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“How to live a good life” is a question that has puzzled philosophers for centuries. And it still does, since no one has yet been able to come up with an answer that would satisfy everyone, or even just most people. Many have tried, though. One of the first ones to try and give an answer to this question was an ancient Greek philosopher called Aristotle. According to him, to live a good life one needs to be happy. Sounds simple enough, right? It's not; even if we know that happiness is what is required to lead a good life, we still need to figure out what is needed for a person to become happy. Aristotle actually had an answer to this. He believed that happiness can be achieved via reason, or in other words by philosophical contemplation. This is hardly surprising. Aristotle was a philosopher so obviously he thought very highly of philosophy and believed it to be extremely important for others to engage in philosophical thinking as well. It is also highly probable that philosophy made him happy, otherwise he would hardly have dedicated his life to it. This is probably why he declared philosophical contemplation to be a key to a happy life, so that others could also enjoy the joy it had brought him.

Of course, this is not necessarily the case. He might have also realised that many others do not, in fact, feel the same joy he did when contemplating deep philosophical questions. He probably knew that there are people who hate philosophy and would rather do anything else than engage in philosophical thinking. But why did he then suggest that even these people should philosophise frequently to become truly happy? This question isn’t too hard to answer: he thought he knew better than those people. See, through the ages there have been countless other philosophers as well who have thought, like Aristotle, that philosophical thinking is required for a good, happy or enlightened life. These philosophers have always been very aware of the fact that there is an immense amount of people who do not think highly of philosophy at all. But in their opinion all these people are wrong. They are uneducated and ignorant and simply do not know not what’s best for themselves. Their life might be nice right now but if they truly want to be happy, philosophy is the answer, they just don’t see it themselves. Luckily all these philosophers know better, though.

So who’s right then? Wouldn’t you think that a person themself knows what’s best for them? But then again, it can be argued that some people really don’t. There are people who for example smoke because it gives them temporary pleasure though in the long run it might get them killed. But then again, who am I to say that smoking isn’t what’s best for them? Maybe it really does give them so much pleasure and makes their lives so much happier altogether that it’s worth the risk of early death that comes with it. Maybe it’s not and I’m right to say that I know better than them what’s best for them.

There are no answers to these questions and really this is just me writing out some of my thoughts on the matter to maybe provoke some thoughts on your end, too. Hopefully you found this interesting, though I know that I’m still as confused - if not even more so - as I was when I started writing this piece.

Lotta Nieminen

Helsinki '24

I study social science and when I don't I really like to look at butterflies, take naps and think about how I'm going to make the world a better place some day.
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