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Happiness is a fundamental aspect to life as a human being. It is wholesome and self-sufficient, but for humans to fulfill happiness they require the ability to work/function. While many may argue that the main purpose, and thus function, of the human being is to survive, which grants the body the necessities for life, Aristotle argues that the function of human beings is to act rationally, in which actions accompanied by reason are unique processes innate to humans. The functioning of a human being pertains to a coherent and joyous life in which virtue, three distinct parts of the soul, and character-related virtues allow for humans to work/function appropriately, and thus sustain happiness.

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Virtue, an attribute that contributes to the joyous functions of the human condition, is an instrumental component to the basis of a properly functioning human being, allowing humans to act rationally. We accumulate virtue by both understanding and participating in activities. For instance, by playing the piano, people become piano players (Aristotle Book 2 26-27). Virtue is essential to rationale. To act rationally and by doing just things, we become rational and just people (Aristotle Book 2 27). When an individual conducts just actions, then they will become good (Aristotle Book 2 32). However, an individual will not become good by simply philosophizing about just actions, rather they must conduct just actions to have a body in good condition (Aristotle Book 2 32). Aristotle explains that it “is well said, then, that as a result of doing just things, the just person comes into being and as a result of doing moderate things, the moderate person; without performing these actions, nobody would become good” (Aristotle Book 2 32). Aristotle argues that humans must conduct just actions, in which these just actions are necessary for rational activity and in addition, individuals must consciously act virtuously, in which acting virtuously repeatedly constitutes a reflex (Aristotle Book 2 33). Furthermore, for the human body to function well, and to its finest abilities, it is paramount for the soul to carry three components—passions, capacities, and characteristics, in which virtues remain characteristics (Aristotle Book 2 32). These characteristics that make human beings good further impact their actions, causing them to likewise be good, and increase work efficiency, because the virtue of the human condition would be that good characteristic (Aristotle Book 2 33). Therefore, an individual that conducts just actions will become a just and good person, and by engaging in just actions the individual will be virtuous, thus paving the path for rationale.

The three distinct parts of the soul guide the proper functioning of the human being. Aristotle divides the soul into the Rational, Nutritive, and Appetitive portions, in which human happiness is a significant activity of these pronounced parts of the soul (Aristotle Book 1 23). Aristotle defines the insignificance of the Nutritive part of the soul by noting that “this part and its capacity seem particularly active in sleep, but the good person and the bad would be least distinct in sleep” (Aristotle Book 1 24). Aristotle argues that this aspect of the soul does not contribute to rational activity and it does not contribute to human virtue (Aristotle Book 1 23). However, the soul is further defined by the Appetitive part, in which it is not directly associated with reason, but it is governed by desire which follows the commands of reason (Aristotle Book 1 24). The Appetitive part of the soul of an individual can become obedient to commands, thus priming the irrational part of the soul to be persuaded by reason (Aristotle Book 1 24-25). Aristotle further describes the essential role of the Rational part of the soul, by explaining that an individual is capable of possessing their own reason, as well as the ability to comprehend the knowledge and advice of reliable others, such as mothers and fathers (Aristotle Book 1 24-25). With respect to the Rational and Appetitive part of the soul, an individual who acts in accordance with the command of reason, or possess their own reason, as well as comprehends the advice of reliable others, therefore acts with rationality (Aristotle Book 1 24). It is a crucial aspect to the human being that the Rational and Appetitive parts of the soul lead to rational acts, proving necessary for an individual to be virtuous. Therefore, with respect to the Rational and Appetitive parts of the soul, an individual will be uniquely capable of self-reasoning and processing information that reliable others share, then allowing the individual to become virtuous, proficient, and reasonable and thus fulfilling the ultimate function/work of the human condition.

