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Compare and Contrast References to “Pleasure” in regards to “Happiness” in the works of Mill and Aristotle.
John Stuart Mill has made the proclamation that the philosophies of utilitarianism are not implausible or obscure, but they serve as the roots of ethical systems of the past. He even claimed to the fact that it would be easy to demonstrate that whatever consistency and balance the past moral ethics were able to attain, is primarily because of the implicit impact of a standard not familiarized. This standard that Mill talked about is the Greatest Happiness Principle. Mill has made assured claims on the fact that utilitarianism is entrenched in other ethical systems as well, but not everyone will agree to that fact. There are people who might even believe that utilitarianism suffuses other systems. In this paper, the comparison and contrast of pleasure in regards to happiness will be done in light of Mill’s utilitarian and Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics.
Although, there are many aspects of Mill and Aristotle's view on happiness and pleasure that might be different, with thorough research it can be said that there are some similarities as well. Let us start by getting one thing out of the way that Mill’s work might not have gotten translated but Aristotle’s was. Due to this fact, many differences were introduced between their works. Even though the Greek word eudaimonia is directly translated to have the meaning of happiness and both the philosophers believed the fact that happiness brought significant good, but there was a difference in the view. Mill believed the fact that happiness was an act which was partially associated with pleasure. On the contrary, Aristotle was in believe of the fact that happiness was a feeling that was closely associated with pleasure. On top of that, Aristotle's viewpoint of happiness is more associated with virtue than that of Mill's (Loizides, 302-321). A better translation of Eudaimonia would be flourishing. When Aristotle claims happiness to be the best good, he is not just saying that it is a feeling, he also sterns on the fact that it is an activity. It is said that eudaimonia is a feeling or act that is more long-term, a person is either eudaimon or not, so this term projects achievement and prosperity. Further, Aristotle also believed the fact that Eudaimonia is not associated with pleasure. While pleasure is good, but it cannot be said that it is "the good" like happiness. Most people term pleasure with happiness but not Aristotle, he had a completely different view of it. However, Aristotle does affiliate eudaimonia with Virtue and called it its core.
The views that Aristotle has of Eudaimonia are quite different from what Mill believes and has to say. Mill's conception of happiness is quite different, but he does deem it as a great good. However, even after calling it a great good Mill does not classify happiness as something which is long-term. Another contradiction from Aristotle's view is the fact that Mill believes that happiness is more related to pleasure than virtue (Loizides, 302-321). Mill also thinks that there is no other reality and all that is required is happiness. However, he believes the fact that happiness is a feeling, there can be moments when a person can experience it enormously, but it is not constant. Those moments when a person feels great happiness are of great enjoyment. Additionally, Mill also describes happiness as pleasure and the absence of pain. This fact also makes it evident that there is a stronger connection of happiness with pleasure, which Aristotle is not willing to make. Due to these differences, Aristotle's eudaimonia and Mill's happiness cannot be seen as compatible, at least on the first view they cannot.
It is quite interesting to say that while there are many differences in the viewpoints of both the philosophers, there are some similarities as well. This fact gives strength to Mill's claim that his ideologies are present in other ethical systems. Both Mill and Aristotle believe the fact that happiness is inclusive of other ends chased for themselves. Additionally, even though Aristotle sterns on virtue more, but both him and Mill do believe the fact that happiness is somewhat related to virtue. Aristotle believed that eudaimonia is a road with many stops where one can stop for virtue, pleasure, understanding, and honor, no doubt that these are good too (Radicke, 1-21). Nonetheless, he believed that the greater good was at the end and the main destination being happiness. He believed that it is a fact that one desires the greatest good of all making happiness the end stop.
Mill also believes the fact that there are other goods as well that one would like to pursue, and happiness is great, but he also wanted to add to the fact that happiness has various ingredients as well. All the ingredients have their own place and they are pursued because of the desire that they hold, not just as a bonus to the real goal. This belief that Mill had projects that happiness does not just have an absence of pain and pleasure, it is also inclusive of goods like virtue, pleasure, music, and health. It is safe to say, that this view that he had is somewhat consistent with what Aristotle believed. However, both philosophers eventually have different points. Aristotle believes that other goods need certain quality, standard or intensity to make a mark, but happiness is something that is the ultimate good as it gives a person what they have been longing for. On the other hand, Mill believed the fact that other factors like pleasure, music, virtue, and health have intrinsic value, that is why they are part of happiness.
Due to the fact that Mill’s happiness is closely related to pleasure and Aristotle’s eudaimonia is not directly related to pleasure, Aristotle’s agreement on pleasure might get overlooked. Both Mill and Aristotle have three similar concepts when it comes to pleasure (Radicke, 1-21). Firstly, they both believe in the fact that pleasure carries great importance as a moral principle. Secondly, they both believe in diverse degrees of pleasure and the fact that these variations are a result of different purpose that creatures hold, this belief might have a different extent and diverse reason for both the philosophers, but the similarity is there. Lastly, both of them discuss the fact that why individuals might chase lower pleasure over the higher pleasures.
Looking at the contrast and comparison between Mill and Aristotle work can be a very enriching experience. Even though, judging by the surface work, one can only see differences but, once their work is compared intricately, interesting similarities can be seen. This concludes the fact that the ethical theories that both the philosophers gave are not as isolated as one would think they are. It can be easily seen above that the concepts of happiness and pleasure have certain similar features that are evident in both the philosopher’s theories. This makes it evident if people start focusing on the similarities more than the differences, a more authentic contrast can be made. Further, due to the lack of awareness some individuals might not talk about how Aristotle did not completely disagree with pleasure. The viewpoint was different from Mill, but his work did shed light on pleasure, hence proving figuring out similarities are as important as reckoning differences.
Loizides, Antis. "Mill on Happiness: A question of method." British Journal for the History of Philosophy 22.2 (2014): 302-321.
Radicke, Jan. "Aristotle on Happiness, Emotions, and Practical Wisdom–A Short Reading Guide." Practical Wisdom and Diversity. Springer Gabler, Wiesbaden, 2019. 1-21.
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