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What makes a good life?
For centuries, philosophers like Aristotle and Socrates have debated what it means to have a good life. This is due to the simple that most people would like to be happy and die without regrets. It was important to these well-known philosophers that they uncover the true meaning of a good life since they believed it was crucial for humans to live well. This essay seeks to answer the research question: “what makes a good life?” After investigation of the topic, clearly a good life is subjective and obviously different depending on the person asked. Humans strive to be happy and feel fulfilled in life. For example, they create bucket lists and celebrations of death. This is to experience importance and success when goals are accomplished. Because the lives of people are quite different in various aspects, it is difficult to reach one solution as to how a “good life” can be reached. “Good” is quite subjective and differs on who is asked. Still, the arguments are quite similar. The arguments always have an underlying theme of likeness. A good life includes a balance of hedonism, healthy relationships, and morality to achieve this common goal.
Hedonism and Pleasure in an Average Life
To have a good life, people must live with hedonism. It is common for humans to participate in excessive pleasures that can greatly decrease a person’s happiness. However, the argument can be made that some form of pleasure in activities are extremely important due to its relevance in modern life. People should indulge in pleasure that they find thrilling. An example of this is shown by Friedrich Nietzsche in his book “Will to Power” when he affirms that dominance being gained creates a byproduct of humans experiencing satisfaction and dissatisfaction. To elaborate, humans are creatures that tend to look upwards for power in their lives. Humans want to be the best in all they do because life is so competitive for them. School, academics, and recreational activities start to become hostile environments. To succeed in the aspects of their lives, people partake in outrageous activities to get ahead of each other. Humans are forced to choose options that result in pleasure that may impact them gravely sometime. This is not necessarily a terrible thing because people must learn from their experiences. Humans will not stop their harmful actions until they attempt them. This leads to a trial and error in which they will overcome naturally to become the best person they can be. Humans gain a sense of pleasure from indulging in activities that are deemed unlawful in society. This idea of pleasure can also be found in the quotation by psychologist Paul Bloom: “for all of our pleasures. . . beliefs about the true nature of these experiences will always make a difference,” meaning that humans pre-judge situations before knowing the reality of it (Lillie, 2015). Additionally, people who are given great knowledge of something before they experience it are more likely to enjoy it. This is due to the pressure of being liked and the idea that society’s opinion of a person is the absolute truth. In this way, society is extremely detrimental to young minds. The failure to formulate a singular opinion could lead to the loss of individuality. Likes and dislikes make up a large part of personality and how humans react to certain event. Partaking in pleasures leads to climbing a ladder of success. Conforming to others is the opposite of this. Conformation results in being caught up in the feelings of self-doubt. Indulging in pleasures that are genuinely liked is a big part of happiness; people should start to understand what and how their conforming changes them. In the words of Morten L. Kringelbach and Kent C. Berridge, in their manuscript “The Neuroscience of Happiness and Pleasure,” it is expressed that “80 percent also rate their current hedonic mood as positive,” showing the clear link between physical pleasure and happiness. Undoubtedly, happiness plays a large part in a good life. Happiness is a state where most people would like to see themselves in. Mental illnesses are a form of disorders that prohibit people from taking part in hedonistic pleasure while making many sufferers extremely sad and devastated. People find themselves indulging in physical pleasure to distract themselves from the harsh realities of day to day living that torment all people at some point. This could also be why many people take drugs for recreational drugs. Although drugs are dangerous in many cases, it is felt among drug users that drugs provide an escape. The pleasure of these physical possessions can provide a sense of relaxation.
The Impact of Relationships
Not only is pleasure a large part of a good life, but relationships are also a vital part. This is not limited to romantic relationships but also includes relationships with coworkers, family, friends, and strangers. The way a person is perceived in society leads to their success in many aspects of their life which is common globally. This is quite evident in the excerpt “. . . people who had happy marriages in their 80s reported that their moods didn’t suffer even on the days when they had more physical pain,” showing that relationships are a huge factor in the content of people’s lives (Mineo, 2017). There is an obvious link between being happy and being in a healthy relationship. The way partners may react to each other may help one overcome dark times. Two are usually better than one and this could also be applied to relationships as well. A support system is great for people as isolation leads to boredom and sadness. Although a little of alone time is not harmful, doing things with a partner can significantly boost moods. While feeling lonely, people with a support system can obviously dig themselves out of a hole a lot easier than those who are alone. Isolated people often feel lonely and disconnected from others. Social interaction is healthy and challenging for the brain. People without mental health issues usually take in a healthy amount of social interaction that also includes spending time with others. Their happiness creates a joyful repeated experience that makes a good life. It was also found that relationships with family members led to 74 percent of people to claim they were happy (Ianzito, 2012). This proves the obvious claim that family makes people happier. In a healthy family, the children will often grow up creating wholesome relationships throughout their lives. The bonds families create are quite strong and unlike the relationships of those in abusive families. Parents have an especially important role in caring and developing and child that will grow up in a functioning society. The child could make a great impact in their life and it is the parent’s job to set an example of what the child should be doing to achieve happiness in their day to day life. This could greatly influence the success of the children because of the great habits. These familial relationships create an outline for whether a person can have a good life due to many issues that may arise during their lifetime. This is a huge impact and can influence a child’s life forever. Another illustration is that participants in a study who considered themselves more content were often described by peers as extroverted and friendly (Simon-Thomas, 2015). The correlation between social interaction and happiness is evident and shows that people feel better after being in social situations. Even introverts can benefit from being around loved ones or close friends. Humans have been social creatures through the early years of the species when they would hunt and live in groups or families. It is biologically ingrained in human’s DNA that they must interact with others. The presence of those that make people happy is an extreme form of empowerment and positivity. Of course, it is beneficial that the people have a positive relationship already. Positive relationships can significantly impact happiness and quality of life.
