Ryan Terry

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Ryan Terry
Posted 5 months ago
What is the correlation between happiness and one's career choices?
There are quite a few unexplained terms here. First, what do you mean by happiness? Is "happiness" related to satisfaction with life? In what way? Second, what is the relationship between the labors we perform to sustain ourselves and "happiness?" We might choose to look back at Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics for some answers. For Aristotle, happiness or "eudaimonia" (which roughly translates into something like "flourishing" or "well-being") is the highest good of a human being. When we say it is the highest good, we mean that it is desirable for itself, it is not desirable for the sake of some other good, and all other goods are desirable for its sake. Aristotle then goes on to ask what the function of a human being is, and answers that it consists in the activity of the rational part of the soul in accordance with "virtue". This account turns on his understanding of what distinguishes humans from other animals--namely, rationality (Humans have it, the other animals don't). In the end, Aristotle decides that happiness consists of the virtuous activity of the rational part of the soul over a complete life. However, Aristotle also notes that external circumstances can affect our ability to live a life of virtuous activity. He does state one's capacity for virtuous activity may be limited or degraded by things such as personal tragedy, poverty, etc. Given this, it is not altogether clear what role one's career might play in one's ability to live a life of virtuous activity. Perhaps it plays a role, but I do not believe that we can categorically state that it is determinate. After all, we should remember that Socrates was a stonemason, Jesus was a carpenter, and the Buddha didn't even have a job. Perhaps we should say that a career that limits our ability to live a life of virtuous activity is detrimental to happiness.