In today’s society, people are increasingly pursuing one-sided material enjoyment, and regard the amount of money as a measure of happiness, and thus generally believe in “the lives of gratification (Book I, 4:5)”. The materialization of happiness is to limit happiness to the material life and the realization of short-term interests. It is true that the improvement of the material living standard is conducive to people’s realization of a happy life – there is no doubt.
However, if blindly pursuing material enjoyment and equating this enjoyment with happiness, and at the same time thinking that the degree of happiness is proportional to the material wealth, then this is a great misunderstanding of happiness.
The hedonism and materialism in today’s society is a direct manifestation of people’s misunderstanding of happiness, which deserves our deep thought and vigilance. In fact, pure material sufficiency does not necessarily bring happiness. For example, after World War II, Japan may be the most extraordinary in terms of income growth in the world. However, the life satisfaction of the Japanese people has remained relatively steady.
Nowadays, people think that happiness is the realization of immediate interests. Happiness is no longer the pursuit and cultivation of virtue in a person’s life, nor is it an attitude that strives to live in order to achieve the goal of perfection in character. Aristotle’s theory of happiness clearly tells us that happiness is bound by time, that is, it must be something that people pursue throughout their lives.
Aristotle repeatedly emphasized in his theory of happiness ethics: although external conditions plays an essential role that cannot be ignored, happiness depends on the pursuit of the unity of inner and external goodness. “Happiness evidently also needs external goods to be added (Book I, 8:15).” That is to say, without the inner good guidance, people cannot really get happiness. “Good people’s life together allows the cultivation of virtue (Book IX, 9:7).” This teaching serves as a wake-up call for the contemporary society.
The state should abandon the development model that simply pursues economic growth and pursues the happiness of society as a whole. Economic development is only a necessary condition for people’s happiness in life, not the entirety of it. All of these discussions fully demonstrate that Aristotle’s discussion of the relationship between happiness and virtue has very positive modern values. Therefore, modern people should strive to practice the concept of happiness proposed by Aristotle and strive to achieve a true happy life that is independent from material conditions.