Morality Regarding a Good Life
While hedonism and healthy relationships provide good lives, morality also plays a role. Many agree that a good life is one that allows someone to be helpful to lots of other people. This does not necessarily mean that everybody must become world leaders or activists like Martin Luther King Jr., but it does mean that it is everybody’s job to be a decent human being who shows compassion to others no matter what. A great statement regarding this is “The average life expectancy in Japan at 82 years is one of the highest anywhere, while crime levels are among the lowest,” showing the correlation between moral standing and life (Carr, 2014). This is not to say that a long life is good or to say that the law is always moral. Many laws are immoral; however, they often reflect the ideas that society shares in a certain place. Japan must be very healthy and quite happy in their lives or many would have died earlier due to stress caused by sadness. The longer the life, the happier the people are, and the happier people are, the better their life is. In a life where people could impact others’ lives positively, there is no reason they should try to purposely hurt others. It is quite difficult for one singular person to judge morality, but many in government can this. It is important to think freely but people would also be better off following the law. It is also noted that “. . . foremostly in relation to the improvement of one’s own moral behavior . . . Happiness is identified with virtue and has little voice of its own,” as a correlation between the two (DeGroot, Happiness and Morality: How far can Happiness make us Moral?). Clearly the relationship between the two is simple. A moral life leads to one that is better in many ways. For one, it will be a lot kinder. The good given to others will come back slowly and help with personal issues. All people have the choice between good and evil in life. This could be the difference between a good life. It could be linked to the decisions made regarding others and what is fair for all people and creature in life. This is bigger than one person; it includes many or even a friend. The good in others start to bloom inside and this changes everyday activities. Life feels joyful when others are happy too. The environment people are in impacts them and shows what they do make a difference in the world. As an example, the IB Learner Profile declares that the students from this elite program show discipline at the face of negative outcomes and respond to unfavorable situations with equity and nobility. This brings forth the fact that dignified student who show great effort and success in education have high senses of morality which is quite important. The crucialness of morality is undeniable and is the only chance at society being the closest to fair and equal. If humans all did their part to follow a certain moral code, a lot of problems like crimes would be solved. It is a major deal that all humans use morality as a key. Selfishness and greed block morality at times which much come to an end. Morality is the idea that leads to a successful life as helping and doing for other is extremely impactful.
This essay answered the question: what is a good life? A good life in some ways does correlate with experiences and life choices. This depends on the person, and the decisions they choose to make regarding their life. A good life impacts all people in the world. This is absent of religion, race, or any other difference in humans. People all around are affected daily by this concept of a good life. All people are capable of a good life and all can achieve this common goal. All people are striving towards a good life which com be accomplished with hard-work and dedication. What society tells us is not always fact, so it does lead to straying away from society’s standards at time and following personal targets. Morality is an idea that can only be made by oneself and leads to the worldly pleasure for all. The hedonism can be gained determination and sacrifice. Relationships require moral choices to be made that impact the strength of it.
- Carr, Deborah, et al. “Happy Marriage, Happy Life? Marital Quality and Subjective Well-Being in Later Life.” Journal of Marriage and the Family, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Oct. 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4158846/.
- de Groot, Akshaya. “Happiness and Morality: How Far Can Happiness Make Us Moral.” Academia.edu, 2016, www.academia.edu/30173597/Happiness_and_Morality_How_far_can_Happiness_make_us_Moral.
- Ianzito, Christina. “How to Be Happy – Friends, Family and Good Health Key – AARP Study…” AARP, AARP, 4 June 2012, www.aarp.org/home-family/friends-family/info-06-2012/how-to-be-happy.html.
- IB Organization. “Learner Profile for IB Students.” International Baccalaureate®, www.ibo.org/benefits/learner-profile/.
- Kringelbach, Morten L, and Kent C Berridge. “The Neuroscience of Happiness and Pleasure.” Social Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3008658/.
- Lillie, Ben. “Why Pleasure Is Important.” Ted, Ted, 7 Dec. 2015, ideas.ted.com/why-pleasure-is-important/.
- Mineo, Liz. “Over Nearly 80 Years, Harvard Study Has Been Showing How to Live a Healthy and Happy Life.” Harvard Gazette, Harvard Gazette, 26 Nov. 2018, news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/04/over-nearly-80-years-harvard-study-has-been-showing-how-to-live-a-healthy-and-happy-life/.
- Nietzsche, Freidrich. Will To Power. Dover Pubens, 2019.
- Simon-Thomas, Emiliana R. “Want to Be Happy? Make Your Relationships Exceptional.” Greater Good, Berkeley, 9 Nov. 2015, greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/want_to_be_happy_make_your_relationships_exceptional.
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