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One of the oldest philosophical questions is the meaning of living well. Philosophers have delved into the hidden complexities of how should one live and what is the concept of the good life.
Being honest, trustworthy, kind, and principled is one way to express one’s goodness, in the moral sense. Being virtuous, righteous and selfless has always been given priority over the other ‘good’ things like pleasure, wealth and power.
The ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus was one of the first to declare, bluntly, that what makes life worth living is that we can experience pleasure. Epicurus praised all kinds of pleasures. But he didn’t advocate that we lose ourselves in them.
Epicurus clarified that the higher pleasures like friendship, academics and virtue are big parts a good life.
The concept of hedonism takes into account visible and subjective experiences. The concept of having feel-good experiences in plenty and ‘living the good life’, is dominant in the Western culture where outward or external pleasures are given value.
Aristotle has a holistic approach to the good life. If a person feels happy, satisfied, and content, and is in a positive state of mind, his life can be said to be a good life.
He agrees with Socrates about being morally good to live well. Certain objective conditions like virtue, good health, prosperity, respect from others, and luck come into play for a truly fulfilled life.
Having a wife and child, along with a day job does not necessarily provide meaning and happiness in a person’s life.
Having a cause greater than oneself, or pursuing a hobby, research project, or artistic creation provides a source of meaning in a person’s life, lifting the overall happiness.
In the Middle Ages, Plato was known through Latin translations of Arabic translations. In the Renaissance - when Greek became more familiar - far more scholars studied Plato. Plato had an impact on math, science, morals, and political theory.
Plato may have founded an institution known as the Academy, from which we get the word academic. When Plato died, the leadership of the Academy passed to his nephew Speusippus. The Academy continued for several centuries.