views happiness as the result of the cultivation ofvirtues. Therefore, what is good for human beings is enshrined to hisor her ultimate purpose of existence. At the same time,utilitarianism contributes to the judgment of what is good based onthe impact it has on happiness.


Rachels,J., &amp Rachels, S. (2012). TheUtilitarian Approach &amp The Debate of Utilitarianism. McGraw-HillHigher Education

Reeve,D.C. (2014). Aristotle:NicomacheanEthics.Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing