Finding Nemo

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Philosophy part III: Aristotle

"Live as thou should, and thee will be content"
Aristotle is such a larger than life character.  He was a crazy genius constantly inventing simple ideas, like, um, the Scientific Method, and wondering what "stuff" was really made of.  I often wonder what would cross his mind if a book on quantum physics dropped onto his head.  I have a feeling his eyes would cross and he would say that Aether was a better idea.  And oh yeah, he was the tutor of Alexander the Great, not a bad gig.

Aristotle had 2 ideas that I like.
1) Each living thing has a soul (or spirit) and a purpose.  It reminds me of indigenous religions, where everything is sacred.  And he postulated the existence of a Prime Mover, or Force, that gave each thing its purpose.  This idea was later seized by Christians as a claim for the existence of God, but with Aristotle it was something more mysterious.  Today we might say that our DNA gives us our purpose and drive, that we don't need any other reason to "move."  But for some reason, when I stare at a jeweled hummingbird hover motionless above an orchid, I recognize a glimmer of Aristotle's vision.  Then again, a fresh Double-Double from Inn n Out Burger can make me move too.

My Prime Mover.... yummmmm
2) Aristotle's other big philosophical idea was how to achieve happiness.  For him, happiness was simply a by-product that occurred naturally when one lived the right way, the "virtuous life."  And remarkably, for Aristotle the virtuous life wasn't the hard life.  The right choice was the easy and obvious choice, because a virtuous man enjoys being virtuous!! That is quite a concept for someone like me who was raised to think that the right choice is the hard choice, that the virtuous path, like some prophet in the desert, is a life of struggle against temptation.  I find that I still think about Aristotle's idea all this time later.  And that is this: one receives such happiness and satisfaction from living the good life, and reaping the associated rewards of positive relationships in business and with family and friends, that the temptations to do wrong seem ridiculous.

(to be cont.)

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