Comparative Analysis of Epictetus and Aristotle View of Happiness

Comparative Analysis of Epictetus and Aristotle View of Happiness


Epictetus uses wisdom to understand happiness by classifying things that are within his control and those that are not. In the things that are beyond his control, he understands that he had to be casual in dealing with them and be willing to let them go; a wise person should be ready to say it means nothing to them. It is because since you have no control over them, depending on those for your happiness could make you vulnerable. He, however, had control over his beliefs and choices as they stem from human freedom within their minds. These are things that would determine his happiness. Since he had the choice to see anything as either good or bad, he had control over his happiness. Also, since he had no control over the effects of his actions, he would base his happiness on virtuous intentions. Overall, this choice determines happiness.


Aristotle agrees partially with Epictetus, but things he is only half true. Happiness to him involved three aspects: virtue, life, and external goods. Virtue is the internal things that we have control over; when we find the perfect balance in our virtues we are happy. They include things like courage, justice, temperance, and practical wisdom. Life, on the other hand, gives a context for happiness; a collection of good activities in life makes one happy and not just one or for a short period. External goods are things outside of our control but enrich our life e.g. Friends, honor and respect, health, money, good birth, and good looks. An abundance of positive external goods makes one happy. 


Aristotle’s answer about happiness is superior because it speaks much of a balance. In speaking about virtue, the most important point about living a virtuous life is having a perfect balance when applying it. I think a balance in virtue would yield more good than in the Epictetus case where someone only does a virtuous act and not caring about the output but only the intentions. He also brings the aspect of a balance when he speaks of having a collection of good events for a long period being source of happiness. It is more practical than creating happiness over one event. Further, his introduction of the theoretical aspect of external good brings a balance to the excellence of a person. While Epictetus’s view of zoning out the exterior and focusing on the interior may sound lucrative for anyone, the reality is that we cannot zone it out. The external goods are present in every life and determine much that happens; it is, therefore, an important factor when defining happiness to introduce their effects.

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