KARACHI, May 31: For Greek philosopher Aristotle the highest form of happiness is a life of reason. This was the crux of a presentation on Aristotle’s concept of the good life made by Anthony Galli, a musician, actor and social activist at T2F on Friday evening.
Mr Galli mentioned at the very beginning of the programme, which turned into an interactive event, that he was an autodidact (self-taught) who was blown away by the Greeks and their philosophies. He said from time immemorial the question of what the good life was had put thinkers in a quandary. Though there were great philosophers before Aristotle, the reason for picking Aristotle’s ideas to speak about was that before him Socrates and Plato had come up with their profound and distinct theories; Aristotle came after them and deviated from the established concepts.
Mr Galli started out by referring to Aristotle’s thesis ‘Politics’ in which he discussed the state as a whole. He said at the time Greece was a continent in itself and Athens had become the market place for ideas. There would be open discussions on every topic. Aristotle took the theories related to human existence formulated by Socrates and Plato to another level. He came up with the concept of virtue (with respect to Nicomachean ethics especially) that he categorized as excellence virtue, practical wisdom, the good soul and balance. The last one implied the balance between body and mind.
Mr Galli said according to Socrates, to know the good was to do the good. The philosopher introduced daemon (inner voice) and believed in moral intuition. The philosophers before him were proto-scientists. Socrates wanted to clarify the prevalent concepts. Plato took the debate further ahead and pointed out that there were ideals and their pale imitations — the sensory world couldn’t be real. The four ideals that he talked about were wisdom, justice, prudence and fortitude.
Aristotle turned it all around. He believed human beings had the reasoning faculty or the ability to reason that meant the good for them depended on maximum realisation of that ability. The philosopher was of the view that everything had a purpose. He gave the example that an acorn had a tendency to grow into an oak tree that meant the tree exited by nature not by chance. The world was not a random thing, and order in the world could only be reached through reason. Therefore, the highest happiness was a life of reason. The good citizen, so as to seek harmony in life, engages in debate.
Mr Galli said Aristotle maintained that it was the state’s duty to educate its citizens that was why the training of character was equally important. The speaker also made an interesting remark, although he did not elaborate on it: he claimed Aristotle was sexist. And with regard to children the philosopher argued that they should be considered as children until they reached adulthood. However, Aristotle’s real achievement was his deliberations on virtue ethics and its types (applied ethics, normative ethics etc). Finally, all of that led to the theory of character consequentialism that implied the focus on long-term benefits that the virtue brought to individuals and society.
The presentation was followed by a formal question and answer session.