Aristotle is the third of the great Greek philosophers. He was interested in nature and the changes in nature. Much of the terminology he created for sciences are still in use today. A man ahead of his time, like all great philosophers
Aristotle believed that there is a purpose behind everything in nature, i.e. it rains so that plants can grow, apples grow so that people can eat them. That is not the basis of scientific reasoning today, we would say the opposite; plants grow because they find moisture. Life, though, may well be a two-way street.
One of Aristotle’s philosophical beliefs was that humans can only achieve happiness by using all their abilities and capabilities. This suggests he was firmly in the camp of “pursuing happiness”, although he might have meant ‘well-being’ rather than ‘happiness’. In recent years, Aristotle’s ideas about humans flourishing, of states and governments having obligations to provide for their citizens well-being have taken hold – though a back-lash including the policies of Trump in the USA have gained much publicity and a strong foothold. It may be that developing resistence to these anti-people policies are the next step in the evolution of our societies. In Ireland as well, our politicians have been more focused on developing a country that is great for doing business in, rather than a country which is great to live in and which looks after its citizens as well as is possible.
Many countries now collect data to measure the degree of their citizens ‘well-being and happiness’.
The small country of Bhutan, located at the eastern end of the Himalayas, first used the term Gross National Happiness (GNH) in 1972. The assessment of GNH was designed in an attempt to define indicators that could measure the quality of life in more holistic terms than only the economic indicator of gross domestic product (GDP).
GNH has only been officially used in Bhutan, where a Gross National Happiness Commission is charged reviewing policy decisions and allocation of resources. The Centre for Bhutan Studies developed a sophisticated survey instrument to measure the population’s general level of well-being.
The first ‘World Happiness Report’, released in 2012 ahead of the UN high-level meeting on Happiness and Well-being, drew international attention as a landmark first survey of the state of global happiness. The second Report, in 2013, went further. It analysed in more detail the global happiness data, examining trends over time and breaking down each country’s score into its component parts, so that citizens and policy makers can understand their country’s ranking. It also drew connections to other major initiatives measuring well-being, including those conducted by the OECD and UNDP’s Human Development Report; and provides guidance for policy makers on how to effectively incorporate well-being into their decision making processes.
The report identified the countries with the highest levels of happiness:
Don’t rush now. Happiness is not just a place.
Other countries, and the EU, are now developing strategies for human well-being.
It might seem so obvious to us now that one of the, if not the, principal function and obligation of a state and its authorities should be the well-being of its citizens, of all its citizens. Not though, also obviously, at the expense of the citizens of other countries, or of Nature itself.
Not all of Aristotle’s ideas and theories contributed to the happiness and well-being of the worlds’ citizens down through the ages. Mainly thanks to the work of St Thomas Aquinas, Aristotle’s theories and philosophies were adopted by the Catholic Church, pretty much as doctrine. Unfortunately, that meant if you disagreed with any of these theories, for example Aristotle’s belief that the sun rotated around the earth, you could be condemned as a heretic and burned at the stake.
Hardly Aristotle’s fault, the science to prove otherwise wasn’t understood in his time, but it demonstrates the dangers of converting ideas and theories into dogma and doctrine.
All state and church rulers and authorities should repeat this, often.
Seek well-being for all and find your happiness within.