"Now happiness, more than anything else, seems complete without qualification. For we always choose it because of itself, never because of something else."
In this episode of Made You Think, Neil and Nat discuss The Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle
. Aristotle "wrote" this book for his son, Nicomachea, in which philosophizes about the pursuit of happiness and how to find the point of flourishing of our lives. “We become builders building, we become harpists by playing the harp. Therefore we become just by doing just actions, temperate by doing temperate actions, brave by doing brave actions.”
We cover a wide range of topics, including:
- How to find the perfect middle point to flourish in our activities
- Why happiness is a path that requires action, and not a destination
- Why sons may vote for the opposite of their parents
- Stones, horses and slaves that find their purposes in life
- Harvard admission problems with Asian-Americans
- Blaming the 2a.m. pizza
And much more. Please enjoy, and be sure to grab a copy of The Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle
If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to check out our episode on Letters from a Stoic by Seneca
, a book that approach happiness from another perspective, as well as our episode on Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
, whose author proclaimed to be strongly influenced by Aristotle.
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Links from the Episode
Mentioned in the show
0:00 – Were these philosophers famous at their time or they became famous later? Plato's and Aristotle legacy and influence up to our days. Christianity and Virtue Ethics. Aristotle’s argumentation as a lawyer and dichotomy in opening speeches.
5:19 – Human flourishing as a better translation for happiness from Ancient Greek.
8:07 – Book 1. A book of ethics, how we should behave. Being able to judge what is happiness. Happiness Hierarchy. City Happiness before the Individual Happiness. Who decides what happiness is? How the Christian Church decided it was the source of morality.
11:51 – Aristotle and Buddhism. Appropriate level of moderation in all things. Difficulty to know what the a good middle is, but extremes are always bad. Alcohol during pregnancy. Using edge cases to find a good mean is not always possible.
16:46 – Extremism in politics. Family and switching to the opposite extreme view.
20:40 – Personalities traits pre-influenced by genes. Questions not allowed to be asked. "Nepotism" in professional basketball. Where to draw the line from extreme left or right.
25:56 – Hierarchies of a good life. Pleasure, political activity, philosophy.
28:06 – The perfect version of anything is what is most meant by nature. What sets human nature apart. Neanderthal and Sapiens stats.
32:02 – Hairy tangents. Why Indian people are hairy. Shaving dogs by mistake. Harvard discriminating Asians and Jews. Why colleges can ask for your race.
41:42 – Being virtuous requires action. One can't say its virtuous and become automatically it. Going to church doesn't make you a good person. Fasting before a feast.
44:20 – Learning the boundaries by experiencing and living. How to find the middle point by shooting to extremes first. Dating, relationships, meditation, etc.
47:24 – Book 2. Virtues of character. Virtue of thought arises and grows from teaching. Pulling from the observable to apply to the unobservable. The power of habits. Blaming the pizza for feeling bad after staying wake up past 2am. Post hangover foods.
52:48 – Being virtuous while being asleep doesn't count. Avoiding sin while sleeping. Concept of mind. The Chinese room experiment. Religion not being true, however still being useful to control people's behavior. One just can't just hope to do the right thing. One should know why it is a good thing, it is our duty as citizens to learn the why.
59:40 – Criticisms to religion based more on faith than reason. Christianity, Muslim, Pagans. Book as instruments to spread a Church's mission. Realism of a perfect God or person. Paganism vs monotheistic religions.
1:02:54 – Virtue ethics does not try to perfect ethical laws, it's a find-what's-good-by-yourself approach. Natural tendencies. Looking down on other people's tendencies while not recognizing our owns. Vices.
1:07:28 – Skimming through books 3, 4, 5. Common idea at the time: everyone knows everything, one just have to draw out of them (by using the Socratic method). Learning as a mutual discovery between teacher and student.
1:10:40 – Aristotle's Physics. Stones and horses flourishing, chemical stable states. Slaves feeling fulfilled.
1:13:11 – Book 7. Incontinence. People who know the right thing but then they don't do it. Putting down Stoicism.
1:15:21 – Book 8. Friendship. Land owning as a proxy for a good person throughout history. Proxies for intelligence or wealth: job, city where you're living, table manners,etc.
1:18:10 – Book 10. Pleasure. Main dichotomy: happiness of a base nature vs happiness of a higher nature. What pleasure is and why it is not sufficient for happiness. Pleasures relative to context. The problem of pleasure as a metric.
1:21:35 – The problem of happiness as a destination. The importance to know what shit one is able to put up with. Why entrepreneurship porn is popular. Acting in such a way it can become a universal rule for people in the same situation. Taleb's Platinum Rule (compared to the Golden Rule). Aristotle principles vs postmodernism. Ranges of mean where things are acceptable. Good enough vs overspecialized.
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