Aristotle was Right, Almost (Part 3)

Continuing from my previous post, Aristotle gives us the Journey and the Adventure segments to happiness.  Maslow’s hierarchy concurs with Aristotle’s philosophy that the basic needs, a sense of belonging among friends, recognition from others, as well as a degree of wealth are needed to secure the virtues that will lead to happiness.  Exercising these virtues, or a life of virtuous activity, considered happiness by Aristotle, would be considered by Maslow as self-actualization or the completeness of one’s calling in life.

Aristotle’s philosophy is reflected in the four artworks of the Journey I mentioned in previous posts: The Potato Eaters, The Peasant Wedding, Luncheon of the Boating Party, and Self-Portrait with Saskia.  All of these artworks support Aristotle’s teachings.

Aristotle’s philosophy is also reflected in the three artworks of the Adventure that I mentioned in previous posts: Old Mill (The Morning Bell), David, and St. Jerome.

However, there is one aspect of Aristotle’s teachings regarding the attainment of happiness that is missing.  This one missing piece is reflected in El Greco’s painting of St. Jerome.  The painting does exhibit all the needs necessary for happiness as determined by Aristotle: education, wealth, honor, wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice.  However, one element is missing and that one element is clearly evident in the painting (an expression of concern expressed by St. Jerome that his life’s work will not be appreciated or understood by others in his society).  What is missing is the appreciation for the efforts of St. Jerome by his community.  In other words – love.  It is the love of neighbor for St. Jerome that will allow St. Jerome to cross the threshold into happiness.  It is this element of love (or appreciation) that is missing from Aristotle’s philosophy (as well as the theory of Maslow).  For those fortunate enough to make it to the threshold of happiness, all of Aristotle’s requirements (as well as those of Maslow) have been met.  Nonetheless, happiness has not been secured.  In fact, without the love or appreciation of others, the translated Bible would never be recognized and available to society; the years of hard work in translating the Bible for all to read would be lost forever.

The fully-virtuous individual needs the love of others to pull him/her across the threshold into happiness.  This can only be done from without.  The individual can not make this happen.  Society must go and get the fully-virtuous individual and pull him/her across the threshold. And, by doing so, not only does the individual reach happiness but society flourishes.  Society flourishes because the call of the individual is complete and its many benefits become available to society.

So, is there a philosophy that recognizes the steps outlined by Aristotle but also recognizes the need for the love or appreciation of the individual by others at the threshold of happiness?  Yes, there is!


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