Character-related virtues allow for humans to acquire the traits required for the fulfillment of the function/work of human beings. As we acquire traits that are relevant for virtue, we are then able to act with rationale. When a person can partake in acquiring character-related virtues, then they will be able to act with rationale. Character-related virtues start with good actions accompanying a good person, in which a person must physically perform the actions and not simply philosophize or have thoughts about doing them (Aristotle Book 2 35). As humans, we must perform activities similar to those who have virtue, as these actions performed by other virtuous humans will be a form of habituation. Aristotle argues that “characteristics come into being as a result of the activities akin to them” (Aristotle Book 2 27). This means that humans will acquire traits pertaining to the activities that they partake in, but in order to acquire character-related virtues, we must perform these actions similar to that of a virtuous person. For instance, if we practice a set of skills associated with a sport, such as soccer or baseball, then we will carry the characteristics of that sport as a player. However, these actions must not be random; they must be performed intentionally and with proper rational thought, making for a virtuous character. Additionally, it is critical to avoid extremes. Therefore, to acquire character-related virtues, an individual must perform actions akin to a virtuous person, and these virtuous acts performed will help the individual to become a virtuous person, and thus able to act rationally.

Acquiring character-related virtues can be further attained by examining extremes and learning how to become stable through reason, helping us to become virtuous and act with rationale. Chiefly, Aristotle argues “the extremes are neither praiseworthy nor correct but instead blameworthy” (Aristotle Book 2 37). Aristotle explains that for humans to be virtuous, they must avoid traits that do not have a mean or an excess and a deficiency (Aristotle Book 2 36). For example, murder does not have a mean; it is completely wrong to kill someone, in which it is just evil and has no middle term (Aristotle Book 2 37). Virtue is also natural, as it is not carried genetically through DNA or family traits; actions must develop character in a natural manner, making the individual stable. Aristotle constructs an analogue explaining “for it is not as a result of seeing many times or hearing many times that we came to have those sense perceptions” (Aristotle Book 2 26). Aristotle compares this to virtue, in which a person does not need to possess something before they can perform a virtuous task, unlike eyes and ears that are used to see and hear, rather a person can attain virtue simply by being habituated (Aristotle Book 2 27). It is almost as if Aristotle argues that human activity is subjective, as some humans are able to perform certain tasks and activities and some individuals are not, as some individuals are born to do things naturally. However, when an individual is able to attain virtue through habituation, although they may not be born with it, they will achieve stability. Furthermore, reason as well as the animal appetitive part of the soul do not oppose when attaining character-related virtues. For instance, feelings of pain and pleasure are sufficiently valid when determining virtue, as the emotional part of the soul is governed by an individual’s desires, but will also respond to reason. Aristotle states “the pleasure or pain that accompanies someone’s deeds ought to be taken as a sign of his characteristics” (Aristotle Book 2 29-30). Aristotle goes on to explain that a person who experiences pleasure from virtuous actions is a virtuous person, and a person that experiences pain from enduring in a virtuous act is a non-virtuous person. Thus, character-related virtues can be further attained by avoiding extremes and acting with reason associated with the appetitive part of the soul, permitting an individual to become stable and virtuous, and thus allowing the individual to act rationally.

To conclude, the ultimate goal or function of the human being is to act rationally. This overall function can be achieved through virtues, the three distinct parts of the soul, and acquiring character related virtues. Virtues can be achieved by participating in good activities, in which we become habituated (Aristotle Book 2 27-28). It is important that the individual conduct just actions, which will then manifest into a virtuous and rational persona. The three distinct parts of the soul also pertain to rational acts. The Rational and the Appetitive parts are most significant, as they allow for the irrational part to be overtaken, as well as for the individual to listen to commands from one’s father (Aristotle Book 1 24-25). These two parts of the soul are most significant for an individual to be able to act rationally, as self-reasoning and comprehension of the wisdom from others greatly influences the rational acts of an individual. Additionally, acquiring character-related virtues which pertains to performing good acts similar to those who have virtue, avoiding extremes, and allowing for reason as well as the Appetitive part of the soul will aid in the development of attaining virtue and conducting just acts, allowing an individual to act with rationale. Therefore, an individual is uniquely and jointly able to become a virtuous person; it is the activities and distinct parts of their soul which will allow them to become just and virtuous people, and when an individual does so, they will be acting with rationale, which is the ultimate goal of human beings.

Works Cited
Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. Trans. Robert C. Bartlett. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2011

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