The Good Life
|The Stoic and the Epicurean Philosophy on the Good Life|
The End of Life
The end, according to Hellenistic philosophers, is "that for the sake of which everything is done, but which is not done for the sake of anything" (Long and Sedley 398). This definition assumes happiness to be the end. According to Stoic philosophers, one must live in accordance with nature in order to be happy. For humans, this includes perfecting reason as well as studying nature and attending to things. By living in accordance with nature, one is also leading a life of virtue. Thus, a virtuous life in accordance with nature is a happy life.
Stoic philosophers believe that happiness is "the sum of all good; a potency sufficient for living well; fulfillment in accordance with virtue; a living being's sufficient benefit" (Long and Sedley 399). They further believe that man has the capabilities to do this, which differs from the Aristotelian doctrine which states that in addition to man's capabilities to fulfill his desires, one would also need some good fortune in order to achieve happiness.
Zeno describes happiness as a good flow of life, which is the same thing as a happy life. It is also described as a target which one must work towards thereby making happiness an end product. One can reach this state by living a life in agreement with nature. This must be done on both an individual level and a community level. One should be "always doing everything on the basis of the concordance of each man's guardian spirit with the will of the administrator (i.e. Zeus) as a whole" (Long and Sedley 395). If ever a conflict should arise between personal nature and that of the community as a whole, one should place the nature of the community above his interest. The reason for this action is that the individual's nature is included in a bigger nature (the community's nature).
For man, it is important to consider reason as part of his nature. The ability to reason is what distinguishes men from animals. By perfecting reason, one has managed to reach the end of his nature. When this occurs, it can be said that he is leading a virtuous life, as virtue can be described as perfect reason. Thus he has reached happiness. Reason is also important because it is the basis in leading a peaceful and tranquil life, a happy life. With the absence of reason, things such as orderliness, moderation, and seemliness may not be achieved and thus peace and tranquility may cease to exist.
Another distinguishing factor of man's nature is his ability to study and attend to things. This is because "God introduced man as a student of himself and his works, and not merely as a student but also as an interpreter of these things" (Long and Sedley 396). If one chose to deny this part of his nature, he would no longer be living in accordance with is nature. Thus, he could not lead a fully happy life.
To live a happy life is to lead a virtuous life. This can be done in a variety of ways as there is no one virtue that leads to happiness; or in other words, there is no one way to live in accordance with nature. However, there are some examples that can apply to most, if not all, people, including perfecting reason, as mentioned earlier. It also includes having complete confidence in the security of one's goods. Without this confidence, one would experience fear and insecurity, which are not characteristics of a happy life.
In conclusion, the Stoics believed that to reach the end is to reach happiness. This can be done by living life in accordance with nature or by living a virtuous life. In doing this, one must consider man's nature in comparison to that of animals, specifically his ability to reason and attend to things, as well as his role as a student. By doing these things one can truly live happily.
Bibliography (Section